Spring Bank Holiday Manchester
Li Yuan Chia: Unique Photographs at the Whitworth | Li Yuan Chia, Untitled, c1993. Courtesy the estate of Li Yuan Chia.

Spring bank holiday in Manchester and the North

Creative Tourist

This May Bank Holiday gives us something to celebrate, at last, after a tough year for everyone. The first May Bank Holiday, on the 3rd, is more a teaser, to get back in the swing of things in a limited manner, but the 17th is when we can legally go inside venues so we can safely expect Monday 31st May to be an explosion of joy for everyone in Manchester and across the North.

The weather is warming up (no more freezing beer gardens) and the ability of venues to use both their inside and outside capacity means less wandering about desperately trying to find a place with a spare table. This coincides with a host of events from Manchester’s greatest arts venues and cultural spaces, taking in everything from a gripping exploration of data privacy and cybersecurity at The Science and Industry Museum, to an exhibition showcasing the glory days of English football at the National Football Museum – a nice palate cleanser for football fans after the recent activities of ‘the big six’.

And of course, we’ll point you towards some of the best pubs, bars and restaurants for drinking and dining outside, keeping our fingers firmly crossed that we’re granted rays of sunshine rather than clouds of rain.

Now more than ever we need to reconnect with our friend and family and do the things that make us happy, whether that’s engaging with art galleries, cocktails, interactive exhibitions or simply a cup of tea at a cafe. And now finally, after months of lockdown misery, we can head out into the world, blinking like a newborn lamb ready to enjoy Manchester at its best. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive list of what’s on offer to help you organise your weekend into something special.

For more ideas, take a look at our culture guides which feature exhibitions, music, cinema, theatre, literature and family events in more detail, plus our food and drink guide for all those thirst-quenching and stomach-filling suggestions.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

    Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester
    Jody Kingzett, Science Museum Group

    Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at Science and Industry Museum, Castlefield, 19 May–31 August 2021 - Book now

    Geared towards all those curious about how the modern world works, which should be everyone, Top Secret is a major exhibition looking at secret intelligence communications and national security in Britain over the last 100 years. The story is told in over 100 objects and is presented in the museum’s brand-new gallery space. It has been put together in partnership with expert advisors from GCHQ and spans everything from the cipher machines used during the Second World War, and Alan Turing’s role in cracking the German Enigma and Lorenz cipher systems at Bletchley Park, to the work being carried out to protect against cyberattacks and terrorism threats today.

  • 2. Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire at Imperial War Museum North

    Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire at Imperial War Museum North
    © ICRC: Hussein Baydoun

    AID WORKERS: ETHICS UNDER FIRE - Exhibition at Imperial War Museum North (IWM North), Manchester, Until 24 September 2021, free entry - Visit now

    It’s hard to think of a more timely period for this exhibition, which looks at the work carried out by aid organisations through times of war and the moral dilemmas they face. Held at the majestic Imperial War Museum North, this exhibition presents powerful first-hand accounts of individuals’ experiences in the field, looking at the physical and mental challenges they face, plus scenario-based interactive elements designed to encourage visitors to consider how they might respond to complicated decisions in fraught situations.

  • 3. English Football Hall of Fame

    English Football Hall of Fame
    National Football Museum

    English Football Hall of Fame at National Football Museum, Cathedral Quarter, 27 May 2021–31 March 2022, from £5.5 - Book now

    The National Football Museum’s English Football Hall of Fame is a full-scale exhibition celebrating the great and the good of the game and proves to be the first time the museum has put on a full-scale exhibition showcasing those who have made an outstanding contribution to football, both on and off the pitch. Featured names include Lily Parr, Bobby Charlton, Faye White, Patrick Viera, Rachel Yankey, Ian Wright, Kenny Dalglish and Hope Powell, while the latest inductees include Justin Fashanu, Alex Scott and Cyrille Regis. The exhibition is geared up to include new inductees for 2021 but we have a hunch the brains behind the ill-fated European Super League won’t be making an appearance.

  • 4. Kantina Weekender

    Kantina Weekender
    Kantina Weekender

    Kantina Weekender at Escape to Freight Island, Manchester, 28–31 May 2021, from £35 - Book now

    The team behind Escape To Freight Island are prepping for the return to normality with the Kantina Weekender. Taking place at the home of Escape To Freight Island, Depot Mayfield, this is a new all-food and drink extravaganza for 2021, running from Friday 28 May to Monday 31 May only. Alongside all the highly-rated existing vendors, you’ll find some of the UK’s most prestigious chefs, cocktail makers and brewers, not to mention a host of local restaurant heroes.

  • 5. Places To Eat Outside in Manchester

    20 Stories eat outside in Manchester

    If the weather continues in this wonderfully sunny vein, you might be looking for somewhere to eat outside in Manchester. Here’s our guide to the restaurants in Manchester with the best areas for al fresco dining.

  • 6. Parks and Gardens in Manchester

    Blossom on trees in Manchester

    If its nice weather, it’s either in the beer garden, or stomping around a park long enough to justify the time spent in the beer garden.

  • 7. Things to do in Liverpool

    Things to Do in Liverpool
    Image courtesy of Visit Britain.

    For more ideas of things to do in Liverpool, check out our latest recommendations and the pick of places to eat, drink, shop and stay.

  • 8. Beer Gardens in Manchester & Salford

    If you don’t feel like doing anything too strenuous, there’s always the beer gardens. When the sun is shining, they’re where you want to be; here’s our guide to the best in Manchester. Remember to drink plenty of water between pints, and for goodness sake wear sun cream.

  • 9. Free family things to do in Manchester

    Young Inventors at the Museum of Science and Industry

    If you’re looking to keep the whole family busy, the world’s at your fingertips with free history, art, science and creative capers for all ages in Manchester.