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Best Things To Do in Manchester

Manchester is passionate about football and music. You can cheer on Manchester United at Old Trafford or root for Manchester City at Etihad Stadium. As for music, there are too many venues to list, but you can check out Song Kick to find out where different bands are playing. The city also contains a number of very good museums, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Imperial War Museum North and the Manchester Art Gallery. When it comes to shopping, the city boasts popular U.K. stores like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, but it also has the quirky five-floor Afflecks for one-of-a-kind finds.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Manchester

Free
The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library is known as much for its beautiful architecture as it is for its collection of rare books and manuscripts. The impressive gothic structure took 10 years to build — after plans were drawn up in 1889, the library finally opened to the public in 1900. Among its vast collection are medieval illuminated manuscripts, featuring a copy of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales;" the personal letters and papers of notable figures like Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell; and even a Gutenberg Bible. There are also a handful of rotating exhibits."
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Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
John Rylands Library
The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library is known as much for its beautiful architecture as it is for its collection of rare books and manuscripts. The impressive gothic structure took 10 years to build — after plans were drawn up in 1889, the library finally opened to the public in 1900. Among its vast collection are medieval illuminated manuscripts, featuring a copy of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales;" the personal letters and papers of notable figures like Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell; and even a Gutenberg Bible. There are also a handful of rotating exhibits."
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#2

#2 in Manchester

Manchester United is one of the — if not the — world's most celebrated football (aka soccer) teams. The team's stadium is even nicknamed the "Theatre of Dreams." Picture a sea of red shirt-wearing fans spread across an oblong stadium cheering madly for a much-beloved bunch of talented athletes. Even if you don't get to watch the team (and the boisterous crowd) in action, you should make time for a guided tour of the stadium and a roam through its museum. The 80-minute tour takes you everywhere from the locker rooms to the tunnel where the players emerge onto the field and more. A TripAdvisor user (and huge fan of Manchester United) says: "It is well worth going to Old Trafford just to see the home stadium of the most prominent football club in the world."
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Sports Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Old Trafford
Manchester United is one of the — if not the — world's most celebrated football (aka soccer) teams. The team's stadium is even nicknamed the "Theatre of Dreams." Picture a sea of red shirt-wearing fans spread across an oblong stadium cheering madly for a much-beloved bunch of talented athletes. Even if you don't get to watch the team (and the boisterous crowd) in action, you should make time for a guided tour of the stadium and a roam through its museum. The 80-minute tour takes you everywhere from the locker rooms to the tunnel where the players emerge onto the field and more. A TripAdvisor user (and huge fan of Manchester United) says: "It is well worth going to Old Trafford just to see the home stadium of the most prominent football club in the world."
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#3

#3 in Manchester

Free
The Castlefield Urban Heritage Park is a conservation area located on the southwest side of Manchester's city center. But first, it was the site of a Roman fort, Mamucium. Later, this area became a hub of industry with the construction of a canal and a train station. Today, the canal has been restored, and there's even a recreated gate of the ancient fort.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
The Castlefield Urban Heritage Park is a conservation area located on the southwest side of Manchester's city center. But first, it was the site of a Roman fort, Mamucium. Later, this area became a hub of industry with the construction of a canal and a train station. Today, the canal has been restored, and there's even a recreated gate of the ancient fort.
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#4

#4 in Manchester

Free
The Manchester Art Gallery has a collection of more than 25,000 items spread across six centuries. Of particular note is its pre-Raphaelite collection: You'll see work by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and William Holman Hunt, among other renowned artists. The metalwork and porcelain in the museum's Decorative Arts section is also impressive.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Manchester Art Gallery
The Manchester Art Gallery has a collection of more than 25,000 items spread across six centuries. Of particular note is its pre-Raphaelite collection: You'll see work by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and William Holman Hunt, among other renowned artists. The metalwork and porcelain in the museum's Decorative Arts section is also impressive.
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#5

#5 in Manchester

Free
The Museum of Science and Industry is an extensive museum spread across five buildings with exhibits that range from textiles to electricity to the railways. With its industrial history in cotton production, Manchester is a good spot for such a museum. One of the newest galleries is the interactive "Revolution Manchester," where visitors will be challenged by a number of games and tasks having to do with everything from transport to the structure of matter. Other must-do experiences include walking through a Victorian-era sewer, admiring the display of old aircrafts and completing some of your own experiments.
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Museums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is an extensive museum spread across five buildings with exhibits that range from textiles to electricity to the railways. With its industrial history in cotton production, Manchester is a good spot for such a museum. One of the newest galleries is the interactive "Revolution Manchester," where visitors will be challenged by a number of games and tasks having to do with everything from transport to the structure of matter. Other must-do experiences include walking through a Victorian-era sewer, admiring the display of old aircrafts and completing some of your own experiments.
... more

#6

#6 in Manchester

Free
The Victorian gothic Manchester Town Hall first opened its doors in 1877, and to this day it still acts as the home of the Manchester City Council. If you visit, you should check out the Ford Madox Brown murals, as well as the Great Hall's skylight, which has the etched names of every mayor, lord mayor and chair of the council since 1838. The Sculpture Hall is also particularly impressive with its depictions of famous Manchester figures. And when you need a break, the on-site cafe is a nice place to sip a cup of tea.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Manchester Town Hall
The Victorian gothic Manchester Town Hall first opened its doors in 1877, and to this day it still acts as the home of the Manchester City Council. If you visit, you should check out the Ford Madox Brown murals, as well as the Great Hall's skylight, which has the etched names of every mayor, lord mayor and chair of the council since 1838. The Sculpture Hall is also particularly impressive with its depictions of famous Manchester figures. And when you need a break, the on-site cafe is a nice place to sip a cup of tea.
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#7

