Forget the countryside – this Northern powerhouse is the perfect place for summer staycations

·6-min read
manchester - Getty
manchester - Getty

“Destitutus ventis remos adhibe” proclaims a bold monochrome mural in Manchester’s Stevenson Square. By Folie Art and Design, the painting of a hand reaching towards an unsettled sky is part of the city’s Out House street art project, which sees buildings in the square repainted every three months. Its message translates as "If the winds will not serve, take to the oars."

And this is what Manchester, a city famous for its hard-work ethic and creativity, is set to do this summer after a 2020 that many would rather forget.

While international travel is likely to remain uncertain, and the UK’s coastal and countryside locations are set to be crowded, Manchester offers a packed summer of openings and events – and still has availability at its hotels. As a bonus, the city’s promotional agency and tourism board, Marketing Manchester, is also running its Have a Night On Us campaign this summer, which means if you book a minimum three-night stay in top hotels including the Stock Exchange, the Edwardian Manchester and the Kimpton Clocktower, you’ll get another night free.

And with so much happening in the city this year, an extra day will be needed.

One of Greater Manchester’s most exciting new attractions is the RHS Garden Bridgewater. Opening on May 18 in Salford, the RHS’s fifth garden stretches to 154 acres, making it one of the largest gardening projects in Europe. While there you’ll be able to wander around the calming Weston Walled Garden, which contains a Paradise Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith, explore sections of the site’s historic woodlands, and wander in the Chinese Streamside Garden, which is themed around the four seasons.

rhs garden bridgewater
rhs garden bridgewater

Talking to Telegraph Travel about the ambitious project, Head of RHS Garden Bridgewater, Richard Green, said: “What is perhaps most exciting is that this is just the beginning for Bridgewater – the garden will mature over time and there’s still so much we plan to do. We can’t wait to welcome the first visitors, and we hope that they will enjoy coming back to see how the garden grows.”

More centrally, the Manchester Jewish Museum in Cheetham Hill, is also set to re-open on July 2 after being closed since 2019 for a £6 million extension, restoration and redevelopment project. In the oldest surviving synagogue in Manchester, you can immerse yourself in stories from the city's Jewish communities through personal accounts and fascinating artefacts. Max Dunbar, CEO of Manchester Jewish Museum said that the opening comes “at a time when a museum designed to bring people together is now needed more than ever”.

As part of its launch, Turner-Prize winning artist, Laure Prouvost, has created an immersive installation in the synagogue’s Ladies’ Gallery. Called The Long Waited, Weighted, Gathering, it combines a film that was shot inside the gallery and in the surrounding Cheetham Hill area with materials created while working with the Museum’s resident women’s textiles group. It aims to capture the voices of women in the local community today, together with those who once gathered in the Ladies’ Gallery.

The installation will premiere at this summer’s biennial Manchester International Festival, which is always a cultural highlight for the city. Taking place from July 1-18, highlights include a new film starring Cillian Murphy, a 42-metre replica of Big Ben in Piccadilly Gardens which will be covered with books about politics, and a public exhibition in Manchester Arndale looking at what it means to be Black living in the UK.

Another firm favourite on Manchester’s calendar, Manchester Pride Festival 2021, which celebrates LGBTQ+ life, will take place from August 27-30. The popular Gay Village Party will be on as well as The Manchester Pride Parade, plus MCR Pride Live with performances from Zara Larsson, Sigala, Annie Mac and Gabrielle, among others.

freight island, manchester
freight island, manchester

Cultural venues across the city have had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape of restrictions and closures over the last year, and Manchester’s centre for international contemporary culture, HOME, is launching a socially-distanced temporary outdoor venue called Homeground. Productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland will be held over the summer, and tickets are a bargain, costing just £10 for adults and £5 for children.

Another outdoor venue that became one of Manchester’s biggest success stories last year was Escape to Freight Island, a street food market and entertainment space in a disused railway station, Depot Mayfield. On May 17, it will re-launch an indoor area too, called The Ticket Hall, which only managed to open for five days before November’s national lockdown hit.

Explaining its success, Gareth Cooper, co-founder of Escape to Freight Island, said: "There is nothing quite like Escape to Freight Island in England, possibly even Europe, and Manchester was the perfect location.

"We decided to create a permanent festival site but install the best food and drink that Manchester could offer, to bring together people from all walks of life and to fully unite the clans that make up the great diversity in Manchester.”

Hot on its heels, another food and entertainment space, Society Manchester, is launching in the city in May on Barbirolli Square, next to the Bridgewater Hall, with a cocktail bar, taproom by craft brewery Vocation, and five independently-owned kitchens serving dishes from vegan burgers to pizzas from local restaurant Elnecot.

The People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy, is also set to re-open with a forward-thinking new café by Open Kitchen, a sustainable catering company which works with food businesses to source food that would otherwise go to waste, as well buying ingredients from local, ethical and sustainable suppliers.

midland hotel
midland hotel

Accommodation-wise, Manchester’s hotel scene has been booming in recent years with more than 2,000 hotel bedrooms being added to the city centre since 2018, so there is plenty of choice. Old favourites are constantly upping their game too. The historic Midland is about to re-open after a £14 million refurbishment which has transformed its public areas and bedrooms, and The Principal Manchester has been rebranded as the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, with one of the best-looking bars in the city inside.

And there’s more to come. The affordable, design-led Qbic Manchester opens on Deansgate on May 17, while BrewDog is launching an 18-room beer hotel in August, DogHouse Manchester, with a rooftop bar and bedrooms with draft beer taps and beer fridges in the showers.

So, this summer, don’t get caught up in the frenzy of panic-booking an expensive countryside cottage, take the oars and come to the city.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting