Manchester was hailed as the world’s first modern city in the early 19th century, and the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution...
... still bristles with confidence and energy today. Whether you're coming for the buzzing cultural scene, one of the two huge football teams, or something else entirely, you'll be joining over 40 million leisure and business visitors a year. Manchester shows no signs of slowing down.
Arriving at Manchester Airport
Manchester is one of the best-connected business and leisure destinations in the country, and its airport has three terminals handling over 23 million passengers a year. With direct flights to more than 200 destinations, and 60 national and international carriers, it’s the third busiest airport in the UK, after London Heathrow and Gatwick.
Train is the quickest and most convenient form of public transport for getting into the city. You can reach the station from the terminals via a covered walkway, and the journey to central Manchester takes around 20 minutes, with regular services seven days a week. You can also join the Metrolink tram network at the station. Trams run every 12 minutes, but they're stopping services that run through the city's southern suburbs. Unless you're heading to that part of town, the train is a better option.
For a cheaper journey, try local bus and coach services, which reach the city centre, in 20 to 35 minutes. Or save your energy for seeing the city and splash out on a metred taxi, available outside all three airport terminals.
Half a day
The Northern Quarter offers breakfast spots galore, and handily it's just a few minutes from Piccadilly Station. Try The Koffee Pot on Oldham Street, which has scooped several awards from local press for its early morning menu.
After fuelling up, take a short stroll into the city centre to explore some of Manchester's galleries and museums, all of which are within relatively easy reach of each other. Check out the costume collection at Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street, and discover the story of Manchester at The People’s History Museum in Spinningfields. Or try a different view altogether at the Museum of Science and Industry, on Liverpool Street.
Finally, take a quick look around Manchester Cathedral – a 13th century building that is the centrepiece of the city's modest 'Medieval Quarter'. It's virtually opposite the restaurant-packed Corn Exchange and close to the Northern Quarter, so you'll finish your mini-tour with plenty of lunch or dinner options.
Start the weekend with breakfast in a Northern Quarter coffee shop (10 minutes’ walk east of Manchester Piccadilly Station). Saturday morning is one of the best times to visit this historic district, so hang about a bit and trawl for clothes and vinyl in the vintage stores.
Then stroll west to Liverpool Road to spend a few hours discovering Manchester’s innovative past at the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum is right next to Spinningfields, the riverside district for cafés, restaurants and designer shopping. Local art and craft markets are held here on the second Saturday of the month.
After lunch in Spinningfields, you can either go medieval or High Gothic, depending on which direction you choose to walk. A short stroll west along the riverbank brings you to the 13th-century Manchester Cathedral and Cathedral Visitor Centre, gateway to the city’s atmospheric medieval quarter.
Heading east to Deansgate brings you to John Rylands Library. It’s one of the city’s finest Victorian buildings, but the view from the outside is nothing compared to the lavishly ornate interior.
Finally, cross back over to the Northern Quarter for dinner and drinks.
Start the day with some culture. Manchester Art Gallery is a good place to start, but it's well worth making the journey south to the Whitworth’s old and new galleries.
Drop in on The Corn Exchange for lunch in Manchester’s most impressive Edwardian building. Then head west (it’s a 21-minute Metrolink journey) to The Quays, and explore Manchester’s lively waterfront district for the afternoon.
Alternatively, book tickets for the Manchester United Museum and Old Trafford Stadium Tour, less than 20 minutes by Metrolink from The Quays.
Spend the evening at Deansgate Locks, the canal district where Manchester spins out the weekend as if Monday had been cancelled. Find it just 13 minutes by tram from Manchester Piccadilly.
Take the Metrolink to The Quays and start the week in Manchester’s waterfront district. Visit The Lowry to browse the world’s largest collection of works by L. S. Lowry, then stroll across to the Media City complex, just a few minutes away, for lunch.
Spend a few hours this afternoon exploring the history of modern conflict at the Imperial War Museum North. Then it's back to the Lowry for a pre-theatre dinner at the Pier Eight restaurant and an evening performance at The Lyric Theatre.
Go on a Daily Discovery Walking Tour of the city centre. Tours start at 11am, and take roughly two hours. Reward yourself with a well-deserved lunch at one of the city's more upmarket restaurants – try the King Street Townhouse Hotel on Booth Street, or the globetrotting Refuge By Volta at the Principal Hotel.
Newly refuelled, spend the afternoon shopping on King Street, the city’s designer district. It’s around five minutes’ walk from Booth Street. Walk north and within around 10 minutes you’ll reach Withy Grove, for dinner, drinks and dancing at the Printworks complex.
Block the morning out to explore the extensive collection at the Whitworth Gallery, and stay for lunch at The Whitworth Café, which overlooks Whitworth Park and the gallery's new Art Garden.
Head back to the city centre in the afternoon to join a Manchester Canal Cruise from Salford Quays. Then, after catching the Metrolink back to the city centre, head to the Northern Quarter for dinner.
In the morning, drop into HOME, a modern culture hub just off Whitworth Street West. It's great for independent cinema, but if there's nothing you fancy seeing you can take a look around the galleries or browse the bookshop.
For lunch, head to Chinatown – about 10 minutes away on foot – and relax over a steaming bowl of noodles in one of the area’s many restaurants.
After lunch, head back south to Oxford Road, where you can explore the collections of Manchester Museum. And as evening falls, make your way to Deansgate Locks for Stand-Up Thursday at Manchester Comedy Store. This is a good area for dinner too, and easily walkable from Oxford Road.
Ready to see a different side of Manchester? A week's stay gives you time to explore some outer districts, and Didsbury – just west of the satellite town of Stockport – is well worth the trip. Don't expect big-ticket attractions though – the joy of Didsbury is its relaxed, villagey vibe, with plenty of independent local shops, restaurants and pubs. If it's sunny, take a stroll around the beautifully planted Fletcher Moss Park, near East Didsbury station.
After a relaxing day, take the energy levels up again in the city centre. Hop between some of the clubs and bars at Deansgate Locks, or see what’s happening live at the O2 Ritz.
Spend the morning in Spinningfields by the riverbank, just 20 minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Station. It’s the district for designer shopping, the John Rylands Library, and an array of cafés and restaurants.
Walk 10 minutes along the river to Manchester Cathedral, and spend the afternoon discovering the city’s medieval quarter.
The Corn Exchange is nearby, perfectly placed for an early dinner. Lining the stomach is a sensible precaution to take before visiting The City of Manchester Gin Experience at Three Rivers Distillery (book in advance).
End the week with a trip out of the city. You can walk off the previous evening's excesses on Saddleworth Moor, in the Peak District. Just 40 minutes’ drive east of the city centre, it’s wild, but well-marked for hiking and cycling.