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Manchester on a budget

23rd August 2019

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With people celebrating summer and gearing up for Manchester Pride, we asked our writer Charlotte Lorimer to share a selection of Mancunian money savings tips.


For Mancunians, the worker bee represents the spirit of their city: hard work and working together. Manchester was a cornerstone of the Industrial Revolution and the centre of the booming textile industry. Today, the textiles that fill the city are those in the vintage shops, dotted between stunning street art and buzzing bars of the Northern Quarter.

Unmissable: The Northern Quarter

For quirky, independent shops and cafés and the city’s best street art, head to the Northern Quarter, a five minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Square.

“Manchester has a pretty amazing streetscene,” says Manchester-based musician Mary Wyld. “There are always buskers and bands playing in the city centre. Companies commission street artists to graffiti incredible murals all over the Northern Quarter. There are walls showing David Bowie, Prince and 22 bees to represent the victims of Manchester Arena Attacks.”

A bee mural.
Bee mural, created by Russell Meehan, known as Qubek, commissioned by the Manchester Evening News.

Shopping

In the heart of the Northern Quarter is Affleck’s Palace, an eclectic emporium, stacked with everything from henna art to haberdasheries, tarot cards to tattoo parlours.

If you come out of Affleck’s on Oldham Street and carry on up, you’ll find Oxfam Originals which has rails of vintage, and often designer, clothing. Keep going on Oldham Street and you’ll get to Black Milk, where you can indulge in their triple oreo and rainbow freakshakes (somewhere between an ice cream sundae and a milkshake).

Also in the Northern Quarter, you’ll find Piccadilly Records, a record shop that’s been running since 1978, where you can pick up vinyls from Oasis and The Stone Roses, both born in Manchester. For second-hand comic books and novels, visit Paramount Books, run by the same family since 1965. "Paramount Books is one of the best and weirdest bookshops I’ve ever been in,” says Adam Gibson. He used to live in Manchester and now works for Starling in London. “The owner installed a speaker outside the store and plays really loud jazz in the streets all day.”

Music in the air

Manchester is famous for its music scene. In the Northern Quarter, there’s always live acoustic music or jazz playing at bars such as Cane & Grain. DJs, dance, house and techno, you can take your pick at a wealth of venues including Band on the Wall, the Ritz, Gorilla, Soup Kitchen and the Albert Hall.

At Chetham’s Music School there are free lunchtime concerts, Tuesday to Thursday, with individual singers and their own orchestra. The Royal Northern College of Music hosts plenty of reasonably priced concerts showcasing the classical and pop music of the students.

Park life

On sunny days, head to Heaton Park where you can play golf, hire a rowing boat or take the old tram. It’s also a venue for concerts, open-air theatre and the annual music festival Parklife. There are plenty of beautiful green spaces close to Manchester, including the Peak District.

“I love getting out of the busy city for a break,” says Mary. “Edale has a gorgeous pub right next to the station and a helpful walking information centre. You can spend a few hours having lunch and then walking to nearby villages and discovering the hidden caves along the way.”

A view of the Vale of Edale.
A breath of fresh air in the Vale of Edale.

Get your culture on

Manchester’s streets are set to be full of colour this August bank holiday as the city hosts its Pride weekend. You can watch the parade for free in the city centre, and follow it along to the famous Canal Street for a whole host of LGBTQ+ clubs, pubs and entertainment. Ariana Grande, Years & Years and Emilé Sande will all be there.

For rainy days, book tickets to see a play or film at HOME, a wonderful space for theatre, dance and independent film. Off-peak cinema times are before 5pm during the week or before 3pm at the weekends. If you’re between 15 and 25-years-old, you can get a discount card for £1 and receive off-peak prices for all screenings, £10 theatre tickets and discounts at the café and bookshop.

Fancy a good laugh? You can see new comedians for a fiver at The Comedy Store. Comedians Jason Manford and Peter Kay both began their stand-up careers in Manchester.

Travel

Not many things come for free. But in Manchester, the free bus runs two routes to connect you to the train stations, Green Quarter, Northern Quarter and Salford - it also has free WiFi. Stops include the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art and the National Football Museum, where you can see a statue of famous footballer Lily Parr.

Hannah sculpts Lily Parr.
Lily Parr scored more than 900 goals throughout her football career. For the Women’s World Cup, Mars commissioned Hannah Stewart to create a statue of her, displayed at the National Football Museum.

If you’re a student at the University of Manchester, you can travel for free on the Magic Bus 147, which links Manchester Piccadilly rail station to the various university campuses.

Manchester has a great network of trams and trains. The line between Manchester and Liverpool was the world’s first fully-timetabled steam-powered railway. You can find out about its history at the Science and Industry Museum.

Millions of pounds are being invested to improve Manchester’s cycle lanes and there are already several traffic-free routes in Chorlton. You can hire a bike for £3.80 a day through Bike & Go.

Eating out

Manchester is a great place for eating out on a budget, especially midweek.

Every Monday, there’s 50% off food at New York style diner Black Dog NQ and at trendy eatery The Pen and Pencil, when you book in advance. Tuesdays mean £1 tacos from 4pm till late at El Capo. On Wednesdays, there’s a 2 for 1 deal on all main meals at The Deaf Institute, a basement bar packed with live music gigs that also serves vegan food. Or for those who love burgers, head to Manchester Smokehouse & Cellar for 50% off burgers every Thursday.

Over the weekend, you may find discounts for new restaurants doing a soft launch or a preview, which you can track using the Confidentials app. Or Tuesday to Sunday, there’s always Altrincham Market, packed with stalls selling everything from ham and black pudding pies to sourdough pizzas.

“Go to This’n’That for lunch rather than a ’high end’ northern quarter eatery,” says Tim Dobson, Manchester-based blogger and web developer. This’n’That is the king of cheap eats, a family-run curry house that opened in the 80s. It’s tucked away on Soap Street - if you can’t find it, ask a local.

There are always plenty of drinks deals and happy hours in Manchester. At Mason’s you can get two cocktails for just £9 Tuesday to Thursday, 5pm-7pm. Terrace NQ is a hidden suntrap where you can grab a pint of traditional cask ale and listen to Rhythm & Blues.

Accommodation

Visitors on a budget might want to try Hatters Hostels. Their Newton Street branch used to be a Victorian hat factory and now operates as a vibrant hostel with walking tours and pub crawls. Selina NQ1 is equally bohemian, also in the Northern Quarter.

Before booking a hostel, it’s worth checking available guesthouses and hotels as you could end up getting a private room for the same price or cheaper. At Motel One Manchester-Piccadilly, prices start at £69 a night for a central, simple room that has walk-in showers, television, tea and coffee. Don’t miss their Britpop themed bar where friendly staff serve Manc-Hattan cocktails. Cheers to that.

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