If your friend has asked you to arrange her hen weekend, and she’s mad about cocktails and shopping, Manchester is the city to head to. This north-west destination has everything you and your girls could need for a spot of retail therapy.
The city suits all budgets, from those who are thrifty second-hand shoppers to ladies who like to splash their cash on designer labels. Even better, the majority of shops are all in a fairly compact space. This means you can hop from one store to the other without having to pound the pavements for hours on end in order to fit in everything you want to do.
However, the benefits of arranging a shopping hen weekend through tour operators like www.maximise.co.uk don’t end there, as you’ll find an abundance of bars and restaurants dotted between stores. This means after a morning of spending your hard-earned money, you won’t have to wander too far to find a refreshing glass of wine, cocktails and a bite to eat.
So, where’s a good place to begin once you’ve landed? I’d definitely recommend Exchange Square, as it’s here where you’ll find some of the most well-known brands in the UK. First and foremost, head to Selfridges. This iconic yellow department store dominates Exchange Square.
As you walk through its doors, you’ll be greeted by an array of designer handbags and accessories. If this is a little too pricey for you and your friends’ budgets, head down the escalator to the Beauty Hall. Here, you can pick up make-up from the likes of MAC and NARS, while you can also get your nails painted, enjoy a spray tan and have a glamorous blow-dry for your night on the tiles in Manchester.
Next to Selfridges lies Harvey Nichols, another popular haunt for ladies in the city. If you think now is the time to indulge in a cocktail, this is the place to do so. On the second floor is a restaurant, brasserie and bar, with the latter boasting one of the most extensive cocktail menus in the whole of the city.
A cocktail-making class will no doubt go down a treat with the bride-to-be, especially as these types of activities tend to result in you getting to sample lots of lovely concoctions – or not so lovely, depending on whether someone in your group has had a little accident with the ingredients! You can book on to one of these classes at Harvey Nichols, while lots of other establishments in Manchester also offer them, including Mojo.
From Harvey Nichols, you can walk down Cathedral Approach, which is home to designer stores such as Burberry, before turning on to Deansgate. The popular stretch of road is where you’ll find some of the most well-known bars, such as the swanky Living Room, while it’s also home to House of Fraser.
This is Manchester’s oldest department store, having been opened in 1835 (it used to be known as Kendals), and is home to brands such as Therapy, Phase 8 and Karen Millen. It’s a lot more purse-friendly than Harvey Nics, but this doesn’t mean shopping here is not as glamorous.
In fact, on the third level you will find a champagne bar, and raising a glass of bubbly to toast your friend or relative’s upcoming wedding will be a lovely way to celebrate the end of a busy day of shopping.
Will Stearn splits his time between trying out extreme activities in exotic locations, and working in London for Maximise.co.uk.