Quick weekend trip to visit a good friend to try and go to the Manchester Derby before catching a train to Liverpool for a Champions League match — football and beer! No masks (immediately after exiting the plane); thick accents; Northern Quarter hostel (bunks); worker bees; opposing team football marching and chanting; copious amounts of drinking; Kendal Mint Cake (explorer food); priced out of Derby tickets; watched game at a sports bar with local, split-seating, big City win; old pubs and architecture; goths and punks; interesting fashion; unappealing women; walking and driving on the left side; rough men and women; 2am denied entry to the club; and Brexit inconveniences. Good hanging out, bad hangovers.
Note: An asterisk denotes a place I have yet to visit properly.
- Manchester Cathedral, The Old Wellington (pie, beer), Chetham’s Library, Old Trafford (game or tour), The Warehouse Project, National Football Museum, Mr Thomas’s Chop House (corned beef hash cake), Beatnikz Republic Bar, Washhouse
- Stay in Northern Quarter. Buy a connecting train ticket from the airport in advance (unable to buy digitally in the last hour?). Give extra time at the airport when leaving (incredibly slow).
“Manchester was without challenge the first and greatest industrial city in the world.”
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Home of the world’s first football league — the aptly named Football League — which was set up at Royal Hotel and ran from 1888 to 1889 with 12 teams. Where the atom was first split by Nobel Prize winner Ernest Rutherford in 1917 at the University of Manchester. The creation of Rolls-Royce (at the Midland Hotel in 1904) and the stored-program computer named Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), or the Manchester Baby (1948 at the University of Manchester). The first passenger railway in 1830 and Suffragette movement (1903, statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in 2019 — the first non-Queen statue in the city!).
Coronation Street is filmed in the city and is the world’s longest-running soap opera (since 1960). British vegetarianism was pioneered by the ironically-named Beefsteak Chapel in Salford in 1847. J.K. Rowling invented Quidditch in Manchester! The University of Manchester is the only university to offer Mummy studies. The Curry Mile (actually half a mile long) hosts the largest concentration of Indian restaurants outside of Asia.
A UNESCO City of Literature known for the writings The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) by Friedrich Engels; The Communist Manifesto by Engels and Marx; Jane Eyre by Brontë (begun in Manchester), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Charles Dickens is reputed to have set his novel Hard Times in the city. Elizabeth Gaskell penned all her novels but Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (1848) at her home in 84 Plymouth Grove, which often played host to influential authors such as Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Eliot Norton.
The worker bee was adopted as the city symbol in 1842 in reference to the working class. Bee references can be found throughout the city — including on the Manchester Town Hall coat of arms, Beehive mill in Ancoats, opposite the Royal Exchange, Kimpton Clocktower, on benches and bins, graffiti, and the University of Manchester coat of arms. Also one of the more LGBT-friendly cities — the New Union Pub in Gay Village was putting on drag shows during WWII! — and the first city in the world to set rainbow tiles across the city. In 1850, the first law in thermodynamics was discovered by James Prescott.
Sporting competitions hosted in city include the FIFA World Cup (1966), UEFA European Football Championship (1996), Olympic Football (2012), UEFA Champions League Final (2003), UEFA Cup Final (2008), four FA Cup Finals (1893, 1911, 1915, 1970), three League Cup Finals (1977, 1978, 1984), Commonwealth Games (2002), UCI Track Cycling World Championships (2008), Ashes cricket (2013), Rugby League World Cup (2013), and the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Annual events include the Manchester International Festival, Manchester Pride (since 1995), and the World Pie Eating Championship (since 1992)!
Notable people include Sir John Alcock (first nonstop transatlantic flight), Arthur Harden (Nobel Prize chemist), John Charles Polanyi (Nobel Prize chemist), Norman Beaker (musician), Anthony Burgess (writer), Tom Chantrell (illustrator), Liam and Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Tyson Fury (boxer), Marcus Rashford (footballer), Mick Hucknall (Simply Red), Peter Hook (Joy Division), Davy Jones (Monkees), Steven Patrick Morrissey (The Smiths), Doug Naylor (Red Dwarf) and Karl Pilkington (actor).
Bands that have emerged from the Manchester music scene include Oasis, The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Buzzcocks, The Stone Roses, The Fall, The Durutti Column, 10cc, Godley & Creme, The Verve, Elbow, Doves, The Charlatans, M People, The 1975, Simply Red, Take That, Dutch Uncles, Everything Everything, Pale Waves, The Outfield, the early Bee Gees, and The Chemical Brothers. The main driving force behind 1980s British indie music leading to the “Madchester” scene. Featured in the film 24 Hour Party People.
Film and television include Peaky Blinders, Queer as Folk, Shameless, The Royale Family, Cold Feet, Life on Mars, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, 24 Hour Party People, Captain America, The 51st State and The Crown.
