To the uninitiated, Manchester can seem an intimidating mess of noise, color and smells (not always pleasant) – but beyond that initial onslaught of ‘bustle’ there is a full world waiting to be discovered – from the pastry shops tucked away in Chinatown’s basements to the high-rise hotels that have made their stamp on the skyline of the north. This is a continuation of our previously published Travel Guide to Manchester. This list names includes some permanent and some beholden to the time of year, but nonetheless truly unmissable.

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The Northern Quarter

Manchester’s worst-kept secret, the Northern Quarter embodies everything ‘cool’ about Manchester. Artisan coffee shops, vintage shops, pokey pubs, swanky bars and a shared friendly atmosphere all over 3 or 4 well-hidden streets. Music festivals are common, filling every drinking hole with live music and every street with dedicated fans; alternative shops and tattoo parlours draw all manner of cultures; niche departments stores like Affleck’s Palace offer ephemera from every age and discipline: all making the Northern Quarter the place to be at any time of day.

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Christmas Markets

We were never going to get any further without the injection of something a little Christmassy – ‘tis the season after all! And what better way to recognise the coming of yule than with Manchester’s award-winning Christmas Markets. Comprising over 300 stalls, densely populating the high streets and squares, selling all manner of goods and services and generally warming the atmosphere in the street to homely levels, the market runs until the 21st December and stands apart as an annual spectacle unique to Manchester in style and substance, and growing ever more popular.

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Spinningfields Ice Rink

Spinningfields is a gorgeous retail and business district just by Deansgate, but come winter-time it changes nearly beyond recognition – Winter At Spinningfields offers a skating rink in the centre of the square, surrounded by the best restaurants, bars and coffee shops you could ask for on a clear evening spent on the ice, in good company.

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Etihad/Old Trafford

Manchester is particularly well-known for its football culture, having seen epistemic successes in both of the Premiership teams native to its soil. On match day, tens of thousands will flock from all over, descending on the city centre to take part in it however they can: cheering, jeering, placing bets. A trip to the Etihad stadium is an absolute must for visitors to Manchester, even better on match day. The Man City game is always an exciting and engaging match, with exciting odds, on which to lay a bet, if you’re looking to really soak up the atmosphere in the stands of the Etihad. If the blues aren’t exactly the top of your list, you need look no further than Old Trafford, the grounds for Manchester United, only a few miles away off Sir Matt Busby Lane. Football is inextricable from Manchester’s fabric, and taking in these stadiums is another step closer to really getting a feel for what this ostensible capital of the North is all about.

What are your favorite spots in Manchester? Leave us a comment below!