We’ve picked out the best things to do in Manchester, which is a list as diverse as the city itself. Vibrant street art appeals to art lovers, while Victorian-era structures are great for experiencing the city's colourful past. Try the locals' favourite foods, visit the liveliest neighbourhoods, explore the most iconic landmarks and most remarkable museums, then party the night away in one of the clubbing capitals of the UK. 

    Manchester is commonly known as England’s second city. Once a powerhouse of industry, it is now a major cultural hub, famous for its many fantastic nightclubs, extensive libraries and glorious sporting history. The city’s skyline is the perfect representation of the atmosphere, with modern structures enlivening historical streets. You’ve got no reason to be bored in Manchester.

    What are the best things to do in Manchester?

    1

    Manchester Museum

    Discover the world and its history through a massive collection of artefacts

    • History
    • Budget

    Manchester Museum is an institution on the same scale as the British Museum in London. The permanent exhibits showcase over 4.5 million items, ranging from dinosaur skeletons to ancient Egyptian mummies. There’s even a vivarium, where researchers breed extremely endangered frog species. There’s an on-site café, so you can take a break between galleries. The museum’s free to enter, so you can also spread your exploration across a number of days.

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    Location: Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 275 2648

    Map

    photo by DrPhoenix (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Trafford Centre

    Shop and play in one of the UK’s biggest indoor malls

    Manchester has several big shopping malls, but the Trafford Centre stands out as one of the most popular and among the largest indoor malls in the UK. The Peel Avenue section is home to high street brands like H&M, Marks and Spencer, and Selfridges. In Regent Crescent, you’ll find lifestyle and fashion brands like Gap, Mango and French Connection.

    The relatively new Barton Square adds homeware to the array of goods on sale, and is also the home of a Sea Life Centre aquarium. Other leisure facilities available include a mini-golf course, bowling alleys, and a 20-screen cinema, among others. The mall contains one of Europe’s biggest food courts and dozens of cafés and restaurants.

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    Location: Trafford Blvd, Manchester M17 8AA, UK

    Open: Monday – Friday from 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday from 12 noon to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 749 1717

    Map
    3

    Salford Quays

    Explore the cultural heart of Manchester

    Salford Quays was once an industrial powerhouse, but was abandoned for many years. It has now been revived as a hub of media and culture. This waterfront region just west of Manchester City Centre is home to some of the UK’s biggest TV media organisations, The Lowry theatre and gallery, The Quays Shopping Centre, and Imperial War Museum North, among other attractions. 

    The maze of glass buildings makes it a particularly beautiful place to watch the sunset, and the many bars and restaurants nearby also make it a good place to be after dark.

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    Map
    4

    Old Trafford

    Watch one of the world’s most famous football teams in action

    Manchester United is one of the best-known football clubs in the world, with supporters spread right around the globe. Naturally, their home stadium is something of a Mecca for football fans, which explains why it’s one of the largest stadiums in the UK. The atmosphere on match days (usually Saturdays) is electric, but there’s lots to see even during the week. Be sure to check out the museum and stadium tour, which includes a look at the club’s extensive collection of trophies.

    Location: Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester M16 0RA, UK

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 9.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 868 8000

    Map
    5

    Chinatown

    Explore Asian-owned restaurants, shops, and supermarkets

    • Photo
    • Budget

    The home of Manchester’s considerable East Asian community is among the largest Chinatown districts in the UK. After passing under the iconic Chinese arch on Faulkner Street, you’ll find dozens of Chinese restaurants, shops, supermarkets and even banks. The Chinese New Year celebrations here get bigger and more vibrant with every passing year. Be sure to check out Red Chilli for excellent Szechuan food, or Ho’s Bakery for authentic Chinese buns.

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    Map

    photo by Parrot of Doom (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    6

    Heaton Park

    Relax in one of the largest parks in the UK

    • Couples
    • Families
    • History
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Heaton Park is among the biggest city parks in the UK, spanning more than 600 acres. Among the woodland and grassland, you’ll find ornamental gardens, an 18-hole golf course, several ponds, and a number of well-preserved historical buildings. It’s a popular spot for families, thanks to the Animal Centre, playgrounds, boating lake and several cafés. There are miles of paved running and walking routes through the park, as well as a volunteer-run tramway to help you get around.

