Manchester is a vibrant modern city with much of interest to see and do. The city's ancient cotton mills and docks have left behind a grand architectural heritage, and despite widespread destruction during wartime bombing, many outstanding buildings still remain.

Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town Hall © Tim (CC0)

Manchester contains a wealth of art galleries, museums and theatres, enough to rival any great European city. Many are free to visit such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Manchester Museum, Imperial War Museum North, the Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth Art Gallery. The city centre is also a mecca for shopping, with a wide variety of shopping areas, restaurants and nightclubs.

The Town Hall, which stands facing Albert Square in the centre of town, is one of Manchester's most impressive buildings. The hall was completed in 1877, in a true Gothic style, by Alfred Waterhouse (who also designed the Natural History Museum in London). The exterior is reminiscent of a church with a clock tower of similar appearance to Big Ben. Inside the main hall are statues of people who have played an important role in Manchester's history, including several prominent members of the Anti Corn Law League (a group that apposed the law which banned the import of cheap foreign wheat).

Manchester also has its fair share of green open spaces. Spacious grounds surround both Heaton and Wythenshawe Halls, with children's play areas, landscaped gardens, lawns and woodlands. The extensive Platt Fields Park, adjoining (Platt Hall), was once noted for its public orators, the northwest's equivalent of London's Speakers' Corner.

The city is also renowned for its sporting excellence. Manchester was host to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and supports two of the nations Premier League football teams - Manchester City and Manchester United. City play at the City of Manchester Stadium, and United at Old Trafford, which has the first purpose built football museum in England. Nearby is Manchester's other 'Old Trafford', home to the Lancashire County Cricket Club, a traditional venue for Test Matches.

Tourist Information Centre:

Town Hall Ext., Lloyd Street, Manchester M60 2LA - Tel: 0871 2228223

Content by Steve B

The History of Manchester

As with all place names ending with the term 'chester' (meaning "camp of soldiers"), Manchester's roots date back to the Roman invasion of Britain, when in 79 AD, Agricola's legions set-up an encampment called 'Mancuniu' under the site of the present day city. The area remained a small market town until the arrival of Flemish weavers in the 14th-c. Standing above the Town Hall's Lord Mayor entrance, in Princess Street, is a carving of Edward III, whose introduction of the Flemish into England laid the foundation of the city's traditional industry. The city rose to further prominence during the 18th-c following the introduction of Richard Arkwrights steam powered spinning machines.

George Stephenson introduced the railway to Manchester in 1830, which became the world's first commercially successful train line. Over half a century later, the 36 mile (55 km) long Ship Canal was built to link the city's textile industry with the sea, which then opened the way for the growth of other industries. Today the port is still one of the busiest in Britain, bringing raw materials to the factories and exporting goods.

Places of interest to visit in Manchester

John Rylands Library

Britain's first free library, situated in Gothic-style building in Deansgate, with notable watermarking of the red sandstone in entrance hall. Contains some of the earliest examples of printed works, in more than 50 languages, dating from 3000 BC, including a block-print document dated 1423. The library's special attractions are a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and the 'St john Fragment' - the oldest piece of New Testament writing in existence. Changing displays of rare books.

Opening times: Mon to Fri 9.30am - 5pm (closed 1pm to 2pm) Free Entry
Location: 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH - Tel: 0161 2753774 - Website

Royal Exchange building

A new and revolutionary theatre located in the old colonnaded cotton exchange building, parts of which date from 1874. Its main hall boasts an acre of floor space, once accommodating thousands of cotton traders. The theatre is housed in futuristic glass and steel structure inside. It also contains a craft centre and gallery. St Ann's Square, Manchester.

Manchester Cathedral

Originally the collegiate and parish church of St Mary, St Denys and St George, it was raised to cathedral status in 1847. Heavily bombed during the war, it has now been fully restored. The perpendicular style building has side chapels and one of the widest medieval naves in Britain. The Victoria porch, at foot of the tower, commemorates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897. Fine examples of early craftsmanship can be found in the carved pulpit and choir stalls depicting eagles, lions, dragons, unicorns and bears. Wall posts are supported by finely carved angels playing recorders, bagpipes, trumpets and harps. Its treasures include three royal charters and many unusual stone carvings.

Manchester Art Gallery

Situated in Mosley Street, it was originally the headquarters of the Royal Manchester Institution for the promotion of Literature. The stunning Victorian building was designed by Sir Charles Barry (architect to the Houses of Parliament) and opened in 1829. It contains a varied and fine collection of English paintings, from the 16th century to the present day. There is also some excellent 19th-century French Impressionist paintings and Pre-Raphaelite works, plus some early Italian, Dutch and Flemish work and several sculptures. The Athenaeum, an adjoining annexe to the gallery, contains displays of ceramics, silver and glassware.