Originally a stronghold for the Celtic tribe named The Brigantes, the Romans seized control from AD ~79 until around the 3rd century and built a fort named Mamucium (or Mancunium), which translates to “breast shaped hills!“ Later occupied by the Saxons and Normans (1066). At the turn of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution saw Manchester boom in textile manufacture, causing rapid growth and unplanned urbanization. Claimed to be the unofficial title of “second city of the United Kingdom.” Citizens are called Mancunians after the roman name. The oldest free public reference library in the UK.
The worlds first industrialized city. Manchester became known as the world’s largest marketplace for cotton goods and was dubbed “Cottonopolis” and “Warehouse City” during the Victorian era. The term “manchester” is still used in some countries to denote household linen. In the 18th century, cotton from the American slave trade was shipped to Liverpool and processed in Manchester.
A centre of capitalism, its peoples have rioted for personal rights (Anti-Corn Law League, the first Trades Union Congress) and greater political recognition — including the Peterloo massacre of 1819. Birthplace of the economic school of Manchester Capitalism, which promoted free trade and laissez-faire. The subject of Friedrich Engels’ 1844 work, The Condition of the Working Class in England, Engels spent much of his life in the city — where he met Karl Marx. An important cradle of football, the Labour Party, Trade Union movement, and the Suffragette Movement.
By 1540, an important textile town. In 1729, a commodities market opened. In 1761, opening of Britain’s first fully artificially waterway, the Bridgewater Canal. In 1780, the first cotton mill. In the early 1800s, John Dalton formulated his atomic theory. In 1830, the world’s first inter-city passenger railroad (to Liverpool) opened. In 1853, city status. In 1853, a peak of 108 cotton mills. In 1867, three Irish Republicans referred to as the Manchester Martyrs attacked a police van and were executed. In 1878, the first telephones by GPO (forerunner of British Telecom) installed. In 1894, the Manchester Ship Canal opened linking the city to the Irish Sea. In 1917, Ernest Rutherford first split the atom.
During WWII, the target of bombing by the Luftwaffe and by late 1940 air raids were taking place against non-military targets. The largest was the Christmas Blitz of 1940, when an estimated 474 tonnes of high explosives plus over 37,000 incendiary bombs were dropped — destroying a large part of the historic city center, damaging 30,000 houses, and killing 376. Restoration of the cathedral took 20 years. The city fell into decline following the war.
In 1948, the world’s first stored-program computer was developed. In 1992, an IRA bomb wounded 65 people. In 1996, the IRA detonated the largest bomb since WWII causing £700 million (£1.3 today) in damages — the most expensive man-made disaster at the time — an injuring 200 people (the IRA warned people to evacuate). In 2002, hosted the Commonwealth Games. In 2004, the first graphene carbon-structure was first isolated. In 2017, an Islamist terrorist carried out a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena killing 22 and injuring over 800.
Manchester Cathedral (1421)
Formally the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George, severely damaged during WWII and subsequently restored over a period of twenty years. Claimed to have the widest nave of any cathedral in England.
The Angel Stone, a small carving of an angel with a scroll dating to around 700 AD was discovered in the south porch providing evidence of an earlier, possibly Anglo-Saxon, church. Also features nave roof brackets supported by fourteen angel sculptures, each playing a different late medieval instrument; thirty 16th-century misericords (seat shelf) considered amongst the finest in Europe, seat N-08 has the earliest known depiction of backgammon in the UK; ten bells cast in 1925; and the 15th-century Hanging Bridge monument, which was buried for over 100 years. The original organ and Victorian stained glass windows were destroyed during the Blitz.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, chapels were constructed along the north and south sides of the church — the oldest being St Nicholas Chapel (1470). In 1996, the cathedral was damaged in the IRA bombing. In 2008, a £3 million visitors center was opened by Elizabeth II.
Between 1790 and 1821, Reverend Joshua ‘Jotty’ Brookes is commonly regarded to have conducted more marriages, funerals and christenings than any English clergyman before or since. He would marry the poor in “production lines” where the bride would keep place in queue while the groom and friends would decamp in aa nearby ale-house. If the groom didn’t get back before the bride reached the altar, Brookes would notoriously continue the marriage with any passer-by (or even one of the other grooms) as a proxy stand-in!
Manchester has quite a number of historic pubs:
- The Old Wellington (1552 building). The only surviving Tudor building and oldest pub in Manchester. Game pies, low crossbeams in top dining area.
- The Shakespeare (1656 building). Relocated from 40 miles away in 1928!
- The Crown & Kettle (1734 building). Rumored underground passageway.
- The Lower Turks Head (1745 building).
- Castle Hotel* (1776). Site of taverns since 1400s!
- Sir Ralph Abercromby* (1780). Peterloo painting, 2014 visit by Ed Sheeran and Wayne Rooney.
