Manchester, the UK’s second biggest city, is a vibrant and eclectic must-see city on any Northern UK itinerary. Manchester’s location makes it the perfect base to explore Northern England, but there are so many things to do in Manchester city itself that you’ll be spoiled for choice.
We absolutely LOVE the vibe of Manchester (way more than we thought we would), and have put together a list of activities to help you explore Manchester’s history, culture, food, live music, and nightlife. We’ve provided a mix of free and paid activities, tours and self-guided options, and activities for both the grown-ups and the kids.
So below, in no particular order, are the best Manchester sightseeing attractions.
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1. Tour Old Trafford Stadium
Ignite your football passion with a tour of Old Trafford, the legendary home of Manchester United. Walk through the players’ tunnel, sit in the manager’s seat, and relive historic moments that have shaped the club.
On home match days, tours don’t operate. However, this is your opportunity to watch a Manchester United home game live from Old Trafford!
2. Manchester Cheese Crawl
The Manchester Cheese Crawl is such a unique way to see the city – while trying a bunch of delicious cheese! Learn all sorts of fun facts about Manchester, test your cheese knowledge, and have a laugh as you explore some of Manchester’s lesser-known streets.
This fun tour starts in St Ann’s Square and runs for two hours. It includes a whole bunch of cheese and a glass of wine – and, of course, the company of your fun, professional tour guide.
3. The John Rylands Library
Step into The John Rylands Library, a neo-Gothic masterpiece, where the smell of ancient books mingles with the hushed reverence of readers. This architectural gem houses a collection of rare manuscripts, including the oldest known piece of the New Testament.
John Rylands Library is located within the University of Manchester campus, at 150 Deansgate, Manchester.
4. Manchester Art Gallery
A haven for art enthusiasts, the Manchester Art Gallery features an extensive collection spanning six centuries. From pre-Raphaelite masterpieces to contemporary installations, each room tells a unique story, making it a cultural oasis in the heart of the city.
You’ll find the Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street in the city.
5. Science and Industry Museum
Journey through Manchester’s industrial evolution at the Science and Industry Museum. Interactive exhibits showcase the city’s innovations, from textile machinery to the world’s first stored-program computer.
The Science and Industry Museum is located on Liverpool Road in the city.
6. Manchester Museum
The Manchester Museum is conveniently situated within the University of Manchester campus on Oxford Road. This cultural gem welcomes visitors from near and far to explore its captivating collections. With free admission for all, the museum offers an accessible and enriching experience for everyone.
From ancient artifacts to interactive exhibits showcasing biodiversity, the Manchester Museum promises an immersive journey through history, science, and culture. Whether you’re a curious traveler or a local enthusiast, don’t miss the chance to uncover the wonders that await within the walls of this esteemed institution.
7. Northern Quarter Street Art
Discover the vibrant tapestry of street art in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a creative hub pulsating with urban energy. Located in the heart of the city, this eclectic neighborhood is a playground for artists and admirers alike. Wander through its maze of cobbled streets and alleys, where colorful murals and graffiti adorn every surface, transforming the urban landscape into an open-air gallery.
From striking portraits to abstract masterpieces, the Northern Quarter’s street art reflects the city’s dynamic spirit and diverse cultural influences. Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or simply a curious wanderer, immerse yourself in this ever-evolving canvas that encapsulates the soul of Manchester’s artistic scene.
8. Explore Chinatown
Dive into the vibrant atmosphere of Manchester’s Chinatown, a bustling enclave in the heart of the city. Home to a rich tapestry of Asian cultures, this lively district offers an array of authentic restaurants, markets, and cultural events.
Wander through its colorful streets, adorned with traditional lanterns, and explore a variety of eateries serving up delicious Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine. From the vibrant celebrations during Chinese New Year to everyday experiences of shopping for exotic ingredients, Manchester’s Chinatown is a dynamic hub that seamlessly blends tradition with modern city life, inviting locals and visitors to savor a slice of Asia in the heart of Manchester.
9. Manchester Cathedral
Discover Manchester Cathedral, a historic icon in the city center. Dating back to medieval times, this Gothic marvel stands as a testament to Manchester’s religious history. Its impressive architecture, featuring stained glass windows and intricate design, reflects centuries of resilience.
Whether attending a service, exploring its simple beauty, or finding a moment of calm within the city buzz, Manchester Cathedral provides a glimpse into the city’s past and a tranquil escape in the present.
