Everything you need to know about Manchester
Updated: Aug 29
Manchester may not be on everyone’s list of places to go to when visiting England, (unless of course you are here for the football), but I spent three years here, and I loved every minute!
Manchester truly is a student city, as there are two universities within walking distance of each other, and during term time, students really are everywhere!
I always felt bad for handful of adults on the buses during term time, having to deal with us noisy students at every time of day. But there is a lot more to Manchester than just a student town, let me show you!
(Also, apologies for the lack of pictures, I lost the majority of my pictures from my time in England & Europe, and I was silly not to have had backups for any of it!)
In this first part of the Manchester guide I will list out all the places of historic importance that you can visit, the second part of the Manchester guide will have the more offbeat things to do in the city.
1. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House
Elizabeth Gaskell was a novelist from the 1800’s. Her work describes the lives of people from her time, and is referred to by social historians as well.
Her home in Manchester is open for public viewing. It is located a short detour away from the bustling Oxford Road. The house is maintained as it was, and takes you back to the 19th century, so much so that you can almost see her living her life in these rooms.
For literature lovers, there are regular second hand book sales (2nd Sunday of every month), and hosts literary events with noted speakers.
The basement has a tea room where tea & cake are served in beautiful vintage serve ware.
My Offbeat guide to Manchester has all the things that you wouldn't find on a typical list of things to do!
I have a detailed guide to Oxford Road-check it out!
Thinking of shopping in Manchester-this is the ONLY shopping guide you need!
If you want a guide to London that doesn't feature all the same things, read my Offbeat guide to London!
2. Chetham’s Library
The oldest public library in the English speaking world is right here in Manchester! It was founded in 1653, and now functions with funding from an independent charity. The whole collection at Chetham’s is recognised to be of national and international importance.
There are regular library tours (usually every weekday 11 AM & 2.30 PM). Bookings should be made in advance, as usually they do not take walk ins. It is open for readers Mon-Fri, 9AM-12.30PM, 1.30-4.30PM but only by prior appointment.
There is a tour organised by https://www.jonathanschofieldtours.com/exclusive-chethams-library-and-college-house.html of the library and the medieval complex that is supposed to be really good. I haven’t taken this tour, but read good things about it. So, the next time I’m in Manchester, I might take their tour.
3. Albert Square
I’ve come here more at night than during the day, and amidst the hustle and bustle of the Manchester Christmas Market, than when it is empty and calm. So one day when I happened to be taking one of my random walks around town, allowing myself to get lost because I’ve always gotten lost when I’m deep in thought and walking aimlessly, I ended up here around midday, and I was so surprised that I never came here more often. It wasn’t crowded, it was a beautiful day, and the architecture in the square was breathtaking. The town hall towers above the square, and is the main point of interest here.
4. Manchester Town Hall
The stunning building that is the centrepiece of Albert Square, was built in 1877 by Alfred Waterhouse. The Neo-gothic architecture boasts of beautiful spires, and a clock tower. The interiors are just as beautiful, and are often used for events and weddings. One can explore the interiors if there are no events booked on the day of visit. Look out for beautiful fire places, murals, and ornate ceilings-this is one place you want to explore properly.
5. John Rylands Library
The library is part of the University of Manchester, and I have spent many a days cramming for my exams in here. I fell in love with the John Rylands library the first time I entered it! Its splendour is sen even as you walk up to the building. It is similar architecture to the Town Hall. The library is home to many rare prints. If you are thinking of spending a lot of time inside, I highly suggest you bring a cardigan along, because it is freezing in some parts of the library. I always liked to find myself a beautiful corner of the library to sit in- because when I end up day dreaming it was nice to stare at something beautiful!
6. Central Library
Another magnificent library in Manchester that reopened after a rather expensive renovation/restoration is the Central Library. It was built in 1934, with the Pantheon in Rome as reference. Now the library is a popular event space, hosting musical performances, book readings, and even children’s theatre.
7. Royal Exchange theatre
If you don’t have time to catch a show at the theatre, go in to admire the architecture. There are people who argue that it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, but I prefer the Whitworth Hall & premises to this, but it definitely is a building to visit.
They have a shop in the premises which sells quirky & unique things made by local designers, brands, and artists, so make sure to stop by the Royal Exchange Theatre Shop!
8. Manchester Cathedral
One of the oldest buildings in Manchester, the Manchester Cathedral is a must visit when you are in town. I myself have been only a few times, because it was further away from my accommodation, but I’ve been once for mass, and a few times just to see the interiors without the crowd. It was established in the 7th entry as a much smaller building, but was declared a cathedral in 1847. It was bombed twice in the last century- IRA (Irish Republican Army )in 1996, and the II World War bombings in the 1940s, so it has undergone massive refurbishment works.
It truly is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Also check out my guide to everything there is to do on Oxford Road, Manchester (the busiest bus route in Europe!
9. Piccadily Gardens
This is the centre of the city, all buses start and stop here, it leads to the Piccadily train station, the shopping and business areas. The area is a large open space where music performances, & rallies are organised. It is not necessary to pout the Piccadily gardens as part of the itinerary , because you will invariable pass through this area at some point.
10. Fall for the Old World Charm of Ordsall Hall
Ordsall Hall is a historic building dating back 820 years. The building for the most part is maintained as it was, and boasts of beautiful woodwork in the interiors and a stone facade. They have a beautiful garden which surrounds the premises, and makes for beautiful pictures on a sunny day. The present day kitchen dates back to the 1630’s and has bread baking ovens, a 4 metre deep well, a working rotating spit among other features.
There are activities for children, a cafe, and a store inside.
11. Victoria Baths
The historic facility was opened in 1906, as a place for the public to indulge in swimming & bathing. At the time of its construction it was described as the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country!
It still has its terracotta tile, stained glass, and mosaic floors that made it the talk of the town back in the day.
Today, Victoria Baths hosts a range of events from book fairs to movie showings. When you are in town, check on their website to know what’s on that week. You can also walk in to explore the heritage building.
12. Old Trafford
I’m not a big fan of football, but I know I was in close vicinity to a place where some of the greats of football have played. I am guilty of not having been to even a single game, (i don’t regret that), but for people who do love football, go check out the Manchester United stadium, go for the tour, check out the locker rooms, and have a seat at the stadium for a bit. I’m sure this is on the list of any football fan who visits Manchester. I only saw Old Trafford on the way to Trafford Centre, the shopping mall near it and to me, that counted as having ‘seen’ Old Trafford! :p