So much more than Britain’s northern powerhouse – here is where certain music genres, ground-breaking artworks and that beautiful game took flight into the world. Delve into Manchester with these amazing sights and things to do…
Hang out with the cool kids
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is where the creative types of the city cluster. You can spend a happy afternoon wandering the characterful little lanes and browsing independent fashion labels, vintage homewares and records, before kicking back in a choice of hipster cafés, bars and restaurants.
A legendary gig venue
One of the UK’s top music venues and where every band worth its salt stops on tours, The Deaf Institute is housed in an impressive converted Victorian building. Stop by to catch the latest indie band – there is something happening here most nights of the week. Or just pop in for a drink and a burger and soak up the atmosphere. Explore more of the city’s heritage with this Manchester music itinerary.
A Harry Potter-style library
Towering stone columns, stained-glass windows, looming statues and walls and walls of books. It’s no wonder John Rylands Library frequently makes the most stunning libraries of the world lists. Part of the University of Manchester, the library has one of the world’s most impressive collections of rare books and manuscripts among its shelves. Go take a nose around…and keep an eye out for any sorcery!
Britain’s first Urban Heritage Park
This is no ordinary park: instead you might come across the ruins of a Roman fort that gave this area its name: Castlefield. Fans of Victorian times will admire the industrial-revolution viaduct and waterways, with enticing bars and a Sunday artisan market now creating the vibe here. You can also climb the city’s tallest building, and look around the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Before you know it, you’ll have a vivid picture of Manchester’s rich and varied past and exciting future.
Stay in a 5-star hotel with a cheeky twist
Hotel Gotham has taken over a grand art deco building that was formerly a bank in central Manchester. Stay in jazzy rooms decorated with monochrome carpets, neon pink armchairs and reminders of the building’s former life – SWAG bags for laundry – as well as subtle nods to its name – see bat-shaped 'do not disturb' signs.
Tick off the number of famous paintings you’ve seen
Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery has been impressing visitors since 1889 and its collection now includes works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, LS Lowry, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and JMW Turner.
Look into Britain’s past
Housed in a striking former Edwardian pumping station, the People's History Museum gives a fascinating insight into life for working-class British people throughout recent history. With the country’s biggest collection of political material – like posters, cartoons and photographs – the museum actively makes the historic collections relevant to present-day issues.
Catch a show
If you love your theatre, Manchester will keep your evenings busy. The city is bursting with impressive venues such as the Palace Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Opera House and Manchester Arena, all with jam-packed programmes of touring West End musicals, ballets, concerts, comedies and gigs.
Stand at the very heart of the city
You can’t fail to be moved when you stand in Albert Square, Manchester’s beating heart, thronged with splendid Victorian gothic buildings and monuments. The town hall presides with its clocktower, and look out for the Albert memorial featuring Queen Victoria’s Prince for whom the square is dedicated. Discover more of the city with an audio walking tour.
How could we forget? This is the ‘Home of Football’ after all, and no visit to Manchester could be complete without watching a game or at least taking a tour at Manchester United’s home ground Old Trafford or Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Whoever you support, match day is an atmosphere you’ll never forget.
How to get there
Manchester is just over 2 hours by train from London Euston. Many international flights fly direct to Manchester Airport. You can use the city as a launch pad for exploring the rest of northern England, too – invest in a BritRail pass to save on train fares.