Spinningfields-Albert Square covers the area in central Manchester north of Castlefield, east of Quay St and Peter St and west of St Peter's Square (inclusive). It covers the locales of central Deansgate, Albert Square, as well as the newly developed business district of Spinningfields, and is focussed upon the heart of the city centre.
Deansgate is the spine of Manchester, a mile-long perfectly-straight road that joins the site of Roman Mancunium in Castlefield to the site of Medieval Manchester at the Cathedral, connecting all the districts of the city centre together. This article deals with the section of the road between Bridge Street and Quay Street. About half way along Deansgate is the beginnings of Manchester's new business district, Spinningfields, which offers new eating places, of which some are by the riverside. There used to be a pleasant grassed area by the law courts which is now occupied by a new building. Albert Square is the municipal and administrative heart of Manchester, housing the city's beautiful neo-Gothic town hall.
At present, Manchester's Metrolink tram system largely avoids this area, so the nearest stop is St Peter's Square, behind the Town Hall. Despite this, plans are already afoot for a Second City Crossing, set to run down Princess St and Cross St.
- Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square, ☎ +44 161 234-5000. Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM, call in advance to make sure. This imposing and beautiful neo-Gothic masterpiece by Alfred Waterhouse is the official headquarters of the Manchester City Council, but its job is largely ceremonial now. Most of the offices have moved to the more practical extension next door. The Town Hall shows the power Manchester commanded during the peak of the Industrial Revolution with its grand rooms and lavish decoration, including the famous Madox Murals in the Great Hall. Free entry, a small fee for guided tours.
- Central Library & Theatre, St Peter's Square, ☎ +44 161 234-1900. Department opening hours vary, see web site. You can't miss this striking circular neo-Classical building when passing through St. Peter's Square. The recent recipient of a multi-million pound renovation, Central Library is well worth visit, if not for its vast selection of resources and interactive archive but for its beautiful architecture, especially evident in the circular Wolfson Reading Room on the first floor. The Henry Watson music library was the place of re-discovery of the manuscripts of Vivaldi's celebrated 'Manchester' concerti. Free.
- St. Mary's The Hidden Gem, Mulberry Street (go through an ugly concrete building in Lincoln Square — it really is the hidden gem). Mon-Wed, Fri 8AM-4PM, Thu 8AM-6PM, Sat 10AM-6PM, Sun 10AM-2PM (services Mon-Fri 12:30PM, Sat noon and 5:15PM, Sun 10:15AM and noon). This little traditional Catholic church dates from 1794, making it the oldest purpose-built post-Reformation Catholic church in England. It is an active church, with the largest congregation of any of the city-centre churches in Manchester. Inside is a modern "Stations of the Cross" by Norman Adams that is considered one of the greatest works of art in Manchester. Please remember that this is a place of Roman Catholic worship: modest dress is expected and photography is forbidden. The church is closed to tourists during services. Free.
- The Albert Hall, 27 Peter Street, M2 5QR, ☎ +44 161 274-1351, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An ornate former Wesleyan chapel that has been converted into a music venue, bar and restaurant. The hall plays host to a number of exciting acts on a regular basis. For specific information, see the venue's website.
- John Rylands Library, Deansgate. Sun, Mon 12noon - 5pm, Tue - Sat 10am - 5pm. After closing for refurbishment, the John Rylands Library is now open to the public. It now has access to all floors and a new entrance and cafe to the side of the building on Spinningfields. The John Rylands library is a beautifully-dark Gothic archive bang in the middle of the new business district. It is home to a number of special collections, many of which are now on display including the celebrated St. Johns Fragment, Papyrus P52 — possibly the oldest piece of the New Testament in existence. The library's magnificent Reading Room has been opened up so visitors are free to wander around it. There is also an exhibition floor which shows off some of the jewels of the collection. Don't confuse this library with John Rylands University Library, which is the library at the university and is not at all interesting (or open) to tourists. free.
- Manchester Opera House, Quay Street, ☎ +44 161 828-1700.
- People's History Museum, The Pump House, Bridge Street, ☎ +44 161 839-6061, fax: +44 161 839-6027, e-mail: email@example.com. Tue-Sun and Bank Holidays 11AM-4:30PM. This little museum down by the river on the border of Manchester and Salford aims to document the way the lives of ordinary people have developed since the industrial revolution. The museum owns many artifacts and documentation from the history of socialism in Britain, not least the building where the Trades Union Congress held its first meeting, on Princess Street, which it now uses as a public archive. Free.
From late November to Christmas, a large Christmas market sets up in Albert Square and on the streets leading up to it. The market runs from 16 Nov - 20 Dec and is open everyday from 10AM to 8PM. In Albert Square, the market is open until 9PM. Traders come from across Europe to set up their stalls in wooden chalets. For the best experience, go at night and enjoy a nice glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) and some Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and then huddle around and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
On John Dalton Street, on the left, just up from Deansgate, going to Albert Square, is a gem of a cafe, Essy's, (imagine a cross between an American diner and an old style British "café"). It is run by a group of Iranians, for whom nothing is too much trouble. You can be satisfied there for under £5 with clean, welcoming table service. There are a couple of other similar places around town; in the Northern Quarter and one just behind Kendals (House of Fraser), on King Street West.
- Wagamamas, Spinningfields. One of the chain of Japanese restaurants popping up all over the country. Wagamama's serve the best ramen, ebi gyoza, and many other different Japanese cooked dishes... perfect with a hot flask of sake!
- Tampopo, Albert Sq. Offers good priced pan Asian food with quick, friendly service in a modern, clean restaurant environment.
- 42nd Street. Bootle Street. Previously owned by the late football legend George Best, it plays a mixture of classic and modern indie, 60's pop and 70's funk & soul. The entrance is free before 10:30pm and the drinks are cheap.
- Marriott Victoria and Albert Hotel, Water Street, M3 4JQ (http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/maps/travel/manva-manchester-marriott-victoria-and-albert-hotel/), ☎ +44 161 832-1188, fax: +44 161 834-2484. Built in 1844 and restored immaculately in 2005, this 4-star hotel is one of Manchester's most deluxe accommodations, on the banks of the Irwell River. The hotel is within walking distance from the Opera House and the Palace Theatre, and has a gourmet restaurant, bar, and lounge. The hotel is smoke-free except for designated rooms on the 2nd floor. £150.