It’s no great secret that my favourite city in the UK is Manchester. I have a lot of love for this buzzy and urban Northern powerhouse, despite being a born and bred Southerner. I spent many years working up there on a regular basis, Mr S travels there fortnightly to watch the football and we even spent our New Years Eve in Manchester sipping creative cocktails and wondering whether we could actually move here.
Moving here aside, Manchester is a place that we visit a lot, and that is a big part of our lives. But, when a place feels so much like home in so many ways, staying in a hotel just doesn’t feel right anymore. When we visit, we want to feel like we are coming home, and short of selling an organ to fund a flash pad overlooking the canal, we thought we were all out of options (selling an organ wasn’t an actual option, FYI).
But that has changed, now we’ve stayed stayed at Roomzzz. An aparthotel, and very definitely a home away from home.
So what’s an aparthotel then?
Good question. An aparthotel takes all the best bits of a hotel, your own cosy home and the more personable vibe of an Airbnb and puts it together in one great package which leaves you with home comforts in a hotel style. Apparently Mr S has stayed in apartments like this for work (thanks for keeping the big secret, husband!) and they are a great alternative to a hotel, particularly for longer stays.
We stayed at the brand new Roomzzz at Manchester’s Corn Exchange, right in the heart of the city and felt so at home we didn’t want to leave.
We had a huge bed, which was about as comfortable as it gets, with fluffy cloud like pillows that cradled my head like a newborn. I’m always an early riser, but I couldn’t bring myself to lift my head from the pillow fort I’d created (and no, that wasn’t because of the prosecco I’d drunk with dinner the night before). At the foot of the bed was a desk that held a massive TV which you could swivel round to be seen not just from your bed, but from the sofa area AND the kitchen/diner.
Yes, the aparthotel had a superb kitchen and a bijou table that seats two for a cosy, romantic night in cooking if you so wish. Whilst you don’t have access to a full oven, you do have a very powerful hob, a microwave which doubles as a combi-grill, a full sized fridge with a freezer compartment and a dishwasher. The dishwasher is a great touch, because if you are staying a little longer you don’t want to constantly be arguing about the washing up! We also had access to all the plates, mugs, cutlery and cooking equipment you’d need for a couple of days which meant we didn’t ever have to eat out.
Now, as a huge foodie you might wonder whether this kitchen was wasted on me, but believe me, it wasn’t. I’m trying to travel more slowly and smaller – meaning I want to be able to base myself for a weekend in a UK city without it being a major calendar event. Being able to just set up camp in an apartment like this, and bring food and drink in to make whilst staying means going away becomes less of a big deal and much more budget friendly.
Finally, tucked away around the corner was a huge walk in shower and bathroom with lovely toiletries provided and big fluffy towels. Since having my bathroom renovated to be like a hotel, I’m so appreciative of a very good shower – and Roomzzz in Manchester does a very good shower!Are you looking to travel more slowly in the UK with somewhere more cosy to rest your head at night? Then @roomzzz is for you - your ideal home away from home.Click To Tweet
So the rooms themselves are a triumph, but what about the rest of the hotel?
Manchester’s Corn Exchange (first opening in 1903) is in the heart of the city and is such a focal point for the industrial revolution and worker bee symbol synonymous with the North West. Unfortunately the area was massively damaged by the 1996 IRA bombing, and undertook heavy restoration which turned the area into a shopping centre in 2000. Many of the original period features were covered up, and Roomzzz have gone in and revealed them as part of their grand restoration to provide a 114 room aparthotel in the complex building.
It’s incredible, truly. The Corn Exchange has seven different levels and 13 staircases and unlike so many hotel restorations, Roomzzz have tailored every element to the historic grade II listed building instead of trying to ignore it. What this means is that you get to experience grand staircases covered with gorgeous original green tiling, brought to life with centrepiece lighting and incredible art by local artist Katie Edwards which bring to life the vibrant culture and history Manchester has.
This is all topped off with a 24 hour concierge and gym and Essentialzzz, a 24 hour shop where you can buy emergency toiletries, chocolate, ice cream or even frozen meals if you are stuck. This is also where you can pick up your complimentary grab and go breakfasts (or grab and go back to bed as I like to call it) consisting of pastries, hot drinks, juices and fruit.
That sounds wonderful, but what are the benefits of an aparthotel?
There are so many, above just being a little more personable and fun than a straight up hotel (and in the case of Roomzzz in the Corn Exchange, being in a unique and historic building).
- Your apartment is bigger than most standard hotel rooms, and you can spread out and live a little, which is especially welcome on a longer stay (I wish we’d had this on New Years Eve!)
- They are great for city breaking on a budget – because they include a kitchen, you don’t have to spend loads of money on eating out, and can instead plan a cosy night in cooking up a storm.
- At Roomzzz, a grab and go breakfast is freely included in your stay – so if you need to head out early you can get a coffee and run, or you can raid the pastries and take them back up for a luxurious breakfast in bed.
