25 Nov 19 / Manchester
Top 10 Things To Do In Manchester
As is expected for England's second-biggest city, there are plenty of things to do in Manchester. World-famous for football and music, it is also great for nightlife, arts and culture. Plus, Manchester is surrounded by countryside making it an excellent base for exploring the wider North West region.
Home to two of Europe's top football teams – Man City and Man United – Manchester is the place to pay homage to the country's favourite sport. Whether you are a die-hard fan or new to understanding the game, the National Football Museum is well worth a visit. It contains football memorabilia including historic trophies and clothing, plus you can also test out your football skills and learn the history of the beautiful game.
Both of the city's football teams offer stadium tours and behind-the-scenes opportunities. More than 75,000 fans fill Manchester United's Old Trafford for every home match. While those tickets are hard to come by, the stadium tour is available on all non-home match days. Manchester City's Etihad Stadium offers a variety of tour options too.
2. SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY MUSEUM
Manchester's industrial legacy is explored at the Science and Industry Museum. Set within the grounds of the old Liverpool Street station, the oldest surviving passenger railway station, in the heart of the world's first industrial city, the museum reached 50 years old in 2019. To mark this milestone anniversary, conservation and restoration work to the Grade I and II listed buildings is currently underway but the museum is open throughout.
Manchester has always been a meeting place for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, and the Museum is devoted to inspiring through ideas that change the world. It looks at the city's history from Roman times and through the Industrial Revolution. You can see steam engines, locomotives and early aircraft, as well as vintage made-in-Manchester cars, including a rare 1904 Rolls Royce.
3. MANCHESTER ART GALLERY
In the city centre and free to visit, the Manchester Art Gallery has one of the largest art collections in Britain outside of London. The gallery celebrates local and international work with an extensive collection of more than 2,000 items spanning over six centuries.
Works on display are by the pre-Raphaelites and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century. French impressionists include Gauguin, Manet and Monet, and English artists include Stubbs, Constable and Turner. The gallery also features collections of crafts, from ceramics to metalwork and home items, as well as costume and accessories dating from 1600 to the modern day. And the sculpture collection includes works by Rodin, Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore. The gallery runs free hour-long highlights tours every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and most bank holiday Mondays.
Chinatown is nearby with one of the largest Chinese communities in Britain.
4. WHITWORTH ART GALLERY
Since its recent re-development, Manchester's second most important art gallery is arguably its most beautiful. Whitworth Art Gallery has doubled its exhibition space to blend modern architecture, glass structures and stunning gallery spaces with original features from 1889. And the glass-screened promenades means 'Café in the Trees' really does extend into the park's foliage.
Amongst the contemporary art, British watercolours, historic textiles and galleries devoted to the work of artists from Rembrandt to David Hockney there is a gallery dedicated to wallpaper.
HOME is Manchester's international centre for theatre, film and visual art. Open since 2015, it has become one of Britain's best arts centres. HOME has two theatre spaces and five cinema screens that show the latest indie releases as well as classics. The international contemporary visual art programme is dedicated to presenting new commissions by emerging and established artists of regional, national and international significance.
The big 'out of town' shopping centre here is intu Trafford Centre with all the stores you would expect including Selfridges, Pull & Bear, John Lewis and Zara. As well as shopping, there's an ODEON cinema, SEA LIFE Manchester and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre. It’s not your usual modern day shopping centre, and is well worth a visit!
There are more retail opportunities at the elegant shops of St. Anne's Square, King Street and the Royal Exchange, as well as the large covered market halls of Bolton Arcade. And you can’t visit Manchester without spending at least a couple of hours exploring the Northern Quarter – Manchester's hipster haven. Overflowing with street art, galleries, cafés & bars, restaurants and boutiques, NQ is an excellent shopping location in Manchester.
Within the unique surroundings of a Victorian market building, Manchester Craft and Design Centre has two floors of contemporary studios for bespoke gifts. And Afflecks describes itself as an "emporium of eclecticism" which gives you an idea of what to expect at this Aladdin's cave of independent traders offering an array of jewellery, clothing and craft stores.
All of the pieces at the Form Lifestyle Store have been carefully selected with a focus on design, function and simplicity. And their spiral staircase is perhaps the most photographed in Manchester. Oklahoma always has brilliant window displays, and Fred Aldous is a wonderful art and crafts shop that has been helping the people of Manchester make and create for over 130 years.
7. CORONATION STREET TOUR
At MediaCityUK you can explore Weatherfield and follow in the footsteps of your favourite characters down those world-famous cobbled street. The Coronation Street Tour is an 80-minute fully guided tour that takes in Coronation Street, Rosamund Street and the newly extended Victoria Street. You hear stories from yesteryear, discover filming secrets and there are plenty of photo opportunities.
Also at MediaCityUK, you can do BBC Tours to see where popular programmes are filmed including Match of the Day, Mastermind and Blue Peter. You get to see behind the scenes and learn more about the world of broadcasting. A special CBBC interactive tour is also available for children aged between 6 and 11 years old, giving kids the chance to learn about their favourite programmes and have a go at being a CBBC presenter.
8. PEOPLE'S HISTORY MUSEUM
The People's History Museum is dedicated to telling the story of ordinary working people and ideas worth fighting for. It couldn’t have a better home than Manchester, the birthplace of the trade union movement and universal suffrage.
This is the national centre for the collection, conservation, interpretation, and study of material relating to the history of working people in Britain. Located in a former Edwardian pumping station, the museum showcases the history of British democracy and its impact on the population.
Do also consider a visit to the Pankhurst Centre – the birthplace of the suffrage movement.
9. MANCHESTER ARENA
Manchester Arena is Europe's largest and most impressive indoor concert venue with a staggering 1.2 million customers every year. Situated at Victoria railway station, the Arena was voted International Venue of the Year in 2002 and officially the Busiest Concert Venue in the World in 2004. The Manchester Arena hosts a wide range of entertainment from rock, pop and classical music concerts to family shows and world-class sporting events.
Designated an "Urban Heritage Park," Castlefield is incredibly picturesque. Partitioned by winding canals and dotted with renovated industrial warehouses, this waterside neighbourhood has lovingly restored Victorian houses along the old canals and even a Roman Fort. Castlefield gifts a breath of fresh air to the city with looping bridges, boat-moored canals and homely waterside pubs. Top up your Instagram grid with pics of the red and blue iron staircase and views from the white bridge. Other interesting attractions in the area include the Castlefield Art Gallery with its exhibitions of contemporary art and Bridgewater Hall for concerts.
Other places of note in Manchester include The Lowry for theatre, exhibitions and arts, Imperial War Museum North and the Manchester Museum – the country's biggest university museum with a collection of 4,500,000 items from all around the world.
WHERE TO STAY
There are countless things to do in Manchester, but if you’re still looking for somewhere to stay, Malmaison Manchester is one of the most stylish hotels in the city centre. Transformed from an elegant 19th-century warehouse, it has 167 luxury rooms and 13 suites. (The Manchester Suites are particularly gorgeous.)
Dine at the red leather-and-neon styled brasserie Chez Mal and consider sitting ring-side at the Josper Grill – a huge artisan indoor charcoal barbecue oven that flames and cooks steaks to smokey perfection. Or grab a stool at the Mal Bar and watch the mixologists create the perfect cocktail. You don't have to wait for the weekend as there are exclusive Happy Hour bar offers from Monday to Thursday and the 'Thank Mal It's Friday' deals are loved too.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin