You might know about the Trafford Centre, Old Trafford and the Hacienda, but Manchester is so much more than football and music. This fine city saw the start of the industrial revolution, the football league and Top of the Pops, too, and these days it's a mecca for culture vultures, fashionistas and spa lovers alike. If you're looking for a well-rounded venue for your spa break, look no further!
If you like your spa breaks to be punctuated with history and culture, a trip to Manchester won't disappoint. It's choc-full of theatres, museums and art galleries, including The Manchester Museum (on the University of Manchester Oxford Road) for a little local and national history, photography, mixed with fossils and archaeology. If you're interested in a bit of feminist history, check out the Pankhurst Centre too, in Emmeline Pankhurst's old home on Nelson Street. The Gallery Oldham is stylish and it's easy to while away a few hours wandering around and taking in the contemporary arts, craft and music.
It's a busy city but there are still places (other than spas) to chill out in the city, one of the most relaxing is Fletcher Moss Park and Parsonage Gardens, where you can wander through the botanical gardens and then cross over to Parsonage Gardens and take in the flowerbeds, stopping for a coffee to enjoy the view.
Once you've done with exploring Manchester by day, you'll also find it's the place to go for nightlife, with a long list of infamous music venues like the Manchester Arena, Europe's largest indoor music venue - as well as pubs, clubs, comedy venues and swanky cocktail bars.
- For a little bit of luxury right in the middle of where it's all happening, the Radisson Edwardian Manchester Hotel is really close to the Convention Centre, and boasts some pretty impressive awards, it won 'Manchester Hotel of the Year' in 2007 and the Enjoy England Silver Award for Excellence in 2008. The spa is built on historic barrel vaults and has everything you'd expect in a top class pamper palace with comfy sofas, subtle lighting and calming mood music. If you're feeling energetic you can work up an appetite in the deck level swimming pool, or if not you can just relax in the Nordic sauna, steam room or whirlpool in between luxurious treatments.
- Slightly further out of the city, but not far enough to make a night on the town impossible, is the gorgeous worsley park hotel spa with its 200 acres of parkland and its own fabulous 18 hole championship golf course. it's dead easy to find, as it's only a few minutes from the motorway, and once you/"re there, you can indulge yourself in the Spa of Senses with all the usual spa delights. Relax with a treatment, chill out in the steam room and sauna or work out in the gym and pool. The choice is, as they say, yours!
- There probably aren't many hotels with their very own tea shop, but the mercure last drop village hotel and spa, in nearby bolton does. although it's not right in the city, you/"ve got the delights of Bolton as well as a superb spa housed in a 128 room hotel and 16 acres of garden to fall in love with. Spa Naturel has a swimming pool plus a hydrotherapy pool and a laconium as well as gym, treatment rooms and relaxation areas.
- For top class relaxation and a spa to die for, the macdonald kilhey court hotel & spa, wigan is a gorgeous old victorian house set in ten acres of amazing landscape gardens. it's 40 minutes from manchester city centre, so not ideal for anyone who wants a night on the town, but if you want a spa within easy reach of the bright lights and shopping but far enough away to give you some peace and quiet, it/"s a great option. The spa and leisure club has a calming relaxation suite, plus four beauty rooms stocked with Decleor, Royal Effem and Jessica and of course a pool, steam rooms and sauna.
- Village Urban Resort Bury has the lovely Viva spa where you can get a delicious treatment, chill out in style and then investigate the new Rock shopping mall in Bury Town centre.
Manchester city centre is, as you can imagine, so full of great places to eat and drink that it's practically impossible to choose just a few. But, here goes! Michael Caines restaurant at the ABode Hotel gives you great food and decadent champagne, and it's set in the hotel in the atmospheric lower level dining room. The fashionable menu aims to be 'exciting and innovative' with its European style cuisine and decision to use the very best ingredients from Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire.
- Wander over to the The Old Wellington Inn and Restaurant on the Cathedral Gates, a top quality restaurant tucked away in one of the oldest buildings in Manchester (it dates back 1552.) Food is served all day with an a la carte menu from 6pm.
