Where to Stay in Manchester First Time: Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Manchester for first-timers are the neighborhoods of Manchester City Centre, Chinatown, Northern Quarter, Salford Quays and Old Trafford, Castlefield, Didsbury, Chorlton. This guide will be looking at where to stay in Manchester and best places to stay in each district.

Manchester is a large city in North West England. It is home to two of Europe’s top soccer clubs, City and United. They have huge local support and plenty of followers worldwide. You would not go to Manchester for its weather because North West England gets plenty of rain. You may well go there for soccer, but there is much more to the City than sport.

It has always been an important commercial center with the Ship Canal due west to Liverpool and the Irish Sea a route for imports and exports. It is an important educational center in the UK as well as the best city in the north for shopping.

Manchester’s International Airport is to the South of the City.  Direct flights from Manchester include those across the Atlantic as well as most major European destinations, both scheduled flights, and low-cost airline routes. There are excellent regular connections into the heart of the City.

The railway is probably the best option and certainly the quickest way to get to the city center. Manchester’s public transport system is good but the speed of travel is dependent upon the volume of traffic. That can be heavy in the morning and evening. 

Motorways give Manchester access to other parts of England, including east-west on the M62. The ring road west of the City then heads south. If you are traveling from Manchester, you may decide to stay close to these motorways.   

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Manchester City center
💎 Best luxury hotel:Stock Exchange Hotel
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Jurys Inn Manchester City Centre
💰 Best budget hotel:Motel One Manchester Piccadilly

📌10 Best Areas to Stay in Manchester for tourist

1. Manchester City Centre, where to stay in Manchester for first time

Manchester City Centre, where to stay in Manchester for first time visitors

Manchester City Centre is the city’s business district with office blocks, hotels, and fine shopping. The cotton trade in the 19th Century was one of the main reasons for its growth. It was the main reason why today’s tourists will see the impressive Victorian architecture at every turn.

Buildings such as the Royal Exchange, the Corn Exchange, and the Free Trade Hall were built during those prosperous times. Manchester’s economy shrank as traditional industries declined yet the City center has certainly survived that decline.

The center is the home to Piccadilly Train Station, a transport hub of Greater Manchester whose population runs into the millions. You can easily make a day trips from Manchester City Centre.

Shoppers will love Manchester. Market Street is Manchester’s key area for high street shopping where you can find the Arndale Centre. The Arndale Centre attracts over 40 million shoppers each year, thereby being the largest city center shopping development in the United Kingdom. 

The main thoroughfare in the center is Deansgate which has a number of good shops. Spinningfields runs just off Deansgate. It is not just the financial heart of Manchester because it has some excellent bars and restaurants.

Another major street in Manchester city center is Oxford Road which runs through The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the BBC offices, theatres, and museums.

If you stroll along the street, you will also see the Art Deco building Dancehouse, Palace Theatre Manchester, Contact Theatre, Capitol Theatre, Manchester Museum, and the lovely red-brick building of Whitworth Art Gallery.

Oxford Road starts from St. Peter’s Square where you can find the Manchester Cenotaph, Victorian Gothic Revival style of Manchester Town Hall, Manchester Central Library, the Midland Hotel, Manchester Art Gallery, Chinatown, and Albert Square.

If you love history, there are many museums to explore including the People’s History Museum, Science and Industry Museum, and National Football Museum.

Other places of interest nearby are the Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester Cathedral, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Central Convention Centre, Emmeline Pankhurst’s home.

There are plenty of hotels in Manchester city center. The best quality ones tend to be here but there is plenty of cheaper accommodation as well. 

Stay in Manchester City Centre if this is your first visit; you have primarily come to go shopping, you want plenty of transport options to get elsewhere in Manchester, you are looking for a good quality hotel;

Best Places to Stay in Manchester City center:

luxury ($$$): Stock Exchange Hotel This 5-star hotel is in the heart of Manchester City Centre, within a short walk from the Royal Exchange Theatre, John Rylands Library, Canal Street, and Opera House Manchester. It has an on-site restaurant, private parking, a bar, a shared lounge, and spacious rooms with a coffee machine, air conditioning, free wifi, and a continental breakfast.

mid-range ($$): Jurys Inn Manchester City Centre This 4-star hotel is within easy walking distance from St Peters Square, the Manchester Central Convention Centre, and the Bridgewater Hall. it offers air-conditioning rooms with tea/coffee making facilities, a flat-screen TV, work desk, and a private bathroom

budget ($): Motel One Manchester Piccadilly Located within walking distance from Manchester Piccadilly train station, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester Conference Center, Old Trafford Stadium, and National Trust Quarry Bank Mill. it provides rooms with an en-suite shower, flat-screen TV, a lounge, and a bar area that serves a buffet breakfast, and high-speed wifi.

