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Manchester Attractions You Should Not Miss

Updated on January 23, 2020
raymondphilippe profile image

I live in the Netherlands. And I love to travel. That is when and where knowing languages comes in handy.

Manchester Town Hall


Capital Of The North

Manchester is famous for its football teams and ditto music scene!
A music scene which unleashed the likes of the Smiths and Oasis.

This down-to-earth and welcoming city is also a hun for sports and arts.
Manchester, aka Capital of the North, has mastered industrial decay to shift into a confident and very cosmopolitan city.
It has also survived several bombing (WWII) and terror attacks. (IRA and recently an Islamist terror attack in a 2017 suicide bombing )

You can quickly discover Manchester by a dense bus, metro, and rail network.
And there's a lot to see and do.
Top attractions include:

  • the Imperial North Museum,
  • the Lowry art complex,
  • Manchester Art gallery,
  • arcade Affleck's Palace,
  • Etihad Stadium and
  • Canal Street gay village.

First Encounters

I remember very well my first trip to Manchester. My son and I cycled to Manchester, leaving Liverpool in the early morning. Our stay at the Luther King House turned out to be a pleasant one. In spite of a dreadful mistake by England goalie Robert Green. This mistake cost England a victory in its opening game at the World Cub 2010. We watched the match in the lounge. The residents were not happy.

The next day we took the bus to Manchester City center. The chauffeur drove the bus through Wilmslow Road (the famous curry mile), past the Manchester University into the city center. The city seemed very much alive and welcoming.

To be honest, though, we have never dined at the curry mile. If we took a curry, it was in the Northern Quarter at the Indian cafe called This & That. We could eat rice and three curries for a bargain price there.

Two years later, our son moved to Manchester. We visited Manchester several times over the past few years. We came to love this city and its beautiful surrounding countryside.

Manchester Rain

Manchester Interesting Facts

  • Manchester began as a Roman settlement and fort.
  • Central Manchester has remained inhabited since the Romans constructed a fort Mamucium in that place in AD79.
  • The train station, Liverpool Road, is the oldest remaining terminal railway station. On 15 September 1830, it was opened. One of the earliest two railway passenger terminals. The world's first passenger train departed from Manchester.
  • It has long been nicknamed 'The Rainy City.' Hence the video you can watch above.
  • The world's first professional football (what Americans call soccer) league was established in Manchester in 1888. It is now home to four premiership football clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City.
  • A fair bit of the UK's music talent originated in Manchester.
  • Manchester developed into a city in 1853 and was the world's first industrialized city.
  • In the 18th century, Manchester was the principal city of cotton making in the world.
  • Manchester is the third-most visited city in the United Kingdom by visitors from abroad and the most visited in England outside the capital London.

Greater Manchester


Manchester Bomb 1996

In 1996 a massive IRA bomb exploded in Manchester city center.

The immense damage done to buildings in the city center led to a total regeneration.

Without the bomb, Manchester may not have had such a dramatic opportunity for rebirth, funded by private investors and the government.

Two hundred people were injured in the attack.

When we visited Manchester in October 2013, we stumbled on a BBC film crew.

The crew was recreating a scene of the aftermath of the Manchester IRA bomb on Northern Quarter streets, for a coming TV series.

You can see some impressions of the filming in the pictures above and below.

  • The impact of the explosion must have been massive. You can read more about this bombing and its consequences in an interesting article here.

Corporation Street, Manchester:
Corporation Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK

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A bomb exploded at about 1120 BST 15 June 1996, on Corporation Street outside the Arndale shopping centre.


Have you ever been to Manchester, UK

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Manchester City Skyline


Piccadilly Gardens


Pollard Street

Manchester Architecture

The architecture you encounter in Manchester demonstrates a wide variety of architectural styles.

The heritage of the Industrial Revolution is omnipresent.
Manchester could well be the first modern industrial city.
A city where warehouses, railway viaducts, canals, and cotton mills appeared as the city produced and traded goods.

I didn't expect to see canals in the city, but there actually are more than one.
They meander right into the city center.
For instance, you can walk all the way from the Manchester City Stadium (the Etihad) to Piccadilly Train Station.

Manchester offers a vast display of 19th and early 20th-century building styles including:

  • Palazzo,
  • Neo-Gothic,
  • Edwardian baroque,
  • Venetian Gothic,
  • Art Deco,
  • Art Nouveau, and
  • Neo-Classical.

I am not an expert on architectural styles, so I'll leave it to our virtual guide in the youtube video below.

I love the combination of old and new, decay and regeneration, high rise, and warehouses.
There are still quite a few ugly sites, and vacant spots left.
But, there's quite a lot of construction work going. This leads to an ever-changing skyline and city layout.

