Are you going to Manchester, England, soon and wondering what you should be doing and what you should be visiting? You will find some answers here!
Manchester is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It’s nowhere as popular as other British cities but yet there are so many cool places in Manchester! The city is full of history which will be perfect for art and history lovers! But if there is something Manchester is known for, it’s its people. Mancunians are very friendly! So no matter what, if there is something we all know for sure it’s that you will have fun in Manchester!
Ideally, you will need to spend 3 or 2 days in Manchester to make the best of your stay but even if you are only here for a day, you will get to see loads! In this article, you will discover the best things to do in Manchester!
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Best Things to do in Manchester City Centre
Even though Manchester is the third biggest city in the UK, its city centre is quite small. This is great for visitors!
Manchester city centre is easily navigable and can be explored by foot.
Walking around Manchester is from far the best way to discover the city and what it is all about.
I would recommend for you to just grab your umbrella and start wandering around. It may be sunny but in the North of England, we know that rain is always an option. Don’t worry though, there is plenty to do in Manchester when it rains.
So, are you ready? Let’s discover what to do in Manchester!
Piccadilly Gardens is located in the heart of Manchester. No matter what you do, you will go through it as it’s the central square. You will find a lot of restaurants and shops. It’s also connected to Market Street, a shopper’s paradise!
At the weekend, you will find a mini food market. If you are visiting in winter, you will also find one of the Manchester Christmas Markets there.
Although Piccadilly Gardens are not extraordinary themselves, it’s a good place to stay in Manchester as it’s very central.
Market Street, as the name might suggest, is the main shopping strip in Manchester. It goes from Piccadilly Gardens to High Street. You will find all your favourite shops there including Primark, H&M and TK Maxx. It’s also home to the Arndale centre, one of the main shopping centres in Manchester.
St Peter’s square
St Peter’s Square is the second main place in Manchester. No matter what you do, you will go through it at some point. It’s home to the central library, art gallery and Midland Hotel.
Emmeline Pankhurst statue
Emmeline Pankrust is one of the founders of the Suffragette movement. It originated in Manchester and thanks to it, women in the UK got granted the right to vote in 1918. This is way before most European countries which is quite exceptional.
Emmeline Pankrust was from Manchester. In 2019, a statue in her tribute was added to St Peter’s square. It was the first statue of a woman (except for the statue of Queen Victoria in Piccadilly Gardens) in Manchester.
So as you are strolling around Manchester, go pay Emmeline a visit 😉
St Peter’s square is home to the central library. This round building is quite unique and offers a very different architectural style from the rest of the city. It’s worth going in to check the building out.
It was built as a rotunda shape, similar to the Pantheon in Rome! You will also find an exhibition with the archives about the city. If you want to see photos of Manchester during WII or the industrial revolution, that will be the perfect place!
The Midland Hotel is from far one of the most beautiful buildings in Manchester. Located by St Peter’s square, it’s very easily accessible. You can walk all around and admire the stunning architecture.
There is plenty to know about the Midland Hotel. Firstly, that’s where Royce and Rolls met and founded their famous car brand. Secondly, it was one of Hitler’s favourite buildings in Europe. I know that doesn’t sound good but keep reading. He and his wife loved it so much that they wanted to dismantle it, transport it to Germany and rebuild it there. That’s why it’s one of the rare buildings in Manchester that was not bombed during WWII. Thankfully, it never was dismantled and we can still enjoy having it, right here, in Manchester!
The Midland Hotel is the most famous luxury hotel in Manchester. If you have the budget for it, it’s definitely somewhere you’d want to stay.
If you want more information about the hotel and check the latest prices, click here.
John Rylands Library
John Rylands Library is located in Deansgate. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Manchester and yet not as touristy as we would expect. Going there, it’s a bit like entering the real-life version of Hogwarts!
The entrance is free and the library is open every day! You can stay there for a bit and read if you want or just go through the corridors and exhibitions.
Fun fact about John Rylands. He was Manchester’s first millionaire. The library was ordered by his wife after he died.
Town Hall and Albert Square
If you love architecture, Town Hall will be perfect for you! It’s one of the most famous sites in Manchester. This victorian neo-classic building is home to Manchester city council. It sits between Albert Square and St Peter’s square.
It’s also home to the biggest Christmas market in Manchester.
Gay Village & Alan Turing Memorial
Manchester is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly in the world and its Gay Village is something every visitor should see!
