Manchester. It may have so much to answer for, but the one thing it can’t lay claim to is a decent view. You know, the sort of vista that gets Instagram likes as easily as a day-old kitten wrapped in a bathrobe. It lacks the World Heritage waterfront of Liverpool. It can’t compete with the literal highs of the Peaks. And yet Manchester is a city that supplies its own, cracking little views - if you know where to look. Luckily for you, then, that we’ve compiled this list of the top ten…
1. Cornbrook to St. Peter’s Square
Manchester doesn’t do the obvious, and neither does our first view – as it comes courtesy of the tram that rattles into the city from the south. It is from the tram, as it pulls out of Cornbrook and lifts up over the mercurial ribbon of the River Irwell, that you get a view of the city and its history: from ‘Roman’ ruins and Victorian viaduct below, to the heights of the Beetham Tower beyond.
2. Cloud 23
Which brings us neatly to our next stop: the aforementioned Beetham Tower. Manchester’s tallest building, one that once “sang” in high winds (due to a wind-catching fin at its top), is both a hotel and high faluntin’ apartments. Sandwiched in between, on the 23rd floor, sits the Cloud 23 bar. Good for afternoon teas and evening cocktails, a seat at the window affords you a view over the city to the Peaks, the Pennines and the Cheshire plains.
3. IWM North
This war museum is an architectural stunner, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind to resemble a globe shattered by war. Its steel shards sit at odd angles - inside, floors and ceilings slope – yet it’s outside that you’ll find the best sightlines. Its 100 foot-high Air Shard gives dizzying views across the mighty Manchester Ship Canal and to the inhabitants of MediaCityUK – the Beeb, Granada TV – just across the way.
4. Manchester Town Hall
Manchester’s monument to civic pride is undeniably lovely: a neo-Gothic fancy created by Alfred Waterhouse (of Natural History Museum fame) that’s notable for its mosaic floors, vaulted ceilings and Ford Madox Brown murals. But leave all that behind and climb the 281 feet to the top of its Clock Tower – tours are back on for the Christmas period – for a 360-degree peek at the city below.
5. San Carlo Bottega
Forget for a moment that this is a restaurant concession inside a department store (albeit one of the city’s best in one of the, er, city’s best). Shrug off the fact that the Corn Exchange is being redeveloped. Instead, slide into a booth, order a glass of wine and look down at a site of Mancunian ingenuity: after the 1996 IRA bomb, everything below was completely rebuilt, along with a historic pub - The Old Wellington – that was moved, piece by piece, to its current location. Clever, eh?
6. Cornerhouse, Oxford Road
Stand outside Cornerhouse in mid-September, when the students are freshly pressed and the city full of youthful energy (and several billion club flyers). In one direction, the road leads to the universities, Manchester Museum and the Whitworth; in the other it takes you into town, with Central Library poised like a full-stop at Oxford Road’s end. In between is the noise, traffic and people that make Manchester great, for a moment compressed into this one short stretch of street. Granted, it’s a fleeting view. But there’s nothing else like it.
7. The Casket Works, Cow Lane
Be brave, dear souls, and head into deepest darkest Salford for this view, up Chapel Street or taking in Islington Mill en route, until you come to the door of the brilliant indie printmakers’ studio, Hot Bed Press. Their warehouse home sits up on a hill; turn around and the view tumbles down towards the Irwell and to the high-rises of both Manchester and Salford.
8. Station Approach
Immortalised in song by Elbow, Station Approach – the walkway that leads up to Piccadilly Station - is not nearly as romantic as you might at first hope. But standing on the pedestrian bridge that spans London Road brings a modest reward: the glorious Fire Station (still, shamefully, under threat) and traffic both vehicular and human welcome you to the city.
9. Winter Hill
Also immortalized in song (this time by Doves), and known for it telecommunications tower, plane crash and UFO sightings, Rivington Moor’s Winter Hill is high, windy, occasionally treacherous – and gives the most incredible views over Manchester, Cumbria, Snowdonia, the Peaks, the Lakes, the Dales, Blackpool, the Isle of Man, Liverpool and the Mersey Coast… In other words, it’s worth the hike.
10. Liverpool Road
Back to the city for our final view – to a little patch of hillocky grass in Castlefield that overlooks The Ox and which forms a good vantage point for the city’s summer parades. As the costumed gather in readiness for their parade, sit out with a pint and muse on the things that they celebrate: Manchester’s propensity for invention, pride, politics, music and art – and, now and again, a half-decent view.
Words: Susie Stubbs