Manchester – a travel guide

MANCHESTER – WHAT TO SEE AND DO

Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall

Located in Albert Square and one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.  It’s a fine example of Neo-Gothic architecture in the United Kingdom.  Constructed in 1877 at a cost of £1m and containing more than 14m bricks it’s a joy to behold.  The Town Hall features a 280 ft high clock tower with three clock faces and 24 bells.  The building is currently closed for major renovations but we can all look forward to visiting when it re-opens in 2024 and to viewing its Sculpture Hall and vast Great Hall displaying coats of arms from the towns Manchester traded with.

Manchester Cathedral

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

Visit the cathedral on Victoria Street and take a look at its impressive interior and wood carvings.  Look out for the carvings of bees on the roof which are the symbol of Manchester’s industry.  30 minute guided tours are available with a suggested donation of £3 (admission to the Cathedral is free).

Exchange Square

Exchange Square, Manchester
Exchange Square, Manchester

Just steps away from the cathedral is the vibrant Exchange Square created after the devastating 1996 Manchester IRA bombing.  The attractive square has tiered walkways and seating which are utilised as audience seating when events are held in the square.  At other times sit in front of the Corn Exchange and happily while away an hour or so with a drink and a bite to eat whilst watching the world go by.

The Corn Exchange

Corn Exchange, Manchester
Corn Exchange, Manchester

This building was originally used as a corn exchange and previously known as the Corn and Produce Exchange.  Renovated in 1996 it now houses an aparthotel, restaurants and bars.

Shambles Square

Shambles Square, Manchester
Shambles Square

An historic square adjacent to Exchange Square and home to four popular pubs.  The term ‘shambles’ comes from the name of the street where butchers would slaughter meat as in the famous Shambles narrow road in the centre of York.  The Wellington Inn is now the only surviving Tudor building in the city centre.

Spinningfields

Spinningfields, Manchester
Spinningfields, Manchester

The city’s central business district reaches down to the River Irwell and is Manchester’s answer to London’s Canary Wharf, do go there as it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s one of Manchester’s top destinations for shoppers, foodies and party-goers.  The LeftBank is a celebration of all things independent with its vibrant waterfront bars and restaurants.

The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester
The Avenue, Spinningfields

Its also home to The Avenue where you’ll find a collection of designer stores including Emporio Armani and Mulberry.

John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library Manchester
John Rylands Library

Located on the edge of Spinningfields is the The John Rylands Library, part of the University of Manchester and one of the most spectacular libraries in the world.  The historic entrance hall and main staircase lead up to the reading room which is one of the finest reading rooms of any library.  Statues of Mr & Mrs Rylands grace each end of the huge cathedral like space whilst stained glass windows celebrate the achievements of individuals from the world of arts and science.  Entrance free.

Piccadilly Gardens

Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
Piccadilly Gardens

An open space in the heart of the city. It’s surrounded by a mix of historic and modern buildings, offices and restaurants.  It’s also a major interchange for buses and trams.

Manchester Central Library 

Manchester Central Library
Manchester Central Library

Dominating St. Peter’s Square and completed in 1934.  This magnificent library combines historic features with modern design.  Pop upstairs and view the splendour of the Wolfson Reading Room.  There’s also a large, pleasant café overlooking the square.

Wolfson Reading Room, Manchester Central Library
The Wolfson Reading Room

Museum of Science & Industry

Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester
The Museum of Science & Industry

The huge Museum of Science and Industry showcases the city’s achievements and includes sections on aircraft, locomotives, textiles and technology.  We just love calling in to view one of the exhibitions when we have some time.  Entrance free.

National Football Museum

National Football Museum, Manchester
The National Football Museum

For any football aficionado, a visit to the National Football Museum is an absolute must.  As Manchester is home to arguably two of the world’s best teams it seemed appropriate to locate the museum here and it has been welcoming visitors since 2001.

People’s History Museum

People's History Museum, Manchester
People’s History Museum, Manchester

This museum tells the story of British people’s lives at home, at work and at leisure over the last 100 years.  It’s located in a former hydraulic pumping station on the corner of Bridge and Water Streets.

