Visiting Manchester in winter and wondering what are the best things to do in the city at this time of the year? Perfect!
Everything you need to know to enjoy your winter getaway in Manchester is here.
Manchester is located in North West England. It’s pretty notorious for being rainy and it can get cold in winter, however, it rarely snows.
Winter in Manchester starts in November and finishes in March. Fortunately for you though, there are loads to do in the city during wintertime. Manchester is a very trendy and dynamic UK city and the fun doesn’t stop in winter. As a matter of fact, it even gets better!
In this local’s guide, you will discover the best things to do in Manchester in winter, where to eat, where to stay and some day trips ideas!
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Winter activities in Manchester
So, are you ready to explore Manchester? Let’s start by discovering the best things to do in Manchester in winter.
Visiting Manchester Christmas markets
If you are visiting Manchester in December, going to the Christmas markets is a must-do! Yep, you’ve heard me right: marketS!
Unlike London, there isn’t a big Manchester Winter wonderland but 9 Christmas markets scattered all around the city centre.
They start at the beginning of November and are open for 6 to 7 weeks.
Manchester Christmas markets are an institution. People from all around the UK and Europe come to visit them.
They are located on Albert Square, Cathedral Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St. Ann’s Square and Brazennose Street.
They all offer a bit of a different experience.
The one on Albert Square is the most iconic. It features Manchester Big Santa, the German Village and has the stunning Town Hall in the background.
It’s a great place to grab a cup of mulled wine and delicious Christmas food.
Going shopping in Manchester
Manchester is one of the best cities in the UK to go shopping. There are several shopping centres. They offer a wide variety of local and high street shops.
The Trafford Centre is the most impressive one. Not only is it home to hundreds of shops but it also features themed areas. The food court even has a full-size boat deck!
The Arndale Centre, on market street, is also a popular place to go shopping.
If you are roaming around town, make sure to head to Northern Quarter. You will find an amazing selection of local shops. Perfect to find some unique gifts!
Going to see a play or a musical
Manchester is home to some incredible theatres. The Palace Theatre, Opera House and the Lowry host plays every day.
All famous productions come to Manchester. Some of them even premiere there like Back to the Future The Musical.
If you want to escape the cold, make sure to check what’s on and book a theatre ticket.
London might be world-famous for its musicals but we also have loads in Manchester!
Going to see a concert
Manchester gave to the world some of the most famous English rock bands. Joy Division, The Smiths… they are all from Manchester. The music scene is iconic here and there is no better way to discover it than going to a gig!
You will find loads of venues in Manchester (Arena, O2 Academy, Deaf Institute, Gorilla…). The atmosphere is always incredible and bands usually cherish the city too! You can check what they have on and book a concert ticket!
If you’d like to know more about Manchester’s music scene, you can also opt for a walking tour. Info here.
Visiting the National Football Museum
If there is one thing Manchester is particularly famous for, it’s football.
The city is home to two famous teams and it’s also where the football league was created!
If you are a football fan and are looking for an indoor activity in Manchester for a cold winter day, visiting the National Football Museum will be an excellent choice.
It’s located by the Printworks and hosts an incredible collection of football artefacts.
Please note that there is an entrance fee to visit the museum and tickets can be booked online.
Go skiing at the Chill Factore in Trafford
Chill Factore is the UK’s longest indoor ski slope. If you are looking for a winter activity in Manchester, this is the perfect one!
Located in Trafford, Chill Factore provides skis and snowboards. You can rent them for a couple of hours or more and go hit the slop!
Ice skating at the Ice Village
Located in Cathedral Gardens, the Ice Village is part of the Manchester Christmas markets. You will find an entire ice village, perfect for kids, and an ice rink!
You can book a slot and go ice skating, right in the city centre!
This is a popular winter activity amongst locals so you will need to book a slot.
The ice rink is opened in November and December. If you are visiting Manchester at another time, you can head to the Ice Rink in Altrincham.
Going on walking tour of the city centre
Want to know more about Manchester and its history? Then going on a walking tour of the city centre is the perfect activity for you.
Winter can be quite cold in Manchester and staying outside is not necessarily something you want however, there is no better way to explore the city than by taking a walking tour.
Manchester city centre is fairly small, which makes it super easy to explore on foot. If you want to discover the famous landmarks in Manchester and some fun facts about them, the walking tour is perfect.
In 2 to 3 hours, you will go around the entire city centre which includes:
– St Peter Square
– Central library
– Emmeline Pankrust statue
– Midland hotel
– Gay Village
– Alan Turing statue
– Royal exchange
– and plenty more!
It’s a very efficient way to discover the city and make the best of your time. Make sure you have a good coat and are wearing a beanie and you will have a great time!
Visiting the Museum of Science and Industry
Manchester is the birthplace of the industrial revolution in Europe. During the 19th century, it became one of the most important cities in the world thanks to the textile industry. At this point in time, about 80% of the world’s production of cotton would go through Manchester’s warehouses.
When it comes to science and industry, Manchester gave the world more things that we can tell. If you want to discover more about this industrial background, head to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).
