While Britain has been sitting pretty at the top of my travel bucket list for basically as long as I can remember, the idea of visiting Manchester has never really tickled my fancy.
Obviously, you can’t go to England without visiting the capital and — as an avid football fan and Liverpool supporter — I couldn’t fly half way across the world without visiting my team’s home base. But whether it’s a result of the infamous rivalry between the northern cities, or just my own sheer ignorance, Manchester is not a city I ever really cared to visit.
However, you can now pass me a knife and fork because I am ready to eat my words after just 24 hours in the city that had previously not made my top 100 cities to visit.
I was recently flown to Manchester as part of a broader trip to experience the glory of the English Premier League with Visit Britain and although my stay was brief, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to pack a bag and make the permanent move to Manchester.
I was initially slated to spend about 36 hours in Manchester, but after missing a tight connection in Dubai and — subsequently — being forced to spend 12 hours cooped up in a painfully basic hotel room with no luggage, no phone reception and nothing to do, I arrived in Manchester at about 7am.
I Was Warned The Airport Was Hell, But It Was Actually A Dream
Prior to my departure I was warned that Manchester Airport was, to put it lightly, an absolute hellscape that would have me either crying or tearing my hair out — which is not exactly the thing you want to experience after a mammoth 30-something-hour commute. But thankfully, I was out of the airport, through customs and in a taxi within an hour of the plane hitting the tarmac.
Perhaps my experience was more enjoyable because I was prepared for the worst, but nothing gets you ready for an enjoyable stay quite like a smooth arrival.
A 30+ Hour Journey Really Makes You Appreciate The Finer Details
Perhaps my fatal flaw as a travel writer is the fact that I have very low standards when it comes to hotels. Give me good water pressure and a comfortable bed and I simply will not complain — if breakfast is included, I will probably kiss the concierge on my way out. But hoo boy, after a hellish 30+ hour journey, checking into LEVEN Manchester felt like I was entering the pearly gates of heaven.
Located in a 20th century cotton warehouse on the corner of Chorlton and Canal St, LEVEN Manchester is a stunning boutique hotel that overlooks the city’s Gay Village.
Each room in the hotel is unique, but mine was blessed with a standalone bath tub overlooking the canal, a separate living room and bedroom (with a kingsize bed) and a fully functional kitchen.
In addition to a bed that — quite frankly — felt like I was sleeping on a cloud after my hellish journey and a bathtub that went down an absolute treat with a glass of wine and a good podcast when the rain set in later in the afternoon, LEVEN had all the added luxuries that really elevate a hotel experience.
You get Grown Alchemist bathroom amenities, a minibar stocked with a cheeky Tony’s Chocoloney bar (if you know, you know) and a cozy pair of socks that you can take home with you. You’re not bombarded with every freebie known to man, but you are given the exact luxuries you want after a long haul flight from Australia.
But gorgeous room aside, the real standout of LEVEN (other than *that* bathtub) was the staff. After quickly dumping my bags and showering, I was greeted at the front desk with a fresh coffee and a warm chat from the concierge, who was always willing to provide travel recommendations, or just a friendly ear to listen when I just wanted to scream about my crippling jet lag.
Here at AWOL we’re not really in the business of hotel reviews, but I mean it when I say I will be recommending LEVEN to every person I know.
The City Is Gloriously Walkable
My favourite thing to do when I arrive in a new city is mindlessly walk until I find a good coffee and get acquainted with my surroundings. Perhaps it’s my way of channelling my inner Gwyneth Paltrow Goopy bullshit and “grounding” myself in a new city, or maybe it’s just because I feel like I need to stretch my legs after 30 hours of sitting or I am convinced I will die. But either way, I love me a good walkable city. And that’s Manchester.
I’m sure I would’ve seen more if I had any rhyme or reason to my walking, but even with no direction or objective, I kept stumbling across gorgeous university buildings, monuments and stunning architecture.
If You Do One Thing, Make It The Taxi Tour
While I was in Manchester I toured Old Trafford Stadium and visited the National Football Museum — both of which are well worth the visit for football fans — but if there is one single thing I would recommend tourists to do, it’s the Manchester Taxi Tour.
The title of this article is about how I fell in love with Manchester in just 24 hours, but in reality, it was the 2.5 hours I spent on the taxi tour with guide John Consterdine that really sold me on the city.
While you can walk around the beautiful city endlessly to your heart’s content, the added context of having somebody who truly lives and breathes Manchester explaining the significance of different buildings, and the stories behind each landmark make it so much more impressive.
In just 2.5 hours, I feel like I had a comprehensive tour of the city (as well as Salford, which John stresses is a totally different city and cannot be considered “Manchester”). We even stopped off for a quick tour of the Salford Lad’s Club to recreate the iconic The Smiths album cover and take a peek inside an iconic piece of both music and sporting history.
The intimate tour differs from the typical hop-on-hop-off bus tours because John will actually stop at significant landmarks, take your photo and tailor the tour to what you actually want to see. Oh, and he prepares you a traditional English afternoon tea to keep you well fed and caffeinated (seriously, don’t eat beforehand).
The Beauty Of Manchester Is In Its People
Manchester is a city rich in history and culture, but the real beauty of Manchester is the people. From the hotel staff and baristas, to the Uber drivers and tour guides, every single person I met in Manchester was friendly, approachable and genuinely willing to help.
While I copped my fair share of banter for arriving in the city in a Liverpool shirt, not one of the probably 30 people I interacted with during my 24 hours in the city was anything less than delightful to deal with — which is a welcome change in an age where most of us walk around with headphones in, largely detached from the world around us.