The Best Theatres in Manchester

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rows of red theatre seats in a theatre
Unsplash -Kilyan Sockalingum

Manchester doesn't have the same volume of theatres as London but with one nestled into practically every corner of the city, there's enough to fill most people's arts and culture diary. Some are long established, others are brand new, and they deliver a whole gamut of performances from world premier musicals, plays, to comedy and gigs. has compiled a list of our favourites so you can jump straight into your seat and be entertained.

The Royal Exchange

Inside the an old Corn Exchange is a metal scaffold built round theatre. Rows of green seats, a stage and many lights over the main stage
Royal Exchange Theatre

St Ann's Square, Manchester M2 7DH 

This is a legendary theatre in the heart of Manchester.  It's as well-known for its iconic, spaceship-like metal theatre-in-the-round, in the former cotton exchange, as it is for its roster and variety of award winning plays since the mid 1970's.  They often push the boundaries - working alongside established and emerging directors, writers, designers and theatre-makers to create ambitious work. They believe in new ideas, new writers and championing artists at all levels.  Nearly everything is played in the round with some of the stage level seating within touching distance of the actors which makes for a totally absorbing experience.   There are about four main shows per season, running in tandem with one-off special events and poetry readings so you'll often see Shakespeare running alongside a light-hearted musical.  

For their current line-up, click here 

Palace Theatre

Red seats inside the theatre
Palace Theatre Manchester

The Palace Theatre is one of the main theatres in Manchester.  It proudly stands in the heart of the city on Oxford Street and is sister to the Opera House on Quay Street (operated by the the Ambassador Theatre Group).  Opening in 1891, the theatre has played host to the likes of Judy Garland, Noel Coward, Laurel and Hardy and Charles Laughton gracing the stage and theatrcial greats including - Guys and Dolls, Hamlet, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables and Beauty and the Beast. Outside of London, it's one of the best equipped theatres and attracts some major musicals like Chitty Chitty Bang Bank, Miss Saigon and Mary Poppins.

Upcoming shows include 101 Dalmatians, Sister Act, Hamilton and Hairspray. 

For their current line-up, click here 

The Lowry

Image of the front of the Lowry arts centre - made of grey concrete with the lights on inside
The Lowry

Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ

The Lowry was a Millenium Arts project which has been hugely successful and spawned a new culturally rich area in Manchester where the BBC's Media City and Imperial War Museum are located.  The ship like, glass fronted building, rises out of the dis-used Salford Quays docks and takes its names from the infamous Salford artist, LS Lowry.  You can see a permanent collection of his artwork in the main space.  The Lowry classes itself as an arts centre that presents a diverse programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, music, and comedy.  There are three theatres presenting a wide range of work. The Lyric theatre is the largest and seats 2,000 people. Its striking purple interior, enormous stage and clear sightlines enable it to host some of the West Ends largest productions including The Life of Pi, War Horse and Wicked.

The Quays theatre offers a smaller, more intimate space and the Studio is the focus for new companies and community productions.

You can check the full programme of events here 


Outside shot of HOME events space. Glass fronted with yellow HOME sign against a grey sky.

2 Tony Wilson Pl, Manchester M15 4FN

A recent addition to Manchester's theatre scence, HOME has established itself as one of the most popular arts centres, cinema, and theatre complexes in the city centre.  It brought 2 theatres - The Corner House and Library Theatre - under one roof and now boasts five cinemas, two theatres and 500 m² of gallery space. It's impressive how popular it is but, then again, there really is something for everyones arts and culture taste. 

You can check out the full programme of events here

Factory International AKA Aviva Studios

Outside the Factory International white and concrete space reflecting in the water and people standing outside it
Factory International

Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ

This brand new arts and culture space, the largest in Europe, occupies a prime site on the edge of the canal, in Spinningfields.    It’s a big modern space and covers all manner of arts and culture events and prides itself on doing things differently, bringing a myriad of performers together under one roof.  This is innovative Manchester after all!  They have a packed line-up of theatrical highlights including musicals, children's plays, and comedy.   Every two years they run the amazing Manchester International Festival (MIF) – the festival of brand new artistic work. The Festival's established a loyal following in the city since opening in 2007, blurring the boundaries between art and popular culture, attracting millions of people to its month long celebration acrosss the city.

You can check the full programme of events here

Contact Theatre

Turreted castle shaped building with lit up in the dark with red, yellow, green and blue lights at the front
Contact Theatre

Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6JA

People know the Contact Theatre for its unmistakable castle shaped, slightly odd, exterior on the corner of Oxford Road.  Beneath the turrets lies an inspiring place which seeks to change the face of UK culture - empowering young people from all backgrounds to be creative leaders and pave the way for the next generation of artists.  It leads to one of the most experimental and challenging theatre venues in the city showcasing dance, drama, spoken word,  and a plethora of festivals that run during the year. 

You can check the full programme of events here

Opera House

a green tiered theatre
Manchester Opera House

3 Quay St, Manchester M3 3HP

Manchester's Opera House has stood proudly on Quay Street since the turn of the century.  It's a 1900 seater theatre and plays host to ballets, musicals, and pantos.  It's played many premieres over the decades before they head down to London, including:  West Side Story, Ghost, Take That's Musical, Back to the Future: The Musical and many more.    It's got a great spot in the city centre close to Spinningfields for a pre or post theatre drink or dinner.  

You can check the full programme of events here 

Hope Mill Theatre

A stage with actors and actresses of RENT sitting around the edge, theatre lights are on
Hope Mill Theatre

113 Pollard St in Manchester

The Hope Mill Theatre is a new ish theatre in the city, opening its door in an old textile mill in Ancoats in 2015 to become one of the most succeful independent theatres in England. It performs original and revival plays, musicals and other events winning the Fringe Venue of The Year at The Stage awards in 2018. It maybe a small venue but it's new writing, educational work, classic texts and musicals have made a real impression with the surrounding North Manchester community.  

You can check the full programme of events here