By Steven Brooks

As a true icon of northern England, Manchester shines like a supernova. Most people instantly associate this city with 1999 treble-winners, Manchester United and it’s true–football culture is rife here.

Roars from the ‘United’ ground, Old Trafford, in the west of the city are only matched by the passionate chanting from Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium in the east. Manchester has dominated Britain’s music scene for decades and is the fond home of world famous bands such as The Stone Roses, New Order, The Chemical Brothers, Oasis, and The Smiths.

A diverse playground of poets and professionals, new ideas grace this city like an enchanting magical spell. The LGBTQ scene is one of the most eclectic and fascinating in the country. There are countless department stores and swanky restaurants that cater to the most fashionable of visitors. 

That said, Manchester is not without its gems for the budget traveller to enjoy. Our Hidden Gems guide will help you find out what is lurking in Britain’s most loveable northern city.

The Law Of Attractions 

Manchester is spellbound with exciting things to do and will cater to even the most introverted of individuals. Whether you’re in search of a quiet library, chill-out space, or something with a bit more tempo, you will find it here. But this is about hidden gems, right? So let’s get cracking with a few that even the locals don’t know about!

3 Minute Theatre

To get to this theatre, you will need to head through Affleck’s Palace on Oldham Street. This building is famous for its bizarre mixture of vintage clothing and weird memorabilia, not to mention 3MT itself. So if you’re looking for a unique experience of drama and sound, the 3 Minute Theatre should be at the top of your Manchester bucket list. With close ties to the Manchester Shakespeare Company, it boasts an authoritative blend of poetry, improv, magic and theatre that will satisfy even the most demanding of culture-vultures. 

British Film Institute Mediatheque 

Head over to Central Library for an unusual movie-watching experience, by yourself…in a box! The British Film Institute Mediatheque is an absolute Mecca for film buffs, containing practically every movie you have your heart set on watching.

To add infinity to intrigue, these boxes are also armed with a glutinous pantry of rare films, obscure 70s sitcoms and pre-1900 camera footage of Mancunians, the local Manchester dwellers. 

The Portico Library

We have to drop at least one bookworm oasis in here, don’t we? Built in the early 1800s, this endearing Greek-revival style building is armed to the teeth with literature from all historic ages, although, mostly from the 19th century. The domed ceiling is the centrepiece of what can only be described as a masterpiece of interior design.

Exhibitions of literature and art are frequently shown and can be enjoyed in the gallery. Located on Mosley Street, this page-turner’s paradise is relatively easy to find.

Ancoats Peepholes

Affectionately known as ‘The Peeps’, these mysterious little spy holes are a glimpse into Manchester’s industrial past. These quirky droplets of art were installed in the Ancoats area of the city by architect and artist Dan Dubowitz.

It is estimated there are between 10 and 30 of these brass-cast peepholes scattered throughout the area. However, as there are no official maps or guides, you simply have to explore on your own and find them for yourself. Happy hunting!

St Mary’s: The ‘Hidden Gem’ Church

It would be rude to write an article about the secret treasures of Manchester without mentioning an attraction that’s better known as the ‘Hidden Gem’ itself. St Mary’s Church is believed to be the oldest post-reformation Catholic place of worship in the city. Completed in 1794, this building features a marvellous interior design with embellishments that will leave you in awe.

Stained-glass masterpieces and musky works of art give this religious building a humble undertone that you won’t find anywhere else in Manchester. 

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Manchester is pretty impressive in size and you’ll only be able to squeeze so much into one day. After hours of meandering, you’re likely to start feeling peckish. Fear not, we’ve got a few culinary treats up our sleeve. 

Eat & Sweet

This hole-in-the-wall restaurant is your cruise to the Caribbean. It is guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied, with the generous helpings of classic dishes such as goat curry, ackee, patties, and jerk chicken that will make your mouth water like the Mekong Delta.

However, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled as this tiny cafe is easy to miss. 

Cafe Marhaba

From the outside, this appears to be a traditional English ‘chippy’, but as long as your nose is working, you’ll quickly realise this is authentic India in a British box. Home-cooked curries are the output of this family-run restaurant and are, in fact, cheap as chips.

17 Below

Even Indiana Jones would struggle to unearth this little beauty, but what a find it is. Located six-stories underground Bow Lane, near Cross Street, its perfectly preserved pool tables and arcade machines add the fun-factor to one of Manchester’s finest 80s cocktail bars. Bottoms up!

Well there you have it, Manchester and its hidden gems are awaiting your arrival. You can get a daily Metro pass for around a ‘fiver’ (5GBP) and this will allow you to commute easily within city limits. Have a great time!