I thought I’d put together this little list of some of my favourite things to do in Stockport, which is where I do a lot of my eating, drinking and shopping, so I know it pretty well. If you’ve not heard of it before, Stockport is a historic market town just south of Manchester, England. In the 18th/19th centuries, Stockport was a big deal in the region’s textile production and grew to be the capital of the UK’s hat-making industry. There’s even a hat museum there now.
Today, Stockport is often overshadowed by the popular city of Manchester being so close to it. But Stockport has seen a lot of regeneration lately. Every time I go in, there’s something new and interesting popping up. And it actually has some brilliant stuff going on, from excellent craft beer bars to gorgeous and unusual shops, as well as a brilliant market and great foodie scene. Unfortunately, it also has a fairly run-down shopping area and a generic chain restaurant/cinema complex, so this can give a negative first impression. You have to dig a little further (or get some tips from a local blogger…) to find all the lovely hidden gems around the old town and historic market area. If you know where to go, you’ll see a much nicer and different side to it.
Anyway, here are my personal recommendations of things to do and see in Stockport. These are the places that I take friends to when they come for a visit or that I recommend to people who are visiting the area. I hope you find it useful…
Things to do in Stockport
1. Shop for some gorgeous (and bargainous) vintage bits
Let’s kick off this post with a little vintage number.
I love vintage clothes and Stockport is overflowing with shops selling these. Vintage homeware is something I’m less into but I don’t mind a browse now and again. Whatever your vintage requirements are, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised and impressed by Stockport’s offerings.
Try these local haunts:
- 20th Century Stores – Clothes, jewellery, accessories galore, home bits. I always find beautiful stuff here.
- Vintage Village – This used to be a fair held on the second Sunday of every month, selling clothes, homewares, trinkets, jewellery, bags, hats, shoes – everything! Now, the treasures have moved into the Vintage Village Boutique, located in the same place as 20th Century Stores, a characterful old building just next to the Market Hall. They also host some local artists and artisans so it’s not all vintage stuff, there is some new. It’s brilliant and you can spend ages in there.
- The Norah Store – Locally sourced vintage clothing, which makes it sound like food I know. Presumably also free-range and grass-fed! They also do new clothing, which is mostly sustainable brands. Not the cheapest but some stunning things.
- Agapanthus Interiors – I love this for very unusual homeware and some particularly lovely lighting.
Oh and I should also mention one not in the town centre, but a short taxi ride out: The Vintage Emporium at Pear Mill. It has a huge selection of goodies to rootle through. And there’s a new vintage clothing shop opening in the near future too, called Top of the Town Vintage, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for that and will update here once I’ve had a browse.
2. Have an art deco afternoon tea or see a show at the Plaza
If you like art deco design and homemade scones (who doesn’t enjoy that classic combo?), you have to visit Stockport Plaza. It’s a beautiful 1930s art deco theatre that also does afternoon tea in the café upstairs. The staff all wear traditional white aprons and the furniture is all the Lloyd Loom stuff you’d expect from such an era.
Afternoon tea there would be an excellent idea if your mum is coming to visit and you don’t know what to do with her.
As for the theatre side of things, they do shows, films, murder mystery nights, gigs, panto – all that kind of jazz. The gigs even feature local indie band Blossoms sometimes.
3. Do a craft beer bar/pub crawl – one of the best things to do in Stockport for craft beer enthusiasts
Considering Stockport town centre isn’t massive, it does well on the hoppy beer front. You can easily plan a nice little bar/pub crawl before or after a meal out, taking in a selection of independent craft beer spots and a few more traditional pubs too.
Here are a few of my favourite haunts. They’re all within walking distance of each other (not in heels though because you’ll be in serious cobblestone-based trouble):
- Bakers Vaults – A gorgeous Grade II listed building, featuring some very pretty floor tiles and a great atmosphere. You can get some brill food here but for me it’s mainly about one of my favourite beers, Titanic Plum Porter, being on tap. It’s a Robinsons pub so they have local beer too.
- Petersgate Tap – This is a good one to start the night at because it’s on the walk from the railway station into the market square. Plenty of craft beer and a friendly atmosphere.
- Project 53 – A craft beer taproom for the local Mobberley Brewhouse, featuring a range of craft beer (and gin).
