Oxford Road, Manchester

Creative Tourist

Stretching all the way from the Curry Mile – with its glittering sari emporiums, Indian sweet shops and mixed reputation for actual curry – up toward the city centre, Oxford Road is not only home to two Universities, the Royal Northern College of Music, an Olympic-sized pool and a good number of the city’s best music venues, it’s also the busiest bus route in Europe. Yes, this is student land, but cultural institutions such as The Whitworth, Manchester Museum and International Anthony Burgess Centre also make the area a real draw for locals and tourists alike.

It’s hard not to spot the theatrical offer on Oxford Road, with the Palace and Contact two instantly recognisable, but very different theatres. There’s also semi-notorious gig venues in Big Hands and The Deaf Institute, and even a few parks: Whitworth Park, which dates back to 1890, and Grosvenor Square, a small patch of green that was once a church and where now, on sunny days, the locals come out to bask in bookish style.

The Oxford Road Corridor is also the site of serious scientific innovation. At The University of Manchester, you can visit the place where the atom was split, and doff your cap to the building dedicated to pioneering computer scientist and code breaker Alan Turing. And there are a number of other notable names who graced, even lived, in this area, one being philosopher Friedrich Engels and another the writer Elizabeth Gaskell. Here, history and innovation still exist side by side.

Below we cherrypick our favourite spots on Oxford Road, taking in many of the above places but also some of the top-tier watering holes and restaurants, because you’ll not go hungry or thirsty here.

Our top picks

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum, The University Of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9PL - Visit now

Manchester Museum re-opened in February 2023 with an inclusive, caring and creative approach to museum curation. From a grand Exhibition Hall to a South Asia Gallery (the first of its kind in the country), its new additions are more than worth heading down for, not to mention the other six-million-or-so pieces in its archive.

Manchester Museum Tours at Manchester Museum

YES

YES, 38 Charles Street, Manchester, M1 7DB - Visit now

The apple in Now Wave’s eye, YES is a music venue located in a former auctioneers house on Charles Street (okay, so just off Oxford Road). It boasts four floors for live music and DJ’s, two excellent food outlets, plus an outdoor roof terrace.

YES

Contact Theatre

Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6JA - Visit now

Contact has to be the go-to place for emerging theatre in the city, with commissioned work here going on to high acclaim. Set back from the road but recognisable by its eccentric H-shaped turrets, there’s no other theatre like it in the country.

exterior of Contact Theatre building

The Whitworth

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6ER - Visit now

It’s been a few years now since The Whitworth underwent a £15m redevelopment; it almost feels like the gallery has always jutted out into Whitworth park, seamlessly transitioning from old to new. Simply put, the exhibitions here are excellent.

The Whitworth
The Whitworth, Photo: Alan Williams

Hatch

Hatch, Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 7ED - Visit now

Hatch, known to many as “that street food place in the shipping containers on Oxford Road”, has been incubating independent talent in Manchester’s food, drink and retail scene since 2017, and is a firm favourite for lovers of street food, craft beer and thoughtful gifts.

Hatch
Bruntwood

Palace Theatre

Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 6FT - Visit now

The Palace Theatre opened in 1891 and is still one of Manchester’s major venues, with a particular focus on touring productions. Expect (slightly faded) splendour.

Palace Theatre Manchester
Image courtesy of Palace Theatre Manchester.

Bundobust Brewery

Bundobust Brewery, St James's Bldg, Bundobust Brewery, 61-69 Oxford St, Manchester, M1 6EQ - Visit now

Right in the sweet spot between the business charmers, concert-goers and wandering students on the lookout for crisps, Bundobust Brewery is an impressive space, with a huge atrium illuminating the big row of beer tanks that line the restaurant; beer tanks that produce modern beer with the well-established food menu in mind.

Martin Kevill

The Refuge

The Refuge, Oxford Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M60 7HA - Visit now

The Refuge is the in-house bar and restaurant of Kimpton Clocktower Hotel. Huge arches and marbled tiles feature heavily, with spectacular features everywhere, from the 30ft granite bar to glorious stained-glass windows and towering pillars.