Located in Deansgate, on Liverpool Road, where the world’s first passenger train station was, the MOSI features 4 different buildings.
You will learn more about:
– computing sciences
– textile industry
– transport technology
This national museum is entirely free. Just walk in and stay as long as you want. It’s nice and warm inside. There is even a little cafe where you can grab breakfast or lunch.
This is a very popular thing to do in Manchester in winter with kids. There is a whole entirely designed for kids (and adults) with interactive displays.
It’s a fairly big museum and you can easily spend hours there! Locals go there regularly as you never stop learning and they always have activities on!
Get a drink in a bar or a coffee in Northern Quarter
Northern Quarter is the trendiest neighbourhood in Manchester. It’s full of pubs, cocktail bars and cosy independent cafes.
If you’d like to warm up for a bit and grab a drink (or a delicious scone), head to NQ and make yourself comfortable somewhere!
There is even a cat cafe!
Discovering Manchester’s Street Art
Manchester is world-famous for its street art. If you love beautiful murals, you are in for a treat when visiting Manchester. Even in winter, they show up all over the place!
The best neighbourhood to see street art in Manchester is the Northern Quarter.
Stevenson Square is home to a famous spot! It’s always covered by a portrait from street artist Akse. Arya Stark, David Bowie, George Floyd… They all left their mark there!
As you keep walking along Thomas street, start exploring the adjacent alleyways. You will find loads of murals there! Some of them are for advertising purposes.
They usually don’t stay long but are always pretty big. You will also find loads of others. From the most famous British street artists to more amateur ones, there is a bit of everything!
If you want to learn more about street art in Manchester, you can also book a tour. Prices here.
Visiting a brewery or distillery
Manchester is home to some famous brands of beers and gins. If you’d like to learn how beer and gin are made, going on a brewery/distillery tour is a great thing to do!
It’s the perfect winter activity in Manchester! You will stay in a warm place and taste delicious beers and spirits!
Alternatively, you can also choose to go on a beer tour with a local. Prices here.
Taking a chocolate making workshop
If you’d like to offer some handmade chocolates for Christmas, then going a chocolate making workshop is a great way to learn how!
In this 2-hour workshop, you will learn how to make unique chocolates with a master chocolatier.
Quite cool, right?
Eating a curry on the Curry Mile in Rusholme
Did you know that Manchester was home to the largest concentration of South-East Asian restaurants outside of Asia? Yep! You’ve heard me right! If you love curries and all sorts of international food, heading to the Curry Mile for a meal is a must-do.
The curry mile is located on Wilmslow Road, in Rusholme. You can easily get there by bus (142,143,43 and 42) or on foot (25 minutes from St Peter Square).
Once you get there, you will find an enormous amount of restaurants and shisha bars!
Just roam around and pick the one that attracts you the most. To be honest, they are all pretty amazing. There is such a massive competition on the curry mile that it’s almost impossible for a restaurant to serve bad food.
If you’d like a very good kebab, I highly recommend Shawarma.
You will also find loads of Moroccans and Persian sweets!
The curry mile is basically a paradise for foodies! And what’s better than a hot curry in winter!
If you have a bit of time ahead of you, make sure to roam around Rusholme. It’s a very underrated neighbourhood. Locals often consider it as a “bad” neighbourhood but take it from someone who lived in Rusholme for years, there are many hidden gems!
Rusholme used to be a very wealthy neighbourhood and you can still find these beautiful secret spots such as the colleges on Lower Park road or the St Chrysostom’s on Anson Road.
Visiting the football stadiums
If there is one thing Manchester is known for, it’s football!
Manchester is home to not one but 2 premier league teams: Manchester United and Manchester City.
Football is big here. Bigger than you can ever imagine. Fans always go crazy over matches and when comes the time of the Derby, crazy can’t even describe it any more. Mancunians love football and if that’s something you are interested in, you should go and visit the stadiums.
Of course, if you are in town on a match day, go see a match. The atmosphere is phenomenal and that will be for sure an experience you won’t forget.
If you love Manchester United, you can visit Old Trafford. Prices here.
If you are a Man City fan, the Etihad Stadium is for you.
Celebrating the Chinese new year in Manchester
When visiting Manchester in January or February, going to the Chinese New Year celebrations is a must-do.
The whole city participates! There are a Chinese parade and loads of Chinese street food stands taking over Chinatown.
After a show, make sure you go to one of the Chinese restaurants on Faulkner Street, in Chinatown.
Visiting John Rylands Library
Located in Deansgate, John Ryland is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Manchester. It’s also a bit of a hidden gem. Even though it stands in Manchester city centre, loads of people (even the Mancunians themselves) don’t know about it, let alone have visited it.
It was built in honour of Sir Ryland, Manchester’s first millionaire!
This unique library is a true architectural gem! It looks like Hogwarts! Although it’s not an official Harry Potter site, it really feels like it.
When you walk around, you really feel like you’ve finally received your letter and it’s your first day at wizarding school! So if you are a Potterhead, I can promise you something: you are going to love it!
Regardless of this Harry Pottery feeling, John Rylands Library also owns an impressive collection of manuscripts and early European prints.
