Looking to spend 1 day in Manchester? Manchester has so much to offer tourists and visitors alike. I like to refer to it as the London of the North!
We’ve been to Manchester a number of times since starting this blog (and prior to it) for both business and pleasure and have finally decided to share what we believe to be the best things to do in the city.
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting Manchester in November / December then be sure to stop by the Christmas markets which are one of the best in England.
There’s something to suit every budget and style when it comes to places to stay in Manchester.
However, with just 1 day in the city I’d suggest staying as central as possible (even if it does cost slightly more) this way you’ll spend less time travelling between locations.
Pro Tip: On one of our most recent trips we stayed at the Hilton on Deansgate. This is the tallest building in Manchester and offers incredible views out over the city.
If you do stay outside of the centre then there’s a number of ways you can travel into the city. The most popular way is by using the Manchester tram network.
Trams run through the city and can be used to go between locations in this 1 day itinerary. You can purchase single tickets for single journeys or buy a 24-hour ticket for as little as £2.60.
An alternative to the tram network is the free city bus. There are three different free city bus routes that call at major locations throughout and run from 7am until midnight from Monday to Saturday.
Wherever possible we try and walk around a city, and Manchester is no different. It’s a great way to see ‘the real Manchester’ with hidden gems and incredible street art on every corner.
1 Day In Manchester
If your hotel doesn’t include breakfast then consider calling in one of the independent cafes before getting started with your day.
Personally, I’m a fan of Ancoats Coffee Co. I love the interior decor, I could work here and drink coffee for hours!
Start your 1 day in Manchester with a trip to Afflecks. Located in the Northern Quarter of the city this collection of quirky shops opened in 1981.
Inside you’ll find everything from local crafts to vintage clothes. You can even pick up a craft at one of the jewellery making events or get your hair cut at one of the beauty salons.
Even if you’re not planning on buying anything during your visit to Manchester, just a wander around this emporium of quirkiness is totally worth 20 minutes of your day!
Manchester Corn Exchange
A 10-minute walk around the Northern Quarter will bring you to Manchester Corn Exchange.
This grade II listed building previously known as the Corn & Produce Exchange was originally the location in which merchants traded grains such as wheat and barley.
Post WWII the building was used as an indoor market, however following the IRA bomb in 1996 the building was left in disrepair.
That is until 2014 when an 8 million pound restoration took place. This restoration involved replacing more than 800 window frames and 1700 square metres glass for the dome.
Today, the Corn Exchange is home to 55 retail stores including cafés, bars, restaurants and boutique hotels – there’s even a luxury hotel.
Thanks to it’s central location and close proximity to the other attractions on this Manchester 1 day itinerary it’s well worth taking 10 minutes to look around inside and admire the buildings incredible architecture.
The National Football Museum
Just next door to the Corn Exchange you’ll find the National Football Museum. Explore the history of the game and learn more about some of your favourite clubs and players over four floors in this exclusive museum.
Pro Tip: A stop at the National Football Museum isn’t going to be for everyone, I appreciate that. If it’s not for you, then carry on to the next stop on our Manchester itinerary below.
Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of football, consider spending a night in Hotel Football and a day touring the grounds of the most famous football club in the world, Manchester United.
Admission is just £10 for adults, £5 for children and £8 for concessions with the money going to the upkeep of the exhibitions and the partner charities. Entry for the museum is free for Manchester residents – proof of residency is required.
The final stop before lunch is Manchester Cathedral. Open daily, Manchester Cathedral has long been at the centre of the cities history.
In 1421 Henry V signed a royal charter granting permission for a church to be built in the city and in 1847 a Manchester diocese was created to transform this church into a Cathedral.
Inside this Grade I listed building you’ll find medieval quires and ancient archives alongside bees on the roof and kangaroos carved on thrones, and incredible artist drawing in aisles.
30-minute tours of the cathedral are available most days (just ask the volunteers for more information upon arrival). While the tour is free, donations of £3 per person are recommended.
It’s just a ten-minute walk around the corner to the cat cafe. If you’re a lover of cats then this is somewhere you absolutely must visit for lunch when in Manchester.
The cat cafe does get busy so if you’re looking to add this to your Manchester itinerary then I’d suggest booking in advance.
Prices start at £12 per hour although you can pay in 15-minute increments. This cost includes unlimited hot and cold drinks (including glass bottled diet coke).
John Rylands Library
After lunch, head to John Rylands Library. Founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands the library opened to the public in 1900.
You don’t have to be a fan of beautiful architecture to appreciate both the late-Victorian neo-Gothic interior and exterior of this incredible building. Wandering through this library is like waling through a castle in one of the Harry Potter films.
The library is free to enter and open 7 days a week. It hosts both permanent and interchanging exhibitions as well as special events.
Multiple rooms host a variety of different book collections such as The Spencer Room which has one of the libraries founding collection of books, Spencer Collection which was purchased by the founder of the library Enriqueta Rylands in 1892 for £250,000.
Head To Cloud23 For A Cocktail
As your 1 day in Manchester draws to a close head to the rooftop bar Cloud23 to watch the sunset.
Situated inside Hilton Hotel on Deansgate this cocktail bar is located on the 23rd floor and provides one of the best views out over the city.
Alcoholic cocktails at Cloud23 start at £11, and non-alcoholic £8. There’s also a small bar menu available, alongside discounts and special offers with the boutique restaurant also situated inside the hotel, Podium.
For dinner, I suggest heading to Hatch. Located a 20-minute walk from the Northern Quarter this is the perfect place to indulge on locally produced food and drink.
Small booths and shipping containers serve a range of cruising including Vietnamese, Greek and British with guests sitting together on benches in a central area covered with twinkly fairy lights.
Hatch also plays host to events such as Lazy Sunday’s and Family Film Screenings.
The majority of places within Hatch are open until 11pm, so you can stay here and enjoy a drink way into the night or continue with the evenings activities.
Manchester has a very active nightlife scene. Regardless of the time of year or day of the week, you visit there’s always something to do.
Located inside an old printing building known for printing the Manchester Evening Chronicle and Daily Mirror is Printworks.
After being shut down in 1985, the complex was redeveloped into an entertainment hub that includes a cinema, bars and restaurants.
Mainstream restaurants include Wagamamas and Nando’s with the likes of Chiquito’s and the Hard Rock Cafe also offering a range of exotic cocktails.
Visit The Gay Village
Located along Canal Street is the world-famous Manchester Gay Village. Known for diversity and equality the Gay Village is the perfect