Top fun things to do in Manchester | A Situ guide

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Manchester is a vibrant, exciting, forward-looking and innovative city. These are just some of the fun things to do in Manchester when visiting. 

On Take That’s 2006 comeback album Beautiful World, there’s a track called Mancunian Way. Where the band sing about their excitement on returning to what remains their home city, even though they no longer live there. It contains the poignant lyric “We used to think we were the bomb. Then someone left the real one.” 

Mercifully, no one died when, in 1996, the IRA chose Manchester as the location for the largest bomb it ever planted on the British mainland. If there was a silver lining from the damage wrought by the bomb. It was that it served as the catalyst for an incredible regeneration of the city. 

  1. Restaurants
  2. Pubs and bars
  3. Shops
  4. Art galleries
  5. Museums
  6. Libraries
  7. Parks

Restaurants 

The long wait for a Michelin star in Manchester is finally over. With the coveted accolade now held by Mana in the eastern inner-city district of Ancoats. Head chef Simon Martin used to work at Noma in Copenhagen, once described as the best restaurant in the world. He now oversees a modern British fine dining tasting menu, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to book several weeks in advance though! 

Tom Kerridge’s Bull and Bear restaurant is another exciting new arrival. Where you can eat British comfort food under the imposing dome of the trading room of Manchester’s former Stock Exchange. 

And while new restaurants are opening here all the time, several superb Manchester institutions remain. Such as the Yang Sing, which has delighted visitors to the Chinatown area for more than 40 years. 

Tom Kerridge’s Bull and Bear in the Stock Exchange Building
Tom Kerridge’s Bull and Bear in the Stock Exchange Building
Courtesy of the Manchester Evening News – manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Pubs and bars 

Manchester has no shortage of quirky drinking establishments. Try the Circus Tavern, one of the smallest pubs in the UK; or the underground Temple of Convenience, located in a former toilet block and which is the ‘hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall’ from the lyrics of Manchester band Elbow. 

Now, this is one of the many fun things to do in Manchester. Cloud 23 is located on the 23rd floor of the Beetham Tower, from where there’s an incredible view day or night. Some of the cocktails and other drinks served here have to be seen to be believed. 

The view from Cloud 23 in Manchester.
The view from Cloud 23 – Courtesy of palife.co.uk

Shops 

Manchester really does have everything when it comes to shopping. Firstly, there are the high street chains along Market Street and in the Arndale Centre. 

The north end of the city centre, around Exchange Square and New Cathedral Street. This is where you’ll find large Selfridges and Harvey Nichols stores, alongside a number of high-end fashion retailers. 

To the north-east of the city centre is the Northern Quarter. Inspired by the Le Marais district of Paris, this bohemian enclave of narrow back streets is home to numerous independent record stores, vintage fashion outlets, trendy bars and vegan cafes. 

Art galleries 

The undoubted highlight of Manchester Art Gallery is its world-class collection of works by the Pre-Raphaelite artists and their followers. This gallery has also hosted recent exhibitions by the likes of Grayson Perry, Joanna Vasconcelos, Raqib Shaw, Leonardo da Vinci and Halima Cassell. 

Cornelia Parker, William Hogarth, Alison Wilding and Paul Cezanne are just some of the illustrious names from the past and present who have been exhibited at the Whitworth Art Gallery, located on the University of Manchester’s campus to the south of the city centre. 

Although it’s not technically within the city boundary, the Lowry at Salford Quays hosts a huge permanent exhibition of the works of the ‘matchstick man’ artist. 

Museums 

A must for any football fan when looking for fun things to do in Manchester (of which there are many in Manchester), the National Football Museum provides four floors packed with interactive exhibits that tell the history of the game across the world. 

The Museum of Science and Industry is a great place to visit with children, who will just love the Experiment interactive gallery. The museum also celebrates Manchester’s claim to have been the world’s first industrial city, and you can learn all about the work of eminent scientists such as James Joule and John Dalton, as well as the city’s contribution to the cotton industry and how the first computer was manufactured here. Perhaps the highlight of the museum is the first railway station in the world – no longer in use as a station, the original 1830 building remains intact to this day for museum visitors to explore. 

Libraries 

Admittedly, these places aren’t normally top of a tourist or business traveller’s must-see attractions when ticking off the “fun things to do in Manchester” list! However, Manchester city centre has four incredible libraries to visit. The neo-Gothic John Rylands Library is home to numerous rare books, maps and manuscripts. The private members club that is the Portico Library is also home to some genuinely rare books, and you can take lunch under its imposing central dome. Chetham’s Library is located in a 15th-century sandstone building and is the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world. Central Library is the main council library in the city, but no other city has a library whose design was inspired by Rome’s Pantheon. Most of Central Library’s interior has recently been modernised, but the central Wolfson Reading Room remains as a reminder of what the old library used to look like. 

There are many guided tours on offer in Manchester, and one of these will take you to all four libraries. 

 Chetham’s Library in Manchester.
Chetham’s Library
Courtesy of the Manchester Evening News – manchestereveningnews.co.uk
 

Parks 

Open spaces in the city centre include Piccadilly Gardens, St John’s Gardens and Parsonage Gardens. However, for larger open spaces, head for Manchester’s suburbs.  

To the south of the city, Wythenshawe Park is a 100-hectare open space with meadows, woodlands and grasslands, not to mention three Grade II listed buildings. 

On the city’s northern boundary is Heaton Park, the largest municipal park in Europe at 240 hectares. Here you’ll find a Grade I listed manor house, a boating lake, a farm and a golf course open to the public. It also hosts several huge open-air pop concerts each year. 


All in all, this city offers plenty of fun things to do in Manchester, as a beautiful and historic city. Remember, to ensure you make the most of your stay in this big city, be sure to browse our serviced apartments in Manchester. They offer the utmost comfort and a ‘home away from home’ feel whilst you are away from yours.