- The Cracked Actor – This Victorian-themed corner bar is absolutely brilliant. On a sunny day, the outdoor seating is a proper sun trap. Great selection of beer, including some good sours.
- The Good Rebel – I’ll admit I very rarely have a beer here because they do such good cocktails. But they do have plenty of beer! It also has a decent-sized beer garden with plenty of greenery and umbrellas over the tables for typical Stockport weather-proofing.
Oh and if you want to continue the craft beer sampling at home, get yourself some bottles or cans from Breaking Glass Bottles. This little shop has a wide selection. The staff are friendly and can help you find something to your tastes.
4. Go on the Robinsons Brewery tour
The local brewery, Robinsons, does a tour and before I explain, I’m going to answer what you’re already wanting to know. Yes, you can sample the beer at the end.
Okay, now we’ve got that dealbreaker out of the way…
A standard ticket gets you get 3 tokens (three 1/3 pints) in the bar, or if you’re driving/not drinking then you can have a bottle to take away. A gold ticket gets you another 3 tokens and a gift bag. The tour takes about an hour and you get to learn about the brewery’s history as well as how they make the beers.
Regular readers of Pack The Suitcases will know that I’m horsey. So of course, the highlight of the tour for me is meeting the brewery’s beautiful (and massive) Shires, who are often on site. It’s amazing how you can spend all your free time with your own horse but still get overexcited when you see other horses in a non-horsey context, like in the town centre of Stockport. The horses still deliver the beer locally and if you fall in love with them, you can follow their antics on their own Facebook page.
5. Go back in time at Staircase House – one of the best things to do in Stockport for history buffs
Staircase House is one of the more unusual things to do in Stockport and something you should definitely do to get a feel for Stockport’s history. It’s a Medieval townhouse in the market that’s been converted into a museum, all set up with the rooms on all its floors as they would have been when people lived there.
You get given an audio guide on arrival, something I normally don’t bother with but definitely recommend that you do for here as it’s actually really good. Unusually for a museum, you’re allowed to touch everything and there are no ropes holding you back from sitting in chairs and stuff. Go wild (within reason).
6. Do some shopping on the wonderful Underbanks
I have already mentioned the Underbanks a bit, as it’s where lots of the bars/vintage shops/cafés I’ve listed are. But it’s worth going into more detail on some of the other brilliant independent shops you’ll find there.
The Underbanks area consists of Little Underbank and Lower Hillgate (lovely names, right?!). Start any day out in Stockport here. It’s the epicentre of all the best places to eat, drink and shop.
Here are a few of the best shops there that you should have a browse in.
- SK1 Records – I’m not cool enough to be into vinyl but luckily for me, this independent music shop also has a café so I can go in for a cuppa and pretend I could one day be cool. If you’re just browsing or looking for something specific, the staff are dead nice and will help you out.
- Old Town General Store – Have you ever wanted a Stockport-themed sweatshirt that says ‘from peak to precinct’? If so, you’ve come to the right place. This shop has some really nice stock, some of it locally designed too. The menswear, in particular, is fantastic. The owner has an eye for finding the most unique things. Good for presents for boyfriends/husbands!
- Rare Mags – I told you Stockport had some dead unusual things. This shop does what it says on the tin: rare magazines. The owner really knows his stuff and you can easily while away an hour looking at all the specific interest magazines. They also sell books, cards and gifts.
- Stage Door – Again with the unusual theme, this is a specific stage shop that sells fancy dress costumes, wigs and stage makeup. The go-to place for some fake blood every October.
- Hillgate Cakery – I love this so much that it warrants its very own section. See below…
7. Treat yourself to the world’s best vegan cakes at Hillgate Cakery
I was going to include this in the Underbank shopping section but I’m so obsessed with Hillgate Cakery that it deserves its own bit (plus it’s also food rather than home/clothes stuff like the rest).
Hillgate Cakery is a vegan shop and bakery that does the world’s most delicious homemade vegan cakes. I’ve been a regular for years and everything I’ve ever bought has been incredible. They do a home delivery service, which is dangerous, but if you pop into the shop you can also browse their cupboard food and savoury snacks (all vegan of course). You can get plenty of gluten-free options, as well.
I highly recommend the ‘birthday’ cake, the pecan slices, the peanut butter brownies, and the Lotus Biscoff slices. In fact, it’s all amazing. Even my non-vegan friends have been thoroughly impressed.
