Not only does Manchester offer a vast number and variety of boutiques, shops, galleries, and crafts centers, but it's also one of the best hunting grounds for bargains in all of England.
Most of the larger shopping areas in the city are pedestrian only. These include King Street and St. Ann's Square, full of exclusive boutiques and designer stores; Market Street, with its major chain and department stores; Arndale Centre, Manchester's largest covered shopping center; and the revitalized Piccadilly and Oldham streets, for fashion, music, and plenty of bargains. Deansgate Street is not pedestrian only but does have a lot of adventure-sports shops.
For the young at heart, interested in everything from World War II RAF bomber-pilot gear to outrageous club wear, it's one-stop shopping at Affleck Palace, 52 Church St. This complex provides 50 of the most widely varied shops in the city divided among four floors.
Antiques & Fine Art -- Those who like rooting through dusty stacks of stuff in search of treasures will find Manchester and the greater Manchester area prime hunting grounds. More pricey antiques can be found along Bury New Road in Prestwich village, just outside of Manchester.
Arts & Crafts -- You can rack up a lot of one-of-a-kind items while exploring the many shops devoted to craftspeople and their art. For ceramics, glass, textiles, jewelry, toys, dollhouses, and the like, visit the exquisite Victorian building that houses Manchester Craft Centre, 17 Oak St. (tel. 01618/324274; www.craftanddesign.com).
Department Stores -- For a northern outpost of London's chic department store, head for Harvey Nichols, 21 New Cathedral St. (tel. 0161/828-8888; www.harveynichols.com), in the city center. The store often has sales and is always packed with the latest designer goods. For lunch, you can dine in an affordable restaurant and brasserie on the second floor. Far cheaper fashion is found at Marks & Spencer, 7 Market St. (tel. 0161/831-7341; www.marksandspencer.com), the world's largest department store. Among its thousands of offerings, it is also known for its food department.
Markets -- Here in the north, markets are a tradition and offer you a chance to jump in and barter with the locals. Tourists tend to steer clear of them, so this is a great chance for an authentic experience.
Though markets tend to sell everyday items and foodstuff, some stalls are devoted to flea-market goods and "antiques." Market days vary throughout the city, but you're bound to find at least one in full swing each day of the workweek.
The major ones include Arndale Market and Market Hall in Manchester Arndale Centre, Grey Mare Lane Market and Beswick District Shopping Centre in Beswick, and Moss Side Market and Moss Lane East in Moss Side.
Mill Shops -- Manchester is an industrial stronghold with lots of textile mills. Most mills used to have a store, or mill shop, on-site where customers could come to buy mill goods. Today, more and more of the mills are setting up shop in towns across the country.
Bury New Road in Cheetham Hill, near Boddington's Brewery, has a great selection of factory shops, discount stores, warehouses, cash-and-carry outlets, and street stalls on Sunday mornings. Some of the stores along this road do not sell to the general public, and others require a minimum purchase.
Nostalgia -- Thanks partly to its burgeoning gay and lesbian community, Manchester has functioned like a magnet or vacuum cleaner, pulling in the kind of plasticized, airport-lobby kitsch that might have been discarded in horror a dozen or more years ago. The '60s-inspired vinyl of the Carnaby Street era flourishes and thrives at Oklahoma, 74-76 High St. (tel. 0161/834-1136), one of the most visible purveyors of kitsch in the city's funky Northern Quarter. Its decor is mostly constructed from recycled plastic, and crammed to the rafters with things kitschier -- both new and recycled -- than most mainstream psyches could possibly imagine. Come here for the kind of tongue-in-cheek gag items that might have been conceived during a psychedelic fog by a dyed-in-the-wool drag queen on mescaline. There's a cafe on the premises.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.