The Ultimate Tourist Guide of Things to Do in Manchester

Posted Jul 27, 2018
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Manchester is famous for many things, from its pioneering music scene to two of the largest global football brands in the world — Manchester United and Manchester City. It’s these things, along with a plethora of cultural and historical wonders, that bring over a million tourists to the city each year — a whopping 1,319,000 in 2017, to be exact. According to Manchester Evening News, this is a 10% increase compared to the previous year in relation to overseas visitors. Manchester must be doing something right!

The unique attraction of the city isn’t the only thing that’s bringing more international tourists to Manchester. With a £1bn ‘Super Terminal’ expansion underway, Manchester Airport now welcomes flights from 220 destinations, including direct routes from Beijing and Hong Kong.

As well as listing the key sights, we’ve delved even deeper and brought you the ultimate tourist guide of things to do in Manchester city centre, from spotting giant bees to indulging in the best picture-perfect vegan food. You can thank us later.

Fell in love with Manchester and don’t want to leave? Get in touch today about our limited selection of high-spec apartments for rent in Manchester city centre, from Oxford Road to the Northern Quarter. As Manchester’s leading landlord and lettings agency, we provide stylish studio and 1-3 bedroom apartments for rent to professionals and students.

Where to Eat in Manchester

From Instagrammable interiors to cutting-edge cuisine, Manchester is the place to satisfy your appetite. The city is best recognised for its independent eateries in the likes of the Northern Quarter and Ancoats, where fusion cuisine and healthy alternatives grace artistically-curated plates.

Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Manchester

If you prefer bulgar wheat to mince meat, then you’ll never be short of choice when it comes to vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Manchester city centre. Greater Manchester is actually the British birthplace of vegetarianism, where Christian minister William Cowherd (an awkwardly-ironic name) formed Britain’s first Vegetarian Society back in the early 1800s.
Discover our top picks for plant-based eating in Manchester:

  • Best vegan fast food in Manchester: V Rev MCR on Edge Street serves the best droolworthy vegan burgers
  • Best vegetarian eatery in Manchester’s Northern Quarter: You can’t go wrong with the Spanish chickpea and spinach stew at Earth Cafe on Turner Street
  • Best Indian restaurant for vegetarian food: The paneer and mushroom tikka is a top choice at Piccadilly’s Bundobust
  • Best vegan cakes in Manchester: Teatime Collective on Oldham Street is loved for its classic vegan cakes, including Bakewell tarts and banoffee pie


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Finest Restaurants in Manchester

If you’re seeking the best cuisine that Manchester city centre has to offer, then Spinningfields is the area to head to for impeccable fine dining and world-renowned restaurants.

Manchester House is the best place to enjoy contemporary British cuisine in classic surroundings, whilst Australasia brings a Japanese twist to gourmet Australian food. There’s also the brand new 20 Stories restaurant atop No.1 Spinningfields, which is owned by D&D London.

Coming soon to the thriving Ancoats area, Mana is set to become the first Michelin star restaurant in Manchester for many years, largely due to the influence of former NOMA chef Simon Martin.

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Afternoon Tea in Manchester

There aren’t many things that are as classically British as a spot of afternoon tea and Manchester certainly knows how to do this much-loved pastime well.

Harvey Nichols is a popular choice for afternoon tea, where you can enjoy a glass of Champagne whilst looking over Manchester city centre. The Tea Room at The Midland offers one of Manchester’s oldest afternoon tea experiences and prides itself on its vegetarian and vegan options. For exceptional views over the city skyline, head to Cloud 23 at The Hilton, where the warm scones with Dorset clotted cream are unbeatable.

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If you prefer something a little more quirky and whimsical, then pay a visit to Richmond Tea Rooms near Canal Street, where the interiors and treats resemble something out of Alice in Wonderland.


Explore Manchester's History and Heritage

Sightseeing in Manchester

Many people talk about Manchester’s prevalence during the Industrial Revolution, but there is less talk around its fascinating Roman heritage. Founded circa 79 AD, Manchester was once known as Mancunium and centered around a large Roman fort in Castlefield, which you can still see the remnants of today. Not only is this picturesque area of Manchester a great place to explore for its history, but the canalside walks and relaxed eateries are perfect for those seeking a quainter side of the city.

Manchester is also recognised for its association with a particular fuzzy insect, that graces everything from building frontiers to memorabilia. The Manchester bee symbol represents the city’s hardworking past during the Industrial Revolution and has become a trendy symbol of culture for the people of Manchester.

Until 23 September 2018, visitors can explore the Bee in the City trail, which showcases giant bee sculptures by various artists throughout the city.

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Points of Interest in Manchester

If you love to explore museums, then you’re in for a treat in sunny Manchester. Owned by the University of Manchester, Manchester Museum is the largest university museum in the UK and displays around 4.5 million archaeological and anthropological items from across the globe.

As a city renowned for its football, it’s only right that Manchester boasts the world’s largest football museum. Entirely free to enter, the National Football Museum houses over 140,000 items and aims to protect the English heritage of football for generations to come. Football fans can also take a stadium tour at Old Trafford — the famous stadium otherwise known as the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

There’s also the popular Museum of Science and Industry near Castlefield, which features the likes of historic aircrafts, trains, computing equipment and industrial machines. If you want to delve into Manchester’s fascinating industrial past, then you won’t want to miss this experience.

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As one of the few Grade-I listed buildings in the city, Manchester Cathedral is a remarkable building to explore. It’s revered for its stained-glass displays and ornate exterior, much of which was lovingly restored after the Blitz in 1952.

