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 17 May is when we can legally go inside venues so we can safely expect Monday 31 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 friends 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

    The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, GCHQ

    Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at Science and Industry Museum, Castlefield, Until 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 26 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, Until 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. What is Manchester Art Gallery? at Manchester Art Gallery

    What is Manchester Art Gallery?
    Photography Andrew Brooks

    What is Manchester Art Gallery? at Manchester Art Gallery, Chinatown, Until 31 January 2023, free entry - Visit now

    Manchester Art Gallery reopens to the public post-lockdown with a thought-provoking return to ground-zero, asking questions such as ‘Where did and does the money come from’ and ‘Where are all the objects and how did they get here – as well as more simply, ‘What is the point of a public art gallery?’ There’s no better venue for this than Manchester Art Gallery, located in the very heart of the city, overlooking the spot where the Peterloo Massacre took place just over two centuries ago.

  • 5. Grayson’s Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

    Grayson's Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

    Grayson's Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, Chinatown, Until 31 October 2021, free entry - Visit now

    Launching on the 19th May, this is a major exhibition of Grayson’s personal highlights from the more than 10,000 works submitted by the public to the programme’s open call is to go on display at Manchester Art Gallery – a place he describes as ‘a people’s palace of culture’, and which itself seeks to serve as an ‘art school for everyone’. The exhibition will also include pieces by Grayson, Philippa, and other famous artists and celebrities who made guest appearances on the show.

  • 6. 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.

  • 7. 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.

  • 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. 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.

  • 10. Places To Eat Outside in Manchester

    20 Stories eat outside in Manchester

    If the weather decides to stay sunny, 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.