Address: 4 Cathedral Gates, Manchester, M3 1SW
Tel: 0161 839 5179
- Enjoy a cheeky cocktail with a meal at Bacchanalia on Chapel Walks. Peaceful but busy, it's popular with theatre and music lovers due to being so close to the Royal Exchange and Manchester Arena.
Address: Union Buildings, 15-17 Chapel Walks, Manchester M2 1HN
Tel: 0161 819 1997
- Vermilion Restaurant and Cinnabar Vermilion is a sophisticated Asian fusion restaurant designed by Miguel Cancio Martins who was also responsible for the Buddha Bar and Man Ray in Paris. The food is fantastic, indulge in anything from green curry and Japanese Maki rolls to tiger prawns. Upstairs is Cinnabar where relaxation is the order of the day; there are even 'cocoon beds' for customers to chill out in...
Address: Hulme Hall Lane / Lord North Street, Manchester M40 8AD
Tel: 0161 202 0055
- For more Pan-Asian flavours and a sure fire good meal, head to Wagamama on Corporation Street for some noodles; and other dishes, influenced by traditional Japanese noodle bars, using the very best fresh seasonal and local ingredients.
Address: 1 the printworks, corporation street, Manchester M4 2BS
Tel: 0161 839 5916
- Rosso Restaurant and Bar promises discerning foodies 'the ultimate in Italian cuisine' and the setting is certainly impressive, in a 114-year-old, Grade II listed building at the top of King Street. You can sit and admire the beautiful stained glass windows and marble domes while you wait for your food, and sample one of the hand-picked wines on offer.
Address: 43 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BG
Tel: 0161 832 1400
- Latino foodies might fancy trying the Gaucho Bar and Grill just off Deansgate. It's not cosy or secluded in fact it's huge, but its location in a converted church hall is clever and the place is always heaving so you just know the food will be good!
Address: 14 John Dalton Street, Manchester M2 6JR
Tel: 0161 839 1999
- Scaling things down a bit is the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar, a funky little dining room that's been called Manchester's number one independent restaurant. It's the in-place in the Northern Quarter if you're looking for classic dining, and freshly cooked dishes made with the very best local ingredients and a slight Mediterranean tinge. They change the menu all the time to keep it as fresh as the ingredients.
Address: 108 High Street, Manchester M4 1HQ
Tel: 0161 832 7115
After you've sated your appetite for food, indulge your appetite for entertainment with a night out. Manchester is undoubtedly one of the best cities for a night on the town, so every taste will be catered for somewhere or other!
- First off...Band on the Wall is one you've probably heard of. It's a near- legendary jazz and music venue right on the edge of the Northern Quarter. The venue has been a well-loved part of Manchester's music scene since the 1930s and got its name because bands originally performed on a stage which was quite literally mounted on the wall.
- Any self-respecting modern music lover will want to pay The Factory a visit. Named after the 80s record label that introduced us to New Order, The Happy Mondays and Joy Division, the club is in the former Factory Records HQ on the corner of Princess Street and Charles Street. The huge club has three floors, and is designed by Ben Kelly, who also designed The Hacienda.
- Pure is more than just a club, it's spot on for chilled out drinking as well as a full on club night. If you're into the dance scene, though, you're in the right place, along with the 2,000 clubbers who flock there every weekend to experience all the best dance DJ's in Manchester.
- The Birdcage is part of Manchester Arndale and close to the Printworks, and puts on a Vegas-style song and dance with showgirls, drag artists and male dancers plus classic 80s and 90s music to shake your thang to.
- If Jazz is your thing, Matt and Phred's Jazz Club is a world landmark Jazz emporium which prides itself on hosting excellent local and upcoming acts as well as those you know and already love. Matt and Phred's also serves top notch cocktails, food and there's live music on offer every night. Most nights entry is free, even more of a bonus!
- Mint Lounge is Manchester's only burlesque venue, on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter. The Mint Showgirls perform regularly along with visiting acts, and it's all very glamorous and great fun.
- During the week The Tiger Lounge is where you'll find eclectic music, anything from 1960s French pop to country...as well as screening classic (and some rare) films. Look out for the excellent theme nights and live music, too.
