The Principal Manchester: a gorgeous space in a gutsy city

You know how you sometimes wander around – or drive around – a city, searching for the hotel you’ve booked, increasingly wanting to put a curse on the annoying SatNav lady for leading you astray yet again? Well, that won’t happen with The Principal Manchester. You simply can’t miss this impressive Baroque building with a clock tower!

Look closely, and you’ll notice the 12 numbers are all bees, the ubiquitous symbol of the city’s industrial past: Manchester working bees.

The Principal Manchester review

Principal Manchester: the vibe

We’re talking delicious Victorian opulence at first sight. And this effect continues inside; thoughtfully restored with more than a little nod to the grand building’s former life as home of The Refuge Assurance Company from 1890. There’s old photographs, mosaics, stained glass windows, chandeliers, period tiles, fabulous marble/bronze staircases, and plenty of original details throughout, connecting us with a bygone era.


I especially like the marble lobby, the tall ceilings, the lovely glass roof dome (originally from a Scottish train station)…

and the retro travel details: old suitcases in the lobby, and this vintage communication apparatus in my room…

… the 1920s gym details which brings to mind Chariots of Fire. Style! And spirit: take the stairs! My gym teacher – and my mother – would be very pleased. (PS nothing vintage about the gym equip.)

Principal Manchester: The Refuge by Volta

This stylish establishment is divided into a series of zones, all in different styles. There’s a shiny, warm, inviting bar with a mishmash of old English library/vintage 1960s pieces of furniture thrown in, a cosy dining room, and a games den with foosball, snooker and a large TV screen for video games (also look down: cool and unusual parquet floor in here). Then there’s a gloriously green haven with gorgeous floor tiles, a reading area with proper newspapers, plenty of plug points and distinctive, vivid art work all round.

I adore everything about this space. Truly a refuge, all 1000 sq m of it.

Breakfast is served in The Refuge as well, with just about everything you could want on offer.

Principal Manchester: the rooms

Rooms at The Principal Manchester are comfortable and contemporary, with quirky little touches, such as a goodie box, and retro details (see red phone above – plus, there’s a vinyl record player in the suite!) I have ample space to roam around; dance around, maybe even have a medium-sized party.

What I especially liked about The Principal Manchester

  • The Refuge – elegant, lively, surprising
  • That feeling of time travel
  • The mood
  • Spacious, comfy rooms
  • Fast and reliable wifi everywhere
  • Excellent breakfast selection
  • Efficient and friendly staff
  • The central location

What to know

  • Carpets on the floor in rooms
  • The city centre location, across from Oxford Street railway station, means some rooms can be a bit noisy

All in all, The Principal Manchester is a beautiful, creatively designed, and quirkylicious old world hotel; it may well be my favourite in all of England. And that’s saying something in a country brimming with charming, unusual sleeps. Full specs can be found here.

Disclosure: I was in Manchester as part of a collaborative campaign with Visit Britain Norway and Visit Manchester. As ever, I retain the right to write anything I want – or nothing at all; my bit of cyberspace, my rules.

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