- The Ox Noble* (1804)
- The Briton’s Protection* (1806). Peterloo massacre murals, 300+ whiskeys.
- Sinclairs Oyster Bar* (1807). Moved onto stilts in 1971, and moved again after the 1996 IRA bombing. Cash only, no phones.
- Peveril Of The Peak* (1829). Outside tiles added in 1900, 91-year-old bartender.
- Circus Tavern (1843, 1790 building). Claimed smallest counter in Europe, but is the smallest pub in Manchester.
Belle Vue* (1836 to 1987)
The “showground of the world” was the former Belle Vue Zoological Gardens — a zoo, amusement park, exhibition hall complex and speedway stadium and one of the most popular attractions in Northern England. All that remains of Belle Vue today is a greyhound racing stadium and a snooker hall built in the stadium’s car park.
The first privately financed zoo in England and third-largest in the UK. By 1856, it contained kangaroos, rhinos, lions, bears and gazelles. In 1871, the zoo acquired four giraffes. In 1872, it acquired an elephant, Maharajah, that destroyed its railway compartment so he was walked to Manchester over 10 days (the skeleton is in the Manchester Museum)! In 1893, a chimpanzee, Consul, was dressed in a smoking jacket and cap and puffed on a cob pipe; and frequently accompanied owner James Jennison to business meetings! Following Consul’s death in 1894, a replacement Consul II was acquired — who played a violin while riding a tricycle around the gardens.
Following WWI, several monkeys destined for government experiments with poison gas were acquired, as was a hippo, a dromedary and a zebra. In 1921, an Indian elephant named Lil arrived, giving rides for 35 years. In 1922, “Father of the Zoo” Frank, a brown bear, arrived and lived for 40 years. In 1925, a display at the zoo was entitled “Cannibals” and featured black Africans depicted wearing alleged “native” dress.
During WWII, animal keepers were replaced with sharp-shooters 24 hours a day in the event dangerous animals might escape if the zoo was bombed. Although the gardens sustained only minor damage during the Blitz, food shortages combined with experimental substitutes led to the death of various animals.
Opened in 1836 at its peak Belle Vue occupied 165 acres (0.67 km2) and attracted more than two million visitors a year. In 1853, the first British open brass band championships. In 1926, the UK’s first purpose-built greyhound stadium. In 1929, the largest purpose-built speedway stadium in the country, possibly in the world. In 1960, intruders killed 38 of the zoo’s birds, including 9 penguins. The zoo closed in 1977, amusement park in 1980, land sold in 1982, and site cleared in 1987.
Popular for its 97 km/h Bobs roller coaster, Scenic Railway (1927), Ocean Wave (1894, simulated a storm at sea), boxing, wrestling, rugby, firework displays, an annual Christmas circus, one of the UK’s last flea circuses, ballroom dancing, 32-lane ten-pin bowling alley, and Kings Hall — the largest exhibition space outside London. Kings Hall hosted the Hallé Orchestra for several years and concerts by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Nat King Cole, The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin.
Chetham’s Library* (1653)
The oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world has been in continuous use since 1653! Located in the former Chetham’s Hospital. The collection contains over 100,000 printed books, 60,000 published before 1851; over 1,000 manuscripts, including 41 medieval texts; paintings; and thousands of posters, programmes and photographs relating to the former Belle Vue Zoo.
The meeting place of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels when Marx visited Manchester in the summer of 1845. Facsimiles of the economics books they studied can be seen on a table in the window alcove where they would meet. The research they undertook during this series of visits to the library led ultimately to their work, The Communist Manifesto, and therefore a site of historical importance for visiting communists.
Free Trade Hall* (1856)
Public hall on the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Currently a hotel.
From 1858 to 1996, home of the Hallé Orchestra. In 1905, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) activists were ejected from a meeting for asking questions on Votes for Women, leading to the campaign for the vote. In 1940, left an empty shell during the Manchester Blitz. In 1951, reopened as a concert hall.
Notable speakers and performers include Charles Dickens (1857), Benjamin Disraeli (1872), Winston Churchill (1904), Bob Dylan (1965, 1966), Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Pink Floyd, Genesis (1971), and the Sex Pistols (1976) — which led to the formation of Joy Division, The Smiths and The Fall.
Old Trafford Cricket Ground* (1857)
England’s second-oldest Test venue and host of the first (1884) Ashes Test versus Australia in England (a draw). During WWII, used as a transit camp for troops returning from Dunkirk. Reputedly the wettest Test ground in England, it’s the only ground in England where a Test match has been abandoned without a ball being bowled…twice (1890 and 1938)! Home of the Lancashire County Cricket Club.
