Whether you want a family-friendly visit to intu Trafford Centre, a weekend soaking up the vibes at a music festival or a romantic walk in some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK, Manchester is the perfect place to begin your journey.
Easily accessible attractions
Anything you want to do is accessible from the city – even skiing (there’s the Chill Factore near intu Trafford Centre) so you can easily combine a day browsing shops and galleries with another taking in the stunning scenery of the Peak District, for example.
Experiences outside the city can be as varied as exploring outer space at Jodrell Bank, visiting Blackpool Illuminations, heading over to the Abbey Hey donkey sanctuary, or petting animals at Wythenshawe Park farm. The nearby countryside offers a wealth of experiences, too, from enjoying a gentle ramble in Etherow Country Park to watching a major outdoor gig at Delamere Forest.
The Manchester Ship Canal runs through the city centr
Manchester is full of historical buildings
Whatever the time of year, and whatever the weather, there’s always plenty to engage visitors of all ages. You can visit Manchester Police Museum, the city’s Transport Museum and Bolton Museum Aquarium or enjoy one of the many festivals staged throughout the year.
Come to the city for its annual Gay Pride weekend, food festival, jazz festival and biannual Manchester International Festival which will get a new home in the Factory development on the former Quay Street site of Granada TV in 2021.
You can easily combine a day browsing shops and galleries with another taking in the stunning scenery of the Peak District
Shop and take in the fine architecture, old and modern, visit a sports stadium, people-watch at a pavement cafe and enjoy a night at the theatre, spend the day at the prize-winning Whitworth Art Gallery and the arts centre HOME, or shop at a vintage market in the city’s cathedral and an artisan market at Castlefield – whatever you’re into, there’s a day out here just for you.
You can get an overview of Manchester’s heritage by taking a walk with a guide who can detail everything from Hitler’s plans for the city, to its incredible role in pop history. Fancy going to the “dark side” of Manchester or finding out where Marx and Engels used to drink while devising the Communist Manifesto? There’s a guide who’ll take you there.
A day in the city can be spent doing something as simple as visiting the area where it all began. Castlefield is the site of the Roman fort which gave rise to the settlement of Mamucium, but it’s also a picturesque waterside location with bars, restaurants and vibrant artisan and vintage markets.
The Printworks is a state-of-the-art entertainment complex
Marvel at Manchester City Hall
The National Football Museum
Another great attraction is the buzzing state-of-the-art entertainment complex, The Printworks, on Withy Grove adjacent to Exchange Square. It’s here you’ll be able to catch a 3D movie on the giant IMAX screen, or all the latest movies at the Vue cinema complex, then enjoy a meal at restaurants such as, Peachy Keens, Wagamama, Hard Rock Cafe or The Seven Stars. Or end the day in high spirits at the Bierkeller.
Across from The Printworks, the Corn Exchange has undergone a transformation that has turned it into a major dining hub featuring everything from street food at Mowgli and Pho to authentic Italian food at Salvis restaurant and deli, while just around the corner close to the revamped Victoria railway station there’s The National Football Museum which focuses on the history of the people’s game as well as celebrating football culture through exhibitions and events.
Castlefield is the site of the Roman fort which gave rise to the settlement of Mamucium, but it’s also a picturesque waterside location with bars, restaurants and vibrant artisan and vintage markets
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Of course, the city’s football teams are world famous and a trip to Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium are major attractions for visitors from all over the globe. At Manchester United’s ground you can visit the museum and take the official tour and dine at Gary Neville’s Cafe Football, while at Manchester City it is also possible to tour the stadium. They’ve also launched City Square, a pre-match entertainment zone which includes giant screens. Sports fans can also spend the day at Old Trafford cricket ground, or try riding the track at the National Cycling Centre, which plays a crucial role in training the UK’s Olympic cycling stars.
If sport isn’t your thing, how about a trip to intu Trafford Centre? After a spot of shopping it’s possible to see a movie at the Trafford Centre or visit leisure attractions such as Laser Quest, Namco Funscape complete with bowling alley, Legoland and Paradise Island Adventure Golf and Sea Life. Also at Trafford is the Chill Factore, where you’ll find all the fun of skiing and snowboarding in this indoor ski slope. Off piste you can shop or get refreshments at the attraction’s very own Alpine Village.
Take a tour of Manchester United’s stadium at Old Trafford
Salford Quays offers a wealth of attractions
For outdoor leisure head to Heaton Park on the tram and catch the lovely views over the Pennines. A well-equipped playground, rowing boats, woodland walks and cycle trails give visitors plenty of things to do and there’s even an 18th-century mansion and farm here, too. Another impressive out-of-town attraction is Jodrell Bank, Manchester University’s centre for astrophysics, which now has its very own thrilling Bluedot Festival.
Salford Quays is accessible by Metrolink thanks to the relocation of the BBC at MediaCityUK and it’s here you’ll be able to visit the Lowry Theatre and Arts Centre to check out the latest exhibition or maybe see a show. Or visit the stunning Daniel Liebeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North. Of course, star-spotting at MediaCityUK is de rigueur and you can take a studio tour and have go at being a newsreader on CBBC.
Salford Quays is accessible by Metrolink thanks to the relocation of the BBC at MediaCityUK and it’s here you’ll be able to visit the Lowry to check out the latest exhibition
Further out of the city
Those who wish to venture a few miles out of the city will be rewarded with the delights of country piles like Dunham Massey, a Trafford-based Georgian mansion and 300-acre deer park that reveals its dark and scandalous past to visitors who tour its environs. There are beautiful gardens to enjoy, too, and yummy Dunham Pudding and Lady Jane Cake to eat in the teashop after all that exploring.
Disley is where you’ll find beautiful Lyme Park, a stunning estate with a lavishly-decorated 16th-century residence nestling within sweeping moorland. Sounds romantic? Well its emotive beauty was the perfect backdrop for Colin Firth’s Darcy to meet Elizabeth in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice some years ago. It has a colourful family history, too, that includes historical figures like the Black Prince and Duke of Windsor.
Stockport Hat Works is another surprising attraction, as it tells the story of an industry which thrived in the North West and gives you the chance to discover how hats were made, as well as see headgear worn by some very famous people from all over the world. If you’re spending time in Stockport you can also visit the Air Raid Shelters and experience life as it was like during a ‘black out’ of war-torn Britain. These shelters have been imaginatively restored to give a feel of that era and you can even take part in some first-hand experiences to bring it even more vividly to life. Visit Stockport’s historic market and re-vamped Produce Hall and join in Foodie Fridays when the area is filled with street food stalls, music and a lively crowd.
Head out of the city to Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire
You can do everything from ice skating in Altrincham, ride a steam train from Bury to Ramsbottom, or head to Cheshire, where you can do everything from mingle with the well heeled of Alderley Edge to enjoy the historic delights of beautiful Chester.
Maybe explore a corner of the Lake District, taking a leisurely boat ride on Windermere, or head for the stunning beauty of the Peak District, home to Chatsworth House a few miles from Bakewell home of the pudding.
Seaside delights await in world-famous Blackpool and its more genteel neighbour Lytham, while you can walk the Art Deco trail at Morecambe or combine building sand castles on the beach at Southport with a visit to the local art gallery.
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Image credits: ©Cameron Barnes/Unsplash; Jason Lawton/IWM North; Shutterstock.com; VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett/Bray Leino