Start your visit in Sackville Gardens. You will find the statue of Alan Turing. Alan Turing is famous for having cracked Enigma, the German encryption machine used during WWII. Unfortunately, Alan didn’t get any recognition for his work while he was alive. He was prosecuted for being gay and had to go through chemical castration. If you want to know more about Alan Turing, check out our articles about the history of Manchester.
Next to Alan, you will find the LGBTQ Bee. In 2019, the city of Manchester ran a big art contest. Over 30 giant bees were installed all around the city. Most of them were sold at auction still but the city chose to keep a couple of very important bees including the LGBTQ one!
After that, you can head to Canal street, that’s where everything happens! You will find plenty of gay bars and drag shows there. It’s a very lively street in Manchester, perfect for a drink.
I particularly recommend checking out the Union pub. It was one of the first gay pubs in the world. They used to perform drag shows during WWII (way before homosexuality was legalised in the UK), quite cool right?
Located in the Northern Quarter, near Shudehill Station, the Printworks is a massive entertainment complex. It was made using an old Manchester warehouse which gives it this special vibe, very Mancunian!
If you are looking for fun things to do in Manchester, the Printworks will be perfect for you! There are bars and restaurants including Hard Rock Cafe, Wetherspoons…
But also a cinema, mini golf… and plenty more!
Even if you don’t fancy spending too much time there, it’s at least worth walking through it. You’ll see, it’s very cool. It’s also one of the best Instagram spots in Manchester.
If there was only one place to visit in Manchester, it would be the Northern Quarter. It’s the most lively and coolest neighbourhood in Manchester.
If you love street art, that’s the best place to go to. The Northern Quarter is full of murals! If you head to Stevenson Square, that’s where you will find the most famous murals. We had Arya from Game of Thrones, David Bowie, Ariana Grande… and plenty more.
But that’s not all, just wander around and explore. You will find plenty of them! There is even a Harry Potter one!
Northern Quarter is also full of bars, restaurants and pubs, making it a very popular place to grab lunch or dinner!
In the evening you will find a lot of live music there as well (but we will get back to that a bit further in the article).
Ancoats is located just after the Northern Quarter. It became the new trendy district in Manchester. If you love street art, cute bars and restaurants, that will be the perfect place for you!
Deansgate is one of the best neighbourhoods in Manchester. It’s home to the Museum of Science and Industry, John Ryland Library and many bars and restaurants. It’s a very good place to grab lunch or dinner!
Manchester walking tour
The best way to discover Manchester is by going on a walking tour. They are a great way to make the best out of your time in the city. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and will tell you everything you need to know about the city. They will also give you local tips to help you experience the city in the best way.
The tour starts at the central library and lasts about 2 hours. You will get to visit all the sites mentioned above and will get plenty of info about them!
If you want to discover some amazing facts about Manchester, that will be a very good place to start.
It’s also a very good way to take your marks and wander around with ease afterwards.
Museums and galleries
When it comes to museums, Manchester can’t be quite considered as amain destination in comparison to London or Liverpool. There are only few museums in Manchester however they are all absolutely amazing! The Museum of Science and Industry is, in my opinion, one of the best in the world. Here are three museums you should go to while you are in Manchester.
Museum of Science and Industry
Located in Deansgate, the MOSI is a tribute to Manchester Industrial background. Amongst other amazing facts about Manchester, we can highlight the fact that it was home to the first passenger railway in the world.
The MOSI is now located exactly where the station was. It’s devoted to telling stories about ideas that changed the world and initiated in Manchester. This includes the following topics: Industrial Revolution, Science and computing, aviation, trains, textile…
Each exhibition is located in a different building (reconverted Manchester warehouse). Baby, the first computer is on display in the main building.
The Museum has been built in a very interactive way so both adults and children can enjoy it just as much. It would take probably several days for you to visit each part properly so we recommend you to choose the topics you are the most interested in and skip the rest.
As every national museum, the Museum of Science and Industry is FREE!
Located on the corner of St Peter Square, the art gallery is always a good idea! The building itself is quite interesting as it’s completely different to everything else in Manchester.
It’s a big white building with greek columns at the front. Inside, there are a few permanent pieces but the most interesting part of the gallery is the temporary exhibitions. Some collections travel all around the UK and always stop in Manchester.
They are generally free as well and will give you a chance to discover some wonderful and unique pieces such as the Da Vinci drawings.
