Enjoy the view at the area’s first five-star property, the Lowry Hotel (from $234), where floor-to-ceiling windows offer a front-row seat to the changing face of the postindustrial riverfront docklands. The curved glass building sits next to Santiago Calatrava’s sail-like Trinity Bridge over the River Irwell, connecting Manchester to its rapidly gentrifying sister city of Salford (where the hotel is located). The 165 rooms and suites are all clean lines and minimalist decor—dark woods, jewel-tone leather chaises, Italian-porcelain bathrooms—and the property, which takes its name from modern English landscape painter L.S. Lowry, is dedicated to contemporary art: three massive stone heads by British sculptor Emily Young by reception, a steel-mesh nude by Scotland’s David Begbie in the atrium, and Manchester’s only 24-hour gallery onsite.
Stay in the heart of the action at the stylish Velvet Hotel, which opened in 2009 in the city’s nightlife-rich Gay Village (from $127). Think of this spot as Manchester’s answer to the Standard Hotel—popular with the club-going fashionista set but with an air of comfort and warmth. Each of the property’s 19 bedrooms is decorated uniquely, with an overarching neo-boudoir sensibility thanks to richly patterned wallpapers (bold tartans, butterflies, pastoral scenes, the Vitruvian Man) and dramatic accent pieces such as crystal chandeliers, Art Nouveau statues, and damask chaise lounges. Head downstairs for cocktails overlooking the nearby treelined canal: The Bakewell, inspired by a famous British tart and featuring vodka, amaretto, cherry coulis, and custard ($12), makes for an especially sweet way to end the day.
Step back in time at The Midland (from $185), an Edwardian brick-and-granite grand hotel opened in 1903 to serve the railway station next door. Thanks to a $25-million renovation in 2006, it’s now the city’s poshest stay, with eye-catching touches such as headboards made from giant photos of Manchester and metal-lined minibars reminiscent of road cases. But the real centerpiece of the hotel is chef Simon Rogan’s newly reopened The French, which became one of the country’s first Michelin-starred restaurants in 1974 (and, later, the site of Posh and Becks’ first date). Though the dining room was once notoriously stuffy, even turning away the Beatles, a complete overhaul last year has loosened things up considerably; be sure to try the inventive modernist tasting menu, with whimsical dishes such as mussels with edible shells and ox in coal oil, a nod to the city’s industrial past (six courses for $100, ten courses for $142).