You’re about to embark on the virtual journey of discovering Manchester as never before. In the hustle and bustle of this lively city, beyond the familiar glamour of its famous football clubs and renowned music scene, lie attractions that aren’t always highlighted on tourist maps. This friendly guide reveals the hidden gems and lesser-known spots in Manchester that are worth your attention. Be ready to experience the charm of the unexpected.
1. Parks and Gardens
What better way to appreciate the beauty of Manchester than by exploring its lush green spaces? Take a leisurely stroll, have a picnic, or partake in some outdoor activities in some of the city’s parks and gardens.
a. Heaton Park
Heaton Park is your expansive green space right in the heart of Manchester city. You’ll find a tranquil lake, historical monuments, an animal center, and the oldest functioning tram system in Britain within the park premises. It’s perfect for those calming afternoon strolls or jog around.
b. Fletcher Moss Park
Fletcher Moss Park and Botanical Gardens is an excellent place to bask in the sunshine and enjoy some florals. Renowned for its botanical beauty, you will get lost amongst the flora and fauna. The park serves as an avian sanctuary, attracting various bird species, adding to its charm.
c. Chorlton Water Park
If you’re partial to water activities, Chorlton Water Park is the one for you. You can get into fishing, birdwatching, or simply take a scenic walk around the lake. There’s also a playground for little ones, making it a fantastic choice for family outings.
2. Museums and Galleries
For culture lovers, plenty of museums and galleries serve to enlighten and educate about Manchester’s rich history and cultural diversity.
a. People’s History Museum
The People’s History Museum narrates the story of Britain’s democratic past. You’ll find engaging exhibits on the struggles for equal rights and representation. It’s a place that ticks the boxes for history buffs and culture enthusiasts.
b. The Pankhurst Centre
The Pankhurst Centre offers an interesting insight into the UK’s women suffrage movement. It’s the birthplace of the suffragette movement and a visit takes you back to the time when women fought for their voting rights.
c. Manchester Museum
And then there’s the Manchester Museum. With a diverse collection that includes fossils to Egyptian artefacts, you’re bound to be enthralled. One of its stars is a T-rex named Stan!
3. Street Art
Take a walk through Manchester’s alternative art scene by exploring its vibrant street art.
a. Northern Quarter Street Art
The Northern Quarter is teeming with street art. Discover the murals and graffiti art that canvass much of this area, showcasing local and international talents alike. A tour of the Northern Quarter is an art lover’s delight.
b. Stevenson Square Street Art
Stevenson Square is another hotspot for street art, boasting some of the city’s most iconic pieces. Expect to see a colorful blend of styles and techniques depicting socio-political themes and pop culture references.
c. Ancoats Street Art
Finally, don’t miss Ancoats, the historic neighborhood known for its industrial architecture. The brick walls here serve as a canvas for intricate murals, adding a dash of colour to the otherwise red facades.
4. Independent Shops and Markets
Manchester’s local markets and indie shops offer an array of unique merchandise, local artwork, and delicious food.
Afflecks is an indoor market in the Northern Quarter, a hub of independent sellers offering everything from vintage fashion, vinyl, artisan jewelry, and much more. It’s a treasure trove of unique finds that reflect Manchester’s quirky spirit.
b. Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market is equally worth going to if you’re on the hunt for locally sourced food, antiques, crafts, and homewares. Buzzing with life, this market brings together the best of local producers and makers.
c. Mackie Mayor
Set in a restored Victorian meat market, Mackie Mayor offers a distinctive shopping experience. This food market houses a selection of the finest local food and drink vendors. It’s an epicurean heaven that reflects Manchester’s growing gastronomic scene.
5. Food and Drink
Manchester is also home to plenty of eateries and drinking establishments, with mouth-watering menus and cosy settings.
a. Port Street Beer House
Beer connoisseurs will fall in love with Port Street Beer House. With an impressive selection of domestic and imported beers, it’s a fantastic spot for beer tasting and casual conversation.
b. Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza
For the best slice in the city, head to Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza. This pizzeria serves up authentic Neapolitan pizzas with a classic chewy crust and fresh high-quality toppings.
