Royal Exchange Theatre

#10 in Best Things To Do in Manchester
Royal Exchange Theatre picture
University of Salford Press Office/Flickr

Key Info

St Ann's Square


Entertainment and Nightlife, Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend


  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

The Royal Exchange Theatre is known for its compelling stage layout: None of the 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 cotton trade, which closed in 1968. Some of the remnants of the exchange remain, including the original trading board with the day's closing numbers.

Past visitors praised the building's architecture and atmosphere, saying it's a great venue to see a show. Many also recommended visiting the theater's cafe.

If you can't make a show, consider stopping by the theater for a tour. Guided tours last roughly 90 minutes to two hours and offer a glimpse of the building's history and the production process. However, you should note tours are only offered about once a month. Tickets cost 5 pounds (around $6.50) per person, and tours can be reserved through the theater's box office or online. 

To reach the Royal Exchange Theatre, located in the city center, you can take the Metrolink tram to Market Street, St. Peter's Square or Exchange Square. The free bus also stops within walking distance of the venue. The building is open Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m and Sunday at 11 a.m. It remains open through evening performances and closes at 6 p.m. on days where there are no shows. Day seats (available day of), matinees and preview night tickets are a good way to see a performance for a discounted price. For more information on performance schedules and ticket rates, visit the theater's website.

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Time to Spend
#1 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 and opened to the public in 1900. Among its vast collection are a fragment of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" manuscript, as well as the personal letters and papers of writers, military generals and more. There is even a papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John from the Bible. The fragment is believed to be the earliest part of any New Testament writing ever found.

Recent visitors said that the architecture is stunning, likening it to a scene out of the world of "Harry Potter." Though tripods and flash photography are not allowed, reviewers suggested snapping several photos of the interior (with no flash). Others recommended a stop in the restroom to have a look at the Victorian toilets, which have remained largely unchanged since 1900.

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