14 Best Things to Do in Manchester

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Surya Prasad

Having recently been voted one of the best city's in the world to visit, Manchester really does have a lot to offer. From arts and culture to sporting and leisure, there's something to do for all ages all year round. Here's our low-down.

Science + Industry Museum

Image © Science and Industry Museum

Science + Industry Museum

Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP.

One of Manchester’s most popular museums occupies a large disused railway space in the Castlefield area of the city centre.  Whilst the site is currently undergoing extensive renovation works to its old heritage buildings, the ‘New’ Warehouse houses three permanent galleries - Revolution Manchester, the Textiles Gallery and Experiment - as well as two temporary exhibition spaces, including the Special Exhibitions Gallery.  There is also a packed roster of events and special exhibitions to enjoy in the surrounding buildings whilst the restoration work continues, including a visionary £4.3M de-carbonisation project – making this museum a leading sustainable museum of the future.

Entry is free and it’s open daily 10 – 5pm.

National Football Museum

Outside the all glass museum. Large sign saying National Football Museum, Drame, history, skill, art, faith, style, passion, football
Manchester Football Museum

Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, Manchester M4 3BG

Manchester is no stranger to footballing history and success and it’s fitting that it should host England's national museum celebrating everything about the sport. The museum is based in the Urbis building in Manchester city centre and is custodian of the world’s largest public collection of football objects and archives, which is known as the Football Heritage Collection - with over 40,000 items.  2500 of these are on display at the museum to help us share stories about football – including artwork, toys, clothing, photos, games and memorabilia.  You can also watch hours of filmed interviews. A varied events’ schedule changes throughout the year which you can keep an eye on here.

The museum is open daily from 10-5pm and the great news is that if you live in Manchester, the museum is free. For everyone else, it’s best to book online for the cheapest prices.

People’s History Museum

Inside one of the gallery spaces showing flags and large banners depicting signs of democracy
People's Museum

Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER

The People’s History Museum is the national museum of democracy telling the story of its development in Britain, past and future.  The main idea behind the museum is to create a fairer world for everyone.  Its collections and stories are curated to show a wide range of authentic narratives, and most are free to the public.    Each section of the gallery has a different background colour, for example: red for courage, green for reform, blue for loyalty, pink for peace etc.   As you’d expect, their stories are varied. You can switch from learning about the Peterloo Massacre, the growth of the trade union movement, to Britain’s main political parties.   We think it’s a worthy museum and one that’s definitely worth a visit.

Manchester Art Gallery

Image © sven / a million pieces via Flickr

Mosley St, Manchester M2 3JL

This looks like Manchester’s National Gallery in London – an imposing, columned building which has stood on the corner of Mosley Street and Princess Street for nearly 200 years.

Like the National, Manchester Art Gallery is free, and its mission is to be inclusive for all and let everyone benefit.   Aside from an ever-changing exhibition schedule, the gallery runs a packed events schedule of events including: discussion on the artworks, supporting people who’ve lived with trauma, unpicking couture, what the museum should be collecting for future generations and much, much more. It’s a great gallery if you want to get involved beyond spectating.

You can check out the gallery’s What’s on page here

Royal Exchange Theatre

Image © Royal Exchange Theatre via Facebook

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

Factory International AKA Aviva Studios

Factory International

Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ

This brand new arts and culture space, the largest in Europe, occupies a prime site sitting on the edge of the canal, in Spinningfields.    It’s a big space and covers all manner of arts and culture events and prides itself on doing things differently, bringing types of art together. This is innovative Manchester after all!  So whether you’re into music, dance, performance, theatre, exhibitions or gaming, they’ve got something for you.   Every two years they run the amazing Manchester International Festival (MIF) – the festival of brand new artistic work known world-over, has animated and captivated the city since 2007.

