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

Activity Until 22 March 2023, FREE

Guided Tours at People’s History Museum

Join PHM for a series of guided tours with their expert staff, curators and conservationists, it’s an incredibly human look at the National Museum of Democracy’s exhibitions.

Music 15 February 2023 7:15 pm, from £25.00

Caroline Polachek at Albert Hall

In support of her forthcoming album – the follow-up to her 2019 experimental pop masterpiece PANG – Caroline Polachek plays Manchester’s Albert Hall.

Beginning at the Royal Exchange
Theatre 16 February–11 March 2023, from £7.00

Beginning at the Royal Exchange

Charged with emotional truthfulness, beauty, charm and embarrassing conversation, don’t miss David Eldridge’s intimate two-hander exploring love and loneliness.

untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play at the Royal Exchange
Theatre 24 June–22 July 2023, from £7.00

untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play at the Royal Exchange

Winner of the Bruntwood Prize 2019, International Award and presented as part of MIF23, Kimber Lee’s play looks to be the pièce de résistance for another brilliant season at the Royal Exchange.

Author Adam Farrer. Photo by Simon Buckley
Literature 29 April 2023 11:30 am, FREE

Northern Publishers’ Fair at Central Library

Various independent publishing houses set out their stalls at the Northern Publishers’ Fair at Manchester Central Library.

Author Elliot Sweeney
Literature 16 February 2023 6:00 pm, from £2.00

Crime Central at Central Library

There’s murder and mayhem in the library! Manchester Libraries’ monthly event Crime Central welcomes new guests every month at Central Library, hosted by Rob Parker.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at Manchester Opera House
Theatre 21–25 March 2023, from £13.00

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at Manchester Opera House

Starring Jenna Coleman and Aiden Turner, this tender and funny romantic comedy heads to Manchester from the West End. Don’t miss out.

Song From Far Away at HOME
Theatre 22 February–11 March 2023, from £10.00

Song From Far Away at HOME

Will Young makes his return to the stage in this powerful one-man show written by Olivier Award winner Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel.

Exhibitions Until 1 May 2023, FREE

Dandy Style at Manchester Art Gallery

Set in the brand new dedicated Fashion Gallery, ‘Dandy Style’ celebrates all the is most elegant, dramatic and fascinating in menswear.

Free Your Mind at Factory International
Dance 13 October–5 November 2023, from £10.00

Free Your Mind at Factory International

Directed by Danny Boyle, Free Your Mind is a Matrix-themed large-scale performance spectacular and the first production at Manchester’s newest landmark arts venue.

Manchester District Guides

Medieval Quarter, Manchester

The Medieval Quarter, or Cathedral Quarter as it is sometimes known, is one of the oldest parts of Manchester and home to some historic gems and cultural must-sees.  

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

Chorlton is a left-leaning suburb a few miles south of Manchester’s city centre (and only…

Cheetham Hill, Manchester

As an area, Cheetham Hill gets a pretty bad rep. The foreboding architecture of Strangeways…