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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

A billboard and people sitting on the pavement
Music 30 April–1 May 2017, from £23 adv.

Sounds From The Other City 2017 in Salford

Salford’s Sounds from the Other City festival showcases the best of new and avant-garde music, arts and performance.

Liz West performing on a train platform
Exhibitions 18 May 2017, FREE

Manchester After Hours 2017

Manchester After Hours is back on 18 May: Manchester’s take on the national Museums at Night festival of lates brings unusual collaborations and stand-out events to venues across the city. Here’s our guide.

Dance 23 May 2017, from £14.50

Symphonie Dramatique at The Lowry

Symphonie Dramatique – which reimagines the story of Romeo and Juliet through a mix of classical and contemporary dance – has got fire and finesse…and we’ve got a feeling it’s going to be great.

Dance 9 May 2017, from £14.50

Stepmother Stepfather at The Lowry

If David Lynch did dance it would probably look something like Stepmother Stepfather, which explores the darker side of life through fairy tales and frightening families.

Dance 12 May 2017, from £17.50

Reunión at The Lowry

Reunión conjures up Spanish life in full colour, and proves once again that flamenco is the dance style of the soul.

Paddy Hartley's artwork from the EDIT 01 exhibition at The Lowry
Exhibitions 1 April–14 May 2017, FREE

EDIT 01: Paddy Hartley at The Lowry

Head to The Lowry to meet the artist who designed wearable sculptures for Lady Gaga, and find out why he’s installed a huge clay trench in the upstairs gallery space.

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 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.

Music 25 May 2017, from £32.50

Seu Jorge presents The Life Aquatic at Albert Hall

In commemoration of David Bowie’s recent passing, Seu Jorge performs a special tribute to him while recreating the set to the film A Life Aquatic on stage alongside screens crafted as boat sails that will be displaying images from the film.

Cinema 4–6 May 2017, from £30

Pilot Light TV Festival Season 2

Pilot Light TV Festival returns for its second season, with a heady mix of premieres, panel discussions, retrospectives and special events highlighting the best the small screen has to offer.

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…