Among the rumbling trams and busy modern city life, the Midland Hotel in Manchester wraps itself around the corners of St Peter’s Street with its stunning gothic exterior. The hotel was first opened in 1903, but the architecture is a nod back to a much earlier time. Once you step inside the hotel, its vast reception area and art deco features tell you a story of another era altogether: part Edwardian, part roaring Twenties.
The hotel was originally opened as the city’s railway hotel. The railways station was directly behind the hotel and a covered walkway led passengers from the platform and into the back entrance of the building where a bellboy would take their luggage to their rooms. The station is no longer positioned behind the hotel and today the Midland serves a very different purpose – relaxation and rejuvenation. The Rena Spa, down in the basement, won the Best Urban Spa at the Good Spa Guide awards in 2019 and offers luxurious relaxation in a city-centre location. But even while you bask in this modern urban oasis, the history of this intriguing hotel is everywhere.
As you wander along the corridors to your room, whichever floor you are staying on, you’ll find some interesting displays. Frozen in time and held behind glass are the postcards, letters and greetings card that were found in drawers and wardrobes when the hotel was last renovated. These displays are a fantastic example of the way people used to communicate. The cards and postcards give you an insight into the very different way people once used hotels, especially a railway hotel, and some guests were obviously staying here for quite some time. I found one displayed letter from a botanist in Queensland, Australia, to a man who was staying at the Midland in 1973, apologising for how much time her work in Australia was taking and assuring him she would join him at the hotel as soon as she could.
The hotel has been renovated many times and the modern interior and facilities you see today are very different to those experienced by Mr Rolls and Mr Royce when they first met here the year after the grand opening in May 1904 to talk about the possibility of starting a business together. The story goes that they met over a meal in the Grill Room, a restaurant that would go on to become the most popular place for business meetings in all of Manchester. Today, you have a choice of dining experiences in the hotel. You can eat in the art deco bar for a relaxed atmosphere, in the French for fine dining and opulence, or in The Mount Street Dining Room and Bar which gives you something that falls in between the two. You can also take afternoon tea in the Tea Room, or, of course, relax in the comfort of your room with room service. The rooms at the Midland are spacious with high ceilings and sprawling seating areas, and very modern bathrooms.
Even if the skies are grey in Manchester and the city is all hustle and bustle, down in the basement Rena Spa it’s always relaxation time. This award-winning spa has a full programme of treatments available, a relaxation pool with a swan-neck fountain to ease away neck tensions, a steam-room with salt-infused aromatherapy steam and a sauna with an entire wall of Himalayan rock salt. The relaxation-room is spacious and features relaxation zones that can be closed off to give you a private padded seating area to recline on; four hanging pod cocoons that are like draped tepees you can curl yourself into to sway and mediate; and three sleep chambers, which are plush single beds you can tuck yourself into for a post-massage snooze.
If you feel like exploring the city, Manchester’s China Town is less touristy than London’s and has some authentic restaurants and well-stocked supermarkets. Manchester Art Gallery has a wonderful collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, or to keep refreshing and resetting, book a visit to Float Level, the city’s floatation pod centre.