After London, Manchester is one of the most visited cities in Britain, and with good reason. While its name often conjures images of a tough industrial past, modern-day Manchester is a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination with many attractions that highlight its unique heritage and culture. Whether you're a fan of history, art, music or sport, Manchester has something to offer. To help get you started planning your next trip to this lively northern city, here is a list of a few must-see attractions for any visitor to Manchester:
Museum of Science and Industry
Keen to learn more about science, or just want to get to grips with Manchester's industrial past? This world-class museum based around the first passenger railway station in the world should be the first stop on your list when travelling to Manchester. With a wide range of displays dealing with scientific history and innovation, plus interactive exhibitions and unique features such as the chance to explore a Victorian sewer, this free attraction will appeal to visitors of all ages.
Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
The first urban heritage park in Britain, Castlefield is the perfect place to get a sense of Manchester's wider history, as well as to enjoy a bit of peaceful green space away from the bustle of the city. Incorporating both the Museum of Science and Industry and the ruins of Mamucium, the Roman-age fort from which the city takes its name, the park also includes some of the city's most complete industrial-era canals and railway viaducts and thus shows a unique cross-section of the city's architectural heritage.
The majority of Manchester's buildings date from the 19th century or later, but there are a few real gems from earlier eras. Most notable among these is Manchester Cathedral, which dates in its current form from 1215, although the exterior in particular displays many later alterations. The cathedral is home to exceptionally fine medieval woodcarvings and some lovely modern stained glass, among other interesting architectural features. You can also view the remains of the medieval Hanging Bridge from the basement of the cathedral's Visitor Centre.
John Ryland's Library
One of Manchester's foremost architectural gems, this library is a book lover's dream as well as an impressive example of Victorian Gothic style. Inspired by medieval church buildings, the library is now owned by the University of Manchester and is home to numerous rare and valuable texts. Be sure to climb the imposing main stairs to visit the sumptuous reading room - the vaulted chamber is more akin to a palace or cathedral than most public libraries.
National Football Museum
Mancunians are renowned for their love of football, and fans of the beautiful game will be keen to explore the history of the sport and its leagues at this world-class museum. Set in the futuristic glass Urbis building, the museum stretches over multiple levels and includes the interactive Football Plus+ experience - different stations where you can test your own football skills - plus the famous Fifa Collection, one of the foremost collections of football memorabilia in the world.
People's History Museum
History fans who want to know more about the role of the common people will love this unique interpretation of Manchester's industrial and political past. Focusing on the reformers, activists, and trade unions that helped shape the modern political process, this groundbreaking museum offers a fascinating view of ordinary people in times past and how they viewed, shaped and experienced their world.
Manchester Town Hall
A spectacular example of late Victorian Gothic style, Manchester's Town Hall was designed to reflect the city's industrial wealth by securing a place amongst the world's foremost civic architecture. The exterior is imposing enough, but be sure to venture insight and view the statues of notable Mancunians in the Sculpture Hall and the lovely wall murals by Ford Maddox Brown that epitomise Manchester's forward-looking approach to education, industry and society.