For avid Harry Potter fans, the John Rylands Library in the heart of Manchester city centre evokes the feeling of being in Hogwarts, with exquisite stained-glass windows and majestic arches revealing the building’s Neo-Gothic past. No wizardly entry requirements are needed — entry is entirely free.

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What Manchester’s Famous for — Art, Music and Culture

It’s hard to come by people who haven’t heard of at least one famous musician or band from Manchester, including The Smiths, Oasis, New Order and The Stone Roses. Manchester has always been loved for its edgy and rebellious music scene and the eclectic vibes still live on throughout the city. Hop onto Resident Advisor, Skiddle or Visit Manchester and you’ll find hundreds of gigs and events to add to your diary for your Manchester visit.

One of the most famous events in Manchester is The Warehouse Project — an ongoing series of sold-out club nights that take place between September and January each year. The line-ups always represent the best and freshest of electronic dance music and draw in visitors from across the globe.

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If you want to pick up some old classics, then Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the perfect place to explore record shops. Eastern Bloc is known for stocking the best techno and electronic dance music on vinyl since the mid 80s, whilst Vinyl Exchange boasts more of an eclectic mix of genres.

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According to Marketing Manchester’s Managing Director Sheona Southern, cultural attractions such as The Lowry, HOME and Manchester Art Gallery are becoming more popular with tourists, with these being some of the most-visited attractions in 2016. This demonstrates that Manchester is putting itself on the map as a top arts and culture destination, as well as an institution for music and lifestyle.

In no particular order, these are our top 10 arts and cultural attractions in Manchester:

  1. The Lowry — Salford Quays key destination, with theatres, restaurants, galleries and more
  2. HOME — A £25m arts centre on First Street that displays contemporary art, theatre and film
  3. Manchester Art Gallery — Featuring historical and contemporary art on Mosley Street
  4. Royal Exchange Theatre — An exceptional theatre space in a Grade-II listed building
  5. Manchester Film Festival — A revered film festival that takes place annually every March
  6. Manchester Jazz Festival — An award-winning summer festival celebrating eclectic jazz
  7. Manchester International Festival — A forward-thinking festival bringing together original art and events every two years
  8. Manchester Pride — An annual festival celebrating Manchester’s LGBT community
  9. Manchester Craft & Design Centre — Contemporary artists studios set within a unique Victorian building in the Northern Quarter
  10. Frog and Bucket Comedy Club — A renowned comedy club showcasing Manchester’s best and upcoming comedians

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Shopping in Manchester City Centre

Whether you prefer independent boutiques or browsing high street favourites, then Manchester has got you covered with its enticing array of shopping destinations.

Two of the most prominent shopping centres are Intu Trafford Centre and Manchester Arndale, the latter of which is set in the heart of the city centre. It’s also Europe’s third largest shopping mall and attracts around 41 million visitors annually. Intu Trafford Centre still attracts an impressive 35 million visitors a year.


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Beyond these shopping giants, King Street boasts a wealth of popular boutiques and shops, including Cath Kidston, Jack Wills, Patagonia and The White Company. If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, then Selfridges and Harvey Nichols on Exchange Square will satisfy your shopping appetite.


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Transport and Getting Around in Manchester

With most of the main attractions in close proximity, Manchester is an easy city to walk around and enjoy the various sights and canal walks on your feet. However, if you wish to make use of the transport options on offer, then you won’t be disappointed. Efficient and regular, Manchester’s transport networks are extremely well-connected and affordable.

Here are three ways to get around in Manchester city centre:

  1. By Metrolink Manchester — Whether you want to hop to a nearby stop in the city centre, travel from Manchester Airport or visit the likes of Didsbury or Altrincham, Manchester’s tram network is a popular choice
  2. By bus — Many of Manchester’s buses are run by First Manchester and take you pretty much anywhere you want to go in the Greater Manchester region
  3. By train — Manchester’s main railway station is Manchester Piccadilly, but there’s also Manchester Victoria and Manchester Oxford Road in the city centre

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Places to Visit Near Manchester

With so much to see and do in Manchester, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fit in everything in one short trip. However, if you wish to explore nearby cities or locations on top of your Manchester break, then it’s incredibly easy to reach some of the UK’s most sought-after destinations.

  • Manchester to Liverpool by train — 1h 20m
  • Manchester to Liverpool by coach — 1h
  • Manchester to London by train — 2h
  • Manchester to Leeds by train — 1h
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Manchester's Nearest Beaches

“Manchester has got everything except a beach”, Ian Brown once said. However, you’ll not have to venture far to dip your toes in the sea and indulge in a 99 Flake.

These are our picks of the top five beaches within two hours of Manchester, all on the West coast:

  1. Lytham St Annes
  2. Formby
  3. Llandudno
  4. Southport
  5. West Kirby

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Things to Do in Manchester As a Visitor

We hope that this guide has given you plenty of exciting ideas for your upcoming visit to Manchester. Have any of your own suggestions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on Twitter — @m_apartments

Want to make Manchester your permanent home rather than a holiday destination? Contact us today about our limited selection of stylish studio and 1-3 bedroom apartments for rent in Manchester city centre.

hello@mapartments.co.uk

The unique attraction of the city isn’t the only thing that’s bringing more international tourists to Manchester. With a £1bn ‘Super Terminal’ expansion underway, Manchester Airport now welcomes flights from 220 destinations, including direct routes from Beijing and Hong Kong.

As well as listing the key sights, we’ve delved even deeper and brought you the ultimate tourist guide of things to do in Manchester city centre, from spotting giant bees to indulging in the best picture-perfect vegan food. You can thank us later.

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