Europe,  UK

What to do in Manchester on a cultural weekend

If you’ve booked yourself a room and prepared yourself for a road trip, train ride or flight but you’re not quite sure what to do in Manchester – then this post is for you.

With so much to do in the regenerated ‘Northern powerhouse’, it’s often tricky to pick and choose between each museum, gallery or cultural highlight. On my first visit through to my most recent, I’ve always planned an itinerary or at least had a list of all the things I want to do in Manchester. I find it helps me to make the most of my time, come away feeling like I’ve achieved something over the weekend and most importantly, recharged my creativity. Because it’s important, right? Sitting at a desk 9 to 5 can get a little glum sometimes, so it’s nice to get away, explore and absorb something new.

So, without delay, here’s my top seven suggestions for what to do in Manchester for a taste of its enduring culture…

Inside John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library

Located in Deansgate, it’s definitely worth setting aside at least an hour to walk around this beautiful Victorian neo-Gothic building – I honestly had to pick my jaw off the floor. Designed in memory of her husband, Enriqueta Augustina Rylands built a stand-out part of Manchester’s streetscape that reflected the arts and crafts movement of the time.

Highlight: The opulent reading room – don’t forget to bring a camera. It reminded me of the castle in Beauty and the Beast.

Outside Salford Lads Club

Salford Lads’ Club

In the Salford area of Manchester, this iconic club has been working with young people since 1903 to engage them in a range of communal activities. It also became the sleeve of The Smiths’ album ‘The Queen Is Dead’, which means it’s now visited by thousands of fans each year, including me!

Highlight: Visit on one of the club’s open days and you’ll be able to take a peek inside The Smiths Room.

Inside Affleck’s Palace


This indoor market in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is crammed with 73 indie stalls,  record shops and niche boutiques that sell a range of alternative and vintage items. The building itself was once a department store called Afflecks and Brown, which is where it got its name.

Highlight: You must seek out the Retro Games Shop, Pop Boutique and the Rubber Plantation. The last one is a laugh in itself, you’ll see why.

The Banner Exhibit in Manchester’s People’s History Museum

People’s History Museum

Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite museums in the world. It’s a dedicated space to the history of the UK’s working people, a living piece of history documenting work, home and leisure over the last 200 years. You’ll want to spend between 2-3 hours here taking it all in.

Highlight: The radicalism, women’s suffrage and banners sections. The museum holds one of the largest collections of political banners in the world and spends a lot of time conserving them. Great if you’re an art or textiles student/fan.

The Alan Turing Memorial in Sackville Park.

Alan Turing Memorial

In the heart of Manchester’s city centre in Sackville Park is a subtle but heart-warming memorial to Alan Turing, England’s Father of Computer Science. He’s a little tricky to find when you’re just wandering around but as a gay icon, it’s apt that he’s close to the city’s Canal Street, Manchester’s gay village.

Highlight: You can sit with Alan on his bench and ponder his magnificent achievements.

Inside the MOSI.

Museum of Science and Industry

Devoted to scientific, technological and industrial developments, in this extensive museum you’ll be able to see original locomotives, iconic aircraft, beautiful textiles and restored factory machinery. It made me feel like I’d gone back in time during my visit, which took a good few hours, so leave enough time.

Highlight: Go on a bank holiday to take a ride on a historic steam train. The museum itself is situated on the site of the world’s first railway station.

The Baristas of North Tea Power

North Tea Power

Owned by Wayne and Jane, North Tea Power is hands down my favourite independent coffee shop in the city’s Northern Quarter. Serving the best hand-crafted coffee and loose leaf tea around, this relatively hidden gem is the perfect spot to unwind with an independent magazine, readily available for your perusal.

Highlight: Try the delicious ham and cheese toastie, it’ll be the best one you’ve ever tasted. If you’ve still got room, attempt a slice of the iced lemon cake.

If you were asked ‘what to do in Manchester’ – what would you recommend?

Leave us your suggestions in the comments…


Louise works as a Senior Strategist in the digital marketing industry and loves to see as much of the world as often as she can. She had her wedding and honeymoon in Iceland and dreams of going back. She also loves a European city break, as well as Asian adventures. Japan, Norway and LA are next on her wish list.


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