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

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.

Exhibitions 16 March–27 August 2017, FREE

The Life of Objects at John Rylands Library

Featuring objects including a fragment from the lining of Napoleon’s coffin, The John Rylands Library’s latest exhibition sets out to prove that a library’s stories are not just contained within books.

Theatre 1–15 July 2017, from £12.00

MIF17: Fatherland at Royal Exchange

Fatherland promises a tough and challenging take on modern masculinity, with a creative dream-team of Scott Graham, Karl Hyde and Simon Stephens.

6 July 2017, from £12.00

MIF17: Last and First Men at The Bridgewater Hall

MIF17 presents the world premiere of acclaimed composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s epic new multimedia adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men. This exciting new work chronicles the end of days with evocative 16mm footage, narration from Tilda Swinton and a live score performed by the BBC Philharmonic.

Theatre 27 June–16 July 2017, from £12.00

MIF17: Party Skills for the End of the World at the Centenary Building

Learn the skills necessary to survive and savour life at the possible collapse for civilisation from ‘the most innovative theatre company in Britain’ (Guardian).

Visual Arts 30 June–3 September 2017, FREE

MIF17: True Faith at Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester International Festival presents an exhibition of internationally acclaimed artists to mark the ongoing cultural significance of New Order and Joy Division.

Exhibitions 19 May–28 August 2017, FREE

Women and Children; and Loitering Men at Manchester Art Gallery

Focusing on the urban clearances in Manchester and Salford from the 1960s onwards, this exhibition by British photographer Shirley Baker includes striking scenes of poverty and resilience – alongside never before exhibited images.

Exhibitions 14 April–25 June 2017, FREE

Love is Not a Crime: 10 years of the Lesbian Immigration Support Group at the People’s History Museum

The Lesbian Immigration Support Group (LISG) are a group of women in Greater Manchester who are lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers and refugees and their supporters. They have created this moving exhibition to mark their 10th anniversary.

Theatre 29 June–17 July 2017, from £12.00

MIF17: What if Women Ruled the World? at Mayfield Depot

Arriving at a moment of unprecedented worldwide flux, this timely, vital and dramatic new art work ponders one of modern life’s great questions – what if women ruled the world?

Dance 13–15 July 2017, from £12.00

MIF17: 10000 Gestures at Mayfield Depot

Chaotic, captivating and downright crazy, 10,000 Gestures is a perfect bit of MIF programming.

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…