Some of the best things to see and do in Manchester, UK

Travel

Salford’s bustling quays are home to many of Manchester’s landmarks, including the Millennium Bridge and the Imperial War Museum North. Photo/Getty Images

Venture north from London to the UK’s second largest city and discover Manchester’s blend of superb museums, sporting history and cultural weight, writes Brett Atkinson.

What to see:

Manchester’s legacy as the most important city of the Industrial Revolution is showcased at the Museum of Science and Industry, housed in historic buildings made of typical Manchester red brick and spanning the former site of Liverpool St. station Despite its focus on history, it’s a proudly innovative institution, with interactive exhibits perfect for curious young travelers and a contemporary focus on how sustainable and green technologies are influencing the coming. Providing insight into the impact of the Industrial Revolution, the People’s Museum of Manchester spans two fascinating centuries of history, from the development of workers’ rights and labor reform to more recent anti-racism and LGBTQ+ movements in society.

London's second largest city is brimming with history, as well as plenty to see and do.  Photo/Getty Images
London’s second largest city is brimming with history, as well as plenty to see and do. Photo/Getty Images

Inside a spectacular quayside building designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, the Imperial War Museum North is the companion institution to the Imperial War Museum in London. The idiosyncratic structure of the modern building, incorporating sloping floors, circuitous routes and even temperature fluctuations, is designed to instill feelings of disorientation in visitors. Providing context to the most difficult times in recent history, it’s an essential part of a visit to Manchester.

What to do:

Red or blue? If you grew up as a football fan in Manchester, you have pledged your allegiance to Manchester United (the Red Devils) or Manchester City (the Sky Blues). Tours of both teams’ stadiums – Old Trafford for United and Etihad Stadium for City – are exciting even if you’re not a football fan, and include plenty of stories about Manchester footballing legends including George Best, Bobby Charlton and Cristiano Ronaldo. Sports enthusiasts should plan a visit to the National Football Museum in central Manchester. Bring your A-game to be competitive with interactive games in the museum’s Play Gallery, including penalty-taking and goalkeeping.

Music fans should book a guided tour to explore the city’s musical heritage, with different Manchester Music Tours experiences exploring the history and legacy of The Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses and Joy Division/New Order. Tours were designed by the late Craig Gill, drummer of 1980s ‘Madchester’ band The Inspiral Carpets, and include locations such as the red-brick facade of the Salford Lads Club, immortalized in an iconic Smiths photoshoot.

The bustling North Quarter of the city is one of the best places to grab a craft beer and a bite to eat.  Photo/Getty Images
The bustling North Quarter of the city is one of the best places to grab a craft beer and a bite to eat. Photo/Getty Images

Even if you don’t know the difference between Roy’s Rolls and Rovers Return, there’s no denying Coronation Street’s cultural impact in the UK and New Zealand. The world’s longest-running soap opera – currently running nearly 10,700 episodes – is filmed around Salford Quays, near the Imperial War Museum North. 1.5-hour guided tours of the show’s iconic red-brick set take place on Saturdays and Sundays.

Where to eat:

Gujarati-style vegetarian street food and craft beer are a perfect match at Bundobust, originally established in nearby Leeds in 2014 but now also found in two Manchester locations. Bundobust’s first Manchester opening is downstairs near Piccadilly Gardens and a 10-minute walk southeast of the new Bundobust, a much larger space including a restaurant and their own brewery. Spicy Okra Fries pair well with Bundobust’s ginger-chai marsala infused porter.

Opened in 1858 as the fresh produce section of Manchester’s historic Smithfield Market, Mackie Mayor was resurrected in 2017 as the city’s best multi-cuisine food hall. Framed by 19th-century cast-iron arches, Mackie Mayor’s nine cafes, bars and restaurants include the Tender Cow steakhouse, beers from the Blackjack Brewery and J. Atkinson & Co’s craft cafe, originally opened in the neighboring town of Lancaster in 1837. Restaurants around the northern quarter and trendy Ancoats include Elnecot for shared plates reinventing traditional British classics – try the Scotch Egg with Wild Garlic Mayonnaise or the Crab Crumpets of Devon – and the best Sunday brunches and roasts in town at The Counter House.

Where to drink:

Classic British drinks of beer and gin continue to refresh modern Mancunians. Highlights of the city’s craft beer scene include the industrial dining room at Cloudwater, while the 1880s Marble Arch pub has all the nifty offerings of the Marble Brewery. Yes, the floor is a little slanted, so that’s probably not the influence of a second or third pint. To experience Manchester’s emerging wave of craft gin, visit Three Little Words, a bar serving up shrubs and cocktails made with gin from the adjacent Spirit of Manchester distillery.

Where to stay:

Roomzzz’s compact apartments and stylish suites enliven the heritage-listed Edwardian ambience of Manchester’s historic Corn Exchange building. Restaurants, cafes and bars all share the same sprawling address, and it’s a short walk to Ancoats and the Northern Quarter.

Getting There :

Emirates (from Dubai) and Singapore Airlines both offer direct flights to Manchester, the most direct route for New Zealand travellers. From London, National Rail offers frequent departures to Manchester (around three hours) and the bus journey with National Express takes around five hours.

Find out more at visitmanchester.com

Control List:
There are no Covid-19 test or vaccination requirements for travel to the UK.

James C. Tibbs