Travel Guide: Manchester in 48 hours

Having made our way to London various times (and still loving it!), we thought it wouldn’t hurt exploring the northern part of England. The upcoming city of Manchester was on our go-to checklist for quite a while and didn’t disappoint us at all!

48stops Manchester Travel Tips

The basics

  • Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Language: English
  • Airport: Manchester Airport (train connection takes you from the city centre to the terminal)
Manchester Northern QuarterManchester Albert SquareManchester Travel Guide

Day 1

We started our Manchester adventure exploring the city, combined with a – sometimes short – visit to the many museums around town. The entry of all these museums is free, which made us discover many different exhibitions we would otherwise never attended!

Seen the many museums in and around the city, our Manchester travel tips only focus on the ones we found truly entertaining, but feel free to jump in any other you might like!

Manchester Art Gallery

The Manchester Art Gallery houses a large and diverse collection of paintings, ranging from Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite work to modern and conceptual art.

Manchester Art GalleryManchester Art Gallery Manchester Art GalleryManchester Art Gallery

Its permanent collection really has a bit of everything while some focus is set on local Manchester artists. The temporary exposition on photography at the time of our visit was much to our likings.

Albert Square

Dominated by the impressive Town Hall, Albert Square is a popular pedestrian plaza, home to several monuments and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

However the fountain on the middle of the square draws some attention, its true star is the amazing architecture of the Town Hall and its magnificent tower. Take some time to walk inside and look around. Tours take you past the entrance hall and are definitely worth your time!

The Midland

Manchester’s most famous hotel has quite a few interesting stories to tell. Whether it is about its original purpose – part of a railway station – or about how Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce first met at The Midland and formed the iconic Rolls-Royce brand, the history of this hotel is certainly enjoyable.

Manchester The Midland

On top of that, The Midland is located in a glorious old building which reminds of the stylish Victorian’s time.

Museum of Science and Industry

Telling the story of one of the greatest industrial cities in a fun and interactive way is a challenging job. Nevertheless it is one this museum succeeds extremely well in.

Manchester Museum of Science and History Manchester Museum of Science and History Manchester Museum of Science and History

Situated on on the site of the world’s first railway station, the various different halls and hands-on exhibitions demonstrate an exciting technological history. You could easily spend half a day here, however we limited ourselves to a 2 hour visit. This is one of those museums you won’t quickly forget!

John Rylands Library

The story of the John Rylands Library is as amazing as its interior architecture. The wonderful hallways and the amazing collection of old books take you back in time.

Manchester John Rylands Library Manchester John Rylands Library Manchester John Rylands Library

The atmosphere inside is one-of-a-kind and for architecture-lovers like ourselves, this is a true gem to explore!

Shambles Square

Walk your way up to the enjoyable shopping streets of St Anns Square and Exchange Street to end up on Shambles Square.

The Shambles is a unique historical part of the city, dating back to Medieval times. The area is small, but a very pleasant place to sit outside the bars and enjoy the surroundings. We found the place on a sunny afternoon (yes, those happen in England too!) so we didn’t wait for a free seating as the place was pretty crowded.

Manchester Shambles Square

Instead, we visited the nearby Manchester Cathedral where an impressive interior welcomed us. This is not just any church and certainly worth a visit!

Northern Quarter

Head over to Manchester’s vibrant Chinatown for your evening diner or head over to the Northern Quarter, where we found a very interesting and characterful scene.

The abundance of quirky restaurants and bohemian bars as well as the striking street art makes it clear that this is the place to be for good food, craft beer and laid-back pop-up events.

Day 2

Start your day with heading back to the Shambles area, where there is a variety of attractions depending to your likings.

National Football Museum

Early birds could start their day with a walk by the canal, but if you are even slightly into football, you need to visit the National Football Museum.

Its collection of trophies and football memorabilia is impressive, but what truly differentiates the museum is its interactive games to show off your knowledge, football cabins to practice your skills and many other interactive displays to have a fun time. Even if you’re not into football!

If you come with children, this would be a great place to spend a few hours. For us, although we both enjoy Premier League football, we didn’t spend more than an hour inside.

Manchester Arndale

If you are not a big fan of football, the Manchester Arndale shopping centre might be more to your likings. Having the honour of being Europe’s third largest city-centre shopping mall, it’s not hard to lose track of time while exploring the various stores.

Old Trafford Stadium Tour

Bringing more football into the day, but this experience is one you will not soon forget. The Manchester United museum tells the impressive history of the club, but the stadium tour was what made our visit unforgettable.

Manchester United Old Trafford Manchester United Old Trafford Manchester United Old Trafford Manchester United Old Trafford

Experience the Old Trafford stadium like the players do and hang around the changing rooms or the player’s lounge and walk down the tunnel onto the field. The tour guides are one of the most passionate people you can imagine and their sense of humour made the experience even more entertaining!

Salford Quays

A short walk from the Manchester United stadium are the Salford Quays. Once known for its dockyard area, today the site is one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the United Kingdom and reminded us a lot on our recent trip to Hamburg where a similar area is being redeveloped.

Manchester Salford Quays Manchester Imperial War Museum North

Its modern architectural elements define the looks of the area and its many attractions makes it a lively and enjoyable place to explore. Discover the iconic building that houses the Imperial War Museum North (IWN North), focussing on human conflicts ranging from World War 1 to present day, or visit The Lowry, a multi-purpose art complex.


All our Manchester travel tips gathered on the map:

What we liked

  • Having all these museums with free access available is something we enjoyed a lot. We wandered inside many museums we probably wouldn’t have visited if tickets needed to be purchased. Not that we’re cheap, but we always tend to maximize our time inside while this time we could just walk in and out whenever we felt like.
  • We enjoy walkable cities and Manchester is definitely one of them. We experienced a very lively city which made it very pleasant to explore on foot.

What we disliked

  • Museums with free entrance come with one drawback: you tend to see an audience inside you would otherwise not see in a museum. While this might be a good thing to attract new people, little kids running and screaming around the hallways of an art museum or a library is something we didn’t quite expect.

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