Hosted the Cricket World Cup five times (1975, 1979, 1983, 1999 and 2019); holds the record for most World Cup matches (17) and most semi-finals hosted; the popular “Victory Test” against Australia (1945); the first (1956) 10-wicket haul by England bowler Jim Laker who achieved bowling figures of 19 wickets for 90 runs — a bowling record which is unmatched in Test and first-class cricket; the first (1990, age 17) of Sachin Tendulkar’s hundred test centuries; the “Ball of the Century” (1993) bowled by Shane Warne during the Ashes; and the infamous MD Dhoni run-out in his last international match (2019).
The three-tiered Victorian members’ pavilion was built in 1895 , hit by a bomb in 1940, and rebuilt and until 2010 the pavilion sat parallel to the wickets, rather than behind them, presenting the members with one of the worst viewing angles possible. The Point, one of the largest (1,000 seat) multi-purpose conference facilities in North West England opened in 2010. Also features a cricket school (1997, founded 1951), media center (2012), and hotel (2017, half the rooms have a balcony with a full view of the pitch).
Notable musical performances include David Bowie (2002), New Order (2002), Paul Weller (2002), Green Day (2002, 2010), Oasis (2002), Bruce Springsteen (2003, 2008), R.E.M. (2003, 2008), Foo Fighters (2006, 2015), Arctic Monkeys (2007), Radiohead (2008, 2017), Take That (2009, 2017), Coldplay (2009, 2017), Muse (2010), Bon Jovi (2011), Kings of Leon (2011), Rihanna (2016), Beyoncé (2016), Ariana Grande (2017), Justin Bieber (2017), Katy Perry (2017), Miley Cyrus (2017), Pharrell Williams (2017), Liam Gallagher (2017, 2018), Robbie Williams (2017), Black Eyed Peas (2017), and the Killers (2021).
Manchester Museum* (1867)
With a collection of f4.5 million items from every continent, it’s the UK’s largest university museum with around 430,000 visitors per year. Advised by evolutionary biologist, Thomas Huxley. Exhibits include rubble from the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast and a reproduction cast of a fossil Tyrannosaurus rex named “Stan.”
In 2019, sacred artifacts belonging to Indigenous Australians were returned as part of the first phase of a project coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Australia.
Royal Exchange* (1874)
The last of several buildings on the site used for commodities exchange, primarily cotton and textiles. Heavily damaged in the Manchester Blitz and in the 1996 Manchester bombing. Includes the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Royal Exchange Shopping Centre.
The second exchange building, it was extended between 1914 and 1941 to form the largest trading hall in England (double the current size). Cotton dealers and manufacturers trading from the Royal Exchange earned the city the name, Cottonopolis.
Trading ceased in 1968 and remained empty until 1973; it was threatened with demolition. In 1973, 69 Theatre Company. In 1976, The Royal Exchange Theatre was founded and opened by Laurence Olivier. In 1996, damaged by the IRA bombing. In 1998, the refurbished theatre re-opened by Prince Edward.
The Great Hall is the world’s largest (800 seats) “theatre in the round” (i.e. 360° seating). The Studio is a 90-seat theatre was added in 1998. Produced a very wide range of plays from 31 Shakespeare revivals to over 100 premieres.
Notable actors to have performed include Brian Cox, Albert Finney, Alex Jennings, Ben Kingsley, Leo McKern, Helen Mirren, David Morrissey, Gary Oldman, Vanessa Redgrave, Imogen Stubbs, John Thaw, Harriet Walter, Julie Walters, Sam West, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant.
Manchester Town Hall* (1877)
Construction took nine years, used 14 million bricks, and cost an estimated £775,000 to £1 million (£73 to £94 million today). Queen Victoria refused to attend the opening. The clock bell first rang on New Year’s Day 1879, but cracked. Currently undergoing a £230 refurbishment, which is expected to be completed in 2024.
Contains offices and grand ceremonial rooms such as the Great Hall which is decorated with Ford Madox Brown’s imposing Manchester Murals and contains an 1877 5,000 pipe organ. The entrance and Sculpture Hall contain busts and statues of influential figures including Dalton, Joule and Barbirolli. The exterior is dominated by the clock tower which rises to 280 feet (85 m) and houses Great Abel, the clock bell inscribed with a line from Tennyson’s Ring Out, Wild Bells. The main entrance ceiling has a snake called ‘Ouroboros’ eating its own tail — an ancient pagan icon symbolizing the eternal cycle of life
In 1938, a detached Town Hall Extension was completed and is connected by two covered bridges. In 2014, a 24-hour police station reopened (closed 1937) inside. In 2016, venue of the EU Referendum results.
Featured in the television programs House of Cards (1990) and State of Play (2003); films Ali G Indahouse (2001), Sherlock Holmes (2008), The Iron Lady (2011), Victor Frankenstein (2014), and A Very English Scandal (2018). Frequently used as a stand-in for the Palace of Westminster.
