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What to do in Manchester under the new Covid rules

Remember normal life? It seems like a distant memory after so much time spent in lockdown, but today (May 17) marks a big step towards the return of that life. New easings on restrictions open up a world of possibilities, allowing people to sit indoors at restaurants, pubs and cafes, while cultural and entertainment venues such as theatres, cinemas and museums can open their doors for the first time in months. Holidays also get a lot easier, as hotels and B&Bs are back in the mix and groups can now travel together. All of which means it’s time to get out there and explore the UK again. A great place to start is Manchester, a hotbed of creativity, art, culture and gastronomy. Here’s how to make the most of Manchester under the new guidelines. 

Explore the great indoors

One of the most talked-about aspects of the new rules is the reintroduction of indoor hospitality – a welcome upgrade for anyone who’s spent the last five weeks shivering in pub gardens. Restrictions on numbers still apply (up to six people can meet indoors or more if the group is from just two households/support bubbles) and it’s table-service only, but that doesn’t matter when you’ve got your pick of Manchester’s food and drink scene. A brand new opening on May 19 is a sustainability-focused cafe from conscious catering collective Open Kitchen (set in the People’s History Museum), which uses would-be food waste to create wide-ranging menus. Elsewhere, there’s Indian street food in buzzy Bundobust, creative small plates in hip neighbourhood spot Volta and upscale veggie and vegan food at long-standing favourite Greens.

As for pubs, Manchester’s pedigree is seriously high. Two great ‘proper pubs’ to welcome back indoor clinking of glasses are the gorgeous Marble Arch Inn, featuring locally brewed beers from Marble Brewery, and the similarly handsome Lass O’ Gowrie. For something fancier – or if you’re just sick of trying and failing to make a decent martini at home – hit The Daisy, a subterranean bar in the thriving Northern Quarter serving killer cocktails, including eight types of martini.

Ease back into entertainment

It’s been a while since live entertainment was an option, and The Deaf Institute has the perfect gentle reintroduction to that much-missed scene with its Good Mood Interlude, an entirely free five-week programme of socially distanced feelgood events, from music video screenings to quizzes to DJ sets. Further grooves can be heard at The Refuge, a classy but welcoming bar and restaurant hosting casual weekend DJ sessions.

Hit the big screen

Fed up of watching films on a laptop? Us too, which is why we can’t wait to get back to cinemas when they reopen their doors on May 17. Keep your moviegoing independent at eclectic independent cinema HOME, which screens alternative films like the multi-Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’.

Get re-cultured

Art-lovers and history-buffs, your wait is over. Museums and galleries can finally welcome back the culturally curious. Two gems from around Manchester are visual arts titan The Whitworth and the equally brilliant Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, both reopening on May 19.

Keep active

Although gyms reopened on April 12, indoor group exercise classes weren’t possible until now. Prepare to launch back into your favourite HIIT or spin class at one of Manchester’s many gyms, or perhaps fulfil that vague lockdown plan to try out taekwondo, which the Manchester Martial Arts Centre can help you achieve. 

Keep it alfresco

Even with all the indoor fun taking place, you’ll still want to spend time outdoors, especially when summer finally (hopefully) appears. On May 28, HOME (mentioned above) launches Homeground, an outdoor theatre showcasing Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, kooky cabaret, live music and much more. SecretCity is continuing its immersive drive-in cinema parties or for something more intimate, try a socially distanced walking tour, such as Ales & Alleyways, which tells the stories behind famous Manchester music venues.

Finally feel like you’re on holiday

Another exciting development is the increased freedom to book travel accommodation. Although households and support bubbles could already book into self-contained accommodation (such as Airbnbs), all hotels, hostels and B&Bs are now allowed to welcome guests, including mixed groups (with the same limitations as indoor hospitality). So, why not treat yourself and book into a great Manchester hotel, using it as your base for exploring? It’s an indulgence worth waiting for, whether you’ve lived in Manchester for years or you’re just visiting. The Kimpton Clocktower Hotel is a chic choice (and houses The Refuge, mentioned above) or step out of the hustle and bustle into peaceful surroundings at Didsbury House Hotel, which fittingly describes itself as a ‘luxury Victorian villa’, just a 20-minute drive from central Manchester.  

Transport yourself

With so much going on in and around Manchester, it makes sense to arrange your own transport, allowing you to travel across the city at your leisure. Karshare lets you to do exactly that by giving you instant access to hundreds of cars in your area. And as you unlock your chosen vehicle with your phone, you don’t need to spend precious time queueing, allowing you to utilise every spare minute for soaking up Manchester’s many charms. 

Click here to start renting a car in Manchester today. 

Tristan Parker

Tristan Parker is a freelance journalist, covering travel, arts, lifestyle, food and drink and technology. Along the way, he’s interviewed DJs, chefs, authors, actors, MPs, tarot readers and even a teddy bear, sort of.

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