To Oxford Road for universities and museums, galleries and art house flicks, an art school and the genteel whiff of academia that permeates the air – along with the choking smell of vehicle emissions. Manchester’s self-styled “cultural corridor” also happens to be the busiest bus route in Europe. Its thundering traffic is the stuff of legend. At least for now – transport plans are afoot to transform it.
Don’t let that put people off. Oxford Road stretches from the edge of the Curry Mile in Rusholme right up to Central Library, and its possible to make an extensive day (or two) out along its length, with artistic gems as the Whitworth, Manchester Museum, Contact and RNCM and the University of Manchester campus (Hogwarts eat your heart out). There are also two parks: Whitworth Park, which dates back to 1890, and Grosvenor Square, a small patch of green that was once a church and where now, on sunny days, the students come out to bask in bookish style.
Brief diversion off the main road takes in Elizabeth Gaskell House, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, both hefty nods in the direction of Manchester’s literary heritage,Victoria Baths which is often open for open days and special events featuring in no particular order (and often together) vintage, craft, beer, music and theatre – The Pankhurst Centre, and deep in the heart of MMU campus-land, The Holden Art Gallery and The Special Collections library
Foodwise let’s start out of town: the culinary standards on Manchester’s famous Curry Mile have slipped but family run Mughli Restaurant & Charcoal Pit is a notable exception. Heading up Oxford Road it is deep undergraduate territory, but hidden away behind the takeaways is Contact’s cafe. Musos flock to neighbouring Big Hands, a miniscule dive popular with those attending (and performing) gigs at the nearby Manchester Academies.
Further on, the concert hall at Royal Northern College of Music is home to Manchester Camerata and attracts big-name players in every genre from jazz to electronica. For a pre-concert meal slurp up noodles at Umami.
Clustered around Grosvenor Park are Oxford Road’s few retail scraps – this is not a place to get a shopping fix – including veggie cooperative Eighth Day. But despite the proximity of the universities, Oxford Road is no student ghetto; we all love arty Sandbar and The Deaf Institute, which proves that grade II-listed buildings and giant glitterballs can be a winning combo. Further up the road, Zouk Tea Bar and Grill (just off Oxford Road) and offshootKukoos offer spicy, healthy food. Both are a stone’s throw from Cornerhouse, an independent cinema, gallery and restaurant that will be relocating down the road and rebranded as HOMEfrom Spring 2015.