#7 in Manchester

Free
The Imperial War Museum North, a part of the series of Imperial Museums throughout the U.K., traces Britain's involvement in different conflicts from 1914 through the present day. Exhibits include an audio-visual Big Picture Show on a variety of topics, from "Children at War" to "Al-Mutanabbi Street: A Reaction." There are also 1,400 historic documents and objects, including the gun that shot the first British shell in WWI. Families will especially appreciate the museum's TimeStack program, in which visitors can hear about different items in the museum's collection and actually handle them.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Imperial War Museum North
The Imperial War Museum North, a part of the series of Imperial Museums throughout the U.K., traces Britain's involvement in different conflicts from 1914 through the present day. Exhibits include an audio-visual Big Picture Show on a variety of topics, from "Children at War" to "Al-Mutanabbi Street: A Reaction." There are also 1,400 historic documents and objects, including the gun that shot the first British shell in WWI. Families will especially appreciate the museum's TimeStack program, in which visitors can hear about different items in the museum's collection and actually handle them.
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#8

#8 in Manchester

Free
The Greater Manchester Police Museum traces the history of policing in the Victorian era. There is a replica court where mock trials are held and a charge room, not to mention numerous artifacts dating from the era, including old police uniforms. The volunteer tour guides are founts of knowledge, filling out the museum experience much more with their accounts of crime from yesteryear. (Parents should keep in mind that the museum is not recommended for children 5 years and younger because of the nature of the exhibits, especially in the crime room.)
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Greater Manchester Police Museum
The Greater Manchester Police Museum traces the history of policing in the Victorian era. There is a replica court where mock trials are held and a charge room, not to mention numerous artifacts dating from the era, including old police uniforms. The volunteer tour guides are founts of knowledge, filling out the museum experience much more with their accounts of crime from yesteryear. (Parents should keep in mind that the museum is not recommended for children 5 years and younger because of the nature of the exhibits, especially in the crime room.)
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#9
Afflecks Free

#9 in Manchester

Free
Afflecks calls itself "an emporium of eclecticism" and "a totem of indie commerce." This mall, which spreads itself across four floors, is no usual shopping center — you won't find your typical British stores like John Lewis or Cath Kidston here. Instead, Afflecks' shops and stalls are filled with everything from Chinese massage services to vintage and secondhand clothing to crafts. You'll also find tarot card readers and tattoo parlors here.
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Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Afflecks
Afflecks calls itself "an emporium of eclecticism" and "a totem of indie commerce." This mall, which spreads itself across four floors, is no usual shopping center — you won't find your typical British stores like John Lewis or Cath Kidston here. Instead, Afflecks' shops and stalls are filled with everything from Chinese massage services to vintage and secondhand clothing to crafts. You'll also find tarot card readers and tattoo parlors here.
... more

#10

#10 in Manchester

The Etihad Stadium is home to Manchester City, one of the city's much beloved football clubs (or soccer teams to Americans). This stadium is one of the U.K.'s largest, with the capacity to seat 47,805 rowdy spectators. If you're able to view a match, be sure to wear a light blue shirt and don't even think about badmouthing the home team — Manchester City fans are a very loyal bunch. They're also very fond of their stadium. One TripAdvisor user compared Etihad Stadium to paradise, saying: "This is my favourite place in the whole world. The service at the bars at half time is woeful, and you can't smoke, but […] it's such a magical environment."
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Sports Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Etihad Stadium
The Etihad Stadium is home to Manchester City, one of the city's much beloved football clubs (or soccer teams to Americans). This stadium is one of the U.K.'s largest, with the capacity to seat 47,805 rowdy spectators. If you're able to view a match, be sure to wear a light blue shirt and don't even think about badmouthing the home team — Manchester City fans are a very loyal bunch. They're also very fond of their stadium. One TripAdvisor user compared Etihad Stadium to paradise, saying: "This is my favourite place in the whole world. The service at the bars at half time is woeful, and you can't smoke, but […] it's such a magical environment."
... more

#11

#11 in Manchester

The Lowry is a mixed-use facility — part art gallery and part theater — contained in a modern steel and glass structure. You'll find everything from a permanent exhibition showcasing the works of beloved British artist L.S. Lowry, who was born in the greater Manchester suburb of Stretford near the Old Trafford football stadium. While here, you can also attend comedy shows and contemporary dance performances. In addition to the visual and performing arts, the Lowry also contains a restaurant, a bar and a cafe.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The Lowry
The Lowry is a mixed-use facility — part art gallery and part theater — contained in a modern steel and glass structure. You'll find everything from a permanent exhibition showcasing the works of beloved British artist L.S. Lowry, who was born in the greater Manchester suburb of Stretford near the Old Trafford football stadium. While here, you can also attend comedy shows and contemporary dance performances. In addition to the visual and performing arts, the Lowry also contains a restaurant, a bar and a cafe.
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#12

#12 in Manchester

The Royal Exchange Theatre is known for its compelling stage layout: None of the 760 seats are more than 30 feet from the seven-sided stage. It's also known for its impressive performances, which range from Shakespearean plays to modern works. What's more, the building used to house a different kind of production: It was the site of the city’s old Cotton Exchange, which closed in 1968. Some of the remnants of the exchange can be found in the gold painted cotton flowers on the theater’s pillars.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Royal Exchange Theatre
The Royal Exchange Theatre is known for its compelling stage layout: None of the 760 seats are more than 30 feet from the seven-sided stage. It's also known for its impressive performances, which range from Shakespearean plays to modern works. What's more, the building used to house a different kind of production: It was the site of the city’s old Cotton Exchange, which closed in 1968. Some of the remnants of the exchange can be found in the gold painted cotton flowers on the theater’s pillars.
... more
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