When you visit Manchester, the large regeneration project that followed the 1996 IRA bombing catches the eye. New buildings such as Urbis forming a centerpiece of this redevelopment.
Beetham Tower (completed in the Autumn of 2006) is still the tallest building in the UK outside of London.

Manchester Architecture Tour


Manchester Shopping

If you are a shopaholic you don't have to spend your time looking for shopping opportunities.
The city has it all.
From large shopping malls like the Arnsdale Center in the city center and Trafford city center outside the city center.

Our favorite shop on Deanstreat is the bookstore Waterstones.
We bought Wild Tales from Graham Nash there on a book signing opportunity.
We joined in the crowd and were happy to meet him.
Crosby, Stills & Nash rank amongst our favorite bands.

Another fun place to visit is Afflecks.
A totem of indie commerce.
You can shop there for anything from top hats to tattoos.

Manchester City Etihad Stadium


Manchester's National Football Museum

Manchester Football

For a football enthusiast, you can't go wrong in Manchester.

Two big premier league clubs offer sightseeing tours on their home ground, and the city even hosts an excellent football museum.

It doesn't get better than this.

Being an MCFC fan, I never set foot in our rivals stadium.

But don't let that detour you.

But do realize that when you visit the reds in their stadium that Manchester United is an Old Trafford team and not, like the blues, a Manchester team.

Manchester City FC

Manchester (M) City (C) Football (F) Club (C) is an English Premier League football club, founded in 1880.

In 2008, an Abu Dhabi based Group purchased the club. With their capital injection, MCFC has become one of the wealthiest clubs in the world.

It is only fair to say that the new owners have invested a tremendous amount of money in the local community by developing "Sports City."

If you never get to visit their stadium do visit their website.

I think it is a fabulous display of how a brand/team should use the web and social media.

I was able to see the match against Everton on 5 October 2013 that they won by 3-1. It was indeed a thrill to see David Silva and Yaya Toure, amongst many others, play.

Manchester United

Manchester United Football Club is another famous English professional football club, based in Old Trafford.

They were founded in 1878.

In August 2012, Manchester United got registered at the New York Stock Exchange.

They are a public company now.

You can look up how they are doing investment wise by looking up NYSE: MANU

Manchester United is the most successful club in the UK in this century.

Football Museum

At the Urbis building that you can find in the Manchester city center you can't miss The National Football Museum.

It lies opposite the Manchester music school in a prominent building.

It aims to preserve, conserve, and interpret several essential collections of association football memorabilia.

They did an excellent job.

And if you don't like football, well you have a good view of the city from within the museum.


Spinning Statuette in Manchester Museum

MOSI museum of science and industry


Imperial War Museum


Manchester Museums

Over 2 million people a year visit Manchester's award-winning museums and galleries. And the number is growing fast.

All the museums are free to visit!

But free does not mean they are cheap. Quite the opposite.

Here are some museums I enjoyed visiting. But there are many more. So be sure to visit the Manchester Visitor Information center for advice.

Manchester Museum

Address: Oxford Road

The museum is located in the university district of Manchester

Lots of exhibits and friendly staff to guide you around

I enjoyed this museum with its stuffed animals and bones, dinosaur skeletons and fossils, corals, reptiles and amphibians, ancient coins, Egyptian artifacts (including an Egyptian Mummy).

They have a peace collection of 1000 paper birds and a piece of material left by the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, which I found very moving.

Lot's of hands-on things for kids too.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Address: Oxford Road

The Whitworth Art Gallery is part of the University of Manchester.

It is home to some of the U.K.'s finest collections of art and design, including modern and historic fine art, prints, textiles, and a rare collection of wallpapers.

Unfortunately, it was closed at the time of writing (February 2014), but it reopened in august 2014.

[Note: When you read this, they have opened again. Visit the gallery for their art collection and a nice cafeteria that has a fab view of a park]

Beautiful old building, with a large modern area overlooking a park. I loved our visit there and our walk in the park outside.

Manchester Art Gallery

Address: Mosley Street

This is such a well-designed gallery.

They spent over 35 million pounds recently to make their collection more accessible.

Their collection includes pre-Raphaelite paintings, craft, and design and early twentieth-century British art.

Lots of temporary exhibitions are held here.

The staff is amicable. They even gave us tips to find the optimal angle to take a photograph without even having to ask for it. How cool is that?

The Imperial War Museum North

Address: The Quays Trafford Wharf Road

Visit this award-winning war museum once and quite likely you will visit it again.
It is housed in an iconic building representing a globe torn apart by conflict.
Inside the building (that also boasts a tower with a fantastic view of Manchester) you will get a good impression how war shapes peoples lives.
From a soldier’s last letter written to his family at home to the tangled steel of New York's World Trade Center.
If you visit the museum, you get a good feeling why war should be avoided at all costs.