8. Visit the Hat Works – a hat museum (yes, really)
If you’ve ever been on the Manchester-London train, you may have spotted the iconic Hat Works chimney out of the train window. It’s a bit of a Stockport landmark and marks the spot where you’ll find the unique and brilliant Hat Works. This is Stockport’s official museum of hatting, spread over two floors in a beautiful Grade II listed Victorian mill.
As mentioned in the intro to this post, Stockport was a big mover and shaker in textile production during the industrial revolution, and it became the capital of the UK’s hat-making industry. It’s very proud of its hat-based history.
I’m a lover of fashion and all things vintage, so I knew I had to investigate the Hat Works when I first moved to Stockport. The museum tells you all about the town’s history of hat-producing and how hats were designed and made. You can do a guided tour for £5 or just wander round yourself. It takes about an hour (depending on how into hats you are). And yes, you can try some of the hats on. It’s just a shame I don’t suit hats. The gift shop is excellent too, selling loads of hat-themed and vintagey bits and bobs. How many more times can I say the word ‘hat’ in this paragraph?
Oh and in one room, there’s a big sign saying ‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat!’. What a photo opportunity.
9. Have brunch at Laco Café – one of the best things to do in Stockport on a sunny morning
Laco Café is my go-to spot for a veggie brunch or lunch when I’m in Stockport. As soon as you mention this place to anyone from the Stockport area, they start raving about it, and for good reason. It’s delicious and all the food is so nicely presented.
There are quite a few healthy options, which is always a bonus, but it’s mainly about their amazing brunches, which are some of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot of brunches all over the world).
Apparently, the coffee is also top-notch. As a tea-drinker, I can’t comment but I’ll take my friends’ words for it.
In summer, you can also sit outside and it gets sun all afternoon. And if you’re there later on, you can follow up your food with some drinks at the aforementioned Cracked Actor next door.
10. Walk up Lowry’s Crowther Street
When in Stockport, take a stroll up (or down) Crowther Street, the residential row of terraces immortalised by famous Manchester-based painter L.S Lowry in this piece, entitled ‘A street in Stockport’. Suffice to say it’s never as busy and bustling now as it was when he painted it. You’re most likely going to have it all to yourself.
There is absolutely nothing to see on Crowther Street as it’s just houses and a couple of offices. But it makes for a nice photo and is interesting to see if you’re a Lowry fan. Plus, Stockport is all so walkable that it isn’t a pain to go out of your way a bit to look at it.
Side note: If you’re wondering where my v cool Stockport tote bag is from in the below photo, you can buy one from The Warren gift shop, just by Stockport Market. They sell lots of other Stockport things like mugs, and they can say Stockport on them but they also do the name of any local town/village you can think of – Davenport, Bredbury, Reddish, Cheadle Hulme, Bramhall etc. Very good for birthday presents.
11. Have a mooch round one of Stockport’s various markets
Stockport loves a market and you have a few to choose from.
I’ve already mentioned the Stockport Market building a few times in this post as it’s the heart of Stockport. But Stockport Market itself is worth going to when it’s on. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Another is the dead popular Makers’ Market on every second Saturday of the month. It’s not unlike the Treacle Market in Macclesfield. You can get loads of gorgeous handmade things – jewellery, art, tote bags, plant pots, cute homewares. Oh and plenty of food to eat there or take away – pastries, olives, cheeses, all that kind of caper.
12. Buy some gorgeous homewares at Still Life Story
Stockport has some brilliant independent shops that I’ve not mentioned yet. One of my favourites is Still Life Story, which is a total treasure trove of lovely stuff you didn’t know you needed for your house. Unusually for such a pretty independent shop, it’s in Stockport’s rather run-down shopping centre, Merseyway. A rose among the thorns of Primarni and River Island!
The lady who runs Still Life Story has a knack for finding the most beautiful things, and a lot of them are fair trade/ethical too. Look out for the sustainable plant pots (I forget the brand name now, but you’ll spot them) and also the ethical crockery from Nkuku. It’s all laid out very tastefully and even though it’s tiny, you can spend ages browsing. The shop also sells gorgeous fresh flowers, which are sometimes reduced towards the end of the day if you fancy a bargain.
I find it very hard to go in here and not buy everything/anything.
13. See the UK’s (and Europe’s) largest brick-built structure, Stockport viaduct
Have you ever wondered what the largest brick-built structure in the UK is?
