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

Music 28 February 2018, from £25.00

Nils Frahm at Albert Hall

German pianist, composer and producer Nils Frahm returns to Albert Hall three years after his last visit. Since then, he has established an innovative annual Piano Day project, and produced film and game soundtracks that have raised his profile even further. Don’t miss out on this much-anticipated return to the live arena.

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.

Music 12 January–16 April 2018, from £6

The Stoller Hall 2018 Season

In only its first year, The Stoller Hall at Chetham’s is already making a name for itself as the bright new concert hall on the block. Early in its 2018 season, the hall hosts the likes of Chetham’s alumnus Gwilym Simcock (with the Northern Chamber Orchestra), plus jazz legend Iain Ballamy and the esteemed Endellion String Quartet. With a tribute to Leonard Bernstein hosted by his daughter, plus an outing of intensity by Manchester Collective (new Ensemble in Residence), this looks set to be the year that The Stoller Hall sets itself apart.

Theatre 9–24 February 2018, from £17.00

The Almighty Sometimes at the Royal Exchange

When Anna makes a decision that could affect the rest of her life, can Renee stand by and watch? The Almighty Sometimes was a winner of a Judges Award at the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. 

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.

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 3 March 2018, from £12.00

BBC Philharmonic: Anna Clyne | Mozart | Mahler at The Bridgewater Hall

Ben Gernon’s first Bridgewater Hall concert as the orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor is marked by a pair of firsts – the UK premiere of Anna Clyne’s intensely atmospheric nocturnal miniature, and Mahler’s debut symphony.

Music 24 March 2018, from £12.00

BBC Philharmonic: Copland | Korngold | Vaughan Williams

John Wilson is our translator for two journeys into the great wide open: Copland’s Appalachian Spring paints a vivid portrait of rural Pennsylvania, while Vaughan Williams’s wartime Fifth Symphony sings of a troubled England

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…

Things to do right now

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Hamlet at Bolton Octagon
Theatre 15 February–10 March 2018, from £12.00

Hamlet at Bolton Octagon

Cinema 2–22 February 2018, from £5.00

Phantom Thread at HOME

Robots at the Museum of Science and Industry
Exhibitions 19 October 2017–15 April 2018, from £5

Robots at the Museum of Science and Industry

The Newspaper Boy
Theatre 13–24 February 2018, from £11.00

The Newspaper Boy at 53Two

Music 12 January–16 April 2018, from £6

The Stoller Hall 2018 Season

Music 24 September 2017–9 June 2018,

BBC Philharmonic 2017/18 Concert Season

Music 9 September 2017–31 May 2018, from £15.00

Manchester Camerata 2017/18 Season

Music 21 January–24 March 2018, from £12

RNCM 2018 Season