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, 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.


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, 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.


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.

Bundobust Oxford Road
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.


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, 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

A Fine Toothed Comb at HOME

Turner prize winner Lubaina Himid curates HOME’s newest exhibition ‘A Fine Toothed Comb’, an in-depth exploration of Manchester’s communities, geography, geology and architecture.

free entry
Hamilton at the Palace Theatre
Hamilton at the Palace Theatre

Politically charged, with outstanding performances and a hip-hop soundtrack, there is no doubt Hamilton is one of the most eagerly anticipated shows to visit Manchester this year.

from £13.00
RNCM Autumn Season

The RNCM’s Autumn Season brings with it an incredibly diverse programme of live music from across the genre spectrum. Here are our highlights.

from £8.50
It’s A Wonderful Life at HOME

This ultimate feel-good, festive favourite, from Oscar-winning director Frank Capra, stars James Stewart as despairing businessmen George Bailey. HOME present their annual screenings.

from £9.15
Playreading Group at HOME

HOME’s Playreading Group is open to all and offers an opportunity to read and discuss plays that are linked to their theatre productions.

Where to go in Manchester

Fairfield Social Club

Launching in spring 2024, Fairfield Social Club is a multi-purpose site next to Angel Meadows Park in the Green Quarter.

Manchester Wine Tours

Manchester Wine Tours is a relaxed, fun wine tour, taking in four or five venues across three hours, plus six high-quality glasses of wine.

The Little Sri Lankan

The Little Sri Lankan is an acclaimed pop-up caterer, specialising in Sri Lankan food events in around Manchester and the North.

MUSU Restaurant & Bar

Musu is a modern Japanese restaurant and bar in Manchester City Centre, specialising in awe-inspiring food. We take an advance look at their festive menu. 

House of Fu Manchester

First Leeds, now Manchester. Expect picture perfect ramen, gyoza and cocktails at the upcoming restaurant and cocktail bar.

City Centre

Allpress at NOMA is a home to all things coffee, with a café and seasonal menu incorporating locally sourced ingredients.

Manchester Visitor Guides

UNITOM bookshop
Bookshops in Manchester

Manchester is a UNESCO City of Literature, so of course there are a few go-tos for books. Read our guide to discover the best places to pick them up.

Photo of the Halle orchestra at Bridgewater
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Sunday Roasts in Manchester

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Parks and Gardens in Manchester

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Culture Guides

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Spotlighting global artists who all, in one way or another, break the mould, we preview the best gigs happening this side of Christmas and beyond.