Top 12 Things to Do in Manchester – The Ultimate Guide

Manchester, in the north west of England, has a rich history which, like the similar city of Leeds, grew from the industrial revolution in Victorian times. It was one of the world’s centres of the cotton textile trades.

And like Leeds it struggled in the twentieth century once this trade declined.

However it has recently reinvented itself as a centre of entertainment, music and the arts and has undergone quite a renaissance.

Here’s our guide should you be lucky to visit.


1. Take a Tour of Coronation Street

For anyone who loves daytime television, this is the stop for you. Coronation Street is an iconic British soap opera that debuted in the 1960s. It has more than six million viewers per episode, even after 60+ years of airtime. 

The show is based in the fictional town of Weatherfield and is your typical soap opera, full of drama and romance with relatable characters you grow to love (or hate). The tour will take you through the sets of Coronation Street, Rosamund Street, and Victoria Street.

On this tour, you will walk along the famous cobbles and stroll past the iconic Roy’s Roll Café, Kev’s car shop, and The Rovers Return. For a little extra money, you can meet with some cast members or take an exclusive limited edition tour during holidays or other unique themes.

2. Cruise Down Manchester’s Historic Ship Canal


If you love the water, the Manchester Ship Canal near Salford Quays and Trafford Park in Greater Manchester is worth a visit. This canal is an inlet waterway that spans 36 miles linking Manchester to the Irish Sea, following routes of the Mersey and Irwell rivers.

Taking a cruise on this canal offers up beautiful historical sites and allows an inside view into the world of transporting goods back in the 19th century, typically with commentary from an experienced guide.

Grab a drink and snack from the onboard bar and server, then enjoy breathtaking Victorian architecture, including the Latchford High-Level Bridge and the Runcorn Rail Bridge.

3. Spend the Day with Wildlife at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos, with 130 acres of land and more than 35,000 animals. It is also the most visited. This zoo is owned and operated by the North of England Zoological Society and is dedicated to helping prevent extinction.

Take a break from the animals and spend some time walking the botanical gardens. Explore and discover plants and gardens that play a critical role for the local wildlife.

Some natural exhibits you should check out include the Rock Garden, Sunken Garden, Madagascar Grasses, and Cacti National Plant Collection. 

4. Feel the Excitement at Gulliver’s World Theme Park

If you are looking for a bit of adventure, spend a day at Gulliver’s World Theme Park, where you can hop on more than 25 rides with six different themes. Feel the thrill of their roller coasters and take a splash on the Alpine Log Flume.

Hit up the play area to tackle climbing walls and explore the pirates play area at Smugglers Wharf. You can also meet some prehistoric pals in The Lost World on Exploration Walkways. Enjoy getting turned around in their fun-filled mazes, playing a round of Cape Canyon Crazy Golf in the heart of Safari Kingdom, or crashing into friends, family members, and strangers on the bumper cars. 

During your stay, you can enjoy burgers at Gully’s Grill, hot dogs at Diamond Lil’s, or even a latte at COSTA Coffee. There is food and drinks the entire family will enjoy, no matter what you’re craving.

As the day ends, book a night at Gulliver’s Hotel, where year-round theme packages are always available. 

Looking for something else to do with the kids? Head to Legoland Discovery Centre for creative, hands-on play.

5. Tour the National Football Museum

Any sports fanatic will love the experience the National Football Museum offers. These tours will take you through a large museum filled with historical football (or soccer in the US) artifacts, from FA Cup silverware to present-day retired jerseys and more. 

Take photos with a Premier League trophy and other awesome props, play interactive games like penalty shootouts, and learn about the beautiful game that so many people around the world love.

Some of the most popular pieces in this FIFA collection include the game’s early history, the history of football playing equipment, and football art (paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints, and more).

Manchester is the home of the Manchester United Football Club, often referred to as United. Manchester United has won more trophies than any other football club in England, making the city the perfect location for an interesting and exciting football museum. 

If that’s not all, the city is also home to Manchester City, currently the best team in the UK.

If football is your thing, you can also head to Old Trafford (where Manchester United plays) or Etihad Stadium (where Manchester City plays) for a stadium tour.

6. Take in the Beautiful Artwork in the Manchester Art Gallery 

Plan ahead and book your tour of the Manchester Art Gallery in advance. This attraction is top-rated and sells out quickly. 

The Manchester Art Gallery holds fine art collections with thousands of beautiful pieces. There is plenty to see, from oil paintings to sculptures, miniatures, and prints. 

This Manchester museum has many temporary pieces of varying themes, but it also houses permanent collections, workshops, and drop-in paint classes that draw large crowds to its doors every year. 

The best part? It’s free of charge! Check the Manchester Art Gallery website for exhibitions, events, storytelling, and other dates.

If art galleries are your thing, you should also check out the Whitworth Art Gallery. Or, if you prefer art in a different form, head to the Manchester Opera House to check out a concert, musical, or ballet performance.

7. Consider Reading at John Rylands Library

Manchester is home to many great libraries offering many sought-after literature collections and more. One of these libraries includes the John Rylands Research Institute and Library.

