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News / City Life

Ten of Manchester's hidden gems

Chetham's Library, Manchester

It doesn't usually take long for hidden gems to become tarnished under the weight of word-of-mouth, but here are ten that are off the beaten track whilst still remaining untainted by the hype. 

Chetham's Library
The UK's oldest public library, this one is often overlooked in favour of the limelight-hogging John Rylands. Tucked away behind Chetham's School of Music, the library was founded by Humphrey Chetham back in 1653 and now houses over 100,000 books. The clinchers, though, are the moody decor and imposing architectural features that give the building its character, along with its perfect city-centre location.

Cafe Marhaba
You'll find most Mancunians raving about the Northern Quarter's This & That, which was once an assuming curry house that only few knew about. This & That may not have lost any of its magic with its growing cult status, but if you're after something a little more obscure you can go and get your fill from Cafe Marhaba, where curries and kebabs are served alongside a clique of ageing men who seem to have become part of the furniture. 

Under New Management
Semi-secret cocktail bars are usually synonymous with an exclusivity that everyone wants to subscribe to, because by knocking on a door and being allowed entry, it’s something you can blag to your friends about. At Under New management the semi-secret status instead comes from the fact that it’s a total bugger to find, but once you’ve navigated around Salford’s back streets you’ll find a bounty of well-made cocktails waiting for you. 

The Anchor
We're certainly not short of good independent coffee shops here in Manchester - with the likes of North Tea Power, Takk and Fig and Sparrow more than competently leading the pack over in the Northern Quarter - but one that often falls by the wayside is The Anchor on Moss Lane East. It's a lovely, clean space that's good not only for its supply of Monmouth Coffee, but also its seriously tasty bagels.

Godlee Observatory
Unassumingly tucked away on the roof of the Sackville Building, the Godlee Observatory is often forgotten as it quietly watches over the city from its rooftop position. As the current base for Manchester's Astronomical Society, the observatory is only open to the public on a strictly by-appointment-only basis, but at just a phone-call away it still remains one of the best ways to scan the skies both after dark and before.  

Hands up for Ethiopian food! Wait, what? Oh, you've never had it. Oh. Well, you're missing out, but luckily you can fill that East African void with Manchester's only Ethiopian restaurant. You'll have to tiptoe your way through a slightly questionable fast food joint and up a spiral staircase, but once upstairs your tastebuds will be doing a victory dance at the sight of the injera, a giant, spongy pancake made from teff flour that tastes much better than it sounds, especially when piled high with spicy curries and slow-cooked meat. 

Upper Chorlton Road's Furniture Warehouse
Buying used goods has never been more popular, but with this prevalence also comes assertions of 'vintage' and 'pre-loved' qualities, jargon that can all too often blinker us from prices borderlining extortion. Faith can be restored within the grime and grunge of the elusive old furniture warehouse on Upper Chorlton Road, where the airs and graces have been tossed to the side, leaving a giant space that is definitively not twee but instead just full to the brim of second-hand stock. Here you can enjoy a good, old-fashioned rummage, and though sometimes you’ll have to dedicate time to giving pieces a little bit of TLC, the fair prices will let you have the last laugh.

Walkden Gardens
Manchester isn't known for its flurry of green spaces, but by venturing a little further South of Chorlton you can find ample outdoor potential in Sale's Walkden Gardens. A far cry from the BBQ-and-beer centricity of Fallowfield's Platt Fields Park, the quaint landscape of Walkden Gardens is free to roam throughout each of the seasons and comes complete with a dedicated theatre lawn for open-air productions. 

Nexus Art Cafe
Sometimes you find yourself at the tail-end of a long shopping jaunt in town, wanting nothing more than an uncomplicated mug of tea. No frills tea. No timers and fancy flavours (hi, Teacup!), just bog-standard tea. This is when you should head to Dale Street's Nexus Art Cafe, an underground gem that serves pots of tea on the cheap with a free refill, plus deliciously uncomplicated food. Ace. 

St Philip's Church
Designed in early 1820s this church has been serving the religious for centuries, but more recently it's also been re-purposed as an amazing live music venue, offering up its grand Georgian architecture as a host to gigs, festivals and performances. Previous events have included shows from American singer-songwriter How To Dress Well, local shoegazers Patterns and Leeds' brooding post-punk pioneers I Like Trains, as well as music festival Sounds From the Other City.