|Top 10 Things to Do in Manchester
by: Jonathan Schofield, Blue Badge Guide.
Over the last year I have been asked on at least ten occasions directly, and by just about every other visitor
indirectly, for guidance as to the what they should visit when in the city.
This is a straightforward guide to the heritage sights you really should visit when staying in the city centre.
All the places listed are within the centre itself or are easily accessible via the Metrolink system. You may notice that there are actually twelve attractions listed here, but that's not an excuse to leave two of them out of your sight-seeing schedule.
This is intended as an at-a-glance summary of the best heritage places to visit. Go and discover the details yourselves.
Most of the attractions in the top ten are FREE. They are not necessarily in any order of preference except my own. Perhaps the best way
to pick and choose if you have very limited time is to combine three or four visits, i.e. the Town Hall, the Royal Exchange, some fresh air
walking around Castlefield and then off to Manchester United. This way you mix high culture with popular culture - very Manchester.
The Town Hall.
Open daily - free.
Tel: 0161 234 5000.
The "classic of its age", the best single monument to High Victorian taste in the whole of Britain and a symbol of Manchester at its
most ascendent. Take the regular tour at 2pm (£4, £3 (cons)) on Saturdays and most Wednesdays from the nearby Manchester Visitor
Information Centre. Or sign in at the reception, buy the excellent 50p booklet, find out which rooms are vacant and take yourself around.
Try and spot the cotton flowers, the bees, the fabulous sculpture of Sir John Barbirolli, study the Ford Madox Brown murals and gaze in
admiration at the Great Hall ceiling.
Open every day closes around 6pm - free.
Tel: 0161 833 2220
Most often people say about this building, "Isn't it small?", as
though you measure value by the kilo. But this is a building with many superb features, not least the best medieval woodwork in the north
of England. Ask one of the guides to give you a tour (usually personal) or make sure you buy the inexpensive guide to the wood carvings and
see if you can find the Rabbits cooking the Huntsmen. Also look out for the rebus, make sure you discover and understand why there is a Fire
Window and find the monument that Robert Lever put up to his dead children in the 1600's - the verse on the tomb is deeply affecting.
If you have chance attend Sung Evensong.
Chetham's Library and School of Music, Long Millgate
Open weekdays from 9.30 am - 4.30pm. Closed between 12.30 and 1.30pm - free.
Tel: 0161 834 9644.
Behind the Cathedral, is the best kept secret of the city. Chetham's Library is the oldest free public library
in the Kingdom. The buildings which were once religious quarters date from 1421, the library was inserted in 1655 and has hardly changed -
think of the library in The Name of the Rose movie. The bay window of the of the Reading Room in the 1840s once housed Frederick Engels and
Karl Marx debating how to change the world. The wood carving of the benefactor's coat of arms in the same room is sumptuous. If you walk
further down the corridor from the library you come to a door on the right which leads to the tiny cloister of the old religious building -
now the Fox Courtyard. Look down one of the holes in the well cover in the centre and see a fox, which once fell down there, glaring back.
The school is a school of music and on Wednesdays in term time you can get a free tour of all the buildings with a concert thrown in.
John Ryland's Library, Deansgate
Open weekdays from 10am - 5pm and Saturday mornings 10am - 1pm - free.
Tel: 0161 834 5343.
Another gem, another library. This is best Late Victorian Gothic building in the UK which happens to house one of the greatest collections of
manuscripts and printed works in the world including the oldest fragment of the New Testament, Guttenberg Bibles, most of Caxton's works, first
edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, Audubon's birds, illuminated manuscripts etc.... Ask about the Wicked Bible. Open every day and Saturday
morning make sure you not only enter and wonder at the architecture but visit the downstairs exhibition rooms and also wander up the fabulous
staircase to the jaw dropping main reading room and the smaller exhibition there. This last is essential - please go upstairs. Note also the
metalwork in the library. There is a guided tour at noon on Wednesdays for the princely sum of £1.