Manchester Museum is a museum displaying works of archaeology, anthropology and natural history. It is owned by the University of Manchester, one of the best in England after the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
The museum is located on Oxford Road at the heart of the university’s group of neo-Gothic buildings, it provides access to about 4.5 million items from every continent.
Activities for football fans in Manchester
Who says Manchester says football! Manchester is home to two famous football clubs: Manchester United and Manchester City. If you are a fan of one of these two teams, you have to visit their respective stadium. There is nothing better than seeing your favourite team playing at home! But if you can’t see them play, you can still visit the stadiums!
Tour of Old Trafford Stadium: home of Manchester United
If you are a Man’ United fan, you can head straight to Old Trafford Stadium. You can visit it every day (except on match day. You can book a tour of the stadium and museum for £25.
Tour of Etihad Stadium: home of Manchester City
If you are a Manchester City fan then the Eithad Stadium is the place you want to see! You can book a tour of the stadium and museum for £25.
Shopping in Manchester
Go to the Trafford Centre
Trafford Centre is a massive commercial centre located in Trafford, South-West of Manchester. It is for sure the most unique commercial centre you will get to see in Europe!
Each part has been built around a theme, it’s basically a shopping version of Universal Studios! If you go to the food quarter for example you will go through the Japanese quarter then the Italian quarter and will end up in the main court which is a reconstitution of a cruise ship.
If you are a shopping addict this will be your paradise. You will find every shop you can possibly think of. And if you are not into shopping it’s still worth a visit because it’s so unique and beautiful that will be for sure an experience.
Where to eat in Manchester
Manchester is one of the best cities in Northern Europe to experience food! The Mancunians love their food and because the city is so cosmopolitan, you can notice the influence of many foreign cuisines!
Asian food, Mediterranean food, English food… you will find everything you want in Manchester!
Whether you are planning your trip to Manchester or just looking for new restaurants and bars to try, you will find below some awesome places!
Here are our top places to eat in Manchester!
Grab tapas at Evuna Northern Quarter
Located on Thomas Street, in Northern Quarter, Evuna brings the best of Spanish tapas to England!
The food is absolutely delicious! No matter what you decide to go for, you will love it.
You can stick to the Spanish classic with the plato espagnol (salami, cheese, olives) but I’d recommend going for the hot tapas.
My personal favourites are:
- Goat cheese croquetas
- Jamon Croquetas
In terms of drinks, I particularly recommend the sangria (available in a glass or jug) but they also have amazing Spanish wine!
The staff is incredibly kind and quick. They always make sure everything is exactly as you would want it to be.
It generally works out about £20 / £25 per person for food and drinks.
Evuna can be a victim of its own success and can get quite busy so I would highly recommend booking a table beforehand to avoid any disappointments.
Have brunch at Moose Cafe
Welcome to my favourite brunch place in Manchester! Moose Cafe is located on York Street, just behind Market Street. Moose offers Canadian themed breakfasts and brunches.
If you fancy pancakes or waffles, this is the place to go to!
They offer a wide range of pancakes, waffles, brunch, bagels, sandwiches, french toast… and many more.
It’s perfect when you are debating whether to get something savoury or sweet. You can get both!
My personal favourite is the Egg benedict and smoked salmon bagel!
It’s very good value for the money. All dishes are less than £10 and are very big portions.
If you take a drink as well, it generally works out under £15 per person.
Moose cafe does not take reservations. It’s first come first serve! It can get quite busy between 11am and 2pm, with up to 45min wait. However, they write down your name in the list of people queuing and give you the waiting time. From there, you are free to go anywhere. You don’t have to wait at the cafe.
So, what I would advise is to show up there before getting too hungry and save your spot. That way you can go for a stroll and come back in a bit for your brunch!
Get Asian food on the Curry Mile in Rusholme
The Curry Mile is a part of Wilmslow road where you will find all sort of restaurants, mainly Asian. It’s been nicknamed the Curry Mile as it is truly a heaven for any curry lover! As a matter of fact, it is the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants in the world outside of Asia.
The best thing about it is that it’s both cheap and extremely good! Just head towards Rusholme and walk around the Curry Mile, you will find something to eat very quickly!
Drinks in Northern Quarter and Ancoats
Ancoats and Northern Quarter both used to be the warehouse quarters during the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays they are very trendy and lively neighbourhood. You will find there a lot of cute bars and live music. If you want to grab food and drinks, this will be the real Manchester experience you are after!
