Manchester is having a moment. Actually, it’s more like a series of moments that have built up to a crescendo, with the latest affirmation of the city’s buzz: Chanel’s presentation of its latest Métiers d’Art collection in the city’s Northern Quarter on 7 December. This is the first show from the house to take place in England in over a decade, and though details of the collection are still under wraps, Manchester’s historic status as a textile hub—it was home to over 100 cotton mills in the 19th century, earning it the nickname “Cottonopolis”—may provide a hint as to which specialist atelier craft Virginie Viard has in mind this season.
Much as past Métiers d’Art outings have put a fresh spin on venerable old traditions, so too do the most exciting recent Manchester openings honour the past, albeit in new form. Take Aviva Studios, which just opened in the enormous, eye-catching building that now serves as the headquarters of Manchester’s premier arts enabler, Factory International. Renowned for, among other things, organising the biannual Manchester International Festival, the enterprise takes its name from Tony Wilson’s influential Factory Records, which ran out of the city from 1978 to 1992 and introduced the world to bands such as Joy Division and Happy Mondays. The aim at Aviva is to carry on that legacy of innovation, and put Manchester back at the heart of music and performance culture.
More openings are on the horizon. Manchester’s first Soho House—indeed, the first Soho House in the north of England—is set to open in spring 2024, taking over five floors of the former Granada Studios, on whose soundstage the Beatles and Sex Pistols made their first TV appearances. London’s Treehouse Hotel is also set to acquire a Northern sibling, opening in the spring near Manchester’s Blackfriars Bridge.
With all this investment in culture and hospitality, Manchester is moving forward—while making sure not to leave its rich and storied history behind. Newcomers are more than welcome, but as any visitor taking in this city of winding canals and atmospheric nooks quickly discovers, the best of what the north has to offer is completely home-grown.
What to do
Manchester’s gallery scene offers a mix of fascinating local history and international themes. The multi-purpose space the Lowry is home to the world’s largest public collection of works by L.S. Lowry, the mid-century painter known for his scenes of daily life in the city, as well as works by contemporary artists. At the Whitworth from now until the spring, an exhibition on the ancient and beautiful practice of Palestinian embroidery takes on new resonance, in light of current events.
The Manchester Art Gallery, known for its focus on Pre-Raphaelites and 19th-century artists more generally, also looks at textiles in the form of its Unpicking Couture exhibit, running until 2025. The latter show investigates the links between fashion and emotions, including previously unseen pieces by, among others, Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen.
For entertainment, the aforementioned Aviva Studios showcases Factory International’s all-encompassing array of arts and culture output at its gargantuan venue overlooking the river. Co-Op Live stadium, due to open soon, will host names like Olivia Rodrigo and Take That in the spring; Harry Styles, who grew up about 25 miles from Manchester, is one of the investors in what will be the UK’s largest and most socially-responsible live entertainment venue. For a more intimate experience, visit arts space Home, which offers a program of theatre, dance, and world cinema; on a much smaller scale, the Ducie Street Warehouse’s “Mini-Cini” is a petite repertory cinema.
Factory International has also linked up with Chaos SixtyNine, the biannnual fashion publication, for an exhibition with the support of Chanel. Manchestermodern: Past Present Future spotlights city-defining works by Martin Parr, Peter Saville, Elaine Constantine, John Cooper Clarke, Lemn Sissay, and others, but you’ll have to be quick—it’s only on this coming weekend.
Where to stay
The King Street Townhouse
Cosy and quietly plush, the King Street Townhouse feels warm and inviting from the first moment you step over the threshold. Housed in an imposing Victorian building on a quiet side street near Albert Square, in Manchester’s historic city centre, the Townhouse’s 40 rooms have the ambiance of a countryside retreat, with touches including Roberts radios, bespoke furniture, and mosaic-patterned tiles at the foot of free-standing bathtubs.
Downstairs, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails are all served at The Tavern. The hotel also offers one of Manchester’s best afternoon teas: you can choose from traditional tea items like scones, clotted cream, and Tiptree jam, or a more savoury selection of snacks.