Palace Theatre* (1891)
Originally known as the Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street, one of the largest theaters outside London. Took a direct hit from a German bomb during the Manchester Blitz.
Notable performers include Danny Kaye, Gracie Fields, Charles Laughton, Judy Garland, Noël Coward and Laurel and Hardy. Productions include Les Misérables (1992), Miss Saigon (2001), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2006), Mamma Mia! (2006), The Producers (2007), The Wedding Singer (2008), Mary Poppins (2009) and Book of Mormon (2019). In 2009, the world première of Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna.
John Rylands Research Institute and Library* (1900)
Part of the University of Manchester, the special collections are believed to be among the largest in the UK and include medieval manuscripts,; early European printing, including a Gutenberg Bible; the second-largest collection of printing by William Caxton; personal papers from Elizabeth Gaskell and John Dalton; the most extensive collection of the editions of the Aldine Press of Venice; and The Rylands Library Papyrus P52 — claimed be the earliest extant New Testament text.
One of the first public buildings in Manchester to be lit by electricity, and generated its own supply until 1950. Notable visitors include Charles, Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Old Trafford (1910)
Named after the surrounding area the “The Theatre of Dreams” is home to the “Red Devils,” Manchester United, one of the highest-earning (€676 million in 2017) and most widely-supported football clubs in the world. The third-most valuable (£3.15 billion) football club in the world. The largest (74,140 seats) club football stadium in the UK, second-largest football stadium (after Wembley) in the UK, and eleventh-largest in Europe. The record attendance is 76,962 (1939).
United has won a joint-record number of trophies in English club football, with a record 20 League titles, 12 FA Cups, five League Cups and a record 21 FA Community Shields. Winners of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (1968, 1999, 2008), and the UEFA Europa League (2017), the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1991), the UEFA Super Cup (1991), the Intercontinental Cup (1999) and the FIFA Club World Cup (2008). In 1998–99, under Sir Alex Ferguson the club became the first English team to achieve the European treble consisting of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Before the Old Trafford football stadium was built, the site was used for games of shinty — a traditional Scottish Highlands game. During WWI American soldiers played baseball in the stadium. During WWII, requisitioned by the military to be used as a depot — with football continuing to be played until bombing destroyed much of the stadium. During reconstruction, United played their “home” games at rivals Manchester City home ground, Maine Road. When reopened in 1949, no league games had been played at the stadium for nearly 10 years.
From 1951 to 1959, roofing and floodlights installed. In 1958, the “Munich air disaster” when the United plane crashed killing 23 of the 44 people on board — including 8 players. In 1965, redesign and expansion of the United Road stand — including the first private boxes at a British football ground; In 1973, the east stand was redesigned in much the same way. In 1971, after a knife-throwing incident the club erected the country’s first perimeter fence restricting fans from the pitch. In 1990, an all-seating mandate reduced capacity to 44,000. In 1995, the North Stand was replaced raising capacity to 55,000 and adding Europe’s largest (58.5 m) cantilever roof at the time. In 1991, the club was floated on the London Stock Exchange.
In 2000, a second tier was added to the east and west stands making it the biggest (68,217 seats) club stadium in the UK. In 2005, Malcolm Glazer purchased the team with over £500 million of borrowed money that became the club’s debt. In 2006, addition of second tiers to both the north-west and north-east quadrants of the ground setting a Premier League record 76,098 spectators in 2007. In 2012, some non-controlling shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Features the Sir Bobby Charlton stand (renamed 2016); Sir Alex Ferguson stand (renamed 2011); West Stand, where the hard-core fans are located; “megastore” (1994); the Munich Tunnel (renamed 2008), the only remaining part of the original 1910 stadium and used until 1993, named after the 1958 Munich air disaster; and a museum (memorabilia, trophies). Surrounding the ground is The United Trinity (2008), featuring statues of Best, Law and Charlton; a 10m Hublot clock tower (2009); 9-foot (2.7 m) statue of Ferguson (2012); and football-themed Hotel Football and clubhouse (2015).
Notable football games include the FA Cup (1911 Final replay, 1915 Final, 1970 Final replay, various semi-finals), 1966 World Cup matches, Euro 96 matches, Champions League Final (2003), 2012 Olympics, and Robbie Williams’ Soccer Aid charity matches (since 2006). Rugby matches include the annual Super League Grand Final, Rugby League World Cup Finals (2003 to 2007) and various England home matches. Other sports include cricket and boxing (2003 WBC–WBO Super-Middleweight unification fight). Concerts performers include Bon Jovi, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, and Simply Red.
Museum tours on non-match days. No screens for replays!
Manchester Opera House* (1912)
A 1,920-seater commercial touring theatre that plays host to touring musicals, ballet, concerts and a Christmas pantomime. Between 1979 and 1984, a bingo hall instead.
