Manchester & Tourism: What to do in Manchester

With the Christmas season fast approaching, we're looking at the city from the visitor's perspective.

In October this year, Marketing Manchester - the agency tasked with promoting the city - noted that tourism was now the single most valuable sector to the Greater Manchester economy. Visitor spending contributes £7.9 billion to the county as a whole, and £4.24 billion to the city itself. Tourism supports 94,000 jobs and accounts for almost 120 million visits every year.

Manchester, then, clearly stands as one of the country's foremost visitor destinations. When you consider its many attractions, it really isn't difficult to understand why.

Regular attractions:

Like any major city, Manchester has its fair share of permanent attractions. It hosts several famous museums - such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the National Football Museum, the People's History Museum and, of course, Manchester Museum itself.

There are numerous high profile galleries such as the Whitworth, HOME and Manchester Art Gallery, and many others that cater for special interests. In all, Manchester tourist guides list up to 27 different museums and galleries, dealing with everything from transport and military history, to textiles, industrial heritage, sport and Chinese contemporary art. 

What's more, the city boasts some of the country's finest libraries, historical buildings and churches - together with the always impressive Manchester Cathedral, which features free admission and regular guided tours. The city also hosts two resident symphony orchestras.

Venues and events:

Manchester is the North West's leading centre for live performances. The 21,000-seater Manchester Arena is the largest of its kind in Europe and, for concerts, it is one of the busiest indoor arenas in the world. Other key venues for music, comedy and displays include the O2 Apollo Manchester, the recently re-opened Albert Hall and the University's of Manchester's four concert venues, known collectively as Manchester Academy.
Culture enthusiasts can also enjoy a wealth of theatres in the city - including the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street, Manchester Opera House and the Royal Exchange Theatre. For those prepared to make the short trip out to neighbouring Salford, the Lowry hosts a busy programme of shows, musicals and exhibitions. 

The Bridgwater Hall is one of Manchester's best known central venues for music, conferences and now TED talks, but there are many others dotted in and around the city. For major exhibitions, the largest is undoubtedly Manchester Central, which can host up to 10,000 delegates.
The Manchester International Festival is a multi-venue event, held bi-annually to celebrate new work in the field of arts and culture. This year's festival, MIF2017, featured 380 live performance and drew a record 300,000 visitors. 


It almost needn't be said that Manchester has an unparalleled sporting heritage. Not only is it home to two famous football clubs (seven if you're looking at Greater Manchester as a whole), it also hosts Lancashire Cricket Club at Old Trafford.  This famous cricket ground sees county fixtures throughout the season but it is also a popular venue for test matches.
And Manchester's credentials don't end there. Having hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the city benefited from the construction or modernisation of many other sporting facilities. Amongst these are the City of Manchester Stadium, the Manchester Velodrome and the Manchester Aquatics Centre. 2016 also saw the opening of a new £10 million National Speedway Stadium. Other sports regularly played and watched in Manchester include snooker, basketball, squash, ice hockey, boxing, wrestling and American football.


With a large university student population and rapid growth in sectors such as the digital industries, media and the life sciences, it's no surprise that Manchester has a relatively young and cosmopolitan population. One consequence of this is that the city's nightlife rivals that of any major city in the world.  Manchester's 500-plus licensed premised typically handle upwards of 120,000 visitors on a weekend but nocturnal pursuits aren't limited to pubs and clubs. Manchester has some of the country's best restaurants and, as noted earlier, a buoyant cultural scene, with plays, musical performances and other entertainments that last long into the night.


For enthusiastic shoppers, Manchester offers a veritable treasure trove of arcades, well known fashion brands and an eclectic mix of specialist retail outlets. Some will like to parade the main high streets, while others will gravitate towards areas with a particular flavour. For example, King Street and Spinningfields offer more of a boutique shopping experience, while the Northern Quarter appeals to those of a more alternative bent. Afflecks, for example, is a shopping arcade which describes itself as an 'emporium of eclecticism; a totem of indie commerce'.

A more mainstream shopping experience is to be found at the Arndale Centre, which features over 200 retailers, including such high street names as Apple, O2, Beaverbrooks, Hollister and Miss Selfridge.

The Trafford Centre is another of the city's largest and most popular retail complexes, featuring leading stores, restaurants and leisure facilities. Amongst many others, attractions include a cinema, the LegoLand® Discovery Centre, a laser tag centre and Sea Life Manchester, an aquarium offering a range of family entertainments.


Christmas is a hugely important part of Manchester's tourist calendar and, accordingly, the city is gearing up for another big festive season. Already, theatres are taking booking for plays, pantomimes and musicals, and the city centre is seeing over 300 stalls and chalets springing up in readiness for the Christmas Markets.  There will be nine such markets in all - some with distinctly European themes, such as the French Christmas Market on King Street - all offering a selection of clothes, craft goods and seasonal foodstuffs.

For keen skaters, the popular Manchester ice rink returns to Cathedral Gardens, where it will be open from 11am to 9pm daily. In addition, as from 15th November, there will be another ice rink on First Street, close to Deansgate Locks.

The Christmas calendar also features carols and concerts, innumerable cinema screenings of seasonal favourites, and EventCity's Winter Wonderland, which promises, rides, entertainments and a chance for the kids to meet Santa. Speaking of St Nick, the indoor ski slope, Chill Factore, will have its very own Santa's grotto.

In addition to all this and the many promotions laid on by Manchester's major retailers, visitors to Albert Square can also witness Manchester's Big Light Switch-on, which is to be accompanied by a 10 minute firework spectacular.

In short, there will be attractions aplenty this Christmas in Manchester, as well as a packed programme of entertainments throughout the coming year. 

Accommodation in Manchester:

If you're planning a visit to Manchester and you're looking for quality short-stay accommodation, please get in touch. We manage a number of serviced apartments on Canal Street, whose central location is ideal for visitors keen to enjoy all that the city has to offer.

For more information and recommendations, please call our Serviced Accommodation team on 01244 343355.

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