Best Tourist Attractions in Manchester

Manchester tourist attractions

Manchester is one of the coolest cities in Northern Europe and a complete breath of fresh air compared to the overcrowded hustle and bustle of London. Cottonopolis has played a key role in music, film and television, and sports over the years. Thanks to Manchester’s role in entertainment, there are a number of great attractions that shouldn’t be missed.

Whether you are visiting for a short weekend break or an extended stay, Manchester has a lot to offer. The last 10 years have seen Greater Manchester receive a facelift with many of the old buildings of yesteryear redeveloped or torn down to make way to sparkling new venues. The city’s rebirth has only made it even more of a destination for travellers.

John Rylands Library

Manchester library

Manchester has some great libraries including Chetham’s and the Central Libraries. However, none are as historic as John Rylands Library. Building began in 1889 and took over 10 years to complete. When it opened on the 1st of January 1900, it welcomed the public into its doors to read a variety of books and periodicals.

The John Rylands Library was designed by Basil Champneys in a gothic style that is truly striking inside and outside, especially when compared to the buildings it sits next to on Deansgate. The Victorian era-built library was one of Manchester’s first public buildings to have electricity.

The library is now a part of Manchester University and contains a vast number of special collections, including famous religious texts. St. John’s Fragment is centrally displayed at the library while the famous building also houses one of the world’s 21 complete Gutenberg Bibles.

Science and Industry Museum

Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum, also known locally as the MOSI, displays the city’s working-class heritage. The museum is interactive giving children the chance to explore the MOSI and get their hands on some cool science experiments. 

The MOSI has a number of exhibits based on textiles, trains, airplanes, computers, electricity, and much more. Museum-goers can explore wings devoted to transport and technological advancement. In total, the MOSI has 12 galleries and is a venue that visitors can get lost in for an entire day. 

Salford Lads’ Club

Salford Lads’ Club is a popular destination for music fans from all over the world. Located in Greater Manchester, Salford Lads’ Club was founded in 1903 and claimed a number of famous English football players and musicians as members over the years. 

The building became world-famous when The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead album artwork featured a picture of the band standing in front of the venue. The album made the Salford Lads’ Club so famous, that it was voted the third most iconic building in England in 2007. The Smiths also released music videos with the building’s exterior featured in them. 

Since 2003, Salford Lads’ Club has been a listed building and is open to members of all sexes. Many music fans simply visit the club today to have their picture taken outside it as they replicate The Smiths’ famous image. 

Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter is Manchester’s hip, trendy district to go out for a meal or drinks. You will find some of the city’s coolest bars and pubs in the Northern Quarter with many serving up drinks and food with their own special flair.

You won’t just find hipster bars and all-night haunts in the Northern Quarter. The district has plenty of great breakfast nooks with cool coffeehouses serving up organic and vegan meals. 

Along with great dining and drinking options, visitors can find vintage clothing stores, comic and bookshops, and music stores. One of the most popular shops to explore is Affleck’s Palace. It is a massive store with clothing, accessories, and other items for sale. Affleck’s Palace is a popular destination for high school and university students. 

National Football Museum and Football Matches

Old Trafford

Football fans from around the world have descended on the National Football Museum to see the venue’s incredible collection of memorabilia. The museum puts on a variety of exhibits with some temporary displays curated for special occasions such as the Bands FC showcase in 2019. The museum is 100% free to enter and explore.

Manchester is home to two of the world’s biggest and richest football clubs – Manchester City and Manchester United. Both clubs offer tours of their stadiums and trophies.

If you can’t get your hands on a ticket to either club’s games, Greater Manchester is home to several other football clubs including Salford City, which is owned by former Manchester United legends David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, and Phil and Gary Neville. Tickets for a Salford City game can be purchased for as little as £10 but with the team growing in stature, they need to be bought in advance.

Salford Quays

Situated minutes from Manchester city centre is Salford Quays. The area was the shipping district of Manchester and the area in which boats brought cotton from North America during the 1800s. In 1982, the original dockyards were closed and the area fell derelict.

In the 2000s, Salford Quays underwent revitalization and the renaissance continues to take place. Today, Salford Quays is home to the BBC and ITV, and many of the United Kingdom’s top shows are filmed at the local studios. Visitors can take tours of the BBC and ITV studios and even be a part of a live television audience. 

Salford Quays is also home to the Lowry shopping centre and theatre which shows a number of musicals, concerts, and plays throughout the year. The Imperial War Museum is also located at Salford Quays and is one of the best in terms of historical artifacts. 

Visitors will find the canal pathways at Salford Quays lead into the city centre or out toward the Trafford Centre shopping mall. The canal paths make for excellent running, walking, and biking when the weather is sunny.


Manchester is a city that has put its industrial past behind it. The 1980s and 1990s may have been dark times in terms of the city’s growth and refurbishment, but in the last 20 years, it has become a major tourist destination. Travellers to the UK shouldn’t miss a chance to explore Cottonopolis and its best cultural attractions.

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