Notable European/British premiers include West Side Story (1958), Demon Days Live (2005), Mrs. Doubtfire (2002); world premiers include Bat Out of Hell: The Musical (2017), Take That’s musical The Band (2017) and Back to the Future: The Musical (2020).
Whitworth Art Gallery* (1958, founded 1889)
University of Manchester gallery with over 55,000 items — including notable collections of watercolours, sculptures, wallpapers and textiles. Features work by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ford Madox Brown, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bacon, William Blake, Hockney, L. S. Lowry, Gauguin, van Gogh and Picasso, and a fine collection of works by J. M. W. Turner. One of its most famous works is the marble sculpture Genesis (1929–31) by Sir Jacob Epstein.
In 2003, three paintings — Van Gogh’s The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso’s Poverty and Gauguin’s Tahitian Landscape — were stolen from the gallery and later found rolled up in a nearby public toilet!
Science and Industry Museum* (1983, founded 1969)
On the site of the world’s first passenger railway station — Manchester Liverpool Road — which opened in 1830. The railway station frontage and 1830 warehouse are both preserved.
The collection includes cars, aircraft, railway locomotives, engines (water, electricity, steam and gas), textiles, and computers — including a replica of the Manchester Baby, the first stored-program computer, and a replica (with some original parts) of the 1829 Novelty steam locomotive.
People’s History Museum* (1994, building 1855)
Formerly the National Museum of Labour History, PHM is a museum dedicated to the working people in the UK and houses the largest banner collection in the world. The collection includes 2,000 posters focused on elections and political campaigns, 300 political cartoons, 7,000 trade union badges and tokens, 95,000 photographs, and 400 trade union and political banners.
Themes include popular radicalism, the Peterloo Massacre, 19th century trade unionism, the women’s suffrage movement, dockers, the cooperative movement, the 1945 general election, and football. It also includes material relating to friendly societies, the welfare movement and advances in the lives of working people.
Manchester Arena* (1995, reopened 2017)
One of the world’s busiest (over a 1.5 million spectators per year) indoor arenas with the highest seating capacity (21,000) of any indoor venue in the UK, and the second largest in Europe. One of the first indoor venues in Europe to be built with 360-degree seating, and the only arena in the UK to have full wrap-around on all levels. Constructed as part of the city’s unsuccessful bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics.
In 2017, a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 500 more at the end of an Ariana Grande concert; it was reopened with a special benefit concert headlined by Manchester-born singer Noel Gallagher.
Notable performers include Torvill and Dean (1995), Janet Jackson (1998), Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (1998), Spice Girls (1998, 1999, 2008), Manchester United UEFA Champions League celebration (1999), Britney Spears (2000, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2018), U2 (2001, 2018), Kylie Minogue (2002, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014), Beyoncé (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014), Madonna (2004, 2009, 2015), Whitney Houston (2010, her last concerts before her death), Tenacious D (2006), Gorillaz (2010, 2017), Katy Perry (2014, 2018), Adele (2016), Ariana Grande (2017), Noel Gallagher (2017), Metallica (2017), Phil Collins (2017), Mariah Carey (2017), Liam Gallagher (2017), Kendrick Lamar (2018), and Christina Aguilera (2019). Take That holds the record for the most performances at 46.
Notable sporting events include boxers Mike Tyson, Amir Khan, KSI vs Logan Paul; WWE Mayhem in Manchester (1998), UK No Mercy (1999), Rebellion (2001, 2002); UFC Machida vs. Munoz (2016); Beijing Olympics Taekwondo qualifiers (2007); FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships (2008); monster truck racing; Premier League Darts; the first WNBA game in Europe (2011); Great Britain vs USA basketball (2012); and the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships.
Other events include Ant & Dec’s Takeaway on Tour: Live (2014); Dancing on Ice (2018); Fast & Furious: LIVE (2018); comedians Alan Carr, Lee Evans; Peter Kay; the world premiere of Batman Live (2011). Hosts the annual convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Has set record British attendance for ice-skating, ice-hockey, and basketball. European record attendance for the largest UFC event outside the US.
Bridgewater Hall* (1996)
A 2,341-seat concert hall and home to the The Hallé orchestra and BBC Philharmonic. Opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The 26,500 tonne superstructure rests on 280 steel springs between concrete piers to reduce external noise — the first concert hall built with this technology. Features a £1.2 million 5,500-pipe organ, at the time the largest instrument to be installed in the UK for a century. In the outside plaza is the Ishinki Touchstone sculpture by Kan Yasuda.
Manchester Art Gallery (2002, founded 1823)
With a collection of more than 25,000 objects and half a million visitors per year. Housed in three interconnected buildings: the former Royal Manchester Institution (1835), Manchester Athenaeum (1837), and a 2002 extension — winner of the Sir Hugh Casson Award for the worst new building of the year! Highlights include an Egyptian jar from 1100 BC, Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs, and William Etty’s The Sirens and Ulysses. Free.
