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

Literature Until 27 November 2021, FREE

Northern Publishers’ Fair at Central Library

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

The Cat and the Canary at Manchester Opera House
Theatre 25–30 October 2021, from £13.00

The Cat and the Canary at Manchester Opera House

Set in a creaking mansion, this creepy whodunnit makes its way into Manchester just in time for Halloween.

Glee & Me at the Royal Exchange
Theatre Until 30 October 2021, from £10.00

Glee & Me at the Royal Exchange

This Bruntwood Judges Prize-winning dark comedy offers audiences a surprisingly optimistic portrayal of love even in the darkest times.

Grayson's Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
Exhibitions Until 31 October 2021, FREE

Grayson’s Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry presents a major exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery featuring work made by the nation during the initial weeks of lockdown.

Refloresta! Maria Nepomuceno at The Portico Library
Exhibitions Until 22 November 2021, FREE

Refloresta! Maria Nepomuceno at The Portico Library in Manchester

The Portico Library presents an installation of immersive sculptural and textile works by world-renowned Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno.

Derek Jarman PROTEST! exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Exhibitions 1 December 2021–10 April 2022, FREE

Derek Jarman: PROTEST! at Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery is open again and they present the UK edition of PROTEST! – a major retrospective dedicated to the life and work of the iconic British artist Derek Jarman.

Manchester Art Fair 2019
Exhibitions 19–21 November 2021, from £5

Manchester Art Fair 2021 at Manchester Central

Firm favourites in Manchester’s cultural calendar, the Manchester Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary weekend are not to be missed.

doodle den at people's history museum, young girl using thick marker pen to drawer on a glass panel
Activity Until 31 December 2021, FREE

Doodle Den: Playful Protests Online

Pick up a pen and encourage the whole family to explore the art of peaceful protest.

Manchester Open Exhibition 2020 at HOME
Exhibitions 14 January–27 March 2022,

Manchester Open Exhibition 2022 at HOME

Featuring over 500 artists from across Greater Manchester, the inaugural edition of the Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME should be a highly eclectic and exciting affair.

Trading Station: how hot drinks shape our lives – exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Exhibitions Until 14 December 2021, FREE

Trading Station: how hot drinks shape our lives at Manchester Art Gallery

Trading Station at Manchester Art Gallery charts the history and changing social role of hot drinks in our lives.

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…