One of the main draws of the Townhouse, however, is its gym and spa, lodged in an adjoining building. This peaceful enclave offers a range of treatments, from LED light treatments to facials utilising Perricone MD products, a world exclusive. For pure relaxation, the thermal spa boasts a sauna, steam room, sauna, and ice fountain, as well as a Himalayan salt cave.
The Dakota Manchester’s dark and moody vibe is a perfect fit for those sometimes dark and moody Manchester days. (Don’t let the rain keep you away.) Overlooking the old Piccadilly basin, part of the canal network that weaves through the city, the hotel is part of the Dakota group, a collection of boutique luxury hotels with outposts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Leeds. Manchester’s Dakota opened in 2019, with unique features such as its old-school cigar bar and rooms with private terraces.
All the rooms boast bathrooms with heated floors, a complement to the overall feeling of warmth created by softly woven blankets and throws. (The heat theme debuts in the hotel lobby, with its central log-burning fireplace.) These cozy touches contrast with the space’s overall industrial feel—think, walls of bracketed steel sheeting, and exposed steel ceiling beams. Another texture emerged in the elegant cocktail bar, which features an intimate Champagne room—a glamorous little hideaway that feels distinctly after-hours.
The Stock Exchange Hotel
Entering the Grade II-listed, Edwardian-baroque building that houses The Stock Exchange Hotel—which just celebrated its fourth birthday—is like stepping into a version of Manchester that doesn’t exist anymore: one where men in top hats and black suits bought and sold commodities, and perhaps treated themselves to a brandy after shaking off the trading day’s ticker tape. (If you fancy a brandy yourself, the hotel’s underground Sterling bar will happily supply you with one.) Modern Manchester is a stone’s throw away, but the hotel has a lost-in-time quality, retaining many of the building’s original features. Stained glass, marble pillars, and in the suites, hand-tinted photographs from the era when The Stock Exchange Hotel was, in fact, Manchester’s stock exchange. (The trading floor was in continuous use between 1906 and 1979.)
Co-owned by famed footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, and hotelier Winston Zahra, the Stock Exchange houses 40 hotel rooms and a 3500 square foot residential penthouse that sits atop the building, and looks over the Manchester skyline. A new restaurant concept for the Stock Exchange is currently in the works and is set to open in spring 2024; for now, a luxurious breakfast is still served on the former trading floor, with its enormous domed roof and old-fashioned clock overlooking a brasserie-style layout. You’d be hard-pressed to find a grander locale to begin the day.
Where to eat
The hotbed of creativity in Manchester extends to its culinary scene. At Erst, for example, located in the red brick lanes of former industrial hub Ancoats, small plates mingle with a selection of natural wine in the usual fashion, except the dishes themselves are shot through with surprises: grilled flatbreads doused in walnut tarator; beetroot in ajo blanco and green chili; thin, fresh raw scallops that taste deliciously coastal.
Situated in Blackfriars House, buzzy new opening Climat is a rooftop eatery with a wine-led focus: at the front of the house, you’ll find 500 wines from around the world on display. For food, both the “omnivorous” and vegan menus showcase the best of seasonal produce; one of the restaurant’s most popular current offerings is its beef fat hash browns topped with taramasalata.
If you’ve really got a hankering for the flavours of Greece, however, head over to newer-than-new Fenix, which brings the high-end cuisine of Mykonos to Spinningfields. Ippokratis Anagnostelis, previously working out of Athens and Mykonos, has collaborated with head chef Zisis Giannouras to create a sharing-concept menu inspired by the best of Greek and Mediterranean flavours. Come for the food, but stay for the impressive interior: the lighting concept actually mimics the rising and setting sun on a Greek island getaway.
For more casual eats, the city’s famous Chinatown houses the cult Vietnamese restaurant Pho Cue (watch out for the queue). For drinks, Flawd is a natural wine bar along the canal offering bottles to takeaway or sit-in, and in a city flush with traditional pubs, the Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats stands out: hidden by a thick velvet curtain, it has candlelit tables, hearty cocktails, and a hard-to-beat historical lineage. If you get peckish, there’s now an upstairs dining room, too.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.