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

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME, Manchester
Cinema 7 July–16 September 2018, FREE

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong at HOME

‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’ at HOME brings together three politically charged works by the Turner-Prize nominated artist Phil Collins who returned Engels to Manchester in 2017.

Dan Hays, Spring Snow, 2009. BIBLIOTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library, Manchester
Exhibitions 6 July–18 August 2018, FREE

BiblioTECH: from bookshelf to big data at The Portico Library

Do you prefer to hold a Kindle in your hands or a book? ‘BiblioTECH: From bookshelf to big data’ at The Portico Library uses art to examine the opportunities and challenges that arise when we adapt to new technological formats for storing and sharing information.

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.

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 6 July 2018–31 December 2019, from £6

The Stoller Hall Autumn/Winter season

Manchester’s newest concert hall continues to push boundaries with its upcoming Autumn/Winter season – from a brand new audiovisual work to celebrate 100 years of votes for women to a one-off staging of a dark adaptation of A Christmas Carol, via a visit by the world-renowned Gould Trio and a year-long series celebrating outstanding pianists who studied at Chetham’s.

Dostoyevsky Wannabe Editor Victoria Brown.
Literature 28 July 2018, FREE

Manchester Independent Books And Arts Fair at PLANT NOMA

Organised by Manchester-based publishers Dostoyevsky Wannabe, this special pop-up has lots of lovely stalls where you can pick up lots of lovely books, pamphlets and zines from Manchester’s finest indie presses, including if p then q, Knives Forks & Spoons, ZimZalla, Generic Greeting and Dodo Ink.

Queens of the Coal Age at the Royal Exchange
Theatre 28 June–21 July 2018, from £17.00

Queens Of The Coal Age at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Bryony Shanahan steps up to direct Maxine Peake’s Queens of the Coal Age as the Royal Exchange’s new Associate Artistic Director.

Sonia Boyce at Manchester Art Gallery
Exhibitions 23 March–22 July 2018, FREE

Sonia Boyce at Manchester Art Gallery

Following the national furore that emerged in response to the temporary removal of John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs at Manchester Art Gallery, all eyes are now on Sonia Boyce’s first retrospective exhibition, opening just a floor away.

Exhibitions 2 June 2018–3 February 2019, FREE

Represent! Voices 100 Years On at People’s History Museum

As the national museum of democracy, the People’s History Museum’s headline 2018 exhibition, Represent! Voices 100 Years On, will be guided and informed by the notion of representation itself.

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

A laid-back mix of gift shops, independent outfitters, restaurants, pubs and parks, on a sunny weekend afternoon it’s heaving.

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…