Manchester (we think) is better than London, but alas not that many people make it up this way. London, Edinburgh… even Liverpool with their Beatles stuff (I do love Liverpool)… but as with many countries there are lots of other places to see. Don’t even get me started on Leeds, Chester, York, Belfast and of course Wales! But home is where the heart is and we feel our wonderful home city of Manchester gets unfairly missed off the tourist trail. In fact when we do see tourists we get all excited and proud, unlike those ungrateful grumps down in London! We love it! So here’s why you should swing by and our favourite things to do in Manchester!
John Leland in 1538 once described Manchester as ‘the fairest, best buildied, quikkest and most populus Tounne of al Lancastreshire’. By 1844 it was again being praised as ‘the most wonderful city of modern times’ by Benjamin Disraeli! In more recent times one of the cities most characterful sons, Ian Brown proclaimed ‘we’ve got everything except a beach’…and well now we even have that a couple of times a year down at Castlefield lock!
So here’s why you should come up north for a cuppa!
It’s the centre of the industrial revolution “Cottonopolis”
The world truly wouldn’t be what it is today without Manchester, we were the beating heart of the industrial revolution. In fact we ourselves owe the Industrial Revolution an awful lot too, before then Manchester was just a small town attached to the side of the much bigger Salford city.
Our world leading industries literally put Manchester and the surrounding mills towns of Rochdale and Oldham on the map and changed peoples working lives the world over! All over the city from the remaining factories and mills of Ancoats to the enormous structures of Castlefield and the revolutionary canal systems Manchester still displays proudly our industrial past! We recently discovered whilst in Australia that they call their linen “Manchester” in the shops as it would be shipped over from here! Visiting the home of the Industrial revolution is one of the best things to do in Manchester.
Communism was invented here!
Yeah you read that right, Friedrich Engels lived in the city with his wealthy factory owning father for a time and witnessed the depravity, disease and generally awful working and living conditions of the cities slums. In direct response to this he wrote ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ in 1845.
Engels and Karl Marx would regularly meet in the Cheethams library whilst compiling one of histories most influential books; The Communist Manifesto’ as a direct result of the class struggle they saw in Manchester! One of the coolest things to do in Manchester is to see this historic spot!
The Northern Quarter
The Norther Quarter has to be one of my favourite areas of the city, when I was growing up it was rough and edgy, sometimes scary but always full of unique characters and endlessly fascinating. We would search every victorian backstreet and alleyway looking for the next amazing skatespot whilst getting up to some crazy adventures. For me the NQ is the top of the things to do in Manchester!
Now a days the NQ is like Manchester’s answer to Williamsburg, only a little less cliche. It’s full of independent shops, unique and cutting edge eateries and trendy bars it is the centre for alternative, creative and bohemian culture in the city! It’s gritty, charming in that rough diamond kinds of way, full of amazing graffiti and a cool place to explore! It also doubled at Brooklyn in the first Captain America! A trip to the NQ wouldn’t be complete without heading into the maze of Afflecks Palace, a kind of weird alternative shipping centre that as a kid was like a second home! You can buy the most crazy things in here, get a tattoo or something pierced, its a true Manc experience!
Another favourite of mine this time Castlefield offers a step back in time to the power and might of the industrial revolution. Another of the must see places on the things to do in Manchester list!
From the gigantic cast iron pillars of Castlefield viaduct to the convergence of the all important canals, Castlefield is like a walking history lesson with all the boring bits cut out! The area actually traces it’s routes back to the roman period, remains of the fort of ‘Mancunium’ can still be seen here alongside the Bridgewater canal: The worlds first industrial canal which was built in 1779.
Not only that but Castlefield is home to the worlds oldest canal warehouse (1770), first passenger railway terminated here in 1830 and the first railway warehouse (1831), alongside Ancoats this really was the heart of the industrial revolution! Aside from the history I just love the atmosphere of the place, the architecture giving it a quite epic feel!
