Susan Griffin visits The Principal Manchester, which has undergone a name change and multi-million pound renovation to become one of the north's hottest places to rest your head


Walk into The Principal Manchester, an imposing hotel with a conspicuous clock tower, and you're instantly reminded of the grand wizarding bank in the Harry Potter films, given the vast space and ornate pillars. Formerly known as The Palace Hotel, the listed Gothic Revival building, which was originally designed by the architect behind London's Natural History Museum, has undergone a £25m renovation. Great attention has been paid to retaining the hotel's original features, such as the marble and bronze Directors' staircase, but with new additions, such as a specially-commissioned horse sculpture, which stands proudly beneath the lobby's stained-glass cupola.


There are 270 rooms and suites at the hotel spread out via labyrinth-like corridors and grand stairwells bathed in the winter sun that streams through stained-glass windows. Dark wood panelling and trunk-like furniture gives the room a traditional feel, while the dove grey curtains that stretch towards the high ceiling and a scarlet red phone provide pops of colour. The white-tiled bathroom (complete with welcoming rain shower) and the complimentary tuck box adds a lovely touch.


The Refuge by Volta generated a lot of excitement when it opened and has become one of the city's newest destination bars and dining rooms. Created in partnership with DJs-turned-restaurateurs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, they've managed to make a cavernous 10,000 sq ft space feel cosy and warm with intimate booths, low-lighting and a glamourous 40ft bar, serving up cocktails and craft beers. Behind this is the quieter Winter Garden, a glasshouse with twinkling lights entwined around trees and a stunning mosaic floor. The food at Refuge is served as small, tapas-like plates broken down into raw, meat, seafood and vegetable options, including seared tuna and grilled pak choi; radicchio and orange salad and slow-cooked ox cheek with egg and Sriracha.


The hotel is opposite Oxford Road train station and only a short walk from Piccadilly, Manchester's main station. The area is popular with university students and lined with small independent shops and pubs, as well as a multitude of music venues and The Palace Theatre, which is playing host to Billy Elliott until January 28. It's only a short amble to Piccadilly Gardens, which is nestled next to big-name stores, and beyond it, the Northern Quarter, where there are lots of cool bars and cafes.

:: Rooms from £119 per person (room only). Breakfast costs £15.95 per person. Visit