Be a Peaky Blinder
Manchester has a real Peaky Blinders themed bar! Located on St Peter Street, Deansgate, this bar will seduce any Peaky Blinders fan. The reconstruction has been amazingly carried, you will even find the clothes and the betting station with typing machine where Polly used to take the bets in the first season of the show.
Usually, you will also find a lot of people dressed like the Peaky Blinders so if you want to dress up, feel free!
If you are going to Manchester in November and December, the Christmas markets will be the best place to go for food and drinks. Voted best Christmas markets in the UK and amongst the best in Europe, Manchester Christmas Markets are an experience you do not want to miss.
First of all, it is important to note that it is not one big Christmas market like Winter Wonderland in London but several Christmas markets. They literally take over the city!
The main one is located bu the town hall, on Albert Square, but you will also find them at Cathedral Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St Ann’s Street and Brazennose Street.
Theatres and music venues
If there is one thing Manchester is particularly known for it’s its music scene. Home to some of the best rock bands ever, Manchester cherishes its musical culture. Outside of London, that’s where you will find the most music venues.
Theatre and musicals
The Palace Theatre is the main theatre in Manchester. Many plays and musicals come to the Palace theatre each year. This includes some big productions such as The Lion King or Book of Mormon. You can see the complete list of plays and musicals at the Palace Theatre on ATG website.
The Opera house is a smaller venue located in Spinningfield. Yet, it’s my favourite theatre in Manchester. It’s smaller but way more comfortable. You get more room space and see the stage way better. I got to see some amazing musicals there such as Amelie and Back to the Future Musical.
To book tickets for a play, you can either go to the box office, book them online with ATG or the Lowry website.
Concerts & comedy shows in Manchester
- Manchester Arena
- Deaf Institute
- Band on wall
- Albert Hall
- Manchester Academy
- O2 academy
To book tickets, your best option would be to use either Ticketmaster or See Tickets. They are both very good options. I would recommend you to check both of them as they might have different prices.
Manchester is very known for its nightlife. It is one of the favourite destinations in the UK for hen dos, stag dos and city breaks. Here are the two nightlife experience in Manchester you can not miss on.
You will find many bars and pubs in the Northern Quarter. In the evening, this district becomes the best place to be in Manchester. It’s lively and the atmosphere is fantastic.
If you want to enjoy some live music this will be the place to go. The great thing about Northern Quarter is that all the bars are very unique and all good in their own way. You can’t really be disappointed so my best piece of advice for you would be to go to Thomas Street or Stevenson Square and just see where the evening brings you.
Deansgate is another district particularly lively at night but maybe for a bit later than Northern Quarter. You will find more bars where you can dancing and clubbing such as the Revolucion de Cuba.
It’s very lively as well and gets quite crowded on Fridays and Saturdays. The best place to start would be St Peter street. This is where you will find the best bars and some live music. From there, just walk around and listen to music. You will quickly find something you like.
How to get to Manchester?
Manchester is one of the main cities in the UK which means it’s quite well connected.
Manchester Airport is the biggest airport outside of London, you will find flights from anywhere in the world! From the airport, you can jump in a train to Piccadilly Station, get a taxi / uber or take bus 43 to Picadilly Gardens.
There are 2 main train stations in Manchester: Victoria and Piccadilly station. You will find direct trains from and to all the main cities in the UK including London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool. The high-speed train from Manchester to London is really good. It only takes 2 hours and will bring you from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston.
If you are on a budget, you can opt for the bus. Shudehill Bus Station is the bus terminal for National Express and Megabus. You can find buses from anywhere in the UK for less than £10. They tend to be a bit slow, 6 hours to go to London for example, but they are super cheap!
Finally, you can drive to Manchester. It will be difficult to find a free car park in the city centre but if you are willing to park a bit further and take the bus it’s an option. If you are willing to pay a few pounds to park your car though, I would definitely recommend parking in Ancoats or Green Quarter. It’s super convenient and quite cheap!
Best time to visit Manchester
Manchester is located in the North of England and as you may know, it’s not famous for being a sunny place. It rains a lot in Manchester and gets quite cold in winter. The best time to visit would be between May and September.
As it’s summer, you will have higher chances to get nice weather. That being said, if there is one thing nobody can guarantee in Manchester it’s how the weather is going to be so if you have the opportunity to come at any time, you should take it.
Just make sure you are bringing a rain jacket 😉