Exchange Square Manchester

City Centre, Manchester

Creative Tourist

Visit Manchester Town Hall in the city centre and you’ll spot bees picked out in the mosaics across the lobby floor – once seen, you’ll notice them everywhere. The bee is used as a symbol of Manchester’s industriousness and teamwork, and it appears on benches, council flower pots and even bins across the city. The Town Hall itself was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (also behind the Natural History Museum in London) and is often used in place of the Houses of Parliament when filming. The city centre is, then, a district filled with many incredible buildings, from The Royal Exchange, a former trading hall and once the largest single room in the world, to The Bridgewater Hall, built in 1996 for £46m so that, incredibly, all 22,000 tons of it float on nearly three hundred earthquake bearings, or giant springs.

The city centre is perhaps Manchester’s most diverse area culturally, taking in Chinatown, the Gay Village (area of political importance for the LGBT community; its bars and clubs are legendary) and behemoths of the arts such as The Portico Library and Manchester Art Gallery, whilst not turning up its nose to the high street attractions of Market Street and the Arndale Centre.King Street is dotted with designer stores, but also has a foodie draw, including El Gato Negro’s superb tapas. St Ann’s Square is a quiet little enclave of shops, with Barton’s Arcade set back from it on one side, and St Ann’s Church, which dates back to 1712 and has a 54 stop organ. Albert Square is in front of the Town Hall, a cobbled space that plays host to the Manchester Christmas Markets and festival of premieres Manchester International Festival.

A top tip – don’t miss Manchester’s talking statues; Prunella Scales is Queen Victoria in Piccadilly Gardens, Russel Tovey is Alan Turing in Sackville Gardens, and Tom Conti plays the President in Lincoln Square.

Discover our top picks

Happy Days at the Royal Exchange
Theatre 25 May–23 June 2018, from £17.00

Happy Days at the Royal Exchange

Following the success of Hamlet, The Skriker and A Streetcar Named Desire, Sarah Frankcom and Maxine Peake continue their creative collaboration with a revival of Beckett’s surrealist masterpiece, Happy Days.

Kindertransport at Manchester Opera House
Theatre 1–5 May 2018, from £15.00

Kindertransport at Manchester Opera House

Marking the 80th anniversary of Kindertransport, Diane Samuels’ deeply stirring play depicts one woman’s struggle to accept her past.

Exhibitions 23 February 2018–6 January 2019, FREE

Annie Swynnerton: Painting Light and Hope at Manchester Art Gallery

The first major retrospective of work by the radical Manchester artist and feminist campaigner, Annie Swynnerton, opens in nearly 100 years at Manchester Art Gallery.

The Alchemy of Colour at The John Rylands Library
Exhibitions 15 March–27 August 2018, FREE

The Alchemy of Colour at The John Rylands Library

Did you know that the remarkable yellows of Turner’s sunsets came from the urine of mango-fed cows? Or that the reds of Raphael’s greatest masterpieces derived from cactus-dwelling bugs? The Alchemy of Colour at The John Rylands Library explores the unusual stories behind some of art history’s most dazzling hues.

Louis Henderson: Overtures, ¡Viva! at HOME, Manchester
Exhibitions 21 April–10 June 2018, FREE

Louis Henderson: Overtures at HOME

Award-winning artist Louis Henderson presents a new film co-commission and solo exhibition at HOME, which responds to the endlessly complex trails of Haitian history.

The Three Sisters RashDash
Theatre 3–19 May 2018, from £11.00

Three Sisters, by RashDash, after Chekhov at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Physical theatre company RashDash have rehashed Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters in a fierce new reimagining of the classic text.

Author Kate Atkinson. Photo by Euan Myles.
Literature 21 October 2018, from £10.00

Kate Atkinson at Royal Exchange Theatre

The first of this year’s Manchester Literature Festival events announced is multi-award-winning novelist Kate Atkinson, chatting about her latest tome, Transcription, to Guardian and Observer writer Alex Clark.

Music 24 September 2017–9 June 2018,

BBC Philharmonic 2017/18 Concert Season

Millions of listeners enjoy BBC Philharmonic concerts on Radio 3, recorded or broadcast live from the outstanding acoustic of The Bridgewater Hall, making this orchestra one of the most widely heard in the country.

Exhibitions 29 September 2017–3 June 2018, FREE

New North & South: South Asia art and culture programme 2017–18 across Manchester

A major programme of exhibitions and events reflecting on the shared heritage and historic connections between South Asia and the North of England opens across the city.

Music 19 May 2018, from £12.00

BBC Philharmonic: Szymanowski | Tchaikovsky at The Bridgewater Hall

Tasmin Little performs Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto. Piercing, passionate, fiery and free, it’s arguably the first modern violin concerto, and makes tremendous demands on any soloist who chooses to take it on.

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…