Manchester is absolutely bursting with exciting activities to get involved in, but it’s not always that easy to choose the best things to do. Plus, when you’ve lived in a city for quite some time you can be guilty of doing the same old things and only scratching the surface of what Manchester has to offer.
We’ve rallied up the team’s suggestions of some of the best things you need to do in Manchester and have put them all here in this article for you to peruse at your leisure. So, without further ado, here’s a round-up of the best things to do in Manchester you’ve got to try at least once in your life. Of course, we’re always open to suggestions, so if you think we haven’t covered your favourite bucket list activity, then give us a shout!
1. Tuck into delicious dishes from Manchester’s top food halls
Manchester is home to some tasty spots meaning you’re never too far from your next meal. From Mackie Mayor to Society, GRUB to brand new Kargo MKT at Salford Quays, the street food choices are endless as you can take your pick from a range of delicious cuisines. Eat your way around the city hitting all of these food and drink destinations and you’ll wish you’d ticked them off your Manchester bucket list sooner.
2. Go on a night out to the Warehouse Project
The music scene is thriving in Manchester but one spot for a great club night in the city has to be the Warehouse Project. Taking place in the huge Depot Mayfield behind Piccadilly station, the event hosts a wide selection of DJs and musicians to soundtrack your night out. The Haçienda used to be the top music destination, but some might say the Warehouse Project is it’s top predecessor in the city.
3. Wander around the Maker’s Market in both the city centre and suburbs
Every month, multiple areas in and around Manchester city centre play host to the Maker’s Market where you’ll find everything from plants to paintings, beaded jewellery to baked goods. Found in locations such as the Northern Quarter, Ancoats, Didsbury, Chorlton, MediaCity and Sale, independent traders can vary but it’s a really wholesome way to spend your weekend supporting local businesses.
4. Go vintage shopping in the Northern Quarter
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a hub for vintage finds and one spot in the area that is a must-visit is institution Afflecks. The shopping emporium has been open for over 40 years and boasts multiple floors filled with independent traders selling everything from second-hand garms to vinyls, a LGBTQ+ bookshop and a store dedicated to all things Manchester, you can get lost in here for hours. The Northern Quarter also has a number of vintage clothing shops like Pop Boutique and Blue Rinse worth browsing too.
5. Enjoy cocktails overlooking the city skyline
Manchester is great but higher up, even better. Sipping cocktails and soaking up fantastic views of the city has got to be one of the best things to do in Manchester, especially on a warm, sunny day. Treat yourself and watch the world go by from above from rooftop bars and restaurants like Cloud 23, King Street Townhouse, Climat and 20 Stories, and you’ll feel like you’re on cloud nine.
6. Practice your skiing skills at Chill Factore
Can’t afford a ski trip to the Alps? Luckily you can take to the slopes right here in Manchester and it’s a fun day out with friends and family. Boasting 180 metres of real snow, the Chill Factore at Trafford City is the UK’s longest indoor ski slope and allows you to ski or snowboard on a massive indoor slope (perfect for those rainy days in Manchester) and is a great experience for both frequent skiers and beginners. You can also enjoy some apres-ski action in the Alpine Street, where there are a number of bars, cafes and restaurants.
7. Take on the Slattery’s Chocolate Challenge
What can only be described as Manchester’s chocolate paradise, Slattery has become an iconic brand in the North West, well-known for its fine chocolates and pâtissier in Whitefield and their food challenge. For those with a sweet tooth, you can take on a whopping chocolate challenge consisting of a giant slab of American-style chocolate fudge cake, fresh cream, a portion of chocolate ice cream, two chocolate pots filled with melted chocolate and a tall hot chocolate topped off with cream and a piece of chocolate. It’s not for the faint-hearted but definitely worth a try!
8. See a show at the Palace Theatre
The historic Palace Theatre has been an Oxford Street landmark since 1891 and hosted some of the biggest touring productions in the UK. The theatre is often the first stop for shows fresh from the West End including the likes of The Book of Mormon. The Palace Theatre will also be the first theatre outside of London to welcome the smash hit Hamilton later this year before it tours the UK more widely.
9. Explore all the galleries and exhibitions at Manchester Museum
Reopening in February 2023 after a £15m refurbishment, Manchester Museum is bigger, better and busier than ever – therefore it is a must-visit. The neo-Gothic building’s new extension includes a new exhibition hall, which is hosting the Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition until the end of 2023. There’s also a South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum, a new Lee Kai Chinese Culture Gallery, the Belonging Gallery and a brand new Dinosaur display.
10. Visit the world famous Bury Market
Venture out of the city centre of Manchester and head to the award winning Bury Market, plus it’s right next door to the tram station. Voted Britain’s favourite market for the second time in 2022, if you haven’t visited Bury Market you need to definitely see what the fuss is about. Providing fantastic local produce for over 500 years now, Bury Market has long held a place in the heart of Mancs – and has over 370 stalls to potter, with pretty much everything you could think of on offer. Famed for its black pudding stalls, you also can’t go home without one (there are vegan black puddings available too).