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2. Northern Quarter, where to stay in Manchester for nightlife

Northern Quarter, where to stay in Manchester for nightlife
Northen Quarter/Heather Cowper

Located between Northern Quarter, this sprawling area of narrow streets and alleys is regarded as the heart of Manchester’s bohemian culture. There are many small businesses within these streets. Some are boutiques while others are bars and cafes. If you enjoy craft ales or good coffee, you are sure to find it in the Northern Quarter.

In years gone by, the old warehouses in this district were busy places. In more recent years, they have been redeveloped to offer the small units of today. The impressive architecture in general dates back to the thriving economy of the 19th Century.

The boutiques are an alternative to shopping in the Arndale or along Deansgate. Specialist shops are found in the Northern Quarter. If you love music on vinyl, you must visit the different record shops along Oldham Street.

There are several restaurants in the Northern Quarter which is also the place where you can find nightclubs that stay open until late. Northern Quarter is one of the most popular places to go for nightlife in Manchester, home to some of the best bars and traditional pubs.

The Northern Quarter is regularly used for TV and film locations. The ‘’plot’’ does not need to involve Manchester because the Northern Quarter could pass as a neighborhood in many cities, or even English-speaking countries.

Northern Quarter is also a good spot for art lovers, with a large number of murals appearing in the area since the Cities of Hope festival. You can find the best street arts at Stevenson Square, or visit some of its art galleries like Northern Quarter Gallery and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.

Other attractions include Cervantes Institute, the Printworks, Manchester’s cathedral on Victoria Street, the Craft and Design Centre– the former Victorian fish market, Swan Street’s Mackie Mayor Building, and Neo-Romanesque arches of the Smithfield Market.

Stay in Northern Quarter if you want vibrant nightlife; you enjoy spending your time in small independent establishments; you like exploring small shops and boutiques.

Best places to stay in the Northern Quarter:

3. Ancoats, one of the hippy neighborhoods in Manchester

Ancoats, one of the hippy neighborhoods in Manchester
Murray’s Mill, Ancoats, Manchester/Robert Cutts

In many ways, Ancoats is similar to the Northern Quarter which is its neighbor. Ancoats is still developing. Visitors can wander its streets and find things that were not there a few months ago. There is an artistic element to Ancoats with independent theatre and art studios on offer.

Even though Ancoats is developing, the rents are still relatively low for its central location.  This district was also known for the textile business that was once so flourishing. Its former nickname was ‘’cottonopolis.’’

Other industries developed because of Ancoats’ commercial activities with glass and machinery manufacture emerging but all have now gone. 

No longer are any of the buildings empty. Businesses have taken some of the property while conversions have led to trendy apartments for purchase or rent

Bars and coffee shops have a ‘’hippy’’ feel while there are some excellent restaurants in Ancoats as well. If you are looking for plenty of choices in one district, Ancoats is worthy of consideration. There is cuisine from a variety of places as diverse as Vietnam and Japan, Mexico, and Scandinavia.

Craft beers are readily available and many of its bars have a real atmosphere.

Stay in Ancoats if you enjoy vibrant areas, especially those that are still developing; you want to be fairly central without being in the center itself; you don’t mind taking local transport to get you around.

Best places to stay in Manchester in Ancoats:

4. Chorlton, bohemian neighborhood in south of Manchester

Chorlton, bohemian neighborhood in a suburb south of Manchester
Chorlton/Adam Bruderer

Located ten minutes by tram from Manchester city center, Chorlton is a popular stay to stay near Manchester City. Manchester has a huge student population and most of the seats of learning are south of the center of Manchester. That includes the Halls of Residence and plenty of private rental accommodation.

Chorlton has small shopping blocks, neighborhood bars, and plenty of places to eat. It is a liberal bohemian neighborhood that will certainly appeal to young travelers.

At one time, Chorlton was countryside and it developed as those benefiting from the textile boom sought to live outside the city with the newly laid railway their means of ‘’commuting.’’. 

The 19th Century properties have been ideal for conversion for a modern-day living although passenger rail services are not available to today’s inhabitants. Subject to traffic flow, it is still fairly easy to get into and out of the center. 

There are still green spaces and Chorlton Green has been designated as a conservation area. you also have Sale Water Park, Chorlton Ees, Maker’s Market, Longford Park, Chorlton Water Park, and Southern Cemetery.

There is an annual Arts Festival each May over 9 days, an Autumn Books Festival, and Chorlton plays a role in the October City Food & Drink Festival.