Chinatown

Chinatown, Manchester
Chinatown, Manchester

Make sure you visit Chinatown just behind Piccadilly on Faulkner Street.  It’s the second largest in the UK with an impressive Imperial Chinese archway and lots of authentic restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores.  It’s the main cultural hub for Chinese families in the north of England and thousands of visitors flock to the annual Chinese New Year Festival in February to view the large parade and lion dancing.

Nearby:

Salford Quays & MediaCity UK

Salford Quays Bridge
Salford Quays

A gleaming digital destination on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.  It’s home to BBC North and ITV including the ever popular soap opera, Coronation Street whose fictional home Weatherfield is based here.  Easily accessible by tram in around 20 minutes from the city centre.

Salford Quays
Salford Quays

The Lowry

The Lowry, Salford Quays
The Lowry, Salford Quays

Home to two theatres and an art gallery featuring the works of local artist L.S. Lowry, famous for his paintings of urban landscapes with human figures.  The gallery located on the upper floor contains the largest public collection of the artist’s work.  His paintings are mostly of local industrial districts and incorporate his trademark ‘matchstick men’ figures.  Admission free.

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays
Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays

Part of the Imperial War Museum housed in a distinctive steel building.  This iconic building represents a globe torn apart by conflict.  It was designed by Daniel Libeskind and admission is free.  Touring the galleries is a moving experience as the powerful stories depict how war shapes lives, from reading a soldier’s last letter home to viewing a twisted piece of metal from New York City’s World Trade Centre – so sad but so real.

Heaton Park

Heaton park boating lake, Manchester
Heaton park boating lake, Manchester

In need of some exercise, then take a tram to Heaton Park.  Really easy to get to as it has its own tram stop close to the entrance gates.  This vast park has a large boating lake, with a woodland trail surrounding it.

Canal Walks

Castlefield Dock Basin Manchester
Bars and canal boats along the canal

Take a canal side walk through the heart of the city.  The Rochdale canal runs from the Bridgewater canal at the Castlefield basin across the Pennines to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, a distance of 32 miles.  Starting from Piccadilly Railway Station, leave from the main exit and go down the station approach ramp.  After continuing along the road for approximately 100m you will reach the canal, just needing to cross the road to descend a short flight of stone steps that lead down to the Rochdale canal towpath.

Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester
Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester

The towpath is quite wide along here and cycling with care is permitted.  Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of viewing some of Manchester’s historic buildings beside the canal from converted old warehouses to bars and modern style urban waterfront apartments.

Rochdale Canal at Castlefield, Manchester
Rochdale Canal at Castlefield, Manchester

Pause for a drink sitting out on one of the terraces of the waterside bars before returning to the centre via Liverpool Road and Deansgate.

Shopping

New Cathedral Street

New Cathedral Street, Manchester
New Cathedral Street

A pedestrianised street running from Exchange Square filled with designer stores including Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.  It’s also near the huge Arndale Centre where you’ll find all the usual high street names.

St. Ann’s Square

St. Ann's Square Manchester
St. Ann’s Square Manchester

An elegant square in a conservation area surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants.  It takes its name from St. Ann’s Church overlooking the square and is also home to the Royal Exchange theatre based in the former Manchester Cotton Exchange building.  The square looks even more enchanting in December when it is adorned with twinkling lights and stalls from the Christmas market.

King Street

King Street Festival, Manchester
King Street Festival, Manchester

For much of the 20th century this was the centre for north west banking and is characterised by its many notable iconic buildings.  An eclectic mix of high end stores and dining options.  In June each year a two day street festival takes place featuring alfresco dining and live music.

Cloud 23, The Beetham Tower

Cloud 23, Beetham Tower, Manchester
Cloud 23, Beetham Tower, Manchester

After shopping, head to this landmark 47 storey skyscraper at a height of 169 metres.  It’s the tallest building in the U.K. outside of London.  Take the lift up to Level 23 and enjoy cocktails in Cloud 23 whilst taking in the panoramic city centre views.  The bar is cantilevered out by 4 metres and can been seen by the dark ‘stripe’ on the tower.

