11 Best Things To Do In Manchester, England

things to do in manchester
| 8 min read

Manchester, the second most populous city in the UK after London, is undeniably invigorating with its diversity and constant action. Ranging from historical finds to sports stadium, there seems like an endless list of things to do in this city. Scroll down to plan your ideal itinerary in lovely Manchester!

1. Soak up literary sophistication with Neo-gothic books and rare finds

The John Ryland’s Library is a piece of history in and of itself. Restored by architect Basil Champenys and opened in 1900 to the public, the historical library of Manchester is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. This has also earned it a reputation of being a replica to the Hogwarts Library. Besides the hauntingly beautiful exterior, the John Ryland’s Library also possesses some of the rarest finds in England, ranging from exquisite medieval illuminated manuscripts, examples of early European printing, to papyrus fragments.

Besides the sheer academic and literary prowess the library possesses, exciting exhibitions are also regularly held, such as the Ryland’s Gallery which explores the history of Manchester. A favorite haunt of students from the University of Manchester (given its stellar location on their campus), the tradition of knowledge and learning is still being kept alive.

The easiest way to arrive at the library is via shuttle bus from Piccadilly, Oxford Road or Victoria’s train station. Alternatively, for those desiring to take the Metrolink, the closest Metrolink stops are St. Peter’s Square and Victoria. By bus, be sure to exit at St. Peter’s Square and Albert Square.

John Ryland's Library

Address: 15 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH, UK

Website: John Ryland's Library

2. Learn about local technology by stepping foot in an 1830s converted train station

SSEM Manchester museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Parrot of Doom used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Museum of Science and Industry could not be housed in a more apt location–an 1830s converted train station! The train has always been a symbol of industrialisation and technology in Victorian England. What makes this train station even more special is that it was the world’s first railway station. There are extensive displays on the theme of transport, power (water, electricity, steam and gas engines), Manchester’s sewerage and sanitation, textiles, communications and computing.

More fascinatingly, the museum demonstrates the technology of historical transportation by offering steam train rides on weekends and on bank holidays. Isn’t it exciting to sit on a functioning piece of history in comparison to today’s high speed metro lines and bullet trains? For those planning a family trip, the museum has also prepared special soft play areas for the children to enjoy a similarly wondrous experience.

Museum of Science and Technology

Address: Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP, UK

Website: Museum of Science and Technology

3. For all the football fanatics out there to indulge in football exhibits and simulations

National Football Museum Manchester
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user tatchie used under CC BY 2.0

The National Football Museum, or as it says on the tin, the nucleus of all football matters in Britain. Seeking to conserve and interpret important collections of football memorabilia, this museum is a must-visit for football fans. Featuring exciting exhibitions such as the Global Game; a section dedicated to world football, with the ball from the first ever World Cup Final, the match ball from the 1966 World Cup Final, Maradona’s “Hand of God” shirt and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup trophy. Toys and Games, a showcase of various football-related games and toys is also available for public participation. Be sure to exercise your football skills and knowledge when exploring this niche museum!

Do also make sure to pick up some football souvenirs and memorabilia from the gift shop to celebrate your love for FIFA or the World Cup! To arrive at the museum, simply head to the nearest railway station, the Manchester Victoria station, or via the Metroshuttle Bus interchange – Green Route.

The National Football Museum

Address: Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, City Centre, Manchester M4 3BG, UK

Website: National Football Museum

4. Visit this British symbol of political grandeur and a quintessential architectural view

The Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian, Neo-gothic municipal building, functioning as the ceremonial headquarters of Manchester City Council and houses a number of local government departments. Its architecture is simply one of the most stunning in Manchester, with a clock tower, spiral staircases and a sculpture hall. Influential Victorian critic, John Ruskin, described the Great Hall as “The most truly magnificent Gothic apartment in Europe.” Now, isn’t that a sight to feast your eyes on? Featured in a series of Royal Mail stamps commemorating British landmarks in 2012, the Hall is the quintessential landmark to visit when touring Manchester.

You may also be lucky enough to catch a grand wedding held there, as many couples sure desire for this romantic setting. The Town Hall offers the perfect balance of prestige and practicality, and is the ultimate backdrop to any merry occasion. On arrival in Manchester you can simply walk to the Town Hall, catch a Metroshuttle bus, Metrolink tram or take a taxi. The main entrance to the Town Hall building is overlooking Albert Square, the second entrance is on Lloyd Street, to the right-hand side of the building.

Manchester Town Hall

Address: Town Hall, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5DB, UK

Website: Manchester Town Hall

5. Immerse in nature with green spaces, sports facilities and relaxing cafes

Fletcher moss7
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wikidwitch used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Created in 1919, the Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens (or as locals call it colloquially, Fletcher Moss) has been a local community and source of pride. Aspiring the create a sense of ‘local ownership’, even its name is founded after a local philanthropist, Fletcher Moss. What’s unique about the gardens is the variety of botany. The main rock gardens are laid out on a slope and are sheltered from the elements, allowing a great number of non-hardy species to thrive in a micro-climate. Small waterfalls run down the rock gardens into a pond which is surrounded by royal ferns, marsh marigolds, and the like. A mini ecosystem thrives in the gardens!

To get here, the gardens are in proximity to the East Didsbury railway station (10-minute walk) and the East Didsbury Metrolink station (15 minute walk). If you are an avid nature lover, be sure to check it out!

Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

Address: Didsbury, Manchester, UK

Website: Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

6. Experience the depth of Manchester's culture at a prominent 13th-century cathedral

Manchester cathedral interior
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dom Crossley used under CC BY 2.0

Another architectural wonder, the Manchester Cathedral lives up to its titular prominence. The main body of the cathedral is built in the Perpendicular Gothic style by James Stanley, who was responsible for commissioning the late-medieval wooden furnishings. Even up till today, the cathedral continues to make great music through their choirs and musicians, and you can experience this at the regular services during the week and on Sundays. Be sure to indulge in some enchantingly beautiful music during your visit there.

Complete with the iconic stained glassed windows of European cathedrals, the Manchester Cathedral also has thirty 16th-century misericords, considered to be among the finest in Europe. This gem is a definite must-see for those touring Manchester.

Manchester Cathedral

Address: Victoria St, Manchester M3 1SX, UK

Website: Manchester Cathedral

7. Another one for the football fans--Etihad Stadium

Etihad Stadium
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user edhiggins used under CC BY 3.0

The Etihad Stadium is the home ground of Manchester City Football Club, and has been host to many glorious events in the world of football. Built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the stadium has since staged the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, England football internationals, rugby league matches, a boxing world title fight, and the England rugby union team’s last match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Its architectural design has also been lauded as one of the most unique. The doughnut-shaped (or toroidal) stadium roof has been described as “ground-breaking” by New Steel Construction magazine. The stadium’s architectural focal point is the sweeping roof and support masts which are separate from the concrete bowl. That is surely a talking point indeed. To get here, simply get off at the Etihad Campus tram stop or Velopark tram stop, with the stadium conveniently situated right in front.

Etihad Stadium

Address: Etihad Campus, Manchester, M11 3FF, UK

Website: Etihad Stadium

8. Catch a stellar performance at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Royal Exchange Manchester central hall
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user University of Sal... used under CC BY 2.0

The Royal Exchange gives an average of 350 performances a year of nine professional theatre productions–it is simply a must for the theatre enthusiast to catch a seat there! Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov have been the mainstay of its repertoire but the theatre has staged other classics including the British premieres of La Ronde and The Prince Of Homburg and revivals of The Lower Depths, Don Carlos and The Dybbuk. American work has also been prominent; Tennessee Williams, O'Neill, Miller, and August Wilson.

The nearest Metrolink tram stops are Market Street, St Peter’s Square and now Exchange Square on completition of the Second City Crossing, all of which are no more than ten minutes walk from the theatre. The free city centre Metroshuttle 1 (orange route) also stops directly outside the Cross Street entrance, while the Metroshuttle 2 (green route) stops on Deansgate, which is 2 minutes from the St Ann’s Square entrance. With such accessibility, there is no reason to miss the theatre!

Royal Exchange Theatre

Address: Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH, UK

Website: Royal Exchange Theatre

9. Browse local and international art at the Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery.
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pemolo used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The gallery has a fine art collection consisting of more than 2,000 oil paintings, 3,000 water colors and drawings, 250 sculptures, 90 miniatures and around 1,000 prints. Furthermore, it owns more than 13,000 decorative art objects including ceramics, glass, enamels, furniture, metalwork, arms and armor, wallpapers, dolls houses and related items. The oldest object is an Egyptian canopic jar from circa 1100 BC–a rare treat for those highly interested in Egyptology.

A current exhibition (as of May 2017) is “To Be Human”, features mid-20th-century portraits from the permanent collection, and explores what it is to be human. To get here, St Peter’s Square or Market Street stations are the nearest Metrolink stations. Both are on the Altrincham and Eccles lines. Alternatively, the nearest bus stops are in Piccadilly Gardens or on Princess Street.

Manchester Art Gallery

Address: Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL, UK

Website: Manchester Art Gallery

10. Explore art alongside history at Whitworth Art Gallery

Established in 1824, the museum’s self-declaration of being “for the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester” is awe-inspiring. So are its collections, providing an impressive range of water colors, sculptures, wallpapers and textiles. The gallery focuses on modern artists, and the art collections include works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and notably, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. One of its most famous works is the marble sculpture Genesis (1929–31) by Sir Jacob Epstein.

To get there, buses 15, 41, 42, 43, 140 – 143, 147 are available. Ask for the bus stop nearest MRI, Oxford Road. For trams, St Peter’s Square (plus 10 minutes on the bus or 20 minutes on foot) is the nearest stop. The nearest train station is the Oxford Road (plus 10 minutes on the bus or 20 minutes on foot).

Whitworth Art Gallery

Address: The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER, UK

Website: Whitworth Art Gallery

11. Experience different kinds of history in the Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user DrPhoenix used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Yet another attraction on the campus of the University of Manchester, the Manchester Museum displays works of archaeology, anthropology and natural history. Sited at the heart of the university’s group of Neo-gothic buildings, it provides access to about 4.5 million items from every continent, showcasing the range of collections. It is the UK’s largest university museum and serves both as a major visitor attraction and as a resource for academic research and teaching. This museum is a must-see for history buffs, or those simply seeking to admire the Neo-gothic design.

Get here through a short 5-25min from Manchester City centre or buses 15, 41, 42, 43, 140 – 143, 147. Ask for the bus stop nearest Manchester Museum, Oxford Road.

Manchester Museum

Address: Oxford Road, Manchester, UK

Website: Manchester Museum

Manchester, a city of intellect

Manchester Skyline
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Manc360 used under CC0

It is perhaps easiest to sum up this diverse city as one of intellect. From its multiple attractions centred around art, sport, science and history, a trip to Manchester is sure to exercise those mental faculties.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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