The cafe in the trees at the Whitworth
Image courtesy of The Whitworth

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 art gallery, Manchester Museum and International Anthony Burgess Centre also make the area a real draw for locals and tourists alike. There are also two 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 the site of serious scientific innovation; here, 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. Once home to philosopher Friedrich Engels and writer Elizabeth Gaskell, the area can boast its fair share of artistic prestige, too. Here, history and innovation still exist side by side.

Discover our top picks

  • 1. Manchester Museum

    Manchester Museum

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

    Manchester Museum boasts six million pieces in its archive, an impressive Egyptology collection and new discovery space The Study all in one gothic, Grade II*-listed building.

  • 2. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

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

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

    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.

  • 3. 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 recognizable by its H-shaped turrets. Currently closed for renovation, Contact’s In The City programme has put their rivals in the shade.

  • 4. The Whitworth

    The Whitworth, Photo: Alan Williams

    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. The exhibitions here are excellent.

  • 5. Palace Theatre

    Palace Theatre Manchester
    Image courtesy of Palace Theatre Manchester.

    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.

  • 6. The Refuge

    The Refuge
    Heritage Tomatoes, Red Onion

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

    The Refuge is a restaurant and bar based at The Principal Manchester, one of Manchester’s most iconic buildings.

  • 7. The Deaf Institute

    Pimped Fries

    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 enormous disco ball). One of the best, and quirkiest, gig venues in the city.

  • 8. 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.

  • 9. Big Hands

    Image courtesy 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.

  • 10. Eighth Day

    Eighth Day
    image courtesy of On the 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.

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel at HOME
Theatre 4–8 February 2020, from £5.00

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel at HOME

Described as ‘immensely charming’ by The Stage, this hilarious homage to the masters of slapstick and silent comedy comes to HOME Manchester.

House of Suarez - Vogue Ball 2020
Dance 29 February 2020 7:00 pm, from £15.00

House of Suarez + Contact: Vogue Ball 2020 at Manchester Academy

Daring, fabulous and with a nautical twist for 2020, House of Suarez are back to host the ultimate battle for dance supremacy.

Cinema 7 February 2020 7:30 pm, from £14

Video Jam Presents ‘Spaces-in-between’ at Royal Northern College of Music

Movies meet music as Video Jam presents an evening of five commissioned short films by international artists, each scored by a different UK composer.

Utopias exhibition at the Whitworth
Exhibitions 31 January–31 October 2020, FREE

Utopias at the Whitworth

How have visions of utopia and the visual culture that helped form it impacted upon the Brexit debate? A new exhibition at the Whitworth explores.

Music 4 February 2020 7:30 pm, from £15

Anna Meredith at Gorilla

Straddling a multitude of genres, from techno to contemporary classical, Anna Meredith’s new album Fibs is a sheer delight. Her gig at Gorilla will be, too.

Yelena Popova: The Scholar Stones Project exhibition at The Holden Gallery
Exhibitions 7 February–27 March 2020, FREE

Yelena Popova: The Scholar Stones Project at The Holden Gallery

After growing up in the closed city of Ozyorsk – the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme – Yelena Popova’s work reflects a fascination with nuclear history.

Poet Jane Yeh. Photo by Andy Forest.
Literature 3 February 2020 6:30 pm, FREE

PN Review 250th issue launch at Christie’s Bistro

The Carcanet 50th birthday celebrations continue, with a very special launch party for the spring issue and 250th edition of the poetry publishing house’s literary journal, PN Review.

Theatre 12–15 February 2020, from £5.00

a little space at HOME

Two of the UK’s leading theatre companies, Gecko and Mind the Gap, have joined forces to present this special HOME commission.

Elizabeth Price at the Whitworth
Exhibitions Until 1 March 2020, FREE

Elizabeth Price: A Long Memory at the Whitworth

‘Elizabeth Price at the Whitworth’ brings together new and acclaimed works – including drawings, sculpture, and video – by the Turner prize-winning artist.

Literature 11 February 2020 7:00 pm, from £12

Isabel Allende at The Dancehouse

This special event with one of literature’s most enchanting storytellers and one of Latin America’s greatest authors marks the beginning of the 2020 programme of Manchester Literature Festival and is presented in association with the Centre for New Writing.

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