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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.

THE OLD TRAFFORD EXPERIENCE: £18 for Juniors and £25 for Adults

Combine a day out at the award-winning Manchester United Museum and Tour with a family meal in the Red Cafe - this brand new deal costs £18 for Juniors and £25 for Adults and has been designed to make a day out at Old Trafford more affordable for families.

You'll get to see lots of different areas that you don't get to see on a match day, such as the press area, the police station, changing rooms and the VIP area. You'll be taken through the players tunnel to the pitch side and get to sit in the United first-team dug-outs.

See the Spoils of War

And the Museum itself is an Aladdin's cave of treasures, stuffed full of silverware, medals and trophies won on campaigns fought on home and foreign fields throughout United's history.

You can book your 'Old Trafford Experience' package online or by calling 0161 868 8000 (option 3, then 2).

Manchester Art Gallery

Admission: Free
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

Admission: free

The National Football Museum

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG
Tel: +44 (0)161 605 8200

Since opening as the home of Football this beautiful glass building has become one of Manchester's top visitor attractions. Over four levels it has everything any fan of football could wish for including the Premier League Trophy and tons of memorabilia from down the ages. The ground floor is reserved for the Hall of Fame with Stories of the Game on the next level and a whole series of interactive games on the level above including some super-engaging Football Plus challenges for those of us who still fancy their chances. The top level offers an exhibition that changes every six months: the current show is titled 'Football and the First World War' and costs £1 per person.

Entrance to the museum is free, though you'll be asked to make a voluntary donation of £3 towards the upkeep of the building. Most people spend at least 2 hours in the Museum. NB Selfridges and Harvey Nichols are are just a short walk away - so if you're here with the family and you and your boys need more time to get the max out of this great museum, you'll know what to suggest to keep the rest of the family happy.

The Etihad Stadium Tour - See the home of Manchester City


* See the Etihad Stadium as viewed from the Directors Seating area
* Sit behind the press desk - experience how it feels to face the press in an interview
* Visit the players' lounge
* Warm-up in the players warm up room
* Then visit the home team dressing room
* Sit in your favourite player’s seat before heading out to the tunnel.
* Stand in the tunnel. Experience the roar of 47,000 supporters.
* Then walk pitch side and take in the view of the Stadium from a player's POV.
* How does that feel? If you're a football fan you'll remember this moment - forever
* Sit in the hot-seat - the Manager's seat in the dug-out

The Stadium and Club Tour comprises of:
- A 70-minute professionally guided tour of our Club and Stadium - including a behind the scenes look at the press conference room & warm up area
- Home player dressing room, the tunnel, pitch side, and the Manager's chair
- A 20 minute self-guided tour around the exhibition and a look at our future plans and ambitions

* Due to the planned 2015 Stadium expansion from 22 May to 24 August the access to the Dug-Out & Managers Technical Area pitch-side will be removed from the tour's itinerary.

The Stadium and Club Tour dates:

The Stadium and Club Tour is open seven days a week; 09.00-16.30 (Sundays & Bank Holidays 10.00-16.00)
Tours run every day between 9am and 17:00 (Sundays & Bank Holidays: 10am-17:00)
New Friday night tours run from 17:00.

Prices from June 2015
Adults - £16
Over 65s: £10
Under 16s: £10
Under 4s: Free

NB Due to Stadium operations, some areas may not be available on all tours.
Disruptions to the tour will occur due to the planned 2015 expansion of the South Stand and West Stand at the Etihad Stadium to increase the club's capacity on a match day by an additional 7,000 seats.
The completion of this work will take place throughout the summer months.
* From 22 May to 24 August 2015 the access to the Dug-Out & Managers Technical Area pitch-side will be removed from the tour's itinerary.

Try These

- Top 10 Attractions

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

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