Must-Visit Attractions in Manchester

The Manchester skyline with the Arndale shopping centre in sight
The Manchester skyline with the Arndale shopping centre in sight | © William McCue / Unsplash
Photo of Bryony Hatherley
9 September 2020

One of the most popular cities in the North of England, Manchester has so much to offer. Architecture or art? Shops or sports? Cafes or bars? What ever it is you’re into, Culture Trip takes you through the 25 must-see attractions in Manchester.

Science and Industry Museum

Museum
Map View
Manchester was the birthplace of many important discoveries and inventions, many of which are documented at the Science and Industry Museum. Wander through the power hall, marvel at the collection of steam trains and early aircraft and take the time to work through the experiments upstairs.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Art Gallery
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After an extensive renovation project, the Whitworth is the best place in the city to view a collection of exciting contemporary art. Keep your eyes peeled on their exciting events calendar, pay a visit to their fabulous restaurant with sweeping views of the surrounding park and pick up a picnic basket of art supplies to spark your own creativity.

Manchester Art Gallery

Art Gallery, Museum
Map View
Manchester city centre, Manchester art gallery, viewing the art on public display
Manchester city centre, Manchester art gallery, viewing the art on public display | © Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo
The city centre’s free-entry gallery often plays host to exciting exhibitions from world-renowned artists such as Joana Vasconcelos. Its permanent collections include an impressive array of costume, oil paintings and decorative arts, making this the perfect destination for whiling away several hours and getting inspired.

The John Rylands Library

Building, Library
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Lovers of both books and architecture will delight in one of Manchester’s most beloved buildings. This neogothic structure is filled with one of the most extensive collections of literature in the entire country, but it’s not just for academics. Spend a few hours getting lost in its many rooms, staircases and corridors to fully appreciate the attention to detail of the building.

National Football Museum

Building, Cathedral, Museum
Map View
Anyone with an interest in football should make a beeline to the National Football Museum, situated inside the dramatic glass building previously known as Urbis. Find out more about your favourite sport, including an extensive look at the last time England won the World Cup, and take the chance to refine your own football skills.

Manchester Town Hall

Building
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manchester town hall albert square Manchester city centre Greater Manchester England UK GB EU Europe
© eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo
Another impressive example of neogothic architecture. If you only have time to admire one building in the city, make it Manchester Town Hall. The ornate ceilings, mural paintings, famous bee mosaics and instantly recognisable clock tower make this one of the best examples of architecture from this time period in the whole of the UK.

Old Trafford

Sports Center, Museum
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Old Trafford
© dtr1989 / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Whether you’re a fan of Manchester United or you just want to visit one of the most famous football stadiums in the world, it’s always worth hopping on a tram to visit Old Trafford. Take a tour of the stadium, pop into the gift shop to buy a memento of your visit or simply admire the Theatre of Dreams from the outside.

People’s History Museum

Museum
Map View
Learn more about the history of democracy and how every person won the right to vote in one of the city’s most interesting museums. Keep your eyes peeled for revolving exhibitions that seek to inform in exciting ways, such as Never Going Underground, which demonstrates the history of LGBT+ rights.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Market, Shop, Architectural Landmark
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In the heart of the Northern Quarter, you’ll find this hub of creativity inside a former Victorian fish market. Local artists and creatives have set up studios inside, creating and selling art, prints, sculptures, jewellery and ceramics from their own unique spaces. There’s also a cute little cafe and occasional musical performances and exhibitions.

Northern Quarter

Architectural Landmark, Shop
Map View
You can’t visit Manchester without spending at least a couple of hours exploring the Northern Quarter. Pop into some of the independent shops that line the neighbourhood’s street, sample the best coffee in the city from its many cafes, admire the eclectic street art or discover a seemingly never-ending array of bars, restaurants and eateries.

Affleck’s

Shop, Shopping Mall
Map View
A local institution, Affleck’s is a hub for Manchester’s alternative crowd, containing an impressive array of stalls selling everything from fetish gear to DIY jewellery. Pop inside to discover an eclectic array of clothing, jewellery, memorabilia and gifts before sneaking upstairs for a luxury ice cream at Ginger’s Comfort Emporium.

Manchester Museum

Museum
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Attached to the University, Manchester Museum houses an impressive collection focused around natural history. You’ll find everything from Egyptian mummies to dinosaur skeletons and unusual beetles inside. Ensure that you take time to explore the vivarium and visit the collection of rare frogs and reptiles.