- An aparthotel is definitely more convenient than an Airbnb. Not only can you pay extra for a late check out or early arrival, but there is a 24 hour reception where you can leave your luggage if you want to spend the rest of your day exploring. This is the biggest thing that stops me from booking Airbnb apartments more regularly.
Ok, I’m sold! But how did you spend your weekend cosied up in your apartment?
I’m so glad you asked, because despite the fact we only recently visited Manchester for an extended break we had an absolute blast just chilling out in our favourite city – which is much more viable when you have a great apartment to relax in as opposed to a solitary, bland room.
We arrived from London very early as we wanted to make the most of the time we had in the city – and dropped our bags at Roomzzz ready to check in a little later. Here’s what made it on our whistlestop itinerary (but if you want a fuller view of how to spend a weekend in Manchester, check out my city guide!)
1. Breakfast with a gorgeous view
After a long three hour drive from London (and one where we’d actually missed the turn for the services to grab a much needed coffee), our first stop was to quell our grumbling tummies. I’ve written a lot about how amazing the breakfast/brunch scene is in Manchester, but most of those locations are over in the Northern Quarter. Instead, we got settled a stones throw from the Corn Exchange with a front row view of Manchester’s pretty cathedral.
Proper Tea at Manchester Cathedral is a wonderful tea room, with light pouring in through the huge windows on two sides and to die for tiled flooring. Offering a huge menu of tea (as you’d imagine), they also have a great menu for breakfast, brunch and lunch alongside classic afternoon tea. We opted for the bacon sandwiches and peanut butter on toast (all made with tasty sourdough) and a round of tea whilst people watching at the window.
Fun fact – the cafe is actually a venture between ex Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding and the team behind my favourite cafe in Manchester, Teacup Kitchen. So you’ll be in good hands.
2. A round or two of crazy golf
What is better than a round of golf? A round of crazy golf! I’ve been obsessed with crazy golf since my holidays on the Dorset coast as a child, and I’m so happy that it is making a somewhat hipster comeback in the UK! Junkyard Golf combines your favourite childhood game with loud music, flashing lights and a cocktail bar giving an adult party vibe to a classic wet weather activity.
We’d already played a round at the London branch so were keen to check out the Manchester courses for ourselves and we had such a fun couple of hours playing on Gary (the course filled with towers of tyres, written-off cars and auto-junk) and Bozo ( a collection of dark fairgrounds, circus freaks and twisted clowns). Each course is 9 holes and you are provided wth clubs, balls and a score card to get going.
Prices start at £8 a round, and it is in my opinion always best to try and book in advance. We left Junkyard Golf with one win a-piece, so clearly we have to come back for another round to settle the score!
3. A Mancunian walking tour with a twist
Long time readers of the blog will know that I’m such a fan of walking tours – but I hadn’t managed to get to one in Manchester, probably because I felt I knew the city pretty well. However, that all changed after an afternoon with Emma Fox of Show Me Manchester. I’m such a nerd for UK history, and I spent many years studying the industrial revolution at school so Emma’s tours are right up my street.
We joined the Scuttler Gangs of Manchester Tour, a superb look at the early days of youth gang culture in the slums of industrial Manchester and Salford from the 1870s onwards. Through a fast-paced walk around Salford and Manchester (including many areas we had not yet explored), we found out about the rise of this unique youth gang, the impact of the industrial revolution on housing and living and the art of “scuttling” – a violent form of fighting from where they got their name.
It was such an incredible tour, and I’ve already bought the book upon which the tour is based, The Gangs of Manchester so I can find out more about Britain’s first youth cult. I’m now really keen to join some of Emma’s other tours – for example her tour on the history of Factory Records. Next time!
4. In-room pampering – just because I could!
This was extremely indulgent, because often a city break is all go go go for me but what is the point in having all that space in an aparthotel and not making the most of it? I don’t often get beauty treatments done, but love spa breaks, and it was brilliant to find I could combine the two with an in-room treatment.
I had a gel manicure, booked through Blow Ltd who specialise in mobile beauty therapists who can pamper you with different treatment packages such as make up and blow dries and of course getting your nails done. This would be such a great option if you were using Roomzzz as a base for a special even like a wedding, but to be honest who needs to wait for a spot of VIP treatment? Certainly not me.
My therapist and I spread out across the dining room table for a natter and nails (whilst I sipped on my prosecco), and Mr S grabbed a beer and a front row seat for the rugby (from our massive bed). It was a great way to unwind after the walking tour, and really topped off my relaxing weekend in my new homely location.
It’s fair to say that I’m going to find it very difficult to stay anywhere else when next in Manchester. With other locations in the UK such as Chester, Leeds and Newcastle, Roomzzz are definitely going to be my first port of call for a chilled out weekend break – and I’m definitely going to be making an in-room manicure one of my non-negotiables on every trip!
**My stay and awesome itinerary of activities were provided by the guys at Roomzzz, but opinions as always are my own (and the aparthotel really was very special!)
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