Politics and prosecco in Manchester

Salford Quays, Manchester

Being a part-time traveller, I’m always looking to fit in as much travel as I can possibly manage, so the ‘Take 12 Trips’ challenge was made for me. Started off by Claire from Need Another Holiday, the idea is to commit to taking a trip each month of the year – whether that’s a day out, a weekend away or an international trip. I made a start at the end of last year, but am going to try and make at least one trip a month for the whole of 2014. My first trip of the year was to a destination I know well – Manchester. My visits normally involve visiting friends and family rather than sightseeing, but this time I was determined to take my own advice to turn every trip into a holiday by seeing what there is to see and do in the city.

The People’s History Museum, Manchester

The People’s History Museum

Our first stop was the People’s History Museum in Manchester’s Spinningfields area. I’m a big fan of the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, but after three visits in a row it was time to try somewhere different and I’d heard great things about this place. The redeveloped museum reopened in 2010 in a converted Edwardian pump house with new four-storey extension, designed to turn from steel to rusty-red in Manchester’s damp weather. It covers 200 years of political history, focusing on what changes in society meant for ordinary people. The exhibits start off from the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 – which took place just down the road from the museum – then go through the fight for the vote and the start of the trade unions on the first floor, then into the twentieth-century on the second floor.

The People’s History Museum

Incredibly detailed trade union banners

My knowledge of political history is patchy at best, so it was fascinating to see the impact that political decisions made on how people worked and lived. There’s a good mixture of different exhibits, from vintage posters to interactive hands-on features, starting with a machine at the entrance where you can clock yourself in. There’s also the world’s biggest collection of trade union and political banners, beautifully embroidered and conserved by the museum’s in-house team of experts. Or if that all starts to sound a bit too serious, you can always find a ridiculous hat or costume to try on…

The People’s History Museum

Who could resist the opportunity for a bit of dressing up? Not us apparently!

The museum also has a great café overlooking the canal, but we had to head to our next stop – across the city centre to the Northern Quarter. Manchester has the UK’s second-biggest Chinatown so it’s not surprising that it’d gone all out to welcome the Year of the Horse. Over 3000 Chinese lanterns had been strung from trees and buildings, and there was a street parade complete with 175ft-long dancing dragon and fireworks display coming up later that evening. Until then there were martial art and dance displays going on, as well as food and drink stalls. But we had a more traditionally English feast in mind.

Chinese lanterns and afternoon tea in Manchester

Chinese lanterns and afternoon tea at Sugar Junction

Manchester’s Northern Quarter was redeveloped in the 1990s and is now home to alternative fashion and design shops, music venues and plenty of café and bars. And one of these was our destination – the vintage-style tea rooms at Sugar Junction. I love all things 50s-style, so was at home among the Saturday afternoon crowds, taking a break from shopping with a pot of tea or a glass of prosecco. The café serves its own custom-blended teas with homemade scones and cakes (their Chocolate and Guinness one is a speciality), all served on original vintage crockery. And if that wasn’t enough tea, I also managed to squeeze in another cup later with Claire herself – we’ve been chatting online for ages but it was lovely to finally meet in person. Can’t think of a more appropriate way to start off 2014’s Take 12 Trips!

The Lowry centre in Salford Quays

Sunny morning stroll around The Lowry centre in Salford Quays

Are you taking part in the #Take12Trips challenge? You can find out more about what the other take 12 Trippers have been up to in this post. Next month’s trip takes me even further north in the UK where I’ll be spending the weekend in Newcastle for the Traverse travel blogging conference.


  1. thetrustedtraveller says

    Great post Lucy. That afternoon tea looks mouth wateringly good! I missed out on Manchester when I was living in the UK and am disappointed about that.

    • says

      I do love a good afternoon tea, definitely one of Britain’s best culinary traditions! Manchester isn’t one of the most obvious cities for visitors to go to but is a great place and well worth a trip.

    • says

      It’s quite an interesting building – the other side has a concert hall with a glass front overlooking the water. The area is being redeveloped at the moment so it looks different every time I’m there!

  2. says

    Oh, stoppit! 🙂 What with Marianne’s “One” and this challenge I might end up galloping about like a maniac even more than ever. Seriously- I don’t know Manchester at all, or Birmingham either! I’ve got some bigtime catching up to do. Thanks for the recommends.

    • says

      You can never have enough reasons to travel! I’ve only really made so many trips to Manchester as I have family and friends there, Birmingham is one I’ve overlooked too, despite it being less than an hour away.

  3. says

    It was so lovely to see you in Manchester and I can’t wait for Newcastle! I definitely need to go for afternoon tea in town soon, too. I might actually indulge in a bit of trip copying because I’m planning to revisit the People’s History museum soon with one of my friends and I doubt she’ll have a problem following it with one of those scones!

  4. says

    I worked hard when I was in Manchester for a few work trips, so I missed all of this. And that is sad. So I will endeavour to see more of the many cities I see when I travel with work – thanks to you. Will mean less sleep – but what the hey

  5. says

    I’m from Manchester and you’ve visited a few places I’ve never been to, I definitely need to make more an effort next time I’m visiting to explore my home city.

    • says

      It always seems to be the way that you leave seeing places near to home til last – I’m just the same with the Cotswolds and places like Bristol that are really close to me.

Leave a Reply