UNESCO City of Literature: Manchester

Ben Williams, Managing Editor

In October 2017, Manchester joined such illustrious alumni as Milan, Barcelona and Melbourne as it became the 26th UNESCO City of Literature. Recognised as home of the great novelists Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Burgess, and the city where Friedrich Engels lived and worked alongside a visiting Karl Marx, UNESCO also highlighted the work of The Pankhurst Centre in celebrating the writings of Suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, as well as the city’s thriving contemporary literature scene, from the Lemn Sissay inscribed streets of the Northern Quarter to the Manchester Literature Festival.

Here are our picks of some of the city’s literary landmarks. For the latest live events and literary happenings in Manchester and the North, check out our regularly updated Literature Guide.

Our top picks

John Rylands Research Institute and Library

John Rylands Research Institute and Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 3EH - Visit now

The John Rylands Library houses a collection of rare books that spans five millennia – including an original Gutenberg Bible – in a neo-Gothic building that took nine years to build.

Magic bowls event. Image shows The historic Reading Room in John Rylands Library
Image courtesy of John Rylands Library.

Chetham’s Library

Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 1SB - Visit now

Chetham’s Library is the oldest free public reference library in Britain. Visitors can browse beautiful medieval shelving and an internationally rated collection of books.

Chetham’s Library in Long Millgate in Manchester

Manchester Central Library

Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 5PD - Visit now

Central Library re-opened in 2014 after a £48m restoration, bigger and brighter, and the new home of the city’s archives and local history collections.

Manchester Central Library
Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF)

International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), Engine House, Chorlton Mill,
3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 5BY - Visit now

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation comprises of a library and archive of Burgess’ manuscripts, photos and correspondence.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

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.

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

The Portico Library

The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3HY - Visit now

Take tea in the refined, 19th century surrounds of the diminutive Portico Library.

The Portico Library, Manchester
Creative Tourist

The Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson St, Manchester, M13 9WP - Visit now

Houses a small museum and heritage centre that remains as a legacy to the Pankhurst family and the Suffragette movement born in this city.

Pankhurst Centre
By Kurt Adkins (WebHamster) (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Working Class Movement Library

Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WX - Visit now

The Working Class Movement Library is a real gem: the personal collection of labour historians Ruth and Edmund Frow, it’s a veritable treasure trove of fascinating material dating back to the 1760s – from pamphlets containing the testimony of child millworkers to the rabble-rousing folk songs of Salfordian Ewan MacColl.

Working Class Movement Library
Richard Rogerson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Where to go in Manchester

Manchester
Library
Gaskell Society

These regular talks in both Manchester and Knutsford unpack the meaning and significance of Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing.

Manchester
Library
North City Library

A modern community library space in North Manchester which is shared with North Manchester Sixth Form College.

Manchester
Library
Wythenshawe Forum

Wythenshawe Forum comprises co-located services and a hub for community and business. The venue has leisure facilities as well as a performance space and complete library services.

Manchester
Library
Tameside Library

Tameside Library has the library on one floor and the Central Art Gallery above. Sounds a little like an arts centre. It’s all housed in a comfortable and sturdy building.

Chorlton Library on Manchester road in Chorlton
Chorlton
Library
Chorlton Library

This cornerstone of Chorlton life is a Carnegie library, listed building and the second busiest library in the city.

Chetham’s Library in Long Millgate in Manchester
Manchester
Library
Chetham’s Library

Chetham’s Library is one of the must-sees of any visit to Manchester. The library was founded in 1653, and is the oldest public library in the world – but the building dates back even further, to 1421.

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.

Manchester Restaurant Deals

Manchester's restaurants are bending over backwards to create deals that take the sting out of eating out. Here are the best of the bunch for January.

Vegan Food in Manchester

Whether you’re a proud vegan or merely curious, let us guide you towards the best vegan food in Manchester for Veganuary.

Photo of the Halle orchestra at Bridgewater
Music Venues in Manchester

Manchester is still a great place to watch new and innovative music – so here’s a guide to where to watch the best live music in the city.

Private Dining Rooms in Manchester

The best private dining spaces in Manchester's leading restaurants. This is where you and your guests can be fed by professional chefs in a private room.

Sunday Roasts in Manchester

Looking for the finest roast dinners in Manchester? Look no further. We've picked out the very best Sunday dinners in the city.

actor with pig puppets The Three Little Pigs at Waterside Arts
Spotlight on

Things to do at February half term

Looking for things to do with the kids in the February half term holidays? Check out our guide.

Take me there

Culture Guides

Music in Manchester and the North

Fresh concert seasons, forward-thinking festivals and a revolving door of amazing gigs. Things are looking bright as spring comes into view.

Exhibitions in Manchester and the North

February is a month of love so art lovers in the North - rejoice! There is lots to choose from: two photography festivals, gorgeous crafts and shows celebrating local talent.