This late-Victorian, neo-Gothic library was constructed of sandstone and designed to look like a church. The library opened its doors to the public in 1900 and currently holds more than 250,000 printed volumes. If you are into rare books and manuscripts, you will be happy to know that the John Rylands library has one of the world’s finest collections. 

Take some time to enjoy the special collections and reading rooms or explore the library’s vast digital collections with their library search engines. 

What can you find in the John Ryland Special Collections?

  • An extensive collection of works printed by Caxton
  • The most comprehensive collection of Aldines in the world
  • Rare manuscripts and archives
  • Map collections
  • British pop archives

8. Make a Quick Stop at Manchester Cathedral

Consider taking a trip to the Manchester Cathedral, where you can see jaw-dropping gothic architecture, enjoy classical music concerts, attend wine fairs and catch a little jazz music.

Tour the cathedral for free to learn about its history and take fabulous pictures in the heart of the medieval quarters of the UK.

This cathedral is a top choice for many couples as a picture-perfect wedding venue, but it is open for anyone to walk the grounds daily.

The Manchester Cathedral is so much more than just an attraction, though. This church works with other charities and organizations to major issues such as homelessness, hate crimes, and human trafficking, making it a great organization to support.

For more information on other cathedrals to visit while in the UK, check out this post on English Cathedrals: The 20 Best Cathedrals In England.

9. Go to Jodrell Bank Observatory for an Out-of-this-World Experience


Take a little time on your vacation to learn a bit of science. The Jodrell Bank Observatory teaches visitors about culture, heritage, and how science factors into it all. 

Learn how the moon and stars have influenced different cultures over the years, then check out the archives of fascinating records, operations, and equipment used by the observatory. Those who enjoy a little star gazing can also experience a Dome Show.

Check out the Jodrell Bank Observatory website to find a list of upcoming events to get even more out of the experience. 

If you are interested in visiting the Jodrell Bank Observatory, consider purchasing an annual ticket. Not only does this allow you to book your visit in advance to avoid line ups, it also offers better value if you plan on visiting the observatory more than once a year. 

10. See Gothic Art at Its Finest at the Gorton Monastery

The Church and Friary of St Francis, better known as Gorton Monastery, was built between 1866 and 1872 and designed by a Victorian architect named Edward Welby Pugin. It is a historical architectural masterpiece, perfect for a family day out. You can book a train ride that stops at this significant landmark or stop to take in the view along your travels.

While there, you will learn about the building’s history and the restoration work done on it over time. You’ll see huge, gorgeous stained-glass windows and 12 life-sized statues of Franciscan saints, restored to their original beauty and placed in their original location from decades ago.

While you are there, you can stop by the Welcome Café for a bite to eat or join in on the daily silent meditation sessions. You can also visit the heritage gift shop on-site.

If you are interested in something a little more exciting, take a guided theme tour, like the Secrets of Gorton Monastery tour.

11. Take a Journey Through the Lake District

Experience the incredible outdoor attractions England has to offer by exploring the Lake District and learning all the tales of the largest lake in England. Explore on your own or take a guided tour to experience everything from simple sightseeing to food tours and family-friendly trips.

Take in the fresh air traveling on the upper deck of a tour bus, visit a few gift shops, and admire the nostalgic views you can’t get anywhere else.

This lake has inspired generations of poets and writers, many of them born in London, with its beautiful scenery and tranquil wildlife. Let your own creativity flourish as you walk along the shores, or visit the quiet local villages where you can enjoy gingerbread, tea, and coffee from fabulous cafés.

12. Have a Picnic at Tatton Park

Tatton Park is the perfect place to stop for an afternoon picnic to rest and relax during your vacation. It offers three popular attractions: the Gardens, the Farm, and the Mansion.

All year round, Tatton Park offers plenty to see and do, such as 10K runs, mindful workshops, autumn adventures, and acres of lush green gardens you can explore.

Here you have the opportunity to meet rare breed animals on the 40-acre farm, enjoy the fun dog shows, and learn about their efforts to save endangered rare breeds. 

You can also take tours of the Mansion and explore exquisite Salavati portraits, royal collections, Lancaster furniture, and paintings from renaissance artists.

Lastly, visit the Tatton Park gardens atop 50 acres of beautiful, rich, and lush landscape. Here you will find some of the most stunning views full of various plants, trees, and wildlife. Visit the 100-year-old Japanese garden, the Walled Kitchen Garden, or the Pleasure Grounds for a vacation you’ll never forget. 

Looking for another outdoor experience? Heaton Park is another great option, as is Haigh Woodland Park, which is less than an hour’s drive northwest of Manchester city centre.


While visiting Manchester in the United Kingdom, you will never have to worry about being bored. There are so many great adventures waiting for you, chances are you won’t be able to fit them all into one visit! 

Whether you are a science buff, history enthusiast, nature lover, or excitement seeker, there is plenty for you to do that will make your trip to Manchester an unforgettable experience.

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