We gave the world some of the greatest bands and our scene is still alive today
The Smiths/ Morrissey, Oasis, New Order/ Joy Division, Take That (ok not to everyones taste!), The Stone Roses (My favourite Manc band), The Bee Gees, Simply Red, Elbow…not to mention career defining performances by The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks at the famous Hacienda. Manchester has been the crazy and wild centre of musical revolutions for decades, from Northern Soul to Madchester and Brit Pop some of the most ground breaking bands have either come from our city or flocked to perform here to a grateful crowd! When you make a things to do in Manchester list it has to include some live music!
We are friendly and enthusiastic
Those folks down in London are a grumpy bunch, and hell who can blame them with the crazy prices and the packed out commute. Us Mancunians might sound like a bunch of ‘scallies’ but we are a friendly and approachable bunch with our own brand of unique, dry and sarcastic humour! Come up here and you will meet some sound people and have a right mint time! innit! Things to do in Manchester: come round for a brew!
Our system of world famous canals
Never mind Venice, the Manchester ship canal is a thing of beauty in it’s own right! From the Rochdale Canal to the Bridgewater canal these waterways are not only revolutionary but also in the city centre lined with bars, clubs and restaurants. You can even do canal boat tours right the way out to other towns and cities, a really cool idea on the list of things to do in Manchester!
Greater Manchester has some amazing countryside
Not only is the city centre packed full of amazing history and architecture but the surrounding country has some wonderful smaller towns but what makes it really special is the beautiful countryside. The famous Pennine way runs across the wild Lancashire moors and offers some breath taking views and great adventures from hiking to rock climbing, paragliding to mountain biking the surrounding countryside is stunning! On of the top things to do in Manchester is to get out and see the surrounding areas!
Ok, so I will admit here that I do actually hate Manchester United and actually city too as an Arsenal fan but I can’t deny the legacy of Manchester’s contribution to the beautiful game. We even play host to the National Football Museum in one of the city’s landmark buildings: The Urbis! The county of Greater Manchester is also home to several other great teams including my local team, Oldham Athletic! We also have hosted the commonwealth games and a regular Marathon and 10k, Usain Bolt even broke the record for the fastest 150m here! Of the things to do in Manchester seeing a sporting event will be a highlight given our passion and volume!
artwork by graffiti4hire
A mixing pot of cultures
One of the greatest things about Manchester is our multiculturalism. We are a melting pot of culture with people from all corners of the world. We have the third largest Chinatown in Europe right in the centre of town, we have the famous Curry Mile in Rusholme, The Gay Village on Canal Street and numerous other smaller communities of people from all over the world, from all cultures and backgrounds. If you want authentic Italian, Spanish, French, Lebanese, Japanese or Mexican then we have it! Our city is all about cultural diversity and understanding, we are a vibrant mix of people and love to celebrate that! One of the highlights in the things to do in Manchester guide is experiencing our wealth of culture!
We changed the world
After the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 Manchester became a hotbed of radical political thought and activism, like when Communism was invented here! From splitting the atom to changing the political landscape, to changing music forever with the Sex Pistols landmark gig in 1976…Manchester was and is at the heart of progression!
We have the oldest library in the UK
Our buildings are pretty amazing and full of history
Then we have the amazing John Rylands library, a grade 1 listed Neo-Gothic building dating back to 1900, it’s like walking right into Hogwarts! We have two main victorian train stations, the corn exchange, listed mills in Ancoats and of course our new skyscraper; The Betham tower! Then there is the Central Library from 1934, the huge rotunda domed structure was designed to resemble the parthenon!
…and true story; My Great-Grandad who was an Irish immigrant to England was a roofer and helped to build the library. He was also a drunk and died falling off the building after having a little too much to drink that particular day!
We have all the glitz and glamour for those who want it
We have the most restaurants in the UK outside of London! From fine dining to amazing Vegan food, the best Indian food you’ll ever find along curry mile, to the delights of China town and the many trendy pop up shops that are ever so trendy around the Northern Quarter! We have it all and its affordable too! One of the highlights in our things to do in Manchester guide is the food!
Oh, you could also just grab a quick bag of chips too from the local chippy!
But also, if you want a budget friendly place to visit in the UK then Manchester is the place, our prices, even at the more expensive places, are a fraction of the rip off costs of London. Eating out doesn’t have to break the bank either, we have a tonne of amazing budget restaurants, independent shops and value bars and pubs. A night out in Manchester won’t break the bank, an neither does our transport or accommodation either!