- The Odder Bar likes to be different, and the decor is something to behold, with giant lizards, mirror covered stairways and clocks everywhere. It's on Oxford Road and has a lot of personality. The food menu is also pretty eclectic, a massive rage of beers and spirits, and even a really good fab juke box to play with. The bar won the BEDA Best Bar North and Best Bar UK Awards 2007-08, there has to be a good reason for that!
Manchester is a pretty hot shopping destination, and it's home to a massive city centre shopping centre as well as the Trafford Centre, the biggest shopping mall in the whole of Europe, and affectionately known as, 'The Temple of Consumerism'.
If you only have one day allocated to shopping, it would be a travesty for us not to recommend a trip to The Trafford Centre. It's only five miles away from the city, and for that short journey you get the run of the 230 stores, and also the opportunity to ask yourself what on earth they were thinking; the mall is so over the top you can't help but admire its cheek. There are three miles of granite and marble boulevards to explore, with statues, artworks and high end stores that cover fashion, designer wear, home style and more. The first Selfridges outside London is right here too, and there's a dining area with over 30 restaurants and fast food places to choose from and a 20 screen cinema if you get bored with shopping...
If you'd prefer to stay in the city, you won't be disappointed as there are plenty of shopping streets, arcades and malls packed with designer fashion boutiques, favourite high street chains, department stores and specialist shops.
- Find anything you need in Manchester Andale - the UK's largest inner-city shopping centre, right in the city centre. The mall has an impressive 240 plus shops including some big department stores. What's more, it's tantalisingly close to Harvey Nichols and Selfridges for some upmarket retail opportunities...and close by is the Printworks where there are plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs as well as an I-MAX cinema.
- If you can't resist Harvey Nicks, keep your eyes peeled for celebs as it's a bit of a favourite hangout. Harvey Nichols is worth popping into just to marvel at the exclusive Christian Louboutin footwear department, or you could push the boat out and try a champagne pedicure at Urban Retreat. For a real treat, visit the Second Floor Restaurant for afternoon tea with one of the best views in Manchester.
- For designer label queens, Vivienne Westwood on King Street is a must, with an individual selection of fashion and accessories; and the Red Label, Gold Label, Man, and Anglomania collections.
- More designer treats are on offer at Flannels - a real haven for label aficionados, showcasing contemporary designer fashion, shoes and accessories from designers as high-end as Dolce and Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Gucci, and Prada.
- If your budget is limited but you still want a bit of style as well as a bargain, the best place to head for is the Lowry Outlet Mall on Salford Quays. It's a fantastic little mall with more than 80 shops, and a designer outlet selling excess stock at up to 70 per cent discounts. There's also a cinema, an Virgin Active Health Club, food court, coffee shops and restaurants to chill out in.
MANCHESTER'S TOP THREE SPAS
- If you want to be right in the middle of the action, you couldn't get better than the macdonald manchester hotel & spa, where you'll come across the luxurious spa@ macdonald manchester. you'll totally get the best of both worlds here, chilling out in one of the luxurious treatment rooms while you're pampered, or simply spending quality time in the thermal suite. for days and nights on the town, it/"s perfectly located in the heart of Manchester, within walking distance of Piccadilly train station.
- For a spa day as part of a longer stay in Manchester, book in a bit of me-time at bannatyne's health club manchester on quay street. it's part of the bannatyne leisure club group and comes complete with an absolutely fabulous gym, and a top-quality sensory spa that offers all the newest as well as old favourite spa treatments. anything from deep tissue massage to reflexology is catered for, and there/"s a pool, steam room and sauna too, all open to non-members.
- If you fancy a stay in one of Manchester's most trendy hotels, you can book a few nights in the award-winning, five star Lowry Hotel right on the banks of the River Irwell. The spa at the Lowry is open every day of the week - including bank holidays, and promises the discerning spa-goer some of the most exclusive and unique treatments using top quality Elemis and Carita beauty ranges. As a guest at the hotel, you can use the spa, gym, relaxation rooms, and saunas and make the most of the free drinks, newspapers and magazines on offer while you chill out.