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6 Hidden Gems in Manchester

By Tanja Wittrock
25 February 2020
6 Hidden Gems in Manchester

Want to get off the beaten path the next time you visit Manchester? My city is generally known for the opulent Trafford Center or much visited Manchester United Football Stadium but away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, there are many hidden gems in Manchester offering a rare insight into a very different city, full of inspirational street art, industrial history, and fascinating architecture. Best of all, these attractions are easy on the budget as they are almost all completely free!


Police Museum

There are many things to do in Manchester but for something a little different why not visit the Police Museum? Centrally located in the trendy Northern Quarter, the Police Museum presents a unique step back in time. Admire Police vehicles ranging from the 1950s to today, various uniforms as well as the many curiosities of the evidence room or take the stand at the Magistrate’s Court. Staffed by ex police men and women who are keen to share witty stories or answer almost any questions you may have, this truly is a unique and fun thing to do in Manchester. Venture into the Victorian cells and the Charge Office or even dress up as a police officer to complete the experience!

Open Tuesdays 10:30am – 3:30pm, 57A Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ET – Free admission

Street Art

Taking in the city's vibrant street art is definitely one of the essential things to do in Manchester on your next trip! Framed by large scale, colourful graffiti in the surrounding streets is one of the most beautiful pieces of Manchester’s street art by extraordinary local Poet, Author and MBE Lemn Sissay. Stretching the entire length of Tib Street in the Northern Quarter you can find his poem “Flags” in form of a slightly worn mosaic embedded in the pavement. Walking towards Market Street you will also come across the Tib Street horn, a large curved musical instrument on top of the remains of a former hat factory and the 12 meter high Big Boys’ Toy light installation on top of the multi-story car park. Of all the places to visit Manchester, this is perhaps one of my favourites. You can expect the unexpected in this part of the city.

Northern Quarter, Manchester

The Ancoats “Peeps”

Ancoats is another really great place to visit in Manchester. Go on a hunt around Cutting Room Square in the neighbouring Ancoats area, once home to the textile mills and watch out for the so called “Peeps”. These small brass spy holes are set into the walls of various buildings by artist Dan Dubowitz and allow passers by a view into hidden spaces and the area’s industrial past. There are no maps to the exact location of the Peeps but the views of this hidden gem of Manchester are truly unique and well worth exploring this part of the city along the canal.

Ancoats, Manchester

John Rylands Library

If you are planning to visit to Manchester then another must be a trip to John Rylands Library! The grand staircase of this marvel of neo-gothic architecture is truly awe inspiring and leads up to the reading room with its arched ceilings, beautiful detailing and stained glass windows. Founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband and Manchester’s first multi-millionaire John Rylands, the building was first opened to the public in January 1900. The library houses a large collection of rare books and manuscripts, some of which date back to 1500. Of all the things to do in Manchester, visiting this library will be an intriguing experience. There are also weekly activities, workshops as well as guided tours that allow visitors a look behind the scenes and access areas which are usually not open to the public.

The John Rylands Library,150 Deansgate, Manchester,M3 3EH – Free admission, John Rylands Library

Cat Café

Established in July 2016 the Cat Café is definitely one of my top places to visit in Manchester and is the ideal place to relax from a busy morning of sightseeing. For a mere £12 per hour you get unlimited hot and cold drinks (a percentage of the takings goes to animal charities) as well as the chance to mingle, cuddle and play with the fluffy mix of resident cats. These friendly felines have quickly gained huge following, so much so that events such as cat yoga or movie night are frequently sold out. Could you think of a more fun thing to do Manchester?

103 High St, Manchester M4 1HQ

Victoria Baths

Round off your visit to Manchester with a stop at the Victoria Baths which are housed in a fabulous Grade II listed building situated in the Longsight area. Weekly guided tours to this hidden gem in Manchester provide the chance to see the Turkish bath, intricate stained glass windows as well as the area’s hidden from public view such as the boiler room. The building really comes to live between April and October when the three (empty) pools are also a host to numerous events such as Arts & Crafts workshops, Vintage Fairs and a pop up cinema which has visitors enjoying a film screening seated in one of the vintage deck chairs.

Victoria Baths, Hathersage Rd, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester M13 0FE