Manchester is a fascinating city in northwest England that’s a destination in its own right. On a casual stroll around the city, visitors will feel the city’s unmistakable spirit that lies in its pioneering past and in its trendsetting present. I found a board in the Manchester Art Gallery that beautifully describes the Manchester ‘Attitude’.
Manchester is home to a wide array of brilliant historical sights, impressive museums, a vibrant cultural scene and a pumping nightlife – the city’s energy is absolutely infectious. I recommend spending at least three full days to see the sights and to get a feel of the city. It’s not easy to compile a list of things to see and do for a city that has so much to offer. I’ve given it a try anyway and I hope you enjoy Manchester as much as I did. Here are my recommendations for things to do in Manchester:
1. Gawk at the stunning interior of the John Rylands Library
This library, located along Deansgate Street, is easily one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen. The central reading room is a special treat.
2. Visit some of the fabulous museums and art galleries
Manchester teems with museums and art galleries. Go on a history hop by starting at the Manchester Art Gallery, then head past Lincoln Square (stop for a moment to read the plaque under the Abraham Lincoln statue) to the stunning People’s History Museum, before continuing to the Museum of Science and Industry (home of the world’s first train station). And save some time in your itinerary for a walk down Oxford Road.
3. Take in a performance at one of the many theatres
The number and diversity of cultural events in Manchester at any given time of the year is pretty staggering. Attend a musical at the famous Palace Theatre or a ballet performance at the Opera House. Look up what’s on stage at the Contact Theatre, the Dancehouse, the Royal Exchange (a stunning building), the Bolton Octagon or The Lowry.
4. Admire the architecture
Manchester boasts some of the most breathtaking examples of Victorian architecture anywhere. The Town Hall is a prime example, as is the Principal Hotel. Check out Albert Square, Deansgate Street or the Canal Street neighbourhoods for more gorgeous buildings.
There are many other architectural styles that can be admired such as (neo-)Gothic, Edwardian baroque, Art Nouveau and others.
5. Go on a shopping spree
Manchester has a diverse shopping scene spread out across King Street, Market Street, St. Ann’s Square and Deansgate Street. There are large malls like Manchester Arndale as well as charming arcades (my absolute favourite is the historic Barton Arcade with its stunning iron-and-glass façade) and high-end boutiques (along King Street). For an alternative shopping experience, head to the Northern Quarter (see point 6) or the delightful Chinatown.
6. Go retro at the fascinating Northern Quarter
The bohemian quarter of Manchester is a pure delight, especially for fans of indie clothes and music. Afflecks, with its eclectic mix of little vintage clothing boutiques, jewellery and artwork shops, is a great place to start. Then head for the Crafts and Design Centre which is housed in the beautifully restored former Victorian Fish and Poultry Market. The Northern Quarter is also famous for its vinyl record stores (check out Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street), retro shops and trendy cafés. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon is to go café-hopping in the Northern Quarter – have a long lunch, chat with the locals and admire the beautiful design interiors. I certainly enjoyed it! 🙂
7. See Manchester from above
One option is to hop onto the Wheel of Manchester. It’s a cool 14-minute ride that provides visitors with a spectacular view of Manchester’s skyline and the surrounding hills. Alternatively, you could head to the Hilton Hotel’s ‘Cloud 23’ Skybar for a drink and to enjoy the view. The Hilton is located in the Beetham Tower, Manchester’s tallest building. The Skybar has panoramic windows and peepholes in the floor.
8. Stop for a street performance on Market Street
I loved the many street performances along Market Street, ranging from rock bands, the ‘statues’, violinists to a cappella singers.
9. Explore the nightlife
Manchester boasts a pulsating nightlife centred around the Deansgate Locks, Oxford Road and the Gay Quarter at Canal Street. There are literally hundreds of cafés, discos, bars and pubs to choose from. For a fun people-watching experience, walk down Canal Street on a Saturday evening. If you’re looking for a quirky local experience, pop into the historic Circus Tavern on Portland Street for a pint – it’s one of the smallest pubs in the UK (it really is tiny!).
10. Catch a football match
Manchester boasts two football (soccer) clubs that are famous all over the world. Manchester United is the more successful of the two (with the most English Premier League titles) and is also one of the richest, most valuable clubs in the world. On the other side of town, Manchester City has grand ambitions, with plenty of cash to match. The fierce rivalry between the two clubs makes it an intriguing spectacle for the casual spectator so if you’re in town during the derby, don’t miss the match!
Note: my trip to Manchester was sponsored by Creative Tourist. Download Creative Tourist’s Cultural Guide to Manchester iPhone app. It’s FREE!
Read other articles in the Velvet Escape “Ten” series:
- Ten things to do in Macau
- Ten things to do in Birmingham (UK)
- Ten incredible bridge walks
- Ten velvet escapes for 2010
- Ten unforgettable city cruises
- Ten things to do in Cape Town
- Ten things to do in Kuala Lumpur
- Ten things to do in Hamburg
- Ten things to do when you travel alone
- Ten reasons to travel alone