Museum of Science and Industry

Address: Liverpool Road, Castlefield

The museum can be found on the site of the oldest passenger railway station in the world!
Filled with hands-on exhibitions, a huge collection of vintage vehicles (including airplanes!) and working machinery from the textile mills. Working steam-powered machines can also be found.

The permanent exhibitions at M.O.S.I. allows you to experience how the Industrial Revolution sprang in Manchester and metamorphosed Britain's cities as well as the lives of its families.

People's History Museum

Address: Left Bank, Spinningfields

The industrial revolution and how it affected people's lives has always fascinated me.
As does the rise of Trade Union, Labour and Coops.
This museum provides valuable insights into the struggles that went on to give people a (fairer) share of the profits reaped in the industrial revolution.

Absolutely loved the museum.

National Football Museum

Address: Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens

Well what can you say?
A real Football museum.
A Walhalla for football fans. But also of interest for anybody interested in sports and what it does to people and their communities.
They look at the game of football - covering past and present - through world-class expositions, looking at the sport from every angle, telling tales that matter.

They harbor over 140,000 items - including a great FIFA football Collection.

Why not make your day a football day by visiting the football museum and doing a stadium tour.

Canal St and the Gay Village

The largest UK’s LGBT centre, outside of London.
The largest UK’s LGBT centre, outside of London. | Source

Manchester History

The history of Manchester includes its transformation from an unimportant Lancastrian township into the pre-eminent manufacturing metropolis of the United Kingdom and at one time even the world.

Around the corner of the 19th century, Manchester began expanding "at an astonishing rate".
This resulted in urbanization brought on by a rush in textile production during the Industrial Revolution.
This unprecedented transformation took little more than a century.
The M.O.S.I. Museum illustrates part of this evolution.

The world's first passenger railway station had its origin in Manchester.
As well as many scientific achievements of great value.
Manchester also led the economic and political reform of 19th-century Britain.
They were the forerunners of free trade.
The People's museum does a good job illustrating these struggles.

Manchester's industrial importance saw a decline in the mid-20th century.
Yhis promted a depression in economic and social circumstances.
Later investment, renovation, and rebranding from the 1990s onwards improved its fortunes.
It helped establish Manchester as a post-industrial center.
A center with different sporting, broadcasting, educational and cultural institutions.

Since the 1996 IRA bombing, local officials have insisted on a course of economic improvement rather than prioritizing the past.
The Beetham Tower that is 170 meters high demonstrated this economic growth best.

Fortunately, though, areas recognized as important in the history of the Industrial Revolution such as Ancoats and Castlefield have been redeveloped to respect Manchester's past.

Wonderwall, Oasis

I Wanna Be Adored, The Stone Roses

Manchester Music

Manchester's popular music scene had some successful groups hitting the charts before the mid-1970s, including:

  • 10cc,
  • The Bee Gees,
  • The Hollies and for instance
  • Herman's Hermits.

The Smiths, with frontman Morrissey, were the classic Manchester band of the 1980s.
In the 1990s, the city Manchester saw the appearance of Britpop bands, most notably Oasis.
I was lucky to see Oasis once.
Not so long before their split.
In 2013, I watched a collaboration between former Oasis guitarist Bonehead & Vinny Peculiar with his new band Parlour Flames performing at the Deaf Institute.
Loved it.

If the Manchester Music scene interests you there are walking tours available past several highlights from the Manchester Music history.
The Manchester visitor information center at Piccadilly Plaza (Portland Street, Manchester, M1 4BT) will be more than glad to help you.

Manchester Quiz

view quiz statistics

Manchester Arena Bombing

In May 2017, an Islamist terror attack occurred in the foyer area of Manchester Arena.

People were leaving Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert when an explosive was detonated.

The blast killed Twenty-three people, including the attacker, and injured over 500.

I heard the news because a family member called me. My cousin was anxious to know if our son was ok.
Although he sometimes works at venues like the Arena, he was in no way directly affected. Unfortunately, many other families were.

The explosion, targeted at people enjoying a concert (young and old), left people in Manchester and the UK in shock.

The attack showed the worst of humanity. And it showed Mancunians at their best!

People grieved together.

The Manchester spirit was poignantly visible in the poem written and read by Tony Walsh and performed at the Albert Square less than 24 hours following the terror attack.

The Oasis song "Don't Look Back In Anger" and the Manchester Bee will always be connected with the aftermath of the attack.

Many Mancunians got bee tattoos in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena.

This article explains why the bee became a symbol for Manchester.

This is the Place - poet Tony Walsh reads out his tribute to Manchester

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Raymond Philippe


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