Stay in Chorlton if you want all the facilities of a big city but prefer a suburban base to go back to at the end of the day; you like the feel of neighborhood bars; you enjoy community activities.

Best places to stay in Chorlton:

5. Whalley Range, where to stay in Manchester for local life

Whalley Range, where to stay in Manchester for local life
Whalley Range/Donald Judge

Neighbouring Whalley Range is another district that appeals to the younger generation. There is plenty of private rental accommodation hence a decent proportion of its population are students. Many of the Victorian buildings have been converted into smaller units.

It is not purely a residential district. Visitors will find relaxed bars and good food alternatives. It is limited in terms of shopping because its residents are seen as mobile and hence will travel to shop.

There are no ‘’streets’’ in Whalley Range which indicates the class consciousness of Victorian times. Instead, visitors find tree-lined roads, lanes, and avenues.

Whalley Range is just a couple of miles from the middle of Manchester and history tells us it was one of the City’s first suburbs. It gets its name from the town in Lancashire where the wealthy businessman, Samuel Brooks who developed the district towards the end of the 19th Century, originated.

An interesting piece of historical records is that wealthy women and spinsters in Whalley Range were some of the first females to get the vote. (Married women’s rights were subordinate to their husbands.)

Here you can also find Carlton Club, Whalley Range’s social club; and the 24-hectare Alexandra Park that offers walking paths, a football field, a cricket pitch, a lake, and a bowling green.

Stay in Whalley Range if you want a local vibe: you want access to the middle of Manchester but prefer your base in a quieter environment; you are looking for apartment accommodation.; you are happy with good bars and eating options without being interested in club life.

Best places to stay in Whalley Range:

Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Manchester in this video:

6. Didsbury, one of Manchester’s affluent suburbs

Didsbury, one of Manchester’s affluent suburbs
Didsbury/Adam Bruderer

Located on the north bank of the River Mersey, one of Manchester’s most expensive suburbs, Didsbury is around 4.5 miles from Manchester city center.

The main road running through Didsbury en route to Chorlton is home to many independent bars selling craft beers and small shops selling a huge variety of products. If you prefer a quieter environment that ordinary pubs offer, you might like to try the cocktail bars that you will also find. 

It is another district that the younger generation enjoys. The vegetarian cafe in Withington has earned a good reputation while another cafe, Fuel, is known for its music 

Didsbury is another district that was originally rural before the Industrial Revolution saw the rapid growth of Manchester. Its church was built in the 13th Century but today’s building is primarily the 17th Century. It was named St. James in 1855 and the buildings in its immediate vicinity form the biggest concentrations of listed buildings in Manchester.

People tend to associate the River Mersey with Liverpool but it actually flows through South Manchester, Didsbury included, westwards to this City which is Manchester’s greatest rival, especially on the soccer pitch.

It is an affluent suburb with an unemployment level well below Manchester’s average. There is some employment within Didsbury itself but many locals head into the City center each day.

You’ll also find lots of great places in Didsbury such as Marie Louise Gardens, Fog Lane Park, Hugh End Playing Fields, Didsbury & Withington Community Baths.

Stay in Didsbury if you want a base away from the middle of Manchester but with good transport links; you like neighborhood pubs with craft beers; you are not worried about being close to large shopping areas.

Best places to stay in Didsbury:

7. Levenshulme, with good transport links to the city centre

Levenshulme, with good transport links to the city centre
Levenshulme/JuliaC2006

Levenshulme is often referred to as the ‘new Chorlton’. House prices remain lower in Levenshulme than in some of these other neighborhoods in South Manchester. That has appealed to first-time buyers, and by definition the younger ‘’set.’’ This district is due south of Manchester, halfway towards Stockport and its station is on the route to London. 

As Levenshulme has become more popular so has the choice of places to eat and craft beer bars. The Saturday Market attracts large numbers of people each week looking for a bargain. You may be looking for something different but not have fixed ideas on what. Levenshulme Market could be the place you find it. 

Dick Turpin was said to be a regular visitor to the Blue Bell Inn in Barlow Road. There has been an inn on that site for 700 years but German bombing destroyed the one standing there before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Despite there being people living here for many centuries, there was minimal development until the late Victorian era. No fine buildings, just rows of terraces define Levenshulme.

The annual ‘’Levenshulme’’ Festival has established itself over the last couple of decades. It is very much a multi-cultural event with plenty of different activities including music concerts. While there, make sure you visit ‘’The Street with No Name’’ that has been there for 160 years, with no name.

Stay in Levenshulme if you want good transport links to other parts of Manchester; you want some cheap accommodation; you have no need to be in the City center.