In 1913, three women staged a women’s suffrage protest by breaking the glass of thirteen paintings damaging some; one was sent to jail for three months, the other one. In 2018, the gallery took down Hylas and the Nymphs to encourage debate as to how women’s bodies should be displayed, but was restored a week later due to the “ferocity of the response.”
Imperial War Museum North* (2002)
IWM is located on site that suffered heavy bombing during the Manchester Blitz in 1940. One of five branches, free admission.
The 3,500 m2 floor of the gallery is curved, gradually dropping away like the curvature of the Earth from a nominal “North Pole” near the gallery’s entrance. Notable objects include a Russian T-34 tank, a US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet, an ex-Iraqi Army T-55 tank, 9/11 wreckage, and thee 13-pounder field gun that fired the British Army’s first shot of the First World War!
Etihad Stadium* (2002)
The City of Manchester Stadium (CoMS) is home to Manchester City F.C., the fifth-most successful (28 trophies) club in English football; fifth-highest revenue (€568 million) in the world; fifth-most valuable ($2.69 billion) in the world; fifth-largest (53,400 capacity) stadium in the Premier League; and tenth-largest in the UK. The second-largest (after Wembley) stadium concert venue in England.
The club has won 7 League titles, 6 FA Cups, the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1970), 8 Football League Cups, and 6 FA Cup Community Shields. In the 2018–19 season, City became the first team to claim all of the major English trophies (Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield) in a single season.
Built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games as the centerpiece of SportCity — a complex that includes the Manchester Regional Arena (AAA Championships, Paralympic World Cup, rugby), National Squash Centre* (show court moveable on air like a hovercraft), Manchester Velodrome* (1994, Britain’s first indoor cycling track, 3 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, 15 track cycling world records), National Indoor BMX Arena* (2011, 10,000 m2).
From 2005 to 2009, B of the Bang, the tallest sculpture in the UK but was dismantled due to structural safety concerns. In 2008, the club was taken over by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan through the Abu Dhabi United Group. In 2018, the first Premier League team to reach 100 points in a single season.
Facilities include a 6,000-meal kitchen, press rooms, ground staff storage, prison cell, conference facilities (licensed for marriage ceremonies), six themed restaurants, and 70 exclusive boxes. Entry is by contactless smart card rather than traditional turnstiles, which can admit up to 1,200 people per minute. The stadium roof maximizes sunlight with a 10m band of translucent polycarbonate, and each corner of the stadium has perforated walls that can be adjusted for ventilation. The Runner, a 30ft bronze statue was added in 2002.
Notable football matches include 3 England internationals, the UEFA Women’s Championship opening match (2005), and a UEFA Cup Final (2008). Non-football include Tri-Nations rugby (2004), Magic Weekend rugby league (2012–2014), Ricky Hatton versus Juan Lazcano world title fight (2008, 56,337 record attendance for British boxing post WWII), and a Rugby World Cup match (2015). Notable concerts include the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2004), James Brown (2004), Oasis (2005, DVD recording, attendance record at 60,000), Take That released (2006), U2,, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Foo Fighters, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Dizzee Rascal, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Muse, Bon Jovi, Robbie Williams, One Direction, The Stone Roses and the Spice Girls.
Centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film. Features a 500-seat theatre, 150-seat flexible studio space, five cinema screens, gallery space, café bar and restaurant.
Outside is a Soviet-era statue of Friedrich Engels, a communist social scientist who spent nearly 30 years in the region. In 2017, artist Phil Collins brought the statue from Ukraine (national colors painted on the statue can still be seen) and turned the long journey back to England into an artistic project as part of the Manchester International Festival. The passage through Europe with stops at key locations in Engels’s life.
Beetham Tower* (2006)
The first proper skyscraper outside London and tallest (169m) building in Manchester at the time. One of the thinnest skyscrapers in the world with a height to width ratio of 10:1. Known for emanating a hum that can be heard 300 meters away during windy days! American band Paramore used an audio sample of the tower howling on the 2017 track Idle Worship.
Contains residences, four-star hotel, skybar (Cloud 43*), and semi-indoor garden containing 21 four-meter trees from Italy. In 2009, the tower was partially evacuated when a fire broke out on the 31st floor flat of Italian football player Mario Balotelli; one apartment was left uninhabitable!
Featured in the television shows Vertical City (2007); Britain From Above for BBC One (2008); Time Travel (2010); Scott & Bailey; and the opening titles for The Street, Coronation Street, and ITV Sport’s England football coverage. Notable resident include Jose Mourinho, Mario Balotelli and Phil Neville.