Come on now, admit it. We’ve all had that burning question at some point in our lives.
Stockport Viaduct (completed in 1840) is your answer.
It may also be the largest in Europe, but I can’t work out online whether it still holds that title as there are conflicting things, some measuring buildings rather than general structures. Anyway, it’s LARGE.
The viaduct is used by the West Coast Main Line so you’ll likely have been on it in a train at some point if you’re a Manchester local. The 27 arches cross the River Mersey and loom over Stockport town centre. Apparently, the viaduct involves over 11,000,000 bricks and it took 600 workers to build it. You can get a good view of it from Wellington Road by the Hat Works.
At the time of its construction, it was the world’s largest viaduct (a title now pinched by somewhere in France) and a major feat of Victorian engineering. You’ll see it in the works of the aforementioned artist L.S Lowry, too.
14. Have some locally inspired cocktails at Cherry Jam
Cherry Jam is a really quirky little cocktail bar with very colourful interiors and a full-on Stockport-themed cocktail menu. This includes cocktails with such amusing names as The 192 (after the infamous bus route into town), Blossoms (after the local band done good), and the Violet Viaduct.
If you’re not a beer person and/or you want somewhere a bit lively, I’d deffo head here. It’s full of character and is always buzzing when I go in, even in the afternoons.
15. Visit the air-raid shelters at night
Stockport’s underground tunnels and air-raid shelters are apparently the largest in Europe. We do love a large claim to fame round here.
You can do an extended tour of them at night and it’s interesting to get a feel for how it must have been sheltering in them (although hard to imagine hundreds of people packed in when you’re just in a small tour). They cover lots of information on local history and how the Stockport area was affected during the war.
I’d say it only takes around 30 minutes to go around but it’s £5 well spent.
16. Eat (Cambodian food) and drink in the Produce Hall
The Produce Hall is (unsurprisingly) a food hall. It’s got a small number of stalls selling various breeds of food and drink and is a good shout if you’re out in a group of friends with different tastes so you can all do your own thing. The atmosphere is usually good and the building it’s in is lovely, with very high ceilings and lots of local art on the walls.
I really recommend the Cambodian food from Kambuja, which also owns a really good restaurant in nearby Marple. It does great vegan options and amazing bao buns.
17. Have a Stockport gin (or two)
Everywhere is doing their own gin these days and Stockport is no exception. So it would be rude not to try an award-winning Stockport Gin while you’re in town. Their pink grapefruit flavour is an absolute treat.
At the time of writing, they’ve just announced that they’re opening a new shop and distillery in the centre of Stockport, so I’ll update this once more on that is announced. I imagine that would be a brilliant thing to do for a night out or as part of a day trip etc.
In the meantime, you can pick up a bottle of Stockport gin at the Maker’s Market, as mentioned further up this post.
18. See the Town Hall that looks like a ‘wedding cake’
If you’re heading into Stockport by train, it’s worth making a mild detour on your walk into the centre of town so that you pass the Grade II listed town hall.
It’s quite an elaborate Baroque creation, full of pillars and marble with a three-tiered fancy bit on the top, hence being historically known as ‘The wedding cake’. My wedding cake was a naked Victoria sponge, but you get the metaphor.
In my opinion, Stockport Town Hall is more impressive-looking than Manchester’s big Neo-Gothic one, which is currently covered in scaffolding anyway.
19. Indulge in street food at Stockport Foodie Friday
On the last Friday of every month, Stockport Market hosts the brilliant Foodie Friday. This is essentially a load of street food stalls outside the market hall and a few cake/beer offerings inside the market itself.
It’s a nice way to spend your evening after work and always has a good atmosphere. There’s live music and all the bars around the market square get involved, with people spilling out onto the streets on a warm night.
It can get really busy in good weather so it’s actually better on an overcast day in my view. Luckily, Stockport has more than its fair share of those…
At the time of writing, Foodie Friday isn’t running but it sounds like they’re planning on bringing it back once things are opening back up fully. Check their website for updates and I’ll edit this once I know more, too.
