Manchester is an exciting city break destination packed with cool cultural attractions, innovative bars and restaurants, and a busy year-round calendar of events. Visit to learn more about its revolutionary residents, who have changed everything from the way we vote to what we eat, to watch a sporting event in a world-famous stadium, and to discover street art, historic buildings and waterside venues in its centre and beyond.

The best neighbourhoods to visit in Manchester

The Northern Quarter

Street art

Street art adorns Manchester's urban fabric.

Between Ancoats and Piccadilly in the city centre, the hip Northern Quarter is filled with street art, independent shops and cool places to eat and drink. Stay in the modern AC Hotel Manchester City Centre on the edge of the district, just around the corner from the enormous Mackie Mayor food hall. You can pick up everything from top-quality pizza and bao buns to tacos inside this Grade II-listed former meat market. Alternatively, you can find the Manchester Marriott Hotel Piccadilly perfectly positioned just a stone's throw away from Piccadilly Train Station, where you can indulge in a day of relaxation at the Elemis spa and embrace evenings filled with excitement in the vibrant Northern Quarter.

If you’re looking for a unique gift, head to another former market building nearby, now home to the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Here independent makers sell handmade homeware, jewellery, cards and more. Alternatively, visit the renowned Afflecks Palace for everything from clothes and art to fantastic ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – try the ‘Chorlton Crack’ flavour, which combines salted caramel with peanut butter. Pay attention to the exterior of Afflecks Palace too, which has colourful mosaic art by Mark Kennedy depicting Manchester heroes.

For more street art, look at the Tib Street substation, which can be found further up Tib Street from Afflecks Palace, on the corner with Thomas Street, where murals of Captain Sir Tom Moore, Manchester music legend Tony Wilson and Prince have been painted over the years. There’s even rumoured to be a Banksy painting on its back, covered up for protection by Manchester City Council.

Ancoats

East of the Northern Quarter, Ancoats’ excellent independent restaurants and bars are filled with young creatives. mana on Blossom Street is one of the city’s most coveted places to eat, having been awarded Manchester’s first Michelin star in more than 40 years. You’ll have to book in advance, though, to try imaginative dishes such as tomato carpaccio, elderflower and caviar bread. If you miss out on a table here, there are plenty of excellent alternatives in the neighbourhood, such as Sugo Pasta Kitchen for fresh Pugliese pasta, Canto for Mediterranean tapas and Rudy’s for top-quality pizzas.

As well as being a great place to eat, Ancoats is a fascinating place to explore. Visit Anita Street to see pretty rows of Victorian terraces. Now a desirable place to live, it was originally called Sanitary Street as the houses here were some of the first in the area to be built with their own outside toilets, so people no longer had to share. Look out for a heart-warming statue of an old couple sitting on a bench on George Leigh Street that runs parallel to Anita Street.

Make time too for a walk around New Islington Marina. Enjoy waterside coffee and cake in Pollen Bakery (try a ‘cruffin’), feed the ducks and swans, and admire the brightly coloured boats that are moored here.

Spinningfields

Manchester's John Rylands library

Manchester's John Rylands library has a unique atmosphere.

Sandwiched between Deansgate and the River Irwell in the heart of the city centre, Spinningfields is full of shiny office buildings, great places to eat and drink, plus interesting things to do. The Neo-Gothic John Rylands Library on Deansgate, just one of the city’s literary attractions, is perhaps one of the most handsome buildings in Manchester – make sure you go inside to take a look at its spectacular, vaulted reading room which resembles the layout of a church. Another cultural must-see in Spinningfields is the People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy. As well as containing thought-provoking collections telling the stories of people who fought for equality, it has an innovative sustainable café, Open Kitchen, plus a mural by international street artist Axel Void on its exterior wall which was commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. Moxy Manchester City is one of the best places to stay for a night out enjoying the best of Spinningfields. Start your night with drinks with a view on the rooftop garden terrace at chic 20 Stories, followed by a “ruby murray” in Indian restaurant Dishoom, which is also a popular spot for its breakfast bacon naan roll. Alternatively, stay on the water in the Manchester Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel, which is inside a Grade II-listed former cotton warehouse.

