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Great Days Out
Great Days Out
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 Town Hall 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.


The Cathedral

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.

John Ryland's Library 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   

Admission Free.
South west city centre.

Castlefield, Urban Heritage Park 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

Museum of Science and Industry 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: www.MANUTD.com
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

Admission: Free
Mosley St, Princess St, Manchester.
Tel: +44 (0)161 235 8888
www.manchestergalleries.org
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

Admission: free


Urbis

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG
Tel: +44 (0)161 907 9099
http://www.urbis.org.uk/
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




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- Top 10 Attractions

- Great Days Out
- Attractions
- Castlefield Guide
- Manchester Tours

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