20. Add to your houseplant collection
Another little gem of Stockport is the Plant Shop. No prizes for guessing what it sells. Plant Shop is a must-visit for all your cute houseplant needs. Be careful coming in here after a drink or two at Cherry Jam or The Good Rebel next door. It’s very easy to get carried away with plants once you’ve had a few.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably living in a home slowly being taken over by houseplants on every surface. But this shop has a lovely selection so I’m sure you’ll find room for another little one. That does not mean it’s ok to buy your fourth monstera…
As well as selling the actual plants themselves, it also does a good selection of pretty pots. And the staff will help you with any greenery-related questions.
21. Visit the Stockport Dungeon – one of the best quick things to do in Stockport
I’ve found that not many people (even locals) know about Stockport Dungeon. It’s not really advertised widely and is tucked away in a corner building off the market square. It’s only open on the second Saturday of each month.
The first I heard of it was just reading the blue plaque outside, which explains its history as both a dungeon and courthouse. You can read a bit more about visiting it on the Stockport Heritage Trust website.
Inside the building, you’ll find a tiny dungeon complete with a cell that they used to chuck people in before doling out their punishments. There are also some small exhibitions on interesting cases, such as the ‘Bredbury poison pie murder’ (a lady from nearby town Bredbury killed someone with an arsenic-infused pie, presumably an artisan one from a local food market).
It’ll take about 15 minutes maximum to look around the dungeon but it’s free to get in so if you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, pop in.
22. Have a quality pub meal at the Arden Arms
The Arden Arms is the place for top-quality homemade pub grub in Stockport, set in a ‘proper’ pub with a tiled floor and open fires.
It’s a Robinsons pub so also serves the locally brewed ale from the brewery I mentioned above. And they do have a beer garden so you can sit outside in summer but I really love going in winter when the fires are lit and it’s dead cosy.
23. Look up to spot all the beautiful details on buildings
Like with any industrial town full of Victorian history, it’s easy to miss a lot of the detail on architecture unless you look up. Once you do, you’ll spot so much intricate work. It’s an urban photographer’s dream.
Some of the nicest Stockport buildings are in the market square. I particularly like this row of four very different but equally detailed lads that somehow work together.
Another beauty is the former Prudential building on Petersgate. And don’t miss the brick wall next to the market hall with the old Emerson advert printed on it (highly recommended as a backdrop for your Instagram photos…).
24. Have lunch at Tiamo’s
Tiamo’s Cafe is a Stockport staple.
You wouldn’t necessarily think it from the outside, as it’s in a very unassuming building down a side street, but the food is brilliant. It’s mainly Persian food – think tapas, stuffed peppers, pita, kebabs etc, but they also do breakfasts, cakes and sandwiches. They also serve loads of vegan options and even have a specific vegan menu. Everything is very affordable and it’s exactly the kind of little treasure that locals know and love but visitors might pass by.
Oh and they do a huge selection of different teas, which is rather wasted on me as an English breakfast tea addict but I’m assured that some of the fruity ones are worth writing home about.
25. Leave via the mysterious Platform 0
I’m definitely not scraping the barrel here to make sure I end on the nice solid number of 25 instead of rubbish 24. No way.
Stockport is home to one of the only ‘Platform 0’ railway platforms in the UK. There are a handful of others (Edinburgh Haymarket springs to mind) but it’s pretty unusual. So there you go. If this mild novelty isn’t enough for you, I don’t know what is.
Top tip for Stockport Station: If you’re waiting around there for ages for a connecting train, there’s a fabulous café just outside the station doors called Cafelito. It’s much better than the station’s offerings of either a generic and tax-dodging Starbucks or the very overpriced coffee-stand. You’re welcome.
Things to do in Stockport – useful information for your visit
Where to stay in Stockport
There are very limited accommodation options in Stockport. It’s not really somewhere you’d need to stay over; most people will base themselves in nearby Manchester if they’re visiting the area. However, if you do need to do an overnight stay then I know a few people who’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn next to the station and it’s been good (about £65/70 a night at the time of writing).
How to get to (and around) Stockport
Stockport is well connected by rail, so there’s no need to drive if you fancy getting the train in. ‘Town’ is an easy stroll away from the station once you’re there. And it’s all very walkable within Stockport itself.
When to go to Stockport
For the best atmosphere, make sure you visit on a market day – Fridays for a Foodie Friday if it’s on are always good. Like most UK weekends away or days out, early or late summer will get you the best of British weather, which is obviously always a risk! It’s also nice to see Stockport in the lead-up to Christmas, when you can cosy up in a pub and peruse the independent shops and markets for presents.
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