Manchester has so much to offer – including a staggering amount of attractions for visitors to choose between. There’s so much to see that it can be overwhelming for first time visitors to decide what to prioritise. Architecture or art
? Shops or sports? We’ve whittled down all of the city’s attractions into a concise list of the 20 must-see buildings
, bars, shops and galleries. This is your essential guide to Manchester: print it off and carry it with you.
Whitworth Art Gallery
Recently reopened after an extensive renovation project, the Whitworth is one of the best places 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 stunning restaurant with panoramic views of the surrounding park and pick up a picnic basket of art supplies to spark your own creativity.
Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Rd, Manchester, +44 161 275 7450
The Whitworth | © Bryn Roberts / Flickr
Manchester Art Gallery
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.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, +44 161 235 8888
Art Gallery | © Norbert Blech / Flickr
John Ryland’s Library
Lovers of both books and architecture will delight in one of Manchester’s most beloved buildings. This Neo-Gothic 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.
John Ryland’s Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester +44 161 306 0555
John Rylands | © Pete Birkinshaw / Flickr
Manchester Town Hall
Another impressive example of Neo-Gothic architecture, if you only have time to admire one building in the city, make it Manchester’s Town Hall. The ornate ceilings, mural paintings, iconic 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.
Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square, +44 161 827 7661
Town Hall | © Mark Andrew / Flickr
Whether you’re a fan of Manchester United or you just want to visit one of the most iconic 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 structure from the outside.
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Stretford, +44 161 868 8000
Old Trafford | © Sean MacEntee / Flickr
People’s History Museum
Learn more about the history of democracy and how everyone 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.
People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, +44 161 838 9190
Manchester’s new centre of culture, HOME is the place to head to if you’re interested in cinema, theatre or art. As well as a variety of independent films, performances and exhibitions, you’ll find an impressive restaurant and cocktail bar.
HOME, 2, Tony Wilson Place, First St, Manchester, +44 161 200 1500
Manchester Craft and Design Centre
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 café and occasional musical performances and exhibitions.
Manchester Craft and Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Manchester, +44 161 832 4274
Craft and Design Centre | © Heather Cowper / Flickr
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 cafés, admire the eclectic street art or discover a seemingly never-ending array of bars, restaurants and eateries.
Northern Quarter, Manchester
Northern Quarter | © Duncan Hull / Flickr
A local institution, Affleck’s is a mecca 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.
Affleck’s, 52 Church St, Manchester, +44 161 839 0718
Afflecks | © Graham C99 / Flickr
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 history or keep your eyes peeled for news of one of the occasional gigs hosted inside the cathedral.
Manchester Cathedral, Victoria St, Manchester, +44 161 833 2220
Manchester Cathedral | © Historic Images – Lancashire / Flickr
This Edwardian swimming bath is currently undergoing a slow renovation which aims to get at least one of the pools and the Turkish baths eventually reopened. In the meantime, it frequently opens for guided tours and special events such as gin and beer festivals, wedding fayres and theatrical performances.
Victoria Baths, Hathersage Rd, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, +44 161 224 2020
Victoria Baths | © Rachel Docherty / Flickr
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.
Altrincham Market, 26 Market St, Altrincham
Altrincham Market | © the-windowco.co.uk / Flickr
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.
Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester, +44 161 834 7961
Chethams | © Michael D Beckwith / Flickr
Located by Shudehill bus station, you’ll likely hear the classical music blaring from its outdoor speakers before you actually see Paramount Bookshop. Inside, this haphazard second-hand store is 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.
Paramount Bookshop, 25-27 Shudehill, Manchester, +44 161 834 9509
Paramount Books | © Per Gosche / Flickr
Soak in the best views of the city from the 23rd floor of the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate. The panoramic 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.
Cloud 23, Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester, +44 161 870 1670
Manchester may be currently lacking a Michelin-star eatery, but Manchester House certainly comes close with its impressive surroundings and delectable tasting menu. After dinner, take a gin and tonic out onto the glamorous balcony to admire the views of the city.
Manchester House, 18-22 Bridge St, Manchester, +44 161 835 2557
Manchester House | Courtesy of Manchester House