11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Manchester
As the commercial and cultural capital of Lancashire, Manchester is a noted center for the arts, media, and higher education. Together with Salford and eight other municipalities it forms the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, in which some 3 million people now live.
Like Liverpool, Manchester has undergone something of a modern day Renaissance with the introduction of initiatives such as the wide-ranging Castlefield project with its museum complex on Liverpool Road. The extension of the city's entertainment and sports facilities has considerably enhanced its attractiveness for tourists, and the city center has undergone extensive redevelopment. It has also become a favorite for shopping. An enormous range of retail opportunities including the elegant shops of St Anne's Square, King Street and Royal Exchange, and the large covered market halls of Bolton Arcade.
Designated an "Urban Heritage Park", Castlefield lies to the west of Deansgate Station and is an excellent place to begin exploring this great city. A walk among the lovingly restored Victorian houses, along the old canals or through the reconstructed Roman Fort is time well spent. Be sure to explore the Bridgewater Canal, constructed in 1761 to transport coal from the mines at Worsley to Manchester, and the many old warehouses that have been restored and turned into offices, shops, hotels and restaurants. (A trip on one of the Bridgewater tour boats is highly recommended.)
Other interesting attractions include the Castlefield Art Gallery with its exhibitions of contemporary art, and the Bridgewater Hall, home to the Hallé Orchestra and first-class concerts.
Location: Castlefield, Manchester
2 Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is located on the site of the world's oldest railroad station. Its 12 galleries include the Power Hall with its water and steam-driven machines from the golden age of the textile industry, as well as vintage made-in-Manchester cars such as a 1904 Rolls Royce.
The history of the city from Roman times through the Industrial Revolution to the present day is documented in the Station Building. The Air and Space Gallery is another must-see and is home to numerous historic aircraft, including a replica of Triplane 1 by A. V. Roe, the first British plane to successfully fly.
Location: Liverpool Rd, Castlefield, Manchester
3 Manchester Cathedral
On the banks of the Irwell, Manchester Cathedral dates mostly from 1422 to 1506 and was raised to cathedral status in 1847. The chapels on both sides of the nave and choir were built between 1486 and 1508, with further additions and alterations in almost every subsequent century. Particularly notable are the choir-stalls, with some of the most richly decorated misericords in the country. St John's Chapel is the chapel of the Manchester Regiment, and the little Lady Chapel has a wooden screen dating from 1440. The octagonal chapterhouse, built in 1465, has murals that include a figure of Christ in modern dress.
Location: Victoria St, Manchester
4 Chetham's Hospital and Library
Chetham's Hospital, just north of Manchester Cathedral, dates in part from 1422. Originally a residence for priests, it's now home to a music school and one of the oldest public libraries in England (in continuous use since 1653). Of the more than 100,000 books, more than half were printed before 1850. Chetham's is famous as the meeting place of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, during Marx's visit to Manchester.
Other libraries of note are the Manchester Central Library next door to the Town Hall, and the Portico Library. The latter houses the literary collection of Dalton and Joule, founders of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.
Location: Long Millgate, Manchester
5 Manchester Town Hall
The imposing facade of the neo-Gothic Town Hall (1877) graces pedestrianized Albert Square, and the tower offers excellent panoramic views of the city. Inside, the Council Chamber merits special attention, along with the cycle of Fort Madox Brown paintings that depict the history of the city. While there, visit the Free Trade Hall, opened in 1951.
The centrally situated Great Manchester Exhibition Centre, one of the largest such sites in England, hosts many musical performances throughout the year. It is unique in that it was built amidst the former Victorian railroad station on Windmill Street,.
Location: Albert Square, Manchester
6 Manchester Art Gallery
The Manchester Art Gallery possesses one of the largest collections in Britain outside London. The gallery includes works by the pre-Raphaelites, Flemish masters of the 17th century, French impressionists (Gauguin, Manet, Monet) and German artists (Max Ernst). There are pieces from almost every well-known English artist including Stubbs, Constable and Turner. The sculpture collection includes works by Rodin, Maillol, Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore.