Ian Jones

The Deaf Institute

The Deaf Institute, 135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 7HE - Visit now

The Deaf Institute was once an actual institute for the deaf, but is now a kitchen, bar and music hall (complete with an enormous disco ball). One of the best, and quirkiest, gig venues in the city.

Pimped Fries

Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)

Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9RD - Visit now

The Royal Northern College of Music is both a music venue and an academic institution training up some of the country’s finest music students. You’ll find free lunchtime concerts there on a weekly basis, and they make classical music incredibly accessible.

RNCM

North Brewing Co Taproom

North Brewing Co Taproom, Circle Square, Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 7FS - Visit now

In early 2023, North Brewing Co unveiled its first Manchester taproom at Circle Square, the flourishing new Oxford Road development on the site of the former BBC building. Set up by Leeds’ excellent North Bar, this spot features 24 draught lines, including 18 lines of keg beer and one cask, pouring North’s ever-evolving range of core beers, specials and collabs.

North Brewing Co Tap Room

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9LW - Visit now

A few minutes’ walk from Oxford Road, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House has been lovingly restored; you can now sit at her desk, see where Charlotte Brontë hid behind the curtains, and have tea in the downstairs café. The Pankhurst Centre is also nearby, should you fancy a bit of a literary tour.

Image courtesy of Marketing Manchester / © Joel-Chester-Fildess

Big Hands

Big Hands, 296 Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9NS

Big Hands is the one-time haunt of legendary Manchester band Elbow; it’s shabby, loud and dark, with a jukebox and excellent roof terrace.

Image courtesy Big Hands.

Eighth Day

Eighth Day, 111 Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 7DU - Visit now

Eighth Day is a co-operative shop that sells ethically-sourced food, wine and cosmetics. There’s also café that serves hearty, healthy meals in the basement.

Eighth Day.

Sandbar

Sandbar, 120 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 7HL - Visit now

Okay, so another one just off Oxford Road, but it’s worth the 34 seconds it takes to get there, honest. Sandbar is a unique spot, full of oddities (check out the ‘cabinets of curiosity’) and eccentric interior touches, like the carriage-like seats salvaged from retro school-buses. Oh and the booze is excellent: 200+ whiskeys, and plentiful craft beer.

Image courtesy Sandbar.

More Oxford Road events

Rebecca Watson author photo
LiteratureManchester
Rebecca Watson at Blackwells

Acclaimed author and one of the ten best debut novelists on The Observer’s prestigious list in 2021, Rebecca Watson will be chatting about her latest book with culture writer Jess White at Blackwells bookshop in Manchester.

from £4.00
Wolf in Yellowstone
Until
ExhibitionsManchester
Wild at Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum explores the concept of ‘wild’ nature as a means of tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis in a new exhibition.

free entry
OUTDOOR ART CLUB AT THE WHITWORTH
Until
ChildrensManchester
Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth

Enjoy fun and creative activities designed to encourage your little ones to play freely in the fresh air, while exploring nature and the outdoors with family and friends.

free entry

Where to go in Manchester

Manchester Factory international Festival - People enjoying Festival Square in the city centre
Manchester
Café or Coffee Shop
Factory Square

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Manchester
Restaurant
Fenix

Modern Greek Mediterranean cuisine from the team behind Tattu.

Universally Manchester Festival 6-9 June 2024
Manchester
The University of Manchester

Celebrating its 200th year in 2024, The University of Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK, and boasts come incredible cultural institutions, found on campus, across Manchester and…

Alborz
Levenshulme
Restaurant
Alborz

Much-loved Persian restaurant on Stockport in Levenshulme, reopened after a lengthy lockdown-related hiatus.

Manchester
Restaurant
Jaan

New food concept from the team behind Another Hand, based at Exhibition and serving up exceptional Persian cuisine.

The Rose & Monkey Hotel
Manchester
Restaurant
The Rose & Monkey Hotel

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Federal Cafe Bar
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Pillock at Contact
Spotlight on

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Take me there

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Rebecca Watson author photo
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