10. The Whitworth
Nestled amidst the lush greenery of Whitworth Park, The Whitworth is a cultural gem located on Oxford Road in Manchester. This award-winning art gallery is renowned for its outstanding collection of contemporary and historical artworks, as well as its stunning architecture that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape.
With free admission for all, The Whitworth offers an inclusive and immersive experience for visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Explore its diverse exhibitions, from thought-provoking installations to internationally acclaimed pieces, and discover the power of art to inspire, provoke, and unite.
11. Manchester Craft and Design Centre
Located in the heart of Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter, the Manchester Craft and Design Centre (MCDC) is a haven for creativity and craftsmanship. Housed within a beautifully restored Victorian market hall, MCDC is home to a diverse community of artisans and designers, each showcasing their unique talents and creations. Visitors can explore the center’s charming studios and galleries, where traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary design in a dynamic fusion of styles.
With free admission, MCDC offers an inclusive and welcoming environment for art lovers and curious minds alike.
12. Take a Musical Walking Tour
Manchester has a long and rich history of being home to some of the world’s biggest musical acts. You can explore the city’s musical legacy through interactive exhibitions, live performances, and guided tours, delving into the stories of influential artists like The Smiths, Joy Division, and Oasis. With its vibrant nightlife and passionate community of music enthusiasts, Manchester continues to be a thriving hub of creativity and innovation, where the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll lives on in every chord and beat.
This Manchester music walking tour will give you the opportunity to explore this incredible history with an in-the-know guide and is a fantastic way to learn more about this fantastic city.
13. Canal Street – Gay Village
Discover the vibrant and inclusive heart of Manchester at Canal Street Gay Village. Nestled in the city’s center, this iconic area stands as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and acceptance. Lined with rainbow flags, the cobbled streets come alive with an array of lively bars, clubs, and diverse eateries.
Beyond its bustling nightlife, Canal Street serves as a historical landmark for the LGBTQ+ community, fostering unity and celebrating diversity. From legendary events to the welcoming atmosphere, the Gay Village embodies Manchester’s commitment to inclusivity.
14. Alan Turing Memorial
Nestled in Sackville Gardens near Canal Street, this bronze statue immortalizes the brilliant mathematician and father of modern computing. Turing’s groundbreaking work during World War II, particularly in breaking the Enigma code, changed the course of history. Unfortunately, as a gay man in post-war England, Alan was convicted and chemically castrated, and he died shortly after.
The memorial symbolizes his enduring legacy and the city’s role in the development of computing, as well as being a thought-provoking tribute to a man who experienced great prejudice.
15. Visit the Imperial War Museum North
Embark on a powerful journey through history at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. Perched on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, the iconic structure designed by Daniel Libeskind captivates visitors before they even step inside.
Explore immersive exhibits detailing the impact of conflict on individuals and societies, spanning from World War I to the present day. The museum’s unique architecture mirrors the disruption and dislocation of war, creating an emotional connection with the exhibits. With artifacts, personal stories, and thought-provoking displays, this museum becomes a poignant reminder of the human cost of war and a tribute to those who lived through it.
16. Manchester Jazz Festival
Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of music at the Manchester Jazz Festival, an annual celebration that typically takes place in July. Taking over the heart of the city, this event transforms Manchester into a rhythmic playground, drawing music enthusiasts from all corners.
From intimate venues to open-air stages, the festival showcases a diverse array of jazz genres, captivating audiences with its eclectic lineup. As the city resonates with the soulful sounds and improvisational brilliance of world-class musicians, the Manchester Jazz Festival becomes a testament to the power of music in fostering unity and cultural appreciation. Join the harmonious convergence of artists and enthusiasts, making each note a memorable part of Manchester’s rich cultural tapestry.
17. Jodrell Bank
Embark on a cosmic adventure at Jodrell Bank, an astronomical observatory located just outside Manchester. Home to the iconic Lovell Telescope, this scientific marvel stands as a symbol of the city’s contribution to space exploration. Explore the wonders of the universe through interactive exhibits, and witness the colossal dish that has been capturing radio waves since the 1950s.
Beyond its astronomical significance, Jodrell Bank offers a family-friendly experience, with gardens and outdoor spaces to enjoy. From stargazing events to educational programs, this space hub provides a fascinating journey into the mysteries of the cosmos, making it a must-visit destination for science enthusiasts and curious minds alike.
18. LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
Embark on a brick-tastic adventure at the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester, where creativity and fun collide. Nestled in the city, this family-friendly attraction is a haven for LEGO enthusiasts of all ages. Explore an array of interactive zones, from MINILAND, showcasing iconic Manchester landmarks made entirely of LEGO bricks, to thrilling rides and hands-on building activities.
The centre is a vibrant, imaginative space where visitors can let their creativity soar. Whether you’re marveling at intricate LEGO sculptures or joining in on the building frenzy, the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre promises a day filled with laughter, learning, and boundless brick-based excitement for the whole family.
19. Heaton Park
Heaton Park, one of Europe’s largest municipal parks, offers a serene escape. Explore its historical buildings, such as the 18th century Heaton Hall, and enjoy leisurely walks, or partake in activities like rowing on the boating lake. There are also farm animals for the children.
Heaton Park is a 20-minute drive north of the Manchester city centre.
20. Manchester Markets
From the historic Arndale Market to the artisanal delights of Altrincham Market, Manchester’s markets are a shopper’s haven. Scattered throughout the city, these bustling marketplaces offer a diverse array of goods, from fresh produce to artisanal crafts. Wander through stalls adorned with vibrant textiles, handmade jewelry, and delectable treats, creating a vibrant atmosphere that reflects Manchester’s eclectic spirit.
Whether exploring the historic Manchester Arndale Market, the vibrant Northern Quarter, or seasonal Christmas markets, each locale brings its own unique flair. Dive into the local culture, sample delicious street food, and find unique treasures as you navigate the spirited markets, making every visit a delightful adventure in the heart of the city.
21. East Lancashire Railway
Embark on a nostalgic journey through time on the East Lancashire Railway, a heritage railway experience just outside Manchester. Steeped in history, this scenic route winds its way through picturesque landscapes, offering passengers a taste of yesteryear. Climb aboard lovingly restored vintage trains, complete with authentic carriages and the rhythmic clickety-clack of the tracks.
Whether you’re a railway enthusiast or a casual traveler, the East Lancashire Railway promises a unique and immersive experience. Enjoy the panoramic views, relish the bygone charm, and revel in the simple joy of a leisurely ride through the stunning countryside, making memories that echo the golden age of rail travel.
22. Bridgewater Hall
Experience the harmonious fusion of music and architecture at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester’s premier concert venue. Situated in the heart of the city, this iconic hall boasts world-class acoustics and a striking modern design. From classical symphonies to contemporary performances,
Bridgewater Hall hosts a diverse array of musical genres, captivating audiences with its exceptional sound quality. Step into the elegant auditorium and be immersed in the transformative power of live music. Whether attending a grand orchestral performance or an intimate recital, Bridgewater Hall offers an unparalleled cultural experience, solidifying its place as a cornerstone of Manchester’s vibrant arts scene.
23. Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
Explore the rich history of Manchester at Castlefield Urban Heritage Park, a captivating blend of past and present in the heart of the city. Nestled in the Castlefield district, this urban oasis seamlessly integrates historic canals, industrial remnants, and green spaces. Wander along the towpaths, where old warehouses and locks evoke the city’s industrial heritage. Immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings, dotted with modern bars and restaurants housed in converted mills.
From Roman ruins to the Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield tells the story of Manchester’s evolution. Whether strolling along the water’s edge or enjoying a meal with a view, Castlefield Urban Heritage Park is a living testament to Manchester’s diverse and dynamic identity.
24. Manchester International Festival
Taking place every two years in various venues across the city, MIF showcases a diverse array of performances, exhibitions, and immersive experiences, spanning music, dance, theater, and visual arts. From groundbreaking premieres to daring collaborations, the festival pushes boundaries and challenges perceptions, inviting audiences to explore new perspectives and engage with the cutting edge of contemporary art.
With its eclectic program and vibrant atmosphere, MIF transforms Manchester into a global stage, where artists and audiences come together to celebrate the power of creativity to inspire, provoke, and unite.
25. The Lowry
Immerse yourself in the cultural allure of The Lowry, a prominent arts and entertainment complex situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. Home to two stunning theatres, galleries, and a host of performance spaces, The Lowry is a beacon for creativity. Discover a diverse range of performances, from cutting-edge plays to world-class exhibitions, all set against the backdrop of this architecturally striking building.