Manchester Cathedral

Cathedral, Church
Map View
Nave of Manchester Cathedral, in Manchester, England.
© Andrew Barker / Alamy Stock Photo
One of Manchester’s oldest buildings, the cathedral is a must-see for anyone with an interest in architecture. Wander around at your own pace, book onto a tour to find out more about the building’s history or keep your eyes peeled for news of one of the occasional gigs hosted inside the cathedral.

Victoria Baths

Building
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A general view of the interior of Victoria Baths in Manchester, which is having an open swim day on Sunday May 14 to raise funds for restoration work.
© PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
This Edwardian swimming bath is currently undergoing a slow renovation, which aims to get at least one of the Turkish baths or pools eventually reopened. In the meantime, it frequently opens for guided tours and special events such as gin and beer festivals, wedding fairs and theatrical performances.

Altrincham Market

Market, European, British, Fast Food, Vegetarian
Map View
It may be located right on the outskirts of the city, but this recently restored market is more than worth the tram fare. Having been named the best market in the UK by Observer Food Monthly, Altrincham Market certainly stands up to its accolades with its impressive selection of food and market stalls. You’ll have to fight for a seat, but once you sit down you won’t want to leave.

Chetham’s Library

Building, Library, School
Map View
This ancient building attached to the music school is rumoured to be haunted, a fact that you’ll easily believe when you step into its stalls. Literature, music and architecture lovers will delight in a visit to this prestigious library, which is actually the oldest of its kind in the English-speaking world.

Paramount Bookshop

Bookstore
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Paramount books exchange on Shudehill Manchester UK. Image shot 2013. Exact date unknown.
© brinkstock / Alamy Stock Photo

Located by Shudehill Bus Station, you’ll likely hear the classical music blaring from its outdoor speaker before you actually see Paramount Bookshop. Inside, this haphazard second-hand store in a melting pot of literature with a particular focus on comics and sci-fi. If you see something you like, settle down on one of the sofas and get stuck into a good book.

Cloud 23

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary
Map View

Soak in the best views of the city from the 23rd floor of the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate. The floor-to-ceiling windows of the city’s most luxurious bar aren’t the only pull. The inventive cocktails here are exceptional and you may even catch a glimpse of a local celebrity or footballer.

The Warehouse Project

Music Venue
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Although not a permanent feature in the city, the Warehouse Project is one of the must-visit events in Manchester. Running every year from September through to New Years, this series of seasonal club nights are some of the most popular in the country and are a sure hit for those seeking a legendary night out. Dance all night long to techno, drum and bass, dubstep or grime and witness some of the biggest DJs in the world performing. The events are usually held in Store Street.

Pankhurst Centre

Museum
Map View

An important chapter in our shared history, the Pankhurst Centre is the only museum in the country to highlight the struggle for the women’s vote. Housed in the ancestral home of the Pankhurst Family, the museum has a number of exhibits showcasing the fight for the right to vote and holds a number of fascinating workshops throughout the year.

The Lowry

Art Gallery, Bridge
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Part of the regeneration of the old Salford Quay in the early 2000s, the Lowry has become a cultural hotspot in Manchester. Named after the famed painter, L S Lowry, the gallery features a huge collection of his works as well as a number of great temporary exhibitions. The theatre has two auditoriums and is home to a number of touring plays, operas and ballets throughout the year.

Chinatown

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Chinese arch in Faulkner Street in Chinatown Manchester
© Andrew Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo
The third-largest Chinatowns in Europe, Chinatown in Manchester is a collection of wonderful restaurants, delectable bakeries and delightful craft shops. Perfect for an afternoon stroll or as a destination for an evening meal. Be sure to check out the Chinese New Year festival in February, which features an incredible parade through the neighbourhood.

Trafford Centre

Shopping Mall
Map View
The Great Hall inside The Trafford Centre shopping complex, Dumplington, Greater Manchester, England, UK
© Ian G Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Part theme park, part massive shopping centre, the Trafford Centre is a see-it-to-believe-it kind of deal. With every shop you can think of under one roof, you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye. If you’re looking for a little entertainment though, the centre has a fully functioning bowling alley, laser quest, Sea Life Centre and even an IMAX cinema.

Additional reporting by Nicholas Grantham

These recommendations were updated on September 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.