Considered by many to be England’s second city, Manchester is a place where an industrial and politically radical heritage goes hand in hand with a vibrant cultural scene, notable for its artistic, architectural, theatrical and musical output.
If you want to find out more about the city, its history and attractions, the Visit Manchester website provides a comprehensive guide of places to visit and where to eat, drink and stay as well as useful maps and transport information.
If you're arriving early or staying on after the conference, you may wonder how to spend your leisure time so here is a small selection of some of the best places to visit, eat and drink in.
Galleries and Museums
Castlefield Gallery A contemporary art gallery featuring a diverse range of contemporary art across a programme of six exhibitions a year.
Cornerhouse A major force in Manchester’s, as well as Britain’s, contemporary arts scene, this arts centre features three cinema screens, three galleries, a café bar and a book shop specialising in film books, cultural magazines and postcards.
Manchester Art Gallery is one of the city’s most popular cultural destinations and houses many of Manchester’s most important works of fine and decorative art. The gallery is particularly well known for its collections of Pre-Raphaelite and impressionist paintings, but also hosts an exciting exhibition programme ranging from the historic to the contemporary and featuring photography, design and decorative arts.
Manchester Craft and Design Centre Winner of the 2013 Manchester Tourism award for ‘Best Independent Tourism Retailer’, the centre is home to two floors of studios where you can purchase goods ranging from jewellery and bags to ceramics, interior accessories and furniture, direct from the designer-makers themselves. The centre also comprises the Oak St Café Bar which is renowned for its coffee and delicious home cooked food, and runs a rolling programme of exhibitions showcasing both British and international contemporary craft and design.
MOSI Based on the site of the oldest passenger railway station in the world, the Museum of Science and Industry is an attraction not to be missed. With highlights including the hands-on ‘Experiment!’ gallery, huge collections of historic working machinery and vintage vehicles, the ‘Underground Manchester’ gallery which features a re-creation of a Victorian sewer and the ‘Making of Manchester’ exhibition that traces the history of the city from the Roman invasion to the present day, there really is something for everyone!
People’s History Museum A unique part of Manchester’s cultural make-up, the museum fits in perfectly with the city’s radical background, as it charts Britain’s struggle for equality and democracy over the past two centuries. Featuring interactive exhibits and activities in each of the main galleries, as well as a changing exhibitions space, the museum tackles a weighty and complex subject in a light and engaging manner.
Out and About
Castlefield is the industrial and Roman heart of Manchester, and its features include a partially reconstructed Roman fort, Roman amphitheatre, industrial revolution era canals and Victorian viaducts. It is also home to the Museum of Science and Industry, an events arena that hosts a range of one-off gatherings and performances and many popular bars and restaurants.
Exchange Square/New Cathedral Street As well as playing host to branches of two of the most renowned UK department stores in the shape of Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, this area is also home to many other upmarket retailers including Hugo Boss, Joseph, LK Bennett, Radley and Reiss. Facing the square you will find the Corn Exchange, which offers a variety of dining options ranging from Italian to Asian.
King Street Considered to be one of Manchester’s most prestigious shopping areas, here you can find collections from British and international brands including Cath Kidston, DKNY, Mulberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Vivienne Westwood and Whistles.
Northern Quarter Manchester’s self-styled creative district, situated between Piccadilly and Ancoats, is home to the Church Street Market as well as a vast array of independent shops, bars and eateries. Still featuring redbrick alleys, tiny shop fronts and sprawling warehouses right out of the 19th century, the area is a hub of contemporary and street art nonetheless, with poems embedded in pavements, graffiti and stencil art decorating walls and shutters and even a giant blue tit mural adorning the side of a listed building.
Piccadilly Gardens The largest open space in the city centre, this area features grassy areas and fountains, surrounded by a variety of cafes, bars and restaurants. On a sunny day, it’s a great place for people watching or simply just taking in the bustling atmosphere. Thursdays see the arrival of the Street Food and Fruit and Flower markets, whilst the Craft Market trades on Fridays and Saturdays.
Eating and Drinking
There are too many cafes, bars and restaurants to list individually! If you would like some recommendations, why not check out TripAdvisor or Restaurants of Manchester. Alternatively the Visit Manchester website also has a dedicated ‘Food and Drink’ section.
Whilst the Visit Manchester website provides a full transport guide, it’s worth highlighting the free Metroshuttle bus service, which runs from all Manchester’s major railway stations and links the main attractions, car parks, shopping areas and businesses. Fast and frequent, the service runs from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday, 8 am to 7 pm on Saturdays and 10 am -6 pm on Sundays.