Although Manchester is my hometown, I’ve never really written about it. And yet I should because it’s the city I know most.
If you want to experience the North of England, then Manchester might well be on your list of cities to visit. The city is smaller than London, but it’s still pretty big- in fact the Greater Manchester Urban Area is the third largest metropolitan area in the UK. The city was bombed by the IRA in 1996 and as a result, much of it was been rebuilt. To be quite honest, Manchester’s landmarks aren’t going to knock your socks off, but the city still has plenty of interesting museums, galleries and buildings. To me, Manchester is a very liveable city- one for shopping, culture, lunching, dining and great nightlife.
Manchester is the site of the world’s first railway station, the city that brought about the Industrial Revolution, and the place where scientists first split the atom- so I think it’s worth a visit.
Here’s my list of top things to do in Manchester:
You might want to start with the National Football Museum at URBIS– a ramp-shaped glass building in Cathedral Gardens, one of Manchester’s green parks. Nearby you can have a look inside Manchester Cathedral, which has been modified over the years due to damage from the Civil War, a German bomb in the Second World War and the IRA bomb of 1996. On a lovely sunny day it’s nice to enjoy a pint outside The Old Wellington- a tudor pub that is actually one of the oldest buildings in Manchester.
For 360 degree views of the city, take a ride on The Wheel of Manchester, Manchester’s answer to The London Eye. John Rylands Library on Deansgate looks more like a Cathedral on the inside than a library, and it’s well worth taking a peak inside to see the beautiful Reading Room. Manchester Art Gallery is free to enter and houses a collection of British Art, European masterpieces and works from well-known Manchester artists. The Victorian gothic Town Hall, with its 280-foot-high clock tower, is one of the city’s most impressive pieces of architecture. Take a tour inside to see the Great Hall, which contains twelve murals depicting important moments in Manchester’s history. Designed to look a bit like the Pantheon in Rome, Central Library in St.Peter’s Square is instantly recognisable and contains thousands of books, archives and important local documents. My favourite attraction has to be the Museum of Science and Industry, which is located at the site of the oldest passenger railway station and showcases steam engines, locomotives, planes and machinery from the cotton mills.
Manchester is a place where you can shop-till-you-drop. For high-street stores like Topshop and H&M head to the indoor Arndale Centre or Market Street. If you have a bit more cash to splash then there are two expensive department stores- Selfridges and Harvey Nichols- which stand side by side next to each other in Exchange Square. For alternative fashion head to Affleck’s Palace, where you’ll find independent shops selling everything from vintage clothing to tattoos. Manchester’s expensive designer shops and boutiques are located around King Street and Manchester’s newest shopping destination- The Avenue at Spinningfields.
You’re from Manchester? Manchester City or Manchester United?
Manchester is BIG on football (or soccer as the Americans call it) boasting two of the best teams in the world. There is great rivalry between these two big Manchester clubs, so will you be a red, or will you be a blue? If you’re a red you’ll want to visit Manchester United’s famous stadium at Old Trafford, and if you’re a blue you’ll want to visit the City of Manchester Stadium, affectionally known as “The Etihad”.
A tour of either stadium will take you on a journey through Manchester’s footballing history. Better still, why not get a match ticket so you can watch ‘the beautiful game’ and see some world class players in action?
Manchester has produced many famous bands and musicians, including Oasis, Simply Red, The Verve, Badly Drawn Boy, Take That and The Stone Roses to name just a few, so it’s worth checking out the live music scene.
Famous international artists play at the MEN Arena when they are on tour.
When it comes to nightlife, there’s something for all tastes in Manchester. Oxford Road area is Studentville, so the area’s clubs, pubs and takeaways are packed with Manchester’s University students. The Printworks near Exchange Square is an undercover entertainment venue with an Odeon cinema and chain bar/restaurants like Hard Rock, Cafe Rouge and Wagamama. For stylish nightlife head to Deansgate, where you’ll find trendy cocktail bars and restaurants occasionally frequented by footballers and WAGs. There are a number of bars and clubs nestled under the railway arches of Deansgate Locks, but they can get a bit loud and lairy on weekends. Alternatively if you’re looking for cool, artsy, independent bars, head to the bohemian Northern Quarter. Manchester also has a big gay scene and The Gay Village along Canal Street is always good fun.
So that’s it! A guide to some of the best things to do in Manchester. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of areas to check out. There are also plenty of city centre hotels, so you’re never too far from all the action.