But also the one of a kind experiences
We also have some crazy hidden gems
We have some pretty unique museums and galleries
We are spoilt for chose in Manchester with our galleries and museums, from the Museum of Science and Industry which documents our industrial heritage to the National Football museum which represents the whole country we have diverse range to choose from. Exploring the museums is a great one of the things to do in Manchester!
The Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry Centre, Cornerhouse, Manchester art Gallery, The Manchester Museum, The Whitworth, Chinese Arts Centre…we even have a Hat museum! The Northern Quarter is also home to many smaller galleries, artists studios and graffiti walls too!
The Media Industry
Manchester has the largest student population in Europe
It’s no wonder we have so many students as within the city alone we have 3 universities (I even went to one!) with hundreds of years of history and important cultural, technical and artistic developments. Not to mention all the other universities and colleges within Greater Manchester as a whole! This makes Manchester a centre for education, development as well as being full of young and passionate people!
Despite being an industrial city we also have our fair share of green spaces, not even mentioning the countryside which surrounds the city! Within the centre we have the 600acre Heaton park with hosts festivals in the summer and sporting events all year round as well as having a boating lake, golf course, ornamental gardens and tennis courts. Then there is Platt Fields with its lake, labyrinth, Shakespearian gardens and even a skatepark! Wonderful places to wander on a wonderfully sunny summers day, see the leaves fall in Autumn or enjoy the snow in Winter! A nice change of pace from the city on the list of things to do in Manchester.
Our award winning Christmas Markets draw people from all over the world for over a month every year. Spread about all over the city the markets were voted in the top ten for the whole of Europe and have become one of the biggest and best around! A Mancunian Christmas isn’t complete without a wander around these romantic markets! If you are here at Christmas this is one of the best things to do in Manchester!
Well there you have it, I am sure despite this awesome list I will have missed something out!! Manchester, it’s a city for the cool kids, for the go getters, revolutionists, creators and those who think a little differently! London…that’s so predictable and grumpy!! Come and have pie and a pint with some happy northerners when you visit the UK!!
Can you tell we are just a bit proud of our amazing hometown!!??
It has also made the list of Lonely Planets “Cities to visit in 2016!”
Have you ever been up to our hometown of Manchester, what are your best things to do in Manchester?
After the more recent and tragic events of 22nd May 2017 our heart and resilience as a city has been strengthened even more and was never more on show. It was a heart breaking time for us to be away from home (we were in Borneo) but it made our hearts swell with so much pride and love for our city as we wept for those 22 people we lost but cried tears of love for the reaction of the city. It shocked us to the core for a place so full of love, for our home, a place (the arena) where we had spent so many happy hours to be targeted like this. It almost didn’t feel possible or conceivable.
You can read more about the Bee here: How to Bee came to symbolise Manchester
My original post finished with a mosaic image of the iconic Manchester Bee on the floor of our Town Hall, an image I had planned on getting tattooed one day. However as a symbol of our solidarity as a city it took on an even more poignant message as many people from around the world had it tattooed afterward. We too did this, though it was over in the Philippines!
The words of the poem “This is the place” by Tony Walsh, read out on the steps of the Town Hall at the vigil after the attack brought me to tears, but once again seem to symbolise our strength, heart and industrious nature as proud Mancunians!
This is the place:
This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.
Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick sommat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth
But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.
And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world
And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride
And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delievered it all
Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations
So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.
And this is the place Henry Royce strolled with Rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul
And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance
And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.
And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.
And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. The Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and greater ― Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.
And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, northern wit, and greater Manchester’s lyrics
And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.
Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever
And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.
Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”
Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way
And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?
Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones
Because greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back
Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester
In memory of the 22 lost on the 22/May/2017. One Love Manchester
Book your accommodation here
Hey, you’ve got your Travel Insurance sorted haven’t you?
Travelling and especially backpacking is a wild adventure, but make sure you are covered just incase something goes wrong, which if you’re living it up to the fullest it’s always a possibility!
Check travel insurance prices with World Nomads here!
See more from this country:
Pin it for later!