Castlefield, Urban Heritage Park
South west city centre.
Enjoy a walk around this area preferably approaching Castlefield through St John's Gardens or along Rochdale Canal. Here you have the part
reconstruction of the original Roman Fort, plus the oldest railway station in the world, the first industrial canal and great waterside
walks and loads of places to eat and drink. You can study this Castlefield in greater detail on the
dedicated pages within Virtual Manchester.
Museum of Science and Industry, Castlefield
Open daily until 5pm. Admission Free
Tel: 0161 832 1830
Entry to this award winning museum is now FREE for everyone. With a wide range of permanent galleries and special blockbuster exhibitions,
there's truly something for all ages and you could easily spend a half or full day at the Museum.
Take your pick from enthralling galleries including the brand-new Xperiment, where you can get hands-on with interactive exhibits. Other
galleries include the Power Hall, Air & Space Hall, Underground Manchester (with a trip into a Victorian Sewer!) and Fibres, Fabrics and
Fashion with demonstrations of working cotton machinery.
The Royal Exchange, Cross Street (lift in St Anns Square).
Open daily except Sunday - free.
Climb the stairs labelled Royal Exchange Theatre into what was once claimed to be the biggest
trading room in the world. Restored after the bomb of 1996 the hall is more impressive than ever in its new livery of colours and and its
gold capped Corinthian columns supporting three elegant domes. The building has housed since 1976 the marvellous lunar module-like theatre
voted the best in the country in 1999. High on the wall over the brasserie restaurant lies the old trading board giving away the original
function of the Royal Exchange. This building and the previous ones on this site and nearby were the headquarters of the global trade in
finished cotton for more than two centuries. At one time Manchester controlled more than 80% of that worldwide business. See the section
on the cotton industry elsewhere on Virtual Manchester.
Manchester United Museum and Tour, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester
Take Metrolink tram to Old Trafford, go under the tracks and walk up Warwick Road past the cricket ground to Sir Matt Busby Way.
Open every day except Christmas Day with limited opening on the days of matches. Admission charge. You can choose to just visit the museum
if you wish and forego the tour for a cheaper price - but this is not recommended. Tel: 0161 877 4002. Website:
Whatever your football affiliations this club is now the most well-known Manchester institution. The museum is excellent, well laid out
without being hysterical in its support of the club. It also finds a nice balance between traditional displays and the interactive
nerd-head displays which quickly fill up with kids pressing buttons before reading instructions. The tour should interest any fan of
football with its behind-the-scenes look at the running of a major club. Most of the guides have a great Mancunian sense of humour.
Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley St, Princess St, Manchester.
Tel: +44 (0)161 235 8888
The Manchester Art Gallery has now reopened after a £35 million renovation. The gallery space has doubled and now displays a permanent
collection which includes Henry Moore's Mother and Child and works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Gainsborough, Turner, Francis Bacon Pisssaro
and Lucien Freud. A gallery for special exhibitions is a new addition and it opens with Inhale / Exhale by Michael Craig-Martin in which
huge representations of everyday objects are painted on the wall as if thrown from a canvas opposite.
Opening times: Tuesday - Sunday, 10am-5pm
Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG
Tel: +44 (0)161 907 9099
Welcome to Urbis - a new kind of museum exploring life in different cities of the world. Urbis is a new, shimmering, glass building rising
high above Manchester. Inside, state-of-the-art interactive displays and exhibits lead you through an inspirational journey exploring life
in different cities of the world, focusing especially on Manchester, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo, Singapore, Paris and Tokyo. Your visit to Urbis
begins with a one-minute sky glide in The Glass Elevator. With the city as backdrop, you then explore, at your own pace, four cascading
themed floors of fascinating, intriguing and entertaining exhibits: Arrive, Change, Order and Explore.
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 10am-6pm
Admission:Adults £5, Concessions: £3.50, Children £3.50, Children under 8: Free, Family Passes Available