Travel: City break in Manchester

The River Irwell flows through Manchester city centre. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The River Irwell flows through Manchester city centre. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Back in 1979 Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang was the first rap track to storm the UK charts (reaching number three) and possibly the first to realise the potential of brand placement with the lyrics “hotel motel Holiday Inn”.

I’ll gloss over the more recent Holidae Inn by Chingy featuring Ludacris and Snoop Dog as I’m definitely “Old Skool”. Anyway, our destination for the weekend is the fresh new Holiday Inn in Manchester which only opened its doors in April and celebrates musical roots closer to home.

The interior of the Holiday Inn Hotel Manchester. Picture: Contributed

The interior of the Holiday Inn Hotel Manchester. Picture: Contributed

The car journey down the M6 starts our tenuously musical-themed weekend with Ministry of Sound’s Sorted! 40 Madchester Baggy Anthems providing the soundtrack and when we stop in Morecambe we find the town in full Northern Soul mode. Our 11-year-old daughter, Orla, is somewhat bemused by the oldies dancing in the street at lunchtime.

There seems to be something of a Manchester music revival at the moment; Graham Park and Mike Pickering, DJs from legendary nightclub, the Hacienda have been on tour with the Manchester Camerata orchestra and the city has hosted several massive gigs this summer.There was Parklife in Heaton Park, New Order and Hacienda Classical at Castlefield Bowl while the Ethiad Stadium has been busy with the likes of Coldplay, AC/DC and the four-day homecoming for the Stone Roses who have released a new single.

The Holiday Inn is next to Picadilly train station, parking’s available nearby, the tram stop is close and, best of all, it’s an affordable option.

The entrance is an open lobby which includes the reception, restaurant, bar and café which manages to maintain a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere despite its size. We’re staying in a junior suite which we soon discover is more akin to what you would expect in a considerably more expensive hotel. There’s a giant triple bed, double sofa bed, a table and chairs with plug points and charging points, free fast wi-fi, and teas, coffees, mini-bar, two flatscreen TVs... I could go on but it’s the bathroom that impresses us most with mood lighting, a massive bath, walk-in shower with standard and rainforest heads, plus dressing gowns and slippers. There’s no spa in the hotel but a very well-equipped gym which gets the thumbs up from my muscle man Iain – though he’s conveniently left his gym kit at home.

The city centre is just a few minutes’ walk away and we head out to get our bearings, returning to the hotel when hunger strikes. The lobby has a variety of seating areas to choose from; booths, a high tapas-style area, comfy chairs, a family area (with games) and slightly more formal dining tables which seems to sum up the place – there’s something for everyone. The menu confirms this. The children’s choices go down well with Orla and the main menu provides a varied selection.

After dinner we have a look around the hotel. There are song lyrics printed on the walls and the staircase down to the state-of-the-art conference rooms bears a large illuminated quote from Tony Wilson, “This is Manchester, we do things differently here”. The conference suites have names such as the Hacienda Suite and the images of Sean Ryder and Bez in full party mode give us a laugh. There are similarly a variety of bedrooms available from standard doubles up to the [George] Best Suite which has a great view and is almost an apartment itself.

On our second day after breakfast – possibly the biggest and best buffet I’ve encountered – we explore the city centre. As well as football (Manchester United win the FA Cup the day we arrive and England beat Turkey at the Ethiad the next), shopping is clearly a major hobby here and despite the National Football Museum being slap bang in the city centre we opt for the shops. There’s a Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and the Arndale Centre has a huge variety of high street stores. The craft and design centre houses several artist studios and the Northern Quarter has a studenty vibe with lots of specialist shops. We try to be cool parents by taking Orla to Afflecks, an alternative indoor market with independent stalls, small shops and boutiques. The tall and voluptuous drag queen sashaying around doesn’t get a second glance but images of the frocks are snapped for Instagram.

We enjoy a stroll around the Spinningfields district near the canal, home to a variety of restaurants and bars not dissimilar to Disney’s Epcot centre, each with their own speciality and clever decor. There’s an outdoor market which we browse, but decide to eat at the hotel – such is the lure of the menu and comfort of the room. Manchester? We’re mad for it. ■

• Rooms at the Holiday Inn Manchester, 25 Aytoun Street M1 3DT, tel: 0871 423 4896,, start from £79.