The Warehouse Project* (founded 2006)
Series of club nights from September through to New Years Day (plus some holiday weekends). Recognized as one of the best dance clubs in the UK.
Started in an unused Brewery, then a former air raid shelter under Manchester Piccadilly station (Store Street). From 2012 to 2014, hosted at the Victoria Warehouse Hotel. From 2014, returned to the Store Street.
Notable performers include Carl Cox, Sven Väth, Aphex Twin, Richie Hawtin, Deadmau5, Annie Mac, Pete Tong, Armand Van Helden and Erick Morillo, De La Soul, Happy Mondays, Chic, The Prodigy, Disclosure, Basement Jaxx and Foals.
National Football Museum (2012)
England’s national museum of football housed in the Urbis building.
Highlights include the 1863 original rules of Association Football; shirt from the first international football match between England and Scotland; original painting of L.S. Lowry’s “Going to the Match”; match ball from the 1966 World Cup Final; Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” shirt; seats and turnstile from the old Wembley Stadium; the only Victoria Cross won by a professional footballer; painting The Art of the Game portraying Eric Cantona; world’s oldest women’s football kit (1890s); two balls used in the first World Cup Final; replica FA Cup trophies; and the replica Jules Rimet Trophy made in secret by the FA in 1966 after the original was stolen, and paraded by the England players at the World Cup Final in 1966 (and after the original was stolen in 1982, the only remaining copy).
- Carhartt*, Counter, Foundation, Fig + Sparrow*, Hampton & Vouis*, Pot Kettle Black, Selina (coffee and bagels), Takk*
- Gooey (cookies), Nibble (cakes), Mr Thomas’s Chop House (1867, bronze statue of LS Lowry, corn beef hash cake)
- Beatnikz Republic Bar (modern craft beer), BrewDog* (microbrewery named Small Scale Experimental Beer Machine after the first stored-program computer), Café Beermoth (craft beer), Cloudwater Brewery Taproom*, Ducie Street Warehouse (Ace Hotel vibes), Grey Horse Inn*, Port Street Beer House, The Marble Arch*, The Piccadilly Tap*, The Temple [of Convenience]* (former public toilet), Washhouse (cocktail speakeasy, hidden slide near the bathrooms!)
- Alan Turing Memorial (2001). Sculpture in Sackville Park beside Manchester’s gay village dedicated to the pioneer of computing who committed suicide in 1954 two years after being convicted of gross indecency (i.e. homosexual acts). Turing helped develop the first Manchester series computers. Features a quote by Bertrand Russell and the motto “Founder of Computer Science” as it would appear if encoded by an Enigma machine — which Turning helped to break during WWII.
- Barton Arcade (1871, restored 1980s), Boardman’s (Dalton) Entry (hidden alleyway with metal umbrellas dedicated to the father of meteorology), The Mitre Hotel (1815, oldest hotel in Manchester)
- Hope Mill Theatre*, Salford Museum and Art Gallery* (free, Lark Hill Place 1897 street mock-up), Victoria Baths (events)*
- Band on the Wall* (reopened 2009, building 1862). Live music venue. Name comes from a 1930s nickname after the landlord placed a stage high on the far wall. Popular with overseas servicemen (and Italian prisoners of war and deserters) during WWII — with the band often playing on during air raids! In 1982, a young Björk performed supporting vocals.
- Hidden at Downtex Mill*, SOUP (food upstairs, club below)*, YES*
- Beermoth* (beer store), Empire Exchange (hoarder’s paradise), Forbidden Planet International (comics), Forsyth* (1857, instruments), Kendals (1832, oldest department store in the UK)
- Manchester Arndale* (1979). Europe’s third-largest (130,000 m2) shopping mall. Severely damaged during the 1996 bombings.
- Manchester Jewish Museum* (1874). In a former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue with a collection of over 31,000 documenting the story of Jewish migration and settlement in Manchester.
- Corn Exchange* (1903, redeveloped 2018). Originally corn exchange, damaged in the 1996 bombings, and currently a hotel and food court.
- Manchester Grammar School* (1931, founded 1515). Alumni are called “Old Mancunians” and include England cricket captain Mike Atherton, John Charles Polanyi (1986 Nobel Prize for Chemistry), and Ben Kingsley.
- Piccadilly Gardens (1965). Reconfigured in 2002, contains a concrete pavilion by Tadao And and monuments of the Duke of Wellington (1853), James Watt (1857, Industrial Revolution engineer), and Queen Victoria (1901).
- Museum of Transport* (1979). Public transport museum, with one of the largest UK collections, in a 1901 former electric tram shed. Features 80 buses, a 1901 Manchester Corporation Tramways tram, two trolleybuses from Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne corporations, the prototype Manchester Metrolink tram, and items from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.
- Deansgate Square* (2018). Tallest (201m) skyscraper in the city.