Manchester's Northern Quarter is well worth a look round even if you don't have any particular objective; you will find something to interest you before too long. No wonder the area is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site long list.
Coming from a town of grand Victorian stone buildings, the red brick splendour of Manchester's back streets are always interesting to me, and I particularly like spotting some formerly grand building now being used as a tattooist parlour and sleazy Thai Massage emporium or such like. The Northern Quarter is an area of old factory and shop buildings, with a mix of traditional terraced housing.
The Northern quarter isn't a gentrified place although it has a certain cool buzz. In and amongst the stylish bars and restaurants you will find grubby sex shops, down at heel clothes shops and the clients for each rubbing shoulders with some cool handsome young dude (like me lol).
The area particularly comes to life in the evening and weekend, so a morning trip may leave you scratching your head and wondering what the fuss is as you wander amongst the graffiti strewn shuttered shops and bars. It is this mix of life, styles and wealth that particularly attracts me to the place.
The Northern Quarter is also the place for shopping for alternative or cheap items; in particular there seems to be a glut of wholesale hair product stores; perfect if you want to nip in for a bargain tub of hair wax or vat of nice shampoo at around half price you might pay for it in your own hair salon. I always focus on the book and comic shops and fairly often come back with some kind of wacky read to entertain me for a few hours; the Encyclopaedia of Russian Criminal Tattoos found its way to my home via this route.
Likewise, there is a good supply of record stores selling both obscure new music and a good range of second hand stuff. While there are few bargains to be had, at least you might well find something to interest you. I also like some of the boutique clothes shops selling great modern style clothes and shoes, albeit at a price. I always think life is so unfair; when I had the face and figure for such items I never had the money; I now live in the opposite dimension.
So, wander round the Northern Quarter with an open mind; it may not be your place, but if you are like me, you will find yourself going back on monthly trips just to explore a few more back streets or revisit some former discovery.