The Gay Village

Gay Village, Manchester
Gay Village, Manchester

Located along Canal Street, this narrow car free road buzzes with activity with its many bars and cafes having terraces overlooking the Rochdale Canal.  Don’t miss viewing the memorial to the gay mathematician and World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing in the adjacent Sackville Gardens.

 

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Manchester City Guide

 

64 thoughts on “Manchester – a travel guide

  1. Apologies for being so late in commenting on this information packed post, Marion. One of the first aspects of Manchester that impressed me was the amazing Gothic architecture. Now that my youngest son has finished uni in Manchester, I’m not sure when I will next visit this impressive city but I’ll be sure to consult your handy guide when I do!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Should you buy a bag of Fiddler’s Chips, you’ll be supporting distant cousins. My paternal great-grandfather was from the area and all were weavers. My grandfather had a loom in his basement and was taught rug weaving from his father. The family called Philadelphia, PA home when they arrive, mid 1800s. They would eventually settle across the Delaware river in New Jersey no ten miles from Philly.

    Once again, the gas $ i’ve saved by you taking me on your journey are so appreciated. Photo’s, as usual were expert. Stay safe my friend. theRooster

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Oh that’s good Hannah, I think it will do you good to spend the weekend in Liverpool and you can just take it easy and spend more time in cosy cafes and restaurants! It will be the perfect excuse to make a return visit sometime next year. Sending you hugs. Marion xx

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words regarding my travel guide to Manchester. It really is a wonderful city to visit at any time of year and you never know, you might be lucky to get tickets for a football match as well! Hope your week progresses well. Marion

      Like

  3. Greatly enjoyed this post, Marion! I’ve not been to Manchester, but it has interested me in recent years to want to go. I’m especially keen on checking out Shambles Square and the Gay Village. I’d be keen on seeing more of your “Travel Guide” posts, should you make a series on them!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Rebecca for taking an interest in my travel guide to Manchester and it’s great to get your feedback on its presentation. I intend to publish an occasional series of guides in this format in the future. Manchester is a fine city and as it’s a major international gateway I hope you are able to visit sometime. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Those libraries, especially John Rylands Library, look great. I would love to sit down in one of them and read a book. I can definitely see similarities between London and Manchester as per the pics and names of the attractions and squares. Why is the bee the symbol the symbol for Manchester’s industry?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What a fantastic guide to Manchester, Marion. I’ve never been to Manchester, but would very much love to visit one day to explore its fantastic museums and art galleries, particularly the Museum of Science and Industry where you can marvel at steam engines. I would also love to see the award-winning Imperial War Museum North, too due to its stunning design. Thanks for sharing, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Your travel guide of Manchester is appreciating . Every important destinations in one blog . Descriptions of highlighted spots are satisfactory . While reading one arouses interst and curiosity-both . Traveling is easy , but pen down about this is difficult . But your blog is eye opener for traveling bloggers . Thanks .

      Liked by 3 people

  6. And I will say this again … you’ve got the most beautiful buildings in the UK! The Town Hall and Cathedral are gorgeous – oh, and those libraries (that’s a trip on its own 😉)! And as always, it’s great to find the green spaces and canal walks in the city!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Corna,. Building the majestic town hall was a sign of the city’s great wealth when the cotton industry was booming. The extensive renovations will no doubt look impressive but it seems a very slow process! The city is dear to my heart and I have always felt at home there since I was a young child. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment it’s much appreciated. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your travel guide of Manchester is appreciating . Every important destinations in one blog . Descriptions of highlighted spots are satisfactory . While reading one arouses interst and curiosity-both . Traveling is easy , but pen down about this is difficult . But your blog is eye opener for traveling bloggers . Thanks .

        Liked by 3 people

  7. So much here Marion. I once spent a day in Manchester catching up with an old friend. But I can’t say I did the place any justice, so pretty much all this stuff would make it onto my list. The Football Museums is an absolute must for me and indeed a friend of mine was recommending it just the other day. Some great architecture throughout and I’d agree that The Town Hall looks particularly attractive. But my lord what a long renovation period that is. Should look incredible when it’s finished.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I couldn’t believe that the Town Hall was to be closed for so long but it will no doubt be superb when finished. Manchester is dear to my heart and like London, a city I’m frequently drawn to. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Leighton, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 4 people

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