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    Location: Middleton Road, Manchester M25 2SW, UK

    Open: Daily from 8 am to dusk

    Map

    photo by Mike Peel (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    Heaton Hall

    A stately home in Manchester’s biggest park

    • History
    • Photo

    Heaton Hall is a Grade I-listed building right in the middle of Heaton Park, the biggest municipal park in Europe. The main entrance to the hall faces north, with uninterrupted views of the Pennines. When you get inside, you'll be treated to an experience of how the 18th-century upper class lived.

    The house includes some classic features of stately homes, like lion statues guarding the entrance, a library and a music room. Even so, the biggest attraction is the Etruscan ‘Cupola Room’. Inspired by Ancient Roman architecture, this room has a dome-shaped ceiling, with mirrors lining the walls, and is only one of 3 examples of this type of room surviving in the UK.

    Location: Manchester M25 2SW, UK

    Phone: + 44 (0)16 1773 1231

    Map

    photo by Mike Peel (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Science and Industry Museum

    Discover unique wonders

    • History

    When you visit the Science and Industry Museum, you'll find yourself immersed in the rich history of transportation technology. There are exhibits highlighting aircraft and locomotives, along with a 3rd exhibit showcasing Manchester's history with computing technology and how it affected communications across distances. 

    This museum is home to a replica of the Manchester Baby, which was the first electronic stored-program computer in the world dating back to the 1940s. You can explore large industrial machines including old steam engines and hot air engines. Most of them are still operational, so you can see them in action at the museum during scheduled presentations.

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    Location: Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1618 322244

    Map
    9

    The Hidden Gem

    Discover Manchester’s oldest Catholic church

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    The Hidden Gem is literally a hidden gem – a beautiful but little-known attraction in the heart of Manchester. A fairly modest red-brick building on a quiet street of similar structures, St. Mary’s is the oldest Catholic church in Manchester. The unassuming exterior hides a treasure trove of marble sculptures, artworks and stained glass windows. Look out for the critically acclaimed Stations of the Cross series of 14 striking modern artworks by Norman Adams, on the left-hand wall as you enter.

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    Location: St. Mary’s Church, Mulberry Street, Manchester M2 6LN, UK

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 834 3547

    Map

    photo by Anthony O'Neil (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    10

    Coronation Street: The Tour

    Stroll down the nation’s favourite street

    • Photo
    • Group

    Coronation Street: The Tour takes you around the nation’s favourite street and setting of the popular British soap opera of the same name. The tour offers a behind-the-scenes peek that lasts around 90 minutes, taking place in MediaCityUK. It’s easily accessible by tram from either the IWM North war museum and MediaCityUK stops or The Pie Factory stop on the 29 bus route.

    The tour is a must-do for any ‘Corrie’ fan. You’ll be taken on a guided tour through Weatherfield down those famous cobbles and past The Rovers – there are plenty of opportunities for a selfie at your favourite spots. You’ll love hearing the bits of info about what goes on behind the scenes, and who knows, if you’re really lucky, you might see one of the cast floating about.

    Location: Dock 10 Studios, Manchester M50 2EQ, UK

    Map

    photo by Lewis Clarke (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    11

    Manchester nightclubs

    Party in Manchester and its amazing clubbing scene

    Music has been a big part of Manchester culture since the ‘60s, but it really exploded in the ‘80s with the “Madchester” alternative rock and clubbing scenes. To this day, Manchester is known as one of the best places for clubbing in the UK. The Warehouse Project is especially famous, attracting over 3,000 revellers each night for its 12-week run from September to December each year. You should also check out Gorilla, Soup Kitchen and Hula, which offer a wide range of nightlife atmospheres.

    12

    Curry Mile

    Enjoy Indian cuisine at some of Manchester’s best curry houses

    Indian cuisine is very popular in Manchester, with the rice ‘n’ 3 (rice with 3 different curries) being a popular dinner option for locals. Wilmslow Road, to the southeast of Manchester City Centre, is among the best places to enjoy a spicy meal. The neon-lit road is slowly evolving as more shisha bars start to open, but the Curry Mile remains a lively hub of Indian and Pakistani food and culture. Be sure to check out Mughli, MyLahore and Punjab Tandoori for the best dining experiences.

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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