Manchester's Northern Quarter

We recently spent an afternoon in Manchester's Northern Quarter and couldn't help but notice how it's improved. Once a dodgy area of warehouses and dark alleys, it's now an interesting part of the city, full of independent shops and good coffee bars, as well as home to niche design agencies and internet startups. It is, of course, full of hipsters and is therefore very cool.

We love good coffee and there is a definite backlash against the hot milk-shakes produced by the well-known coffee chains. The current post-college generation seem to love good coffee too, with some of them setting up coffee bars. The Northern Quarter, with its spacious buildings, is an ideal place for them. There are plenty of coffee bars offering artisan, single-estate coffee in interesting surroundings. Some roast the beans on-site, while others purchase from local micro-roasteries. The result is distinctive and delicious.

We had a light lunch in the Foundation Coffee House: good coffee and some buttered crumpets. Like many places here, the space was vast and much better than being squeezed into one of the better-known places in the city centre.

Duly refreshed we headed to Fred Aldous, a large store selling arts and crafts supplies as well as general stationery. Again, the generous space means that stock can be set out rather than squeezed in. This is part of one floor: there are several more.

We enjoyed a number of independent boutiques selling everything from housewares to specialist beer. After a leisurely circuit of Manchester Craft Centre, a beautiful building housing about 30 local artists and their wares, we finished off with an early evening bite in the excellent Evuna Tapas Bar.

Along with the large numbers of men with sawn off hair and lumberjack beards, we enjoyed our afternoon in the Northern Quarter. It's a real antidote to the more predictable chain stores and we will be visiting it more.