11. Get your culture fix at The Lowry
Located in the heart of Salford Quays, The Lowry is a stunning beacon of modern architecture housing two theatres and several galleries. Here, you’ll find a permanent exhibition of work by its namesake artist L.S. Lowry, featuring the well-known artwork‘Going to the Match’. Huge shows including War Horse and West End hit musical Wicked have taken to the stage at The Lowry over the years, as well as hosting intimate plays and performances.
12. Watch a live sports game
Manchester is home to some top sports teams, so why wouldn’t we go and see what they can do? Whether it be a football match at Old Trafford or the Etihad, a Sale Sharks or Salford Red Devils rugby game at the AJ Bell, a cricket match at Emirates Old Trafford, netball team Manchester Thunder at Belle Vue Sports Village or ice hockey team Manchester Storm in Altrincham, there are plenty of teams to cheer on. Not only does it mean support for these teams, you might even discover a new sport you like in the process.
13. Marvel at the beauty of John Rylands Library
One of Manchester’s most striking buildings, the neo-Gothic grade I listed library looks like something from a Harry Potter film inside. Quite the contrast to the nearby glass buildings in Spinningfields and the bustle of Deansgate, you’ll feel both calm and like you’ve stepped back in time once you enter. The reading room is magnificent thanks to its vaulted ceiling, statues of notable writers, spectacular stained glass windows, stone arches and cosy alcoves. Its collection includes some impressive historical texts, including papyrus fragments believed to be a section of the New Testament.
14. Enjoy a drink by New Islington Marina
If you’ve not visited New Islington Marina in Ancoats then where have you been? This waterside spot comes alive in the summer time with people flocking to the area for a cheeky tipple or two with a rather scenic backdrop. Sit here with a glass of beer, wine or even a coffee, and watch the world go by as people walk past (many with dogs) and the canal boats floating on the still water. It’s quite the suntrap and will make you feel like you’re abroad and not in the centre of Manchester.
15. Feel like you’ve stepped into the world of Harry Potter at Chethams
The oldest public library in the English-speaking world, Chetham’s was founded in 1653, and is famously where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels began to formulate their Communist Manifesto. The historic building even features the desk where the pair worked in 1845 as well as a rare first version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, an archive on Belle Vue Zoological Gardens and a Northern Soul collection. The library, which was the potential filming venue for Hogwarts, is also attached to Chetham’s School of Music, whose talented young musicians perform free lunchtime concerts in its Carole Nash Hall on weekdays during term-time.
16. Devour an epic meal on Manchester’s Curry Mile
What is Manchester without its legendary Curry Mile? Though not actually a mile, this stretch of Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, south of the city centre, is home to some of the best and oldest Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants in Manchester. Restaurants started popping up on Wilmslow Road in the fifties and sixties as immigrants from the South Asian subcontinent arrived in Manchester to work in the city’s textile industry. Noteworthy restaurants on the ‘Curry Mile’ include Chit ‘n’ Chaat, Mussarat’s, Mughli Charcoal Pit, Ziya and Bardez.
17. Explore Manchester’s amazing street art
Manchester is known for many things, but one thing visitors and locals alike are always surprised and delighted by is the fantastic array of street art we have adorning the sides of our buildings. One area that is particularly popular for artists in need of a canvas is the Northern Quarter, with official plots in the trendy neighbourhood being highly sought after. Manchester has even been voted one of best cities for street art, giving you another reason to explore the best street art Manchester’s Northern Quarter has to offer.
18. Visit the city’s oldest pubs
There’s no shortage of watering holes to choose from in Manchester. The general rule of thumb for many is the older the better, and we have some pubs dating back centuries that we’re extremely proud of, but in some cases many aren’t aware of. From Peveril of the Peak to The Old Wellington, experience every creak and nook, old carpet and low bar in each of these ancient pubs across the city, as well as learning about some of their sordid history and legendary visitors.
19. Paddle your way around Salford Quays
One way to see the quays from a different perspective is right on the water itself. On a dry day in Manchester paddleboarding is one of the best things to do, plus you can see all the sights as you try your hand at the watersport. At Salford Watersports Centre you can even have a go on one of their giant stand-up paddleboards, which are perfect to try with a group. Whether it’s friends, family, work colleagues or on a Stag or Hen do, you can explore the Manchester waterways together, race against each other or simply see who can stand up for the longest.
20. Eat your way through the menu at a Michelin Guide restaurant
As well as top food halls and curry houses, Manchester is home to a some top notch dining establishments that will take you on a culinary adventure. Mana, the only Manchester restaurant with a Michelin star, is definitely worth a visit, even if it means saving up for the occasion. However, there are a number of affordable restaurants in Manchester offering fine dining and flavoursome yet elegant dishes, with some featuring in the Michelin Guide.
