Oxford Road (map) is one of Manchester’s main throughfares. It starts at St. Peter’s Square in the heart of the city and runs very much like a straight line into the city’s southern suburbs. Dubbed ‘the Corridor’, Oxford Road is home to Manchester’s two universities, the BBC offices, various architectural gems and a host of splendid theatres and museums. A stroll along Oxford Street is one of my recommended things to do in Manchester due to its great array of architectural styles, museums and cafés.
Oxford Road attractions
I started my walk at the Manchester Town Hall. The first thing that struck me was the stately elegance of the many Victorian era buildings in Manchester. The Town Hall, with its many arches and pointy windows, is a brilliant example of the Victorian Gothic Revival style.
As I crossed into Oxford Road, I found many more magnificent specimens such as The Principal Hotel that was designed by Alfred Waterhouse. If you’re not staying in this gorgeous hotel, have a look inside anyway – the domed ceiling in the lobby area is stunning.
The universities located along Oxford Road provide a youthful buzz to a street that is steeped in history – this illustrious street was where Karl Marx wrote his earliest thoughts on the Communist theory, the atom was first split and the first modern computer was born. Throngs of students crowd the street and the many shops, pubs, cafés and restaurants are geared mostly at the student populace. There’s also a vibrant cultural scene; during my walk, I passed the Dancehouse (a lovely Art Deco building), the Capitol Theatre and the Contact Theatre (an extraordinary factory-like building).
The Manchester Museum is situated in the heart of the university precinct and is absolutely worth a visit. The exhibits on animal life, world cultures, ancient Egypt and Mediterranean archaeology are magnificent. Don’t forget to grab the free ‘Amazing Facts’ booklet at the entrance – did you know that the Hercules beetle is the strongest creature on earth, capable of carrying up to 80 times its own body weight? 🙂 I can also recommend a stroll around the university precinct with its historic monuments such as the gorgeous John Owens building.
The Whitworth Art Gallery is located further down the road from the Manchester Museum. Housed in a lovely red-brick building, the museum is particularly noted for its beautiful collections of wallpapers, sculptures and textiles. I’ve never given much thought to the cultural significance of wallpaper until I visited the Whitworth’s ‘Walls Are Talking’ exhibition. An absolute eye-opener!
It’s about a two mile walk from the Town Hall along Oxford Road to the Whitworth Art Gallery but you can easily plan it as a leisurely afternoon stroll. Stop and admire the stunning Victorian architecture, visit the fascinating museums (entrance is free), grab some tickets at any of the theatres and rest your feet at any of the cafe’s or pubs along the way (I can recommend the café at the Whitworth for a light lunch and the nearby Kro Bar for a well-deserved beer). If you’re too tired to walk back, frequent buses will whizz you back into the city centre in ten minutes.
Note: my trip to Manchester was sponsored by Creative Tourist. Download Creative Tourist’s free Cultural Guide to Manchester iPhone app.
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Ahh…. this takes us back to the old country! Would also recommend the Cornerhouse cinema to anyone in this area of Manchester. It’s a wonderful old-fashioned cinema with very select films. We saw the Istanbul music film ‘Crossing The Bridge’ there. One of only four cinemas in the UK that screened it.
Having passed all of these buildings on the bus everyday for 3 and a half years, its nice to see them through a fresh and enthusiastic set of eyes! I’m currently working on a project on Oxford Road, and have made this little video, if anyone is interested, walking the same journey.
Love it Keith, i went to university in Manchester and absolutely loved it, there’s so much going on and certainly worth the trip north Gwen! Glad it’s getting some attention as a destination in its own right.
Manchester has always been a little low on my travel radar and after a not so fun visit to London, the UK as a whole has been a little of radar. However I’m intrigued about Manchester. Oxford Street sounds like my kind of afternoon stroll, and free admission to museums or galleries are definitely my thing! Thanks for the info!
80 times its own bodyweight??! I’m a close second… eh..he… soon..
Manchester has some non-scenic areas but you really captured the best architecture the city boasts.
Thank you Gwen & Nat for your comments. I really enjoyed my trip to Manchester. I’ve never thought of Manchester as a tourist destination but now I’ve been there, I can say that it’s absolutely worth a visit. There’s so much to see and do. I was really amazed by the great diversity of cultural events and the awesome museums. Great food, shopping and a pumping nightlife too! 🙂
Keith, thanks for the trip down memory lane! I really have fond memories of my time living in Manchester in ’96 – I worked and went to University on Oxford Road, and it sounds just as vibrant now as it was then. It is a great intro to the city. Can’t wait to get back for a visit one day! Hope you enjoyed your trip.
Nice summary that makes me curious about what I’ve been missing by not getting up North when I visit the UK. Thanks.