GRUB is a street food fair held every weekend, hosting an array of different food vendors. From vegan dishes to comfort foods to international cuisine, the selection here is comprehensive and delicious.
6. Music and Nightlife
Manchester’s music scene is rich and diverse with venues hosting both emerging artists and established acts.
a. Deaf Institute
Check out the Deaf Institute for a night of great music. This bar, kitchen, and music hall host a range of events from live gigs to comedy nights.
b. Band on the Wall
Band on the Wall is a historic music venue featuring everything from jazz to electronica. It’s a must-see for music enthusiasts looking for quality live music.
c. Soup Kitchen
Soup Kitchen is a multi-purpose space that serves as a café during the day and a live music venue at night. Known for its laid back vibe, it’s an ideal place for casual hangouts.
7. Hidden Bars and Speakeasies
Manchester also boasts of a variety of unique drinking establishments, from hidden bars to retro speakeasies.
a. The Wash House
Disguised as an old-school launderette, The Wash House is actually a trendy speakeasy serving up craft cocktails in a unique atmosphere. You’ll have to locate the unmarked door and book ahead for access into this hidden gem.
b. Science and Industry
Science and Industry, located within Cane & Grain, offers a novel drinking experience. The cocktail menu inspired by science experiments makes for an enticing evening.
c. The Fitzgerald
Head to The Fitzgerald for a 1920s-inspired, atmospheric experience. This speakeasy lounge offers a range of classic cocktails, and the live jazz enhances the vintage-themed ambiance.
8. Quirky Tourist Attractions
Beyond the conventional, Manchester offers a range of quirky attractions that add a touch of the unusual to your visit.
a. The John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library doesn’t just house a vast collection of books but is a gothic architectural marvel. Exploring this library feels like stepping into a Harry Potter movie; magical and awe-inspiring.
b. The Manchester Museum of Transport
The Manchester Museum of Transport showcases a collection of vintage buses and trams, offering an interesting look into the city’s transportation history. Perfect for those interested in automotive heritage.
c. The Cat Cafe
The Cat Cafe truly is the purr-fect place for feline lovers. Patrons can enjoy their coffee while spending time with the resident cats, making for a furry, caffeine-infused experience.
9. Live Performances and Theatre
The city’s culture also shines through its theatre scene, from progressive spaces to historic establishments.
a. HOME Manchester
Home Manchester is a contemporary space for viewing international art, theatre, dance, and film. It’s a cultural hub that supports new and emerging talents.
b. The Royal Exchange Theatre
The Royal Exchange Theatre offers a unique staging with its stunning seven-sided, glass-walled auditorium, literally in the round. It hosts a range of performances from classic to contemporary plays.
c. The Lowry
The Lowry, with its state-of-the-art theatres and studio spaces, hosts a gamut of performances. Be it drama, dance, opera, comedy, or children’s shows, this venue will have something for every theatre-goer.
10. Offbeat Experiences
Finally, for those seeking unusually gratifying encounters, some offbeat experiences await.
a. Manchester Megalith Walk
The Manchester Megalith walk is an unusual urban trek exploring the ancient stone circles in the Manchester area. It’s a unique experience mixing history, nature, and cityscape in one go.
b. The Lock Keeper’s Cottage
Experience canal living by visiting the Lock Keeper’s Cottage in Castlefields. This townhouse turned museum showcases the lives of Victorian-era lock keepers, giving you a glimpse of Manchester’s industrial past.
c. The Secret Beer Club
Finally, The Secret Beer Club provides a platform for craft beer lovers to meet, share, and discover new brews. It’s an intimate gathering that offers a unique tasting experience for beer enthusiasts.
So, next time when you’re in this vibrant city, make sure to explore these lesser-known yet fascinating gems of Manchester.