Old Trafford, MediaCityUK and Salford Quays

If you’re visiting Manchester for its sporting fame, there’s no better place to stay than Old Trafford, where you’ll be within walking distance of both the football stadium and the cricket ground. Hotel Football, Old Trafford, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, where some rooms overlook Manchester United’s ground, is the perfect place for sport enthusiasts. You’ll smile at dishes such as the “Nicky Butty” (otherwise known as a club sandwich) in its Café Football restaurant, while young fans will love the restaurant’s sweet shop where they can stock up on a quarter pound of sweets after a meal. For the ultimate treat, combine a stay here with an Old Trafford museum and stadium tour.

To be closer to waterside attractions, shops and restaurants, stay in adjacent Salford Quays. This area buzzes on weekdays with creatives who work in MediaCityUK, and at the weekend with visitors looking around the Imperial War Museum North, watching a show at The Lowry arts venue or braving a pre-booked open-water swimming session in Dock 9. The AC Hotel Marriott Manchester Salford Quays is a ten-minute walk from MediaCityUK and has a laid-back lounge where you can enjoy tapas, pizza and cocktails after a day exploring.

To discover a unique thing to do near Salford Quays, head to Ordsall Hall, which is the oldest building in Salford. Its impressive timber-framed Great Hall is set up for a banquet – there are period costumes next to it, should you want to join the feast.

Oxford Road

Stretching from Whitworth Park near Manchester’s Curry Mile all the way to the city centre, Oxford Road is home to some of the city’s best places to visit and some grand university buildings. The Whitworth gallery has art to admire inside and out, and a café that overlooks the park through floor-to-ceiling windows. Manchester Museum has a fascinating Egyptology collection, and a vivarium with a large collection of Costa Rican frogs.

Just off Oxford Road, two alternative things to do include the former homes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth Gaskell. Visit the Pankhurst Centre on Nelson Street to see where the first meeting of the group that would become the suffragettes was held, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House to look around the Grade II*-listed Regency-style villa that fellow writers Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and John Ruskin all visited.

A great spot for a meal or a cocktail along Oxford Road is Refuge, which has an enormous, handsome bar with pillars and original glazed tiles, a winter garden to tuck yourself away in, and the Refuge Dining Room where small plates called “Voltini” are served. Dishes have been inspired by DJ owners The Unabombers’ global travels – try the chickpea daal with coconut milk, smoked almonds, apricots and dates.

Worsley

MediaCity UK at Salford Quays, Manchester

Salford Quays, Manchester.

The leafy village of Worsley in Salford is a quieter alternative to the city centre. Stay in the Delta Hotels by Marriott Worsley Park Country Club for woodland walks, canal-side restaurants and the RHS Garden Bridgewater on your doorstep. However, with a car you’ll still only be around a 20-minute drive from the city centre, a 15-minute drive from MediaCityUK and a 10-minute drive from the Trafford Centre’s shops and attractions such as Chill Factore.

Once you’ve had a morning swim in the hotel’s indoor pool, explore the RHS Garden Bridgewater, where a highlight is its Paradise Garden designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith. Then enjoy lunch in the Italian Lugana Restaurant, where dishes to try include king prawns cooked with onions, basil, chilli, cherry tomatoes and white wine, and lobster ravioli.

Go deeper

Manchester Cathedral or the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George located on Victoria Street

The soaring interior of Manchester Cathedral.

As you explore the city, you’ll see Manchester’s symbol, the worker bee, everywhere from street art to bollards. The bee represents the hard work ethic of Mancunians. It was first used to represent the city in 1842 when the city was full of “worker bees” in its cotton mills, and now symbolises unity in Manchester. There are even beehives hidden on top of Manchester Cathedral.

Free buses run from the railway stations to the main areas in the city centre, so before you pay for a taxi, check the routes and timings online.

Published: July 25, 2022

Last Updated: May 09, 2024

Article Tags:  Manchester , United Kingdom

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