Whether you’re attending a captivating show, exploring contemporary art, or simply enjoying the vibrant atmosphere, The Lowry stands as a cultural hub, inviting visitors to embrace the arts in all their forms within the dynamic landscape of Manchester.
26. Cloud 23
Elevate your experience at Cloud 23, perched high above the Manchester skyline atop the Beetham Tower. This sophisticated lounge, located in the iconic Beetham Tower, offers a luxurious escape with panoramic views of the cityscape. Sip on expertly crafted cocktails while surrounded by chic, modern decor and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a stunning backdrop.
Whether you’re meeting friends, celebrating a special occasion, or simply enjoying a leisurely afternoon, Cloud 23 invites you to savor both the exquisite drinks and the breathtaking ambiance. With its exclusive atmosphere and unparalleled vistas, this elevated destination promises a memorable and refined experience in the heart of Manchester.
27. National Football Museum
Dive into the captivating world of football history at the National Football Museum in Manchester. Located in the iconic Urbis building in the city center, this museum offers a comprehensive journey through the sport’s rich heritage. With interactive exhibits, historic artifacts, and engaging displays, visitors can explore the evolution of football from its humble beginnings to its status as a global phenomenon.
From iconic jerseys to legendary trophies, the museum showcases the passion and drama of the beautiful game. With free admission for all, the National Football Museum is a must-visit destination for football enthusiasts of all ages, providing an immersive and educational experience that celebrates the sport’s enduring legacy.
28. Manchester River Cruise
Experience the charm of Manchester from a different perspective aboard a Manchester river cruise. Departing from the city center, these leisurely cruises offer a unique opportunity to explore Manchester’s iconic landmarks from the water. Glide along the historic canals and rivers, passing by key attractions such as the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park, Old Trafford Stadium, and MediaCityUK.
With informative commentary providing insights into the city’s rich history and vibrant culture, passengers can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic views. Whether you’re a visitor looking to discover Manchester’s hidden gems or a local seeking a fresh vantage point, a river cruise offers a delightful way to experience the city’s beauty and heritage. Cruising along the River Irwell is one of the most stress-free ways to take in the city.
29. Manchester Literature Festival
Immerse yourself in the captivating world of words at the Manchester Literature Festival (MLF), an annual celebration of literature and storytelling. Taking place in venues across the city, MLF invites readers and writers alike to explore the power of the written word through a diverse program of events, including author talks, panel discussions, workshops, and performances.
From acclaimed novelists to emerging poets, the festival showcases a wide range of literary talent, offering something for every literary taste. With its inclusive and engaging atmosphere, MLF encourages conversation, inspiration, and connection, making it a must-attend event for book lovers and literary enthusiasts of all ages.
30. Explore MediaCityUK
Step into the vibrant world of media and entertainment at MediaCityUK in Manchester, a bustling hub of creativity and innovation. Situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, this dynamic waterfront destination is home to leading broadcasters, production companies, and digital media organizations. Explore the state-of-the-art studios and facilities where iconic television shows, radio programs, and digital content are produced.
With its lively atmosphere and diverse array of dining, shopping, and leisure options, MediaCityUK offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a media professional, a visitor seeking behind-the-scenes experiences, or simply looking to soak up the buzzing energy of this cultural hotspot, MediaCityUK promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Manchester’s media landscape.
31. Day trip to Snowdonia and Chester
Embark on an unforgettable adventure from Manchester to the picturesque landscapes of Snowdonia and the historic city of Chester. Departing from the bustling city center, your journey takes you through the scenic countryside of North Wales, where the majestic peaks of Snowdonia National Park await. Marvel at rugged mountains, cascading waterfalls, and tranquil lakes as you explore this breathtaking wilderness.
After a day of exploration in Snowdonia, continue your journey to the charming city of Chester. Steeped in history and surrounded by Roman walls, Chester is a treasure trove of architectural wonders, including the iconic Eastgate Clock and the stunning Chester Cathedral. Stroll along the picturesque Rows, explore the medieval streets, and soak up the city’s unique atmosphere before returning to Manchester.
With its combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage, a trip to Snowdonia and Chester from Manchester promises a truly unforgettable experience, leaving you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
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