Edited by Holly Stark
Manchester is a constantly changing, thriving place with many undiscovered hidden gems to explore. Visiting Northern England and seeking 10 hidden gems in Manchester? Be prepared to go off the beaten path and peel back the layers of a very interesting place that people don’t often give much thought to. Get a sense of the collective excitement and open-mindedness towards Manchester’s rich history, evolving places of art and culture, and the great fusion food scene. There’s a great mixture of people here and the mix of cultures is very much on the rise, with new local places appearing every month which bring yet another fresh angle to the city. With so much vital history and so many unusual things to do in Manchester, Mancunians have both a sense of pride and humility. Discover Manchester off the beaten path and begin to explore the many areas of this vibrant, Northern city.
It was here where the first man-made canal was built to help create the revolution, the first English speaking library was opened and the first passenger railway was operated which connected us to Liverpool. Manchester has a thirst for knowledge and has provided education for more than 25 Nobel Prize Winners, and has helped shape technology, continuing to do so in this new era. The city is open to new ideas. It assisted in forming many social movements like Karl Marx and Engels writing of the Communist Manifesto as well as the Suffragette Movement in demanding women’s right to vote. For this and so much more this city has many faces and shapes and it deserves to be looked more carefully.
For me, Chetham’s Library is one of the most special places to walk through and learn about. This beautiful building from the 14th century survived many hurdles over history and became the first public English speaking library in the world at a time where education was for the privileged and elite classes only. An ever-changing entity, Chetham’s Library history saw education being made more accessible to poor children whose families couldn’t afford to send them to school. One of the best-hidden gems in Manchester and the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom, Chetham’s Library is a must-see for anyone who has an interest in literature, history, public, and private education and architecture. Don’t miss this Manchester hidden gem.
Another rich place of history which came from its small beginnings in the early 1400s, Manchester Cathedral is a stunning structure that has also survived a tumultuous history. Grade 1 listed and built way back in 1421, Manchester Cathedral is a vast Medieval, Gothic structure complete with crypts, stained glass windows and a general spooky vibe from its vastness. Known as the Collegiate Church until it became the cathedral in 1847, Manchester Cathedral is a must-see for anyone interested in history, religion, architecture or spirituality. Check out The Shambles closeby; a historic square home to four iconic pubs: Crown & Anchor, The Old Wellington Inn, Sinclairs Oyster Bar, and The Mitre Hotel. Sip a pint at The Old Wellington Inn; one of the only surviving Tudor buildings in Manchester city center.
A picture paints a thousand words, and in this gallery, you will be able to discover some stunning paintings and pieces of artwork to help you imagine and discover the great past of Manchester. Located at the very heart of the city and with a stunning architectural exterior of columns, Manchester Art Gallery houses six centuries worth of fine art, ceramics, glass, furniture, sculpture, and costume, and presents a year-round program of contemporary exhibitions by local and international world-leading artists. The Grade I-listed building’s Neoclassical design was also designed by the same architect behind the iconic Highclere Castle (or Downton Abbey, as it’s possibly better known). Seeking artistic, unique things to do in Manchester? Be sure to check out the Manchester Art Gallery.
John Rylands Library
Positioned in the middle of the city center, the impressive structure of the John Rylands Library is impossible to miss but many walk by without paying it much attention. It deserves a closer look for its impressive collection of religious manuscripts, ever-changing displays of important books and very interesting expositions. This masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture seems more like a castle or cathedral than a library and paints the picture of a woman bringing change to the city. When John Rylands died in 1888, he was one of Manchester's most successful industrialists with a personal fortune of £2.75million. The library was commissioned in 1890 by his wife Enriqueta Rylands. One of the lesser-known, more secret places in Manchester, John Rylands Library is not to be missed for any book worm in the city.
Experience a taste of the canal life and grasp a sense of the Northern countryside right in the middle of the city. Castlefield is a great place to be on sunny days sat outside enjoying a drink at the local pub. Once a hub of industrial activity, Castlefield is now one of the city’s most peaceful spots. Thanks to its designation in 1982 as the UK’s first Urban Heritage Park, which safeguarded canals and cobbles and created a largely traffic-free haven, the area’s moored-up, flower-decked canal boats show a different way of life in the city. It’s a great place to explore if you’re seeking Manchester hidden bars, secret places in Manchester that are off the beaten path and unusual things to do in Manchester.
Once home to many warehouses from the cotton era, the Ancoats local neighborhood is now becoming the place to be. Full of new bars and restaurants, eclectic food options, a drink scene, and lovely walks by the canals and the old factories, the neighborhood is well worth a visit. Scandinavian eateries, Japanese tea-houses and Mexican restaurants, to name a few, sit alongside craft breweries and speakeasy-style bars. Find a great spot to people watch and see the cool folk of Manchester going about their daily lives. Check out the 'peeps' (brass peepholes on various buildings) which allow a glimpse of the machinery and spaces of old Ancoats; once a gritty textile district, now regenerated into a fascinating, quirky bohemian hotspot.
This wonderful market from the industrial time has been renovated and now shares a beautiful feeling of community and some of the city’s best food. An 1858 Grade II listed market building, on the edge of Manchester's Northern Quarter, the spot is not to be missed when looking for things to do in Manchester at night. With some of the best hidden restaurants in Manchester, the spot is perfect for a sit down meal, a quick on-the-go bite or a night of beer and wine. Reimagined by all the people involved in Alty Market and Market House, the lively Mackie Mayor market has something for all; with places to grab coffee, pizza, booze or fish and chips depending on what takes your fancy.
Science and Industry Museum
Watch and learn all about the changes this city has been through at the Science and Industry Museum. Home to amazing objects and with world changing ideas at its heart and soul, at the Science and Industry Museum you can check out the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station and the world’s first railway warehouse, which was built in 1830. Learn about how the revolutionary railroad changed Manchester and the world forever. Be inspired by the wonders of science and keep your mind open to learning. If you’re into museums, science, industry or the transformation of Northern cities, the Science and Industry Museum is definitely a spot you don’t want to miss when adventuring and uncovering the true spirit of Manchester.
Why not leave the city center for a bit, head out of town and discover Manchester off the beaten path? You can easily take the tram link from the city centre to Heaton Park and have a lovely stroll in a pretty park full of hills and leafy, floral scenic walks. A great place for picnics and bike rides, Heaton Park makes a romantic day out for couples, or a fun-filled adventure for families in Manchester. It also makes a great spot for solo travel in Manchester. Home to a beautiful boating lake, an animal centre, old tram rides and more, at Heaton Park you can leave the stress out and live the outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
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