Best places to stay in Levenshulme:

8. Sale, 6 miles from the Manchester city

Sale is less than 6 miles from the heart of Manchester. While administratively it has borough status, visitors to Manchester often choose to stay in Sale to get a rural feel with good amenities. 

The M60 which runs down the west of Manchester passes Sale. It follows that there are good transport links making it simple for commuters and tourists to go backward and forwards, The Metrolink into Manchester City center means even first-time visitors can get around easily.

Sale is located on the Mersey which is perhaps a reason why evidence of settlement goes back many centuries. An old Roman road ran between Chester and York. Today it is the A56.

There is quite a variety of architecture with old buildings, 1930s developments, and new estates found in Sale. At one time it was strictly working class but now it is perceived as very much middle class. From a crop growing and livestock area, it is now service industries and commuters.

Sale’s Shopping center is thriving despite the competition, a result of a very low unemployment rate. One of Sale’s real attractions is green space. There is a water park, a nature reserve that attracts migrating birds, and Woodheys Park with several activities and amenities.

Another place to visit is the Sale Water Park, an area of countryside and parkland containing a lake, woodland, meadows, the River Mersey, cafe, restaurant, and water sports center.

Stay in Sale if you want to see Manchester but are reluctant to stay in the busy center; you enjoy the rural feel that Sale can provide; you are looking for a choice of restaurants at night; you seek open spaces and the natural environment

Best places to stay in Sale:

9. Trafford, great area for shopping and sport events

Trafford, great area for shopping and sport events

When people hear Trafford, many immediately think Manchester United because its iconic ground is called Old Trafford. Shoppers with no interest in soccer know the Trafford center which opened in 1998.

It is a metropolitan borough that was formed during local government reorganization over 40 years ago.  For the purposes of areas to stay, the area under discussion is around that Shopping center and Trafford Park Industrial Estate.

The name ‘’Trafford’’ was a compromise as the name for that Metropolitan Borough which absorbed small towns. Each was keen to maintain its identity and not be absorbed by a neighbor.

Almost 50,000 workers are employed at Trafford Park. Over the years agriculture was replaced by the textile industry then the Business Park opened. Business activities require a good infrastructure and that includes hotel accommodation. 

Trafford may not be the first place a visitor thinks of if intending to visit Manchester. However, its name, the proximity of Manchester United and Old Trafford as well as the Test cricket ground make it worth consideration.

Stay in Trafford if you do not want to be in the middle of Manchester but want good shopping alternatives; you intend to watch a sporting event or concert and want to be close to the venue;

Best places to stay in Trafford:

10. Salford, in the west of Manchester City center

Where to Stay in Manchester:  Salford

In recent years, the development of Salford Quays and the Lowry center has raised the profile of Salford. Lowry was Manchester’s artist who depicted local life. His name means a lot to Manchester people.

Salford is west of Manchester City center. It developed during the prosperity that the textile industry brought to the City. Its location on the Manchester Ship Canal guaranteed that while the textile industry and trade thrived, so would Salford.

Salford University’s School of Arts is separate from Manchester’s institutions. As a result, there is a significant student population which makes the area youthful and vibrant. It has reversed the decline that came as textile prosperity waned. At that point, Salford was seen as an area with significant slums and crime.

Salford has seen major investment with much of the old terraced properties demolished in regeneration. There remains a number of important buildings that were constructed in the 19th Century when Salford prospered.

They include the Museum and Art Gallery. The park is named after Sir Robert Peel while Salford had the first free library in the UK.

‘’Coronation Street’’ is the longest-running soap on TV anywhere. While its location is ‘’Weatherfield’’, it really represents working-class Salford before its regeneration. Ewan McColl’s ‘’Dirty Old Town’’ represented Salford very well. However, these days, the place has changed and is well worth visiting.

Stay in Salford if you enjoy the atmosphere that you get within a city; your time in Manchester is intended to show you typical daily life and teach you a little about its history; you want easy access to Manchester City center.

Best places to stay in Salford:

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Visitors to Manchester can expect a warm welcome. Locals are happy to help with directions and the transport infrastructure is good. First time visitors can be confident of finding what they are looking for even if they choose the best areas to stay in Manchester well away from the city center. There are times when the traffic is busy but that applies to every city. 

Soccer fans can see the best of club football at the Etihad and Old Trafford. Old Trafford cricket ground close to the soccer stadium hosts Test cricket as well. When the Australians visit, it will definitely be a full house. 
There are regular live music events in a city that is home to many talented pop musicians.

There are many cultural and entertainment events in Manchester every month of the year. Look at the calendar and decide which month you want to see this great city.

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