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Things to Do in Manchester

Creative Tourist

It was Manchester that gave rise to socialism, the British Labour Party and the Suffragettes. Wildly ambitious, Manchester was the original industrial city, once the largest centre of manufacturing in the world. This is not the kind of past that a city forgets. Go into its museums and you’ll find the evidence: their collections are among the best in Britain. But before you write this off as just history, think on.

Manchester is steadily reinventing districts that were once busy with industrial factories and warehouses; the red-bricked buildings of the Northern Quarter and Ancoats are now taken up with independent shops, bars, and restaurants. The city boasts two universities along Oxford Road, as well as the award-winning Whitworth and Manchester Museum – with cross-arts space HOME a short stroll away on Tony Wilson Place.

There’s the Royal Exchange in the centre, the UK’s biggest theatre in-the-round, housed in what was once the largest single room in the world. Not forgetting MediaCity UK, which shares The Quays with major arts organisations IWM North and The Lowry and is home to BBC North and ITV. So while this is a city with a past, Manchester has its eyes on the future. The joy of visiting today is that, without too much effort, you get to experience a slice of both.

Discover our top picks

Festivals 29 June–16 July 2017, from £12.00

Manchester International Festival 2017

Manchester International Festival, the world’s first festival of original work and special events, returns in 2017 under new Artistic Director 2017. Here’s our guide to the unique programme, taking place across Manchester.

Exhibitions 29 June 2017, FREE

MIF17: What Is the City but the People? in Piccadilly Gardens

Conceived by artist Jeremy Deller, What Is the City but the People? will see residents parading on a specially designed walkway across Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens to musical accompaniment, capturing the city through its outfits and attitudes.

Sophie Willan Branded at Contact
Comedy 28 June–1 July 2017, from £07.00

Sophie Willan: Branded at Contact

Sophie Willan is a pity-free laughter machine, whose mirth-filled self examinations are not to be missed.

Theatre 27 May–16 July 2017, FREE

IRIS by Marshmallow Laser Feast at The Lowry

The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre is set to be taken over by a stunning spectacle of lasers, light, sound and colour from leading creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast. Audiences will experience IRIS – a unique digital art installation created using laser technology.

Music 28 June 2017, from £15.00

RNCM Big Band with Laurence Cottle at the RNCM

On the 30th anniversary of his death, American bassist Jaco Pastorius is the subject of this Summer Big Band show – featuring collaborations between Laurence Cottle and RNCM students.

Music 29 June 2017, from £15.00

RNCM Symphony Orchestra at The Bridgewater Hall

RNCM Symphony Orchestra makes its annual visit to The Bridgewater Hall for a concert that features Tchaikovsky’s monumental and radical Sixth, plus works by Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.

Author David Gaffney headlines Bad Language. (Credit: Phil Rigby)
Literature 28 June 2017, FREE

Bad Language at The Castle Hotel

Live lit regular Bad Language waves farewell to The Castle as it prepares to cross the road to Gullivers for its July event. No open mic this month – just more headliners than you can shake a stick at.

Visual Arts 16 July 2017,

MIF17: Ceremony at Bridgewater Hall Car Park

MIF17’s closing event will see the return of Manchester’s adopted son and life-long champion of the working classes, Friedrich Engels, to the city.

Comedy 31 August–9 September 2017, from £10

Daniel Kitson: Something Other Than Everything at Royal Exchange

Daniel Kitson returns to the Royal Exchange with more sublime thoughts and silly stories.

Exhibitions 25 February–3 September 2017, FREE

Never Going Underground at People’s History Museum

January 1967: it’s illegal for men to have sex together, lesbianism is seen as a medical misfortune, and trans rights are non-existent. 50 years later, LGBT+ legal protection and equality is almost UK-wide. This exhibition charts the activist struggle to get where we are today.

Manchester District Guides

Photo of a handwritten label in a cafe that says "Ring for service with a smile"

Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester

Burton Road is the heart of West Didsbury, a beautifully maintained leafy hubbub of shops,…

Beech Road Chorlton, Manchester

It may not quite have the reputation of Benefits Street, but Beech Road in Chorlton…

The front of Didsbury restaurant Volta.

Didsbury, Manchester

Follow Oxford Road South through the Curry Mile, along Wilmslow Road, past Platt Fields Park…

Chorlton, Manchester

This left-leaning suburb a few miles south of Manchester’s city centre (and only ten minutes…

Cheetham Hill, Manchester

As an area, Cheetham Hill gets a pretty bad rep. The foreboding architecture of Strangeways…