What to do in Manchester on a cultural weekend

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.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

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    • January 31, 2017 / 6:12 pm

      Thanks Tanja! Lou’s a regular, but I’m yet to visit myself. it sounds like there’s lots of culture there!

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:25 am

      Go for it, Tanja! you won’t regret it x

  1. January 31, 2017 / 2:01 pm

    What a great post! I love the mix of cultural activities you’ve listed – most of which I hadn’t heard of. That library sounds magnificent and the People’s History Museum looks fascinating, particularly now, with so many protests going on around the world. #citytripping

    • January 31, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      Thanks Clare! I have to say I was surprised by how cultural the city sounds, Lou’s post has really made me want to visit – especially that library!

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:26 am

      Thanks, Clare. That’s no problem. I love finding new and exciting places to visit – not just the usual touristy spots. That museum has never been more relevant, as you say x

  2. January 31, 2017 / 2:06 pm

    I ❤️ Mosi! Not been to the library but looks beautiful #citytripping

    • January 31, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      How does it compare to London’s Science Museum then?

      • February 1, 2017 / 11:28 am

        They’re funded by the same group, in fact, the MOSI is more popular 😉

        • February 2, 2017 / 4:52 pm

          Ooh really? Very interesting….

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:22 am

      You must go to John Rylands – it’s so beautiful! It felt like walking the corridors of Hogwarts 🙂 Lou

  3. January 31, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    Great list of things to see and do in Manchester- will pin so I can consult on my next visit to the city. #citytrippng

    • January 31, 2017 / 6:14 pm

      Thanks Tracy and enjoy your next trip! x

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:21 am

      That’s fab, Tracy. Let me know if you want any other tips 🙂 Lou

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:20 am

      They absolutely blew me away – the craftmanship and colour in that one room was mind-blowing! Let alone the historical points behind each one x

  4. February 1, 2017 / 4:48 am

    Such a cool list – the Lads’ club and the market sound especially fun. #citytripping

    • February 1, 2017 / 11:20 am

      Thanks so much! If you ever get the chance, you should visit. Salford Lads Club was a special moment for me being a massive Smiths fan 🙂 Lou

  5. February 1, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    So many places I have yet to visit in Manchester. I think I spent most of my last weekend there wandering around the Northern Quarter- it’s a very long time since I was last in Afflecks! A good incentive to go back and plenty of new ideas. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  6. February 1, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    I love Manchester- so much to do. I lived there for 16 years including my uni days. I still work there! I absolutely feel the same about the People’s History Museum – it’s a hugely significant place, I think. And I love the MOSI. Ashamed to say I’ve never been in the John Rylands library, I must rectify that soon!

  7. February 1, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    Fantastic list! The People’s Museum sounds very interesting and the library looks amazing. I haven’t been to Manchester in ages! In fact, this last time I went was for a rock concert and barely saw any of the city. I’d like to check out Salford Quays area too. Thanks god linking up #citytripping

  8. February 2, 2017 / 2:20 am

    Manchester United was about the only thing I heard about the city so it was very interesting to read your post, particularly as a friend suggested we visit the city next time I am in England. The museum of science and industry and the people’s museum sound fascinating #CityTripping

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