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Eight places to go in Manchester to destress

11 Apr 2019

This piece is by Olivia Mak, one of our Stagecoach Student Ambassadors. Find out more about our student ambassadors.

Endless exams. Constant coursework deadlines. Trying to eat healthily, hold down a part-time job AND have a social life. We all know that being a student is one big balancing act… trying to juggle while making your way along a tightrope on a unicycle. No wonder everyone associates the stereotypical student lifestyle with copious amounts of alcohol. If we struggle to balance and fall flat on our faces, it’s most certainly not our fault. We can, however, reduce the chances of that happening by taking a break for our wellbeing and giving our overworked brains a well-deserved recharge. Here are some of the best places around Manchester to unwind from the stresses of student life.


Heaton Park 

In a city not exactly renowned for its luscious green spaces, it’s refreshing to find this gem of a park.  Located just on the edge of Manchester, it is the biggest park in the city and the largest municipal park in Europe. You can certainly feel it, walking through its vast green expanses, a welcome contrast from the often dull lecture theatres and study spaces we’re used to spending the majority of our time in. There is also a boating lake (you can hire rowing boats during the summer months), a tram museum, golf course, animal park and cafes, as well as a Grade I listed, 18th-century country house, Heaton Hall. Perfect for a summer picnic and great for sunbathing when the weather’s nice. It also plays host to the annual Parklife festival in the summer. The park is open from 8am to dusk every day and the best part is that entry is free. Catch a tram from the city centre and take in the best that nature has to offer in Manchester.



Fancy giving those brain cells a work out in a different but fun way? Head over to Breakout. This is a live escape room game where you work in a team of between 2 and 5 people to try to escape a locked room by finding clues and solving puzzles. There are 15 different rooms, each with its own unique theme and story to set the scene. Difficulty level ranges from 2 to 5 stars so you can choose a room that’s appropriate for you and your team; the more difficult (5 star) rooms are less structured. The rooms are spread out over 2 sites: one on the high street and the other next to the town hall. Afraid of getting stuck and spending the rest of the hour hopelessly twiddling your thumbs? Fear not. Your facilitator, who can see everything you say and do inside the room (Big Brother-style), will chime in with some well-timed hints on a screen to set you on your way. An entertaining way to spend an hour - one of the rooms even contains a shooting range!

Breakout© Breakout Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery

Not just for art buffs. You may have heard of the Lowry Outlet in Salford but do you know the local resident after whom it was named? His name is Laurence Stephen Lowry. Fix your eyes on the masterpieces by one of Manchester’s most heralded artistic sons and marvel at his enviable talent transporting you back in time to life in the olden days with industrial landscapes capturing everyday scenes. Also marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci this year, the gallery is currently displaying an exhibition of his best drawings. Admire the handiwork of one of the greatest scientists and artists in modern history close-up.

art gallery

Other current temporary exhibitions explore Nordic craft and design, the link between art and mindfulness, and display photographs documenting both the continuity and change in Mancunians’ lives. Take in paintings by the old grand masters in the permanent collection, including the likes of Goya and Turner. The collection also includes British and European art from the 17th century right up to the present day. The gallery is conveniently located next to Chinatown, home to many cafes and restaurants that are worthy of a pre- or post-gallery visit. Best of all, it’s free to visit!


Cat Cafe

One for the cat lovers amongst us. This cafe in the Northern Quarter is a feline haven. Payment works on a time-based model of £1 per person for every 5 minutes, with unlimited drinks for the duration of your visit, and there is 10% student discount from Mondays to Fridays. There are certain rules you have to respect, understandably for the cats’ welfare, such as not stroking a cat when it’s sleeping and not picking them up.