You can check the full programme of events here

The Palace Theatre

Red seats inside the theatre
Palace Theatre Manchester

97 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6FT

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 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 theatrical 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

Fletcher Moss Park and Parsonage Gardens

Image © Ifeoluwa Amusan via Flickr

Stenner Lane, Didsbury, M20 2RQ

Fletcher Moss park is located in the cool South Manchester suburb of Didsbury.  This is a well-loved space in the area which has a loyal community group - The Friends of Fletcher Moss Park and Parsonage Gardens. The group actively ensure the park’s upkeep together with Manchester Council and look after the horticulture. Both sites have won numerous awards from the Royal Horticultural Society and Fields in Trust, including the RHS Neighbourhood Gold Medal Winner and Outstanding Contribution to North West in Bloom, and aims to be the most sustainable park in Manchester. The Croft in the Park was home to Emily d, co-founder of the RSPB, and the large Rockery was started by her husband Robert - with alpine plants collected by them in the mountains of Europe.  This was once a Botanical Garden and so you can expect to see many interesting and rare trees and plants across the park.  You can read more about the park’s nature here

The park also boasts tennis courts, a church, pergola garden, and a very popular outdoor café.

You can check out the busy event’s calendar here

The Lowry

Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ

The Lowry was a Millennium 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

Heaton Park

green park with a monument at the top of the hill

Sheepfoot Ln, Manchester M25 0DL

Heaton Park is one of the great 18th Century Parks located North of the city centre between Prestwich and Middleton. It was once owned by two families and then sold to the Manchester Corporation at the beginning of the 20th Century for just over £200,000.

It’s a large park that contains over 9 historical buildings, monuments as well as a golf course, garden centre, reservoir, and several boating lakes. Also nestled in the heart of Heaton Park is Treetop Trek Manchester complete with bouncy nets and Treetop Nets all suspended in the woodland. The Western Pleasure Grounds are well worth a visit and include a flower garden, woodland and shrubberies with a meandering path through the Dell towards the kitchen garden - now the Horticulture Centre.

If you don’t fancy packing a picnic, there are four cafes to choose from and the Stables café serves a nice line in craft coffees, breakfast and lunch.

There’s a line-up of special events running across the year, including the very popular Parklife music festival and you can check out more details here

The park’s open every day from dush till 8pm

Chetham’s Library

Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB

Manchester is proud to be the home of the oldest public library not only in the UK but in the English speaking world.  What an accolade!   Founded in 1853, the beautiful dark wood interior holds a fine collection of early printed books, including a wealth of ephemera, manuscript diaries, letters and deeds, prints, paintings and glass lantern slides.

You can take a guided tour of the library by pre-booking a tour. They run on weekdays only as it shares the space with the Chetham’s prestigious School of Music. You can book a ticket here. Tickets cost between £5.50 and £11. If you just want to sit down and look at one of the library’s books, you’ll need to book an appointment anytime between these hours - Monday to Friday 9am-12.30pm and 1.30-4.30pm by prior appointment

Jewish Museum

Jewish Musem

Manchester Jewish Museum, 190 Cheetham Hill Road Manchester M8 8LW

The Jewish Museum in Manchester is 150 years old.  It’s recently been redeveloped and extended which has won a prestigious Architecture award.   The museum includes a modern gallery, vegetarian café, shop and learning studio & kitchen as well as the beautifully restored synagogue, now part of the permanent exhibition.   The museum holds over 31,000 items including over 130 recorded interviews with holocaust survivors and refugees, over 20,000 photographs and documents. It also runs a packed programme of interesting events and includes - The Jewish Culture Club which is running a talk with the incredible street photographer Peter Stein, a printmaking workshop and music nights.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Image © The Whitworth via Facebook

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER

The Whitworth is a fabulous statuesque, Victorian building on Oxford Street.  It’s part of The University of Manchester and proudly stands amongst University buildings and large student population.  It was founded in 1889 as The Whitworth Institute and Park in memory of the industrialist Sir Joseph Whitworth for 'the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester' and continues this mission today.  It’s a wonderful contemporary gallery space which is home to over 60,000 works of art, textiles, and wallpapers.  Some of the textiles are nearly 2000 years old.   There are some outstanding exhibitions and events, including Silent spaces in the morning to after hour socials, throughout the year and entry is free!

The Whitworth’s large glass-walled gallery space over-looking Whitworth Park is definitely worth a visit. It serves up some freshly cooked dishes and is a calming space away from the buzz of the city.

To follow the Whitworth’s schedule, click here

Opera House

Opera House, Manchester

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

The museum is open 7 days a week for general admission, they also take group bookings.