If you are visiting Manchester, and are wondering where to go, you are simply spoilt for choice. Whatever you're into, this diverse city has something special to offer. Before you start exploring though, it's worth looking at the distinct areas of Manchester
The Northern Quarter
Manchester's Northern Quarter has its own individual flair
Filled with independent shops, bars and restaurants, there's not a McDonald's or a Starbucks in site. Head to Manchester Craft & Design Centre for unique gifts, browse the shelves of Fred Aldous for all your crafting needs and take a pit stop at quirky shop cafe, Oklahoma. Don't miss a visit to Affleck's Palace, which is packed with boutique shops and stalls.
Wander down the side streets and discover all kinds of hidden treasures, including some incredible graffiti.
As day turns to night, there's plenty going on. For all your music needs, there's Band on the Wall and Night and Day Cafe for a range of live music, or Matt & Phreds if you're looking for a little jazz. Don't forget the fabulous Frog & Bucket for their brilliant comedy nights.
If you want a meal that's a little special, head to the NQ Restaurant for contemporary British cuisine, or stylish Malaysian restaurant Ning.
This area runs under the railway bridges off Deansgate, close to the Museum of Science and Industry and Beetham Tower, which dwarfs the area. Labelled an urban heritage park back in 1982, Castlefield features the ruins of an original Roman fort, with the Bridgewater Canal and Rochdale Canal running through it.
These canals have resulted in several bars appearing in the area which have truly stood the test of time. Dukes 92 is perfect for a drink and has a new outdoor kitchen and bar for sunny days. Albert's Shed is a great restaurant with fabulous service. You simply can't beat Castlefield when the sun is shining.
Whilst you're there, make sure you visit the Museum of Science and Industry, a colossus space offering all kinds of things to explore –from steam engines, to helicopters and some great hands-on stuff for the kids too.
This stunning area of Manchester is a perfect example of the successful blending of old and new architecture. Following the IRA bomb back in 1996, town planners were forced to make some tricky decisions, when two medieval pubs were left standing whilst surrounding areas had crumbled.
This area features several iconic buildings - Manchester Cathedral (which dates back to 1421) and two pubs in Shambles Square - The Old Wellington (1552) and Sinclair's Oyster Bar. In front of The Shambles stand glass fronted shops Selfridges and Harvey Nichols which were built where the pubs originally stood, and next to it is the Corn Exchange (early 1900s) which has undergone numerous transformations over the years, and now houses a variety of restaurants.
Behind the Cathedral and the Corn Exchange stands The National Football Museum (previously Urbis), a uniquely shaped building made entirely of glass.
Oxford Road houses Manchester's two Universities, so you'll see plenty of students milling around. You will also find the recently renovated Whitworth Art Gallery, which is simply fascinating to walk around, and Manchester Museum, where you can find Stan the T-Rex, and plenty of other interesting artefacts.
Manchester Aquatics Centre, which was purpose built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is directly opposite Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) and offers a 50m pool.
If you are interested in catching a show, and fancy something a little different than the usual West End offerings, you can head to the Dancehouse or the Contact Theatre.
For a pit stop, drop into Kro Bar, a tiny cafe directly opposite the University of Manchester offering delicious pastries and coffee.
Spinningfields is one of Manchester's newest areas, which stemmed from the desire to create a central business district around the existing John Rylands Library and the People's History Museum. The result is spectacular.
There are several restaurants which back onto the River Irwell, including family favourites GBK, Zizzi's and new trendier offerings such as Artisan, Tattu and Iberica. The whole area is beautifully styled; whilst passing through, make sure you stop for a drink at the Oast House, a cosy pub/bar which has an extensive outside eating space. There is also plenty of fun to be had at Refinery, one of Spinningfield's newest bars.
Whilst in the area, make sure you visit the John Ryland's Library, a beautiful library which first opened in 1900 and houses various special collections including medieval manuscripts and personal papers and letters from the likes of Elizabeth Gaskell and John Dalton.
There are also several events held in Spinningfields throughout the year, including outdoor cinema Screenfields, Manchester Duck Race and Spinfest where you can catch plenty of live music.
Manchester's China Town is the third largest in Europe. Here you will find and abundance of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants and shops, including the renowned Yang Sing which is well worth a visit.
The Arndale/ Market Street/ Piccadilly Gardens
Here you will find all your usual high street shops and chain cafes and restaurants. So if the likes of Primark, Debenhams and TK Maxx get you excited, this is the place to be. If you're getting peckish, avoid the usual fast food haunts and instead a visit to the Arndale's Food Market is well recommended. There are hundreds of stalls offering all kinds of foodie delights.