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
Near Congleton (16 miles south of Manchester) lies the tiny market town of Marton and one of the oldest half-timbered churches in Europe. The Church of St James and St Paul is famous for its nave with wall paintings dating to the 14th century. The choir and bell-tower were added around 1540.
Renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries ensured that this rare jewel of church architecture would be preserved in all its simplicity and charm.
Location: The Vicarage, School Lane, Marton
Little Moreton Hall
An easy excursion can be made to Little Moreton Hall (22 miles to the south of Manchester), one of the most impressive half-timbered mansions in England (1480). This large multi-storied building, with its superb half-timbered construction and pretty inner courtyard, moat and garden, offers an excellent glimpse of rural life in 16th century Cheshire.
Location: Congleton, Cheshire
The university town of Salford lies on the River Irwell and has many first-rate tourist attractions, such as Ordsall Hall, the Bridgewater Canal and the Lowry Centre. The Lowry is an architectural flagship along the redeveloped Salford Quays. It is home to two excellent theatres for performing arts presenting a full range of drama, opera, ballet, dance, musicals, children's shows, popular music, jazz, folk and comedy.
Location: Pier 8, Salford Quays, Alford
Bury is located 10 miles northwest of Manchester and has a vibrant arts scene including a museum, art gallery and library all under one roof. The Bury Market has been on the same site for the past 600 years and attracts visitors from miles around the town.
Rochdale is located on the Roch River 10 miles northeast of Manchester. There are several landmark buildings including the Rochdale Town Hall, completed in 1871, and the parish church, St Chad, dating from Norman times. Rochdale was also the founding place of the modern cooperative movement and the birthplace of John Bright, the politician and orator.
Altrincham, located eight miles southwest of Manchester, began as a market town in 1290. Attractions include Stamford Park and a number of historic sites such as the market and restored whipping post.
Dunham Massey Hall is a spectacular 18th century National Trust property with extensively replanted grounds, a deer park and watermill. The White Cottage at Dunham Massey was built circa 1500 and is a timber-framed cottage built as a beautiful trussed open hall.
Location: Altrincham, Cheshire
Ashton-Under-Lyne is located on the Tame River just six miles east of Manchester, and is home to St Michael and All Angels, completed in 1262. Another area attraction is the Museum of the Manchesters, which illustrates the history of the Manchester Regiment and its local community from the 19th century.
Location: Town Hall, Market Place, Ashton-Under-Lyne
Bolton has roots dating back to 1251, and has two notable landmarks: Bolton Parish Church, completed in 1871, and the Town Hall, opened in 1873. Another great tourist attraction is Hall i'th' Wood, a typical medieval merchant's house containing Stuart and Georgian furniture. Also, check out Smithills Hall. Set above Ravenden Brook on the lower slopes of Smithills Moor, the 15th century hall features a nature trail and garden center.
Location: Le Mans Crescent, Bolton
Lyme Park in Disley, near Stockport, is one of the biggest Tudor houses in Cheshire and contains detailed decorative work and fine quality furnishings. The large country park offers splendid views. Another landmark home in the area is Bramall Hall, one of Cheshire's most important black and white timber framed houses (1590). Nearby, the Stockport Viaduct, completed in 1840, features 27 brick arches and has been featured in many paintings.
Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank Mill in Styal is Europe's largest working textile museum. There's a special display on children's roles in the cotton industry at the Apprentice House, and as you make your way through the factory, interpreters explain the history of cotton production from bale to bolt. Afterward, visit the stunning gardens and stroll to the picturesque village of Styal and the ancient woods along the River Bollin.
Location: Styal, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Aderley Edge is located just south of Manchester and gets its name from its location on the Edge: a steep red sandstone escarpment. Day-trippers come to enjoy the rolling fields and surrounding woodlands. Nether Alderley Mill is also worth a visit. This restored 15th century corn mill is a National Trust property powered by water from a lake and has been restored to full working order.
Macclesfield Rd, Nether Alderley
Macclesfield is located on the Bollin River, 17 miles south of Manchester. At one time the town was a major center of silk manufacturing, and today hosts the Macclesfield Silk Museum highlighting the industry's history. The world-famous Lovell Telescope, a giant dish 250 ft in diameter and built in 1957, was the world's largest steerable radio telescope until 1971. It's on display at the Jodrell Bank Science Centre, part of the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories. The science museum has a planetarium and an arboretum, and also houses interactive displays about astronomy, space, energy and satellites.
Hare Hill is a National Trust property located near Macclesfield that includes a lovely walled garden as well as extensive parkland. A few miles away the Shringley Hall Golf and Country Club ranks as a championship 18-hole course set in a picturesque 262 acres.
Knutsford, located 13 miles southwest of Manchester, is noted as a popular dining destination due to many splendid restaurants. The setting is novelist Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Cranford'. Nearby Tatton Park is one of Northern England's most popular historic attractions and features a 1930s working farm, a medieval old hall and a magnificent mansion. The deer park is set in 1,000 acres containing two lakes.
Also, be sure to visit Uppermill, the largest village in Saddleworth with its museum, craft shops, and tearooms. This is also where the Rushcart Festival features Morris Dancing each year in August.