21. Take a stroll along Castlefield Viaduct
A welcome green addition amongst the industrial backdrop of Manchester, Castlefield Viaduct is definitely worth a wander along. The National Trust transformed a disused Victorian era railway viaduct into a stunning new green space for city dwellers, with a similar approach to New York’s famous High Line. The elevated garden has provided a much-needed slice of nature for Mancs, with a variety of stunning plants and flowers completely taking over the space and giving it a whole new lease of life.
22. Take a trip to the Trafford Centre
Now, some might be second-guessing whether this is one of the best things to do in Manchester but hear us out. The Trafford Centre has been open for over 25 years and although it’s not as old as Chetham’s or other iconic landmarks, it has plenty of showstopping architecture to marvel at as you stroll along the avenues. Home to a huge range of shops, bars, restaurants, cafes and experiences, you could spend an entire day at the Trafford Centre. Plus at neighbouring Trafford Palazzo, you’ll find the LEGO Discovery Centre, SEA LIFE Manchester, King Pins and NERF Xperience, all worth a visit at least once.
23. Indulge in an afternoon tea at The Midland
Manchester’s iconic hotel has also been serving afternoon tea to its guests for 120 years, making it the longest-running afternoon menu in Manchester’s history. And with age comes experience, so visitors to the hotel can rest assured they are in safe hands. The table is set, the scones and cakes baked and the Champagne and tea are ready to be poured. Offering a variety of loose leaf teas, sandwiches, cakes, jams and more, the afternoon tea at The Midland is a a timeless, classic and indulgent way to spend a special day in Manchester.
24. Attend a glowing Candlelight concert at Manchester Cathedral
Manchester’s music scene is hard to trump and with a host of music venues on offer, nights and weekends could be filled with us listening to tunes. One spot which might not be on your radar for a musical evening is Manchester Cathedral. The stunning venue not only boasts beautiful architectural features but also plays hosts to a number of Candlelight concerts, which transforms the cathedral into a glowing and mesmerising space. From tributes ranging from Rihanna to Queen, to renditions of scores from movie classics to golden games like Zelda, there’s bound to be a Candlelight concert to take your fancy.
25. Enjoy a day on the Cobbles at the Coronation Street experience
Possibly one of the most noteworthy television programmes to come from Manchester, Coronation Street is part of the city’s DNA. The world’s longest running soap has a tour experience right here in Manchester, with plenty of features to fully immerse yourself in the world of the iconic cobbled, terraced street. Every Corrie fan can get access to replica sets, historic props and iconic costumes from over 6o years of drama as well as stand behind the bar at ‘The Rovers’.
26. Discover Failsworth’s Antiques Quarter
If you’re a furniture fanatic or crazy for crockery, head to the Antiques Quarter in Failsworth. Wrigley Head is the street that houses the main antique shops in Failsworth, making it super convenient for a day-long spree. From shops selling jewellery, silver, watches and vintage fashion to ceramics, artwork and furniture, you’re bound to leave this quarter with some hidden gems under your arms – and it’s one way to remember your trip to the Greater Manchester town by.
27. Party the night away at Manchester’s Gay Village
If you’re looking for a party, look no further than Canal Street and the surrounding streets that make up the Gay Village. Canal Street itself is lined with bars and clubs, most of them with terraces where you can enjoy a waterside drink by day, but it’s at night when the area really comes alive. And be sure to visit Sackville Gardens, where you’ll find a memorial statue to Alan Turing depicting him sitting on a bench, and the Beacon of Hope, the UK’s only permanent memorial for people living with HIV or AIDS or who have lost their lives to it.
28. Race around the UK’s first live action go-karting experience
Offering a new way to hit the pedal to the metal is Chaos Karts, an attraction which combines real-life racing with augmented reality, and you can find it right here in Manchester. The UK’s first live action video game experience throws players into a virtual world, living inside a real-life video game to race-battle their friends, family, rivals and colleagues. Possibly one of the best and most unique things to do in Manchester for competitive types, the drivers’ vehicles interact with the virtual track and any challenges rival players might “launch” their way.
29. Take a ride on an East Lancashire Railway steam train
We might have trams, buses and trains but have you been on board a steam train in the area? Well, you can step back in time and get on board a steam locomotive from either Heywood or Bury via the East Lancashire Railway and as you ride out to the Lancashire town of Rawtenstall, you’ll pass the beautiful, green Greater Manchester countryside. Make the occasion extra special by booking a Red Rose dining experience where you’ll be served an elegant three course meal on board. The East Lancashire Railway even hosts murder mystery and family-friendly events to keep everyone entertained.
30. Eat a Manchester Tart
What is a Manchester bucket list if you haven’t tried the famous tart named after the city? Quite possibly one of the best (and tastiest) things to do in Manchester is to sample the city’s famous baked good, the Manchester Tart. One of the most popular places to buy this sweet treat is Robinson’s Bakery in Failsworth, a family-run business which was established in 1864 – however be quick as the bakery is sadly up for sale.