cat cafe 1

Be aware that kitties spend the majority of the day snoozing (it’s a hard life being a cat, don’t you know?) but hey, we could learn from our feline friends and their unflappable, Zen-like calmness. If you are lucky enough to be at the cafe while they’re awake, remember that cats come with c-attitude. Don’t be surprised if you walk up to stroke a sitting cat which you had just observed tolerate being stroked by a fellow cat-lover and which, on seeing you kneel down, promptly lifts up its backside and nonchalantly wanders off, leaving you hanging (and smiling bemusedly like a charmed idiot in my case)…...cats will be cats.

 cat cafe 2

As the famous founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, astutely remarked ‘Time spent with cats is never wasted’. Whatever you may think of the Oedipus complex or the great man’s other unorthodox theories, this is one of his observations that you can’t argue with. 

Junkyard Golf Club

THE place for crazy golf in Manchester. Gather your friends and putt your way through three different 9-hole, themed golf courses (Bozo, Pablo and Gary). Each hole has its own quirky name and an indication of the expected number of shots required to complete that hole (known as par). Compete against each other to complete each hole in as few shots as possible. Try your hand at the devilishly difficult last hole on the circus-themed Bozo. Expect loud music, UV lights and a whole lot of fun.

junkyard golf 1

Go between Sunday and Thursday when there is a 50% student discount (making it a very student-friendly £4 per person); best to book in advance to get the time slot you want and to go early if you don’t want to constantly get stuck behind other people, waiting for your turn. Be aware that they charge for bag (£2) and coat (£1) storage in their cloakroom. Drinks from the bar are a little pricey but it’s an entertaining way to spend an hour, even if you’ve never picked up a golf club in your life.

junkyard golf 3

Cloud 23

Fancy temporarily leaving behind the frugal student lifestyle and indulging yourself? Cloud 23 is the place for you. Located at the highest point of Manchester, this exclusive bar offers stunning, panoramic views of the city.  Add in an extensive drinks menu with signature cocktails and a visit here is the perfect way to celebrate smashing your exams (or to drown your sorrows if they’ve gone horrendously wrong). Or even just to natter with friends while admiring the view and simultaneously cursing why you’ve left that essay to the last minute…...again.

cloud 23

For those who prefer to steer clear of the alcohol, there are also some decadent mocktails (I recommend the ‘Salute the Sun’). Drinks aren't cheap, as you might expect, but hey, why not use it as motivation for the lifestyle you’ll lead when you land a place on that coveted graduate scheme? Sipping champagne and enjoying quite possibly the best night view in Manchester as you party the night away…..


HOME cinema

Aren’t we Manchester students lucky? We barely have to leave Oxford Road to get our movie fix. Not like your typical chain cinema - for starters, they don’t sell popcorn - this multi-functional cinema complex houses contemporary theatre, film, art and music. A one-stop shop for artistic and cultural expression in Manchester, it offers an eclectic mix of non-mainstream and foreign films, as well as plays and exhibitions from both established and up-and-coming artists. Student tickets are only £5 and the cinema spaces are modern, spacious and cosy with comfortable seating. There’s even a restaurant and bar for a pre- or post-screening snack, drink and/or meal…….and if you really can’t bear to be away from the books, they even have a bookshop.

home cinema

Milk & Honey cafe

One of my favourite places to go on a typical rainy day in this city. There’s nothing quite like listening to the gentle patter of the rain outside while you’re snugly (and smugly) enjoying a brew inside and watching the world go by.

Milk and Honey 1© Pantling Studio

It’s a place that is equally ideal for a chilled catch-up with friends. Run by volunteers, this is a cosy vegetarian cafe, right in the heart of the main campus on Oxford Road. The menu is small but packed full of nourishing, nutritious, locally-sourced food, including some hearty daily specials. It is a non-profit cafe that is truly run for the community with a varied programme of events from yoga to bee-keeping. One of the most welcoming, spacious and calmest cafes you will ever set foot in.

So, if you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take some time out to relax and regroup at one of these local venues. Plan your journey today and don't forget to make use of your unirider for great value student bus travel.

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