For more arts and culture sightseeing, check out Cornerhouse, Manchester's international center for contemporary visual arts and independent film located at 70 Oxford Street.
Location: Mosley St & Princess St, Manchester
The colorful home of one of the largest Chinese communities in Britain, Chinatown is only a stone's throw from the Manchester Art Gallery. The richly decorated arched gateway leading into the district is especially striking. Many shops and restaurants offering a wide range of culinary delicacies from Hong Kong and Beijing have become established in this quarter. Chinese handicrafts can be found at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art.
Location: Boyle St, Cheetham, Manchester
8 People's History Museum
The People's History Museum is the national center for the collection, conservation, interpretation and study of material relating to the history of working people in Britain.
Two other museums close by are the Manchester Jewish Museum with its collection dealing with the city's Jewish community, and the Museum of Transport with its 60 old buses and other vehicles belonging to the city transport services.
Location: Boyle St, Cheetham, Manchester
9 Heaton Park
Covering some 600 acres, Heaton Park is the biggest park in Greater Manchester and one of the largest municipal parks in Europe. Heaton Hall, built in 1772, is located in the very heart of the park and although not currently open to the public remains an impressive sight. The park has been extensively restored and retains many of its original buildings and vistas.
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy its 18-hole golf course, driving range, mini putt and tennis courts. Families can explore the boating lake, animal farm, woodlands, ornamental gardens, observatory, adventure playground and volunteer-run tramway and museum.
Location: Mosley St, Manchester
10 Platt Hall
Platt Hall, an elegant Georgian house built in 1764, presents an excellent overview of English fashion and costume from 1600 to the present day. It is perhaps the only collection to rival London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Strengths of the museum include its superb examples of everyday dress, with the Gallery of Costume containing one of the largest collections of costumes and accessories in Britain.
Location: Platt Hall, Rusholme, Manchester
11 University of Manchester
Manchester's educational precinct, encompassing the University of Manchester (1851), includes a variety of institutes and halls of residence. The university can claim three Nobel prizewinners: Ernest Rutherford (1871-1939), who laid the foundations of modern atomic physics; physician James Chadwick, who in 1932 proved the existence of the neutron; and Sir John Cockcroft (1897-1967), one of the leading physicists in British and Canadian atomic research.
Housed in the university, the Whitworth Art Gallery is famous for its collections of British watercolors, drawings, prints, modern art and sculpture, along with the largest textile and wallpaper collections outside London. Also close by is the Manchester Museum with its extensive scientific collections and Egyptian exhibits.
Location: Oxford Rd, Manchester
Where to Stay in Manchester for Sightseeing
As in any big city, it's hard to find a hotel that is near all the main attractions. But many of Manchester's at least cluster in three areas: the Urban Heritage Park and museum complex on Liverpool Road in the Castlefield neighborhood; the shopping district between King Street and the cathedral; and Chinatown to the south, where you'll find the Manchester Art Gallery. These highly-rated hotels in Manchester are convenient for sightseeing:
- Luxury Hotels: With a good-sized pool and a spa, Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester sits between Chinatown, the Liverpool Road museums, and the smart shopping district north of King Street. The chic and charming Great John Street Hotel, in the new museum district, has a hot tub on the roof. The Midland, opposite the library and well located for visiting museums and the City Hall, has a gym and spa with a small pool, Jacuzzi, and steam room.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Beautifully furnished rooms, thoughtful amenities, and superior service make Velvet a luxury choice with a mid-range price, between Chinatown and Piccadilly rail station, where trains arrive from London. Right next to Chinatown, Roomzzz Manchester City has stylish, well-designed rooms with rain showers and good soundproofing. DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Piccadilly is directly across the street from Piccadilly Station, a 10-minute walk to the central attractions, and near the free shuttle bus stop.
- Budget Hotels: Premier Inn Manchester City Centre Piccadilly Hotel is excellent value, with well-furnished rooms less than a five-minute walk from Piccadilly Station. Travelodge Manchester Central has plain but comfortable rooms just across the bridge from the cathedral and shopping district. At the edge of Chinatown with plenty of restaurants nearby, Ibis Manchester Centre Princess Street Hotel offers comfortable rooms with few frills.