Opening times: Tue to Sun, 10am - 5pm (closed Good Fri, Xmas and new year). Free Entry
Location: Mosley Street, Manchester City Centre. M2 3JL - Tel: 0161 2358888

The Manchester Museum

Part of the Manchester university, specialising in natural history and archaeological. Exhibits include a renowned collection of Egyptian mummies, and Greek and Roman coins. Natural history section contains fossils and plants and a special Japanese section. Temporary exhibitions and lectures throughout the year.

Opening times: all year, Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun & BHs 11-4. Free Entry
Location: The University, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9Pl - Website

The Museum of Science and Industry

A large comprehensive museum of science and technology, which opened in 1969 on the site of world's first passenger railway station. Housed in a Grade 1 listed building, dating back to 1830, it is the largest museum of its kind in the north of England. Much of the museum is devoted to the textile industry, with emphasis on cotton weaving, and associated trades such as dyeing and printing. The development of steam power is well represented by both models and full scale examples of steam engines of all types. The Power Hall has mill engines, vintage cars and railway locomotives all restored to working order. the warehouse exhibition displays textile, printing and paper making machinery. Restoration work can be seen in progress in the museum workshop.

Opening times: daily 10-5 (closed 24-26 Dec & 1 Jan). Free Entry
Location: Liverpool Rd, Castlefield M3 4FP - Tel: 0161 8322244 & 8321830 - Website

Museum of Costume

Housed in Platt Hall, a fine Georgian mansion, it comprises one of the most comprehensive costume collections in Great Britain. Exchanging exhibits cover the various styles of fashion and accessories over the last 400 years. Elaborate Victorian dresses are among those displayed.

Opening times: last Sat of month. Mon-Fri by appointment only Free Entry
Location: Platt Hall, Rusholme, M14 5ll - Tel: 0161 2245217

Imperial War Museum North

This recently-opened war museum is built to resemble three shards of a shattered globe, representing conflict on land, sea, and in the air. Inside are thousands of exhibits, interactive sessions, performances, and recreations that explore the way that 20th and 21st century conflict has shaped our lives.

Opening times: daily Mar-Oct 10-6, Nov-Feb 10-5 (closed 24-26 Dec). Free Entry
Location: The Quays, Trafford Wharf Rd, Trafford Park, M17 ITZ - Tel: 0161 8364000 - Website

Manchester United Museum & Tour Centre

Manchester United TourThe first purpose-built football museum in Britain. Words, pictures and multimedia presentations explore the 130 year history of the Manchester United football club. Get closer than ever to the history, the glory and the atmosphere of the world’s most famous football club on the ultimate Old Trafford Tour!

Book Tickets Online with Attractiontix

Opening times: daily 9.30am - 5pm (closed over Xmas & New Year) Admission Charge
Location: Sir Matt Busby Way, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 ORA
Tel: 0870 4421994 - Website

Museum of Transport

This fascinating museum illustrates the history of transport in the northwest of England, from horse-drawn coaches to vintage diesel buses. With more that 80 beautifully restored buses and coaches on display, some of which date back to 1890. Also shows old photographs, tickets and other transport memorabilia.

Opening times: Mar-Oct, 10-5; Nov-Feb, 10-4; Wed, Sat, Sun & BH (exc Xmas) Admission Charge
Location: Boyle St, Cheetham, Manchester, M8 8UW - Tel: 0161 2052122 - Website


Urbis is a unique modern cutting-edge gallery that explores the dynamic culture of the modern city. The upper floors explore cities around the world from London to New York and Paris, revealing how different cities work, how they change and how they influence each other.

Opening times: Currently Closed. Will be re-opening as The National Football Museum soon.
Location: Cathedral Gardens, Manchester M4 3BG - Tel: 0161 6058200 - Website

Whitworth Art Gallery

Houses fine collection of English watercolours, from the 18th century to the present day. Also a superb section on ancient textiles including Coptic robes and cloths.

Opening times: Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun 2-5. (closed Good Fri & Xmas-New Year). Free Entry
Location: The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M15 6ER - Tel: 0161 275 7450 - Website

Map of Manchester

North West England

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Towns and Villages in Greater Manchester

Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Rochdale, Stockport, Salford, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan

Attractions in Greater Manchester

Dunham Massey | Central Art Gallery | Legoland | Museum of The Manchester Regiment | Portland Basin Museum | Bramall Hall & Park | Heaton Park | The Lowry | Salford Museum & Art Gallery | Astley Cheetham Art Gallery | Hat Works Museum | Saddleworth Museum & Art Gallery | Wigon Pier | Wythenshawe Hall


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