You can visit the library for free. There is also a cafe by the entrance if you want to sit down and enjoy a warm cup of tea or coffee!
Going indoor skydiving
If you are a thrill-seeker, this one is for you! There is an indoor skydiving centre in Manchester.
It’s called Ifly and is located in Trafford, right by the Chill Factore (in case you want to hit two birds with one stone!).
You can book a 90-minute indoor skydiving experience during which you will experience the thrill of a free-fall!
Going to see a drag show in the Gay Village
Looking for something fun to do in the evening? Head to canal street to watch a drag show in the Gay Village.
Machester’s gay village is one of the most iconic in the world. The drag shows are an institution here! They started way before homosexuality was even legalised in England. The New Union Pub was already offering them during WWI which is pretty awesome!
When it comes to LGBT rights, Manchester has always been ahead of its time and that’s why the Gay Village is now such a popular place for everyone!
Going to see a drag show in Manchester is for sure a unique experience. It’s the perfect place to get away from the cold and have fun!
You can either go straight to canal street, walk around and pick a bar or book online!
Partying in Deansgate and Northern Quarter
If there is one thing Mancunians know how to do, it’s how to party! Manchester’s nightlife is one of the best in Europe. Loads of people come to Manchester for stag dos, hen dos and birthday weekend to enjoy the bars, live music and clubs.
If you head to Northern Quarter or Deansgate (especially on Friday or Saturday nights), you will find loads of bars with live music where you can have a drink and dance. These neighbourhoods are also full of nightclubs.
Alternatively, you can also head to Castlefield where you will find cute bars by the canal.
Winter day trips from Manchester
There are also a lot of winter day trips you can take. Manchester is ideally located near some of the most popular national parks and cities in the country.
Liverpool is known for its football team, shopping and music! It’s the birthplace of the Beatles and there are loads of pubs with live music! It’s a great place to go party!
If you are visiting around Christmas time, Liverpool is a great place to go shopping. It’s home to the largest open-air shopping centre in Europe.
You can easily get there from Manchester by train. It only takes 55 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street. You can book your train ticket here.
Once you get to Liverpool, wander around the city centre and make sure to go to Matthew Street and the docks. There are also loads of museums in Liverpool. If you want to go somewhere to warm up, that’s perfect. Alternatively, you can also go on a walking tour to learn more about the history of Liverpool. Prices and info here.
If you’d like to discover a beautiful Roman city, York will be the perfect day trip for you!
You can easily get there by train in less than 1 hour. See train ticket prices here.
Once you get to York, you can go on a walking tour of the city centre. You will discover the Shambles and the history of York. Prices here.
York is also known for its connection with Harry Potter. A couple of places were used as a Harry Potter filming location.
There are also a lot of indoor activities in York. Make sure to go to the Viking centre or go on a bus ghost tour.
Going to the Lake District as a day trip from Manchester is a very popular thing to do all year round. In winter, it has this very special feel that makes it so unique and magical.
Just picture it: snowy mountains and hills, fireplace… it’s so cosy and beautiful!
Lake District is situated about 2 hours away from Manchester. You can book a train ticket to Windermere but if you want to make the best of your time, you should opt for a day tour. Prices here.
Peak District is an all-time favourite for Mancunians! It can get pretty cold and snowy in winter but the landscapes are stunning!
You can easily get there from Manchester by train. Book a ticket to Edale and you will be in the peaks in less than 20 minutes! From there, you can go on amazing hikes such as Mam Tor!
Alternatively, you can also book a day tour from Manchester. Prices here.
What to wear in Manchester in winter
Manchester is known for its rain. Winter is no different. Although we have a lot of nice winter days, it’s always safe to assume it will rain at some point.
That having been said, it rarely snows in Manchester so you don’t need to worry about that.
Make sure to pack a nice and warm winter coat, a beanie, boots (or any other warm shoes), a scarf, jumper, jeans and an umbrella.
If you have a warm raincoat, that’s a good thing to pack for winter in Manchester.
I highly recommend the brand Lighthouse Clothing. They are made in the UK and are super good value.
Where to stay in Manchester in winter
In winter, we usually want to avoid staying outside as much as possible. This also means avoiding public transport. Nobody likes to wait in the cold for a bus.
The best places to stay in Manchester in winter are the city centre, Northern Quarter and Ancoats.
Here are some recommendations:
Budget accommodation in Manchester: Ibis Styles Manchester is a really funky hotel. It’s near Piccadilly Gardens and is very good value for money. Click here to see photos and prices.
Mid-range accommodation in Manchester: The Midland hotel is Manchester’s most famous hotel. Located right by St Peter Square, it’s known as the birthplace of Rolls Royce! Click here to see the latest prices.
Luxury accommodation in Manchester: The Stock Exchange hotel is a fabulous 5-star hotel, ideally situated near the Royal Exchange. The rooms are beautiful and the architecture of the building is remarkable. Click here to see the latest prices.
Visiting Manchester in winter is amazing. Although the weather is not always nice, you can be sure to have a very good time. Mancunians are so friendly! They will welcome you with open arms!
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