With this list of top 13 things to do in Manchester, you’ll never have to worry about boredom when putting this city on your international travel checklist.
Some people hear the word “Manchester”, and all that runs through their minds is football. Well, that’s partly true. It is the home to two of the greatest football clubs in the sport's history, after all - Manchester United and Manchester City.
But, located in the Northwest of England, this cosmopolitan is also a vibrant cultural hub where the art and music scene thrives. It’s where you’ll find old Victorian buildings nestling between contemporary architecture. Parties are always also just around the corner, with a nightlife scene that offers terrific clubs, bars and restaurants.
Visiting Manchester is an experience you’ll find hard to forget. It’s a perfect blend of history, culture and entertainment. Not to mention, the locals are known for being very friendly and welcoming.
Before diving into the list, let’s get one thing clear first. Manchester is one wet city! It rains 152 days a year here. However, if you remember to jot down an umbrella and waterproof bags on your travel packing list, no rain will douse your parade.
1. See Hogwarts Come To Life At John Rylands Library
Address: 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH
Entry: free for everyone, but at peak hours, make sure to show up early for queuing.
Those who have read and loved Hogwarts all fantasise about seeing it at least once in real life. The good thing is you can actually see it in the flesh at John Rylands Library.
Though none of the scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed in the library, it was, in fact, a source of inspiration for the filmmakers. Its iconic Gothic architecture will make you feel like you’re stepping into the wizarding world.
At John Rylands Library, you can find yourself a spot and be immersed in the amazing collection of books dating back centuries. You can learn about the history of Manchester and its culture through the pages. Or, if you are not a book fan, John Rylands Library also hosts engaging exhibitions for individuals and groups.
Whether you are a book lover, a history enthusiast, or just want to be amazed by this architectural beauty, a visit to John Rylands Library should definitely be on your Manchester travel checklist.
2. Feel The Sports Spirit At The National Football Museum
Address: Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, Manchester M4 3BG
Entry: free for Manchester residents and children under 5. Otherwise, it’s about £14 for adults and £8 for older children.
No international travel checklist to the UK is ever completed without a football-related destination. Cliche, we know, but the stories that will be told to you at the National Football Museum through the objects, photos and exhibitions will show you how much the sport has shaped the culture of England.
First opened in 1990, the museum is now the home to one of the most impressive collections of football objects and archives in the world. For a die-hard fan, a tour through the halls will be like taking a walk with the legends. Even for a non-fan, the museum is still extremely fun with workshops and VR sessions that allow you to experience the sport in a new way.
It’s not just about which team dominated which league and how many trophies were handed. The appeal of the museum is also about the interactive activities that allow you to see how the game is played throughout history, how technology influences it and how it is operated.
The National Football Museum sprinkles excitement and spirit on top of your international travel checklist, especially if you travel with friends or kids.
3. Walk With Pride At Gay Village
Address: Canal Street
Entry: fabulously free entry to Canal Street, and tickets for the Gay Village Party can be found here.
Manchester can be in a grey mood when it rains, but the rainbows on Canal Street, also known as Gay Village, are always bright. To look for a change in atmosphere, a walking tour here is worth putting on your international travel checklist.
It sits lovely right beside the Rochdale Canal. As you walk down, you will find local coffee shops and gay bars that are always brimming with affordable food and drinks, good music and friendly locals.
In the area, there is the Sackville Gardens with amazing memorials of Alan Turing - the founding father of modern computers and a queer icon - and the Beacon of Hope, which is a sculpture to honour victims and survivors of HIV/AIDS. China Town is also nearby if you want to end your walk with some cultural delicacies.
Every year, Manchester Pride hosts a Gay Village Party, where people in the LGBTQ+ community gather to celebrate. There’ll be glamorous parades, parties and colourful performances.
If this is your scene and you happen to be in the area around the same time as the event, you have to sign up for it.
4. Adopt A Donkey At The Donkey Sanctuary
Address: Green Fold, Abbey Hey, Manchester M18 8RJ
Entry: free for everyone, but you’ll need to pre-book your arrival.
Travelling doesn’t have to be about looking for the most picturesque spot to make memories. Sometimes, it’s all about finding the best four-legged friend whose personality is just perfect as your soul mate and is named Bonnie to adopt.
Jokes aside, The Donkey Sanctuary is the home to hundreds of gorgeous donkeys and mules. It’s a peaceful corner in the ever-busy Manchester where these gentle creatures are cared for and thriving. Everyone is welcome to visit these sweet animals, learn about them and enjoy a nice cup of tea in the cafe by the farm watching them roam around.
The spotlight of the experience is that you’ll get to “adopt” a donkey that you like. No, you’ll not be taking them home with you, but for £3 a month, you will help the sanctuary buy food, pay vet bills and build shelter for your special fur baby. You can adopt for yourself or as a gift to someone. It’s an interesting experience that will make for great memories along the way.
5. Eat Like A Local With A Manchester Food And Drinks Walking Tour
Entry: From £35 to £60.
There’s a saying that the quickest way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. So, if you want to fall in love with Manchester, a food and drinks walking tour is what you need on your international travel checklist.
Just like the variety of cultures this city has, the choices of tours are also diverse. You can join the Manchester Food Walks as they explore both old and new eateries in town.
Or, if you’re feeling a bit fancy, the Scranchester has private tours that are tailor-made specifically for your taste buds only. Prefer something cheesy? Well, pack your grater because The Manchester Cheese Crawl food tour is all about the heavenly fromage.
Another flavorful touch to these tours is that the local guides know their stuff. It means that most of the time, they will show you eateries that are hidden gems known by only real, local foodies.
6. Satisfy Your Curiosity At The Science And Industry Museum
Address: Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4JP
Entry: Free for everyone, but you’ll need to book tickets in advance for the exclusive exhibitions here.
It may sound dry to some, but the Science and Industry Museum is far from it. With over 8,000 4.5-star reviews on Tripadvisor and appearances on the majority of lists of things to do in Manchester, the experience here will be exceptional.
What would be the Manchester we know of today without the mastermind behind the Industrial Revolution? At the Science and Industry Museum, you will get the answer for yourself as you walk through the extensive exhibitions and collections of steam engines, textile machinery, and computers. Also, you’ll get to see the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station, as the museum is located right on top of that.
However, it’s not just the usual look-but-don’t-touch experience you’ll find at other museums. There is an interactive gallery that brings science experiments to life in front of your very own eyes. You can learn, and you can have fun!
7. Travel Back In Time At The Ordsall Hall
Address: 322 Ordsall Ln, Salford M5 3AN
Entry: Free for everyone.
Being one of the oldest buildings in Salford, Ordsall Hall holds within its walls the lingering touch of its past residents. And on its front steps stories of 820 years of history waiting to be told to its visitors. It is an ideal stop for those who seek adventures on the traditional side of Manchester.
Ordsall Hall was a home, a social club and a church hall before it became a cultural spot for the community. At the building, you will find not only workshops that let you experience the lifestyle of a Tudor but also fun group activities like a bookmark hunt. Ways to explore the nooks and crannies of this historical beauty are never-ending.
That’s not all. Entering Ordsall Hall, you will be greeted by a team of lovely staff. Most are alive, some not, but they are all equally friendly and professional. If you wish to meet these not-alive staff, check out their Ghost Nights, where you can embark on a paranormal investigation around the property.
8. Immerse In Arts At The Manchester Art Gallery
Address: Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Entry: free for everyone.
Visiting an art gallery is a must-have item for any international travel checklist because art tells the story of the destination and its people like no other. And with Manchester’s magnificent art history, you don’t walk, but run to the Manchester Art Gallery.
The Manchester Art Gallery houses a rich collection of arts from British and international artists from different periods and art movements.
As you make your way through each section, you will see for yourself just how art has been in shaping the people and the culture of the city. If you happen to be a fan of pre-Raphaelite paintings, the Manchester Art Gallery also has a world-renowned collection of them.
Being at the heart of the city centre means that the Manchester Art Gallery is surrounded by coffee shops, shipping centres and restaurants. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and a quick bite after visiting the gallery.
9. Shiver With Fear On The Manchester Ghost Walk
Address and entry varies from show to show. Check them out here.
Manchester is an old city, and a part of the charm of any aged destination is their ghosty friends. Not everyone is willing to befriend them, but those who wish to are in for an experience.
On this walk, host Flecky Bennett will lead you through the back streets and alleyways of the city. At each stop, you will feel the hair on the back of your neck rise as Flecky reveals the horrors and mysteries that live there. It’s 90 minutes filled with thrills and chills.
But it’s not all about horror. Rather, the tour is all about history presented in a unique and interesting way. Sure, the stories have eerie elements, but they are all informative in nature.
10. Bar-hop The Night Away In Oxford Road
What better way to spend the night in Manchester than bar-hopping in Oxford Road? After dinner, you can start slow and calm with some craft beer at the BrewDog.
Then as the beat of the night picks up, you can hop to the iconic Peveril Of The Peak or The Briton’s Protection. Both places are historic in their architecture, which will make you feel like you’re in a museum. If your energy bar is still running, make your way to a club, like Big Hands, to dance the night away.
The music and art scene in Manchester is one of the best there is, so you should know by now that the bars and pubs are extraordinary as well. Oxford Road is also a famous hub for university students, making it a perfect spot to make new friends.
11. Explore Manchester’s Glory At Salford Quays
When we speak of England, we absolutely have to be in awe of the industrial revolution that helped shape the world we’re living in today. One of the many constructions that contributed to that is Salford Quays.
Located at the heart of Greater Manchester, Salford Quays (or The Quays) is one of Northwest England’s most bubbling tourist spots. There are many things to do and places to see, ranging from sightseeing and dining.
A visit to Salford Quays should start with MediaCityUK. It’s a complex filled with top leading media organisations in the industry, like the BBC. Don’t be fooled by its corporate name. MediaCityUK has always been a top spot for tourists as there, you will find public spaces with one-of-a-kind lighting, street names and architecture. It’s truly a unique experience.
Then make your way to The Lowry where you can view the impressive collection of works of painter L. S. Lowry as well as many other highly progressive exhibitions. Follow up by paying a visit to the Imperial War Museum North to see how a 100 years of war shaped England.
That’s not all! The best way to end your trip in this waterfront town is to see it how it’s supposed to be seen - on a boat, out in the open water. Hop on the Princess Katherine and enjoy the adventure provided by Manchester River Cruises.
12. Feel The Thrill With Go-Karting
After a day of exploring interesting museums and roaming the historic streets of Manchester, what’s a better way to prevent a mid-trip burnout than to race against your friends (or strangers if you solo-travel) on a go-kart track?
Though it sounds like such an out-of-pocket activity, we promise go-karting is definitely a source of fun you absolutely need for your Manchester itinerary, especially if you’re travelling in a large group. The high speed, sharp turns and adrenaline-pumping wheel-to-wheel action will make your heart burst with excitement.
Have no idea how to handle the four-wheel vehicle? Don’t worry. Go-karting is actually easier than you think. Most tracks call for no skills and gender and age requirements (of course, unless it’s a tiny toddler or a baby.) Anyone can sit behind the wheel, wait for the lights to go out and go all-out on that pedal.
13. Be Amazed By Nature At Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens
Address: 18 Stenner Ln, Didsbury, Manchester M20 2RQ
Entry: free with the exception of the tennis court
Manchester has impressive modern man-made landscape, but did you know, in the South of Manchester, there exists a 90-acre green paradise that can soothe your soul? Yes, there is. And it’s called Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens.
It’s not an exaggeration to say this destination is one of the most aesthetically pleasing to the eyes spots in Manchester. With colourful flowers decorating endless green patches, a walk in the park will be like an adventure in a Monet painting.
Save your best outfit for this spot because the photos you take here will be one of the best you’ve taken, and #nofilterneeded!
Choosing The Right Bag To Travel Smart In Manchester
As we’ve said, Manchester, like the rest of England, is rainy, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on these things to do in Manchester.
If you want to be like Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook in that once iconic scene, no one is stopping you. But if you’re like the rest of us who want to keep things dry throughout the whole trip, you need to pack your stuff the right way.
We recommend investing in a high-quality, durable shoulder bag like the CabinZero Classic 28L. It’s spacious and sophisticated, with a water-resistant coating and lockable sliders.
Packing in a bigger bag for your next trip to Manchester? Try our trusty Rain Cover to keep your backpack and rucksack neat and dry.
Enjoy These Things To Do In Manchester To The Fullest
Now that you’ve known the best things to do in Manchester, it's time to craft your itinerary and experience its beauty firsthand. The city boasts a long history of being the world's first industrialised city and now a culture hub for travellers from all corners of the world. There is something for everyone in this dynamic destination. Also, don’t forget to leave us a like, drop a comment to share your choice of things to do in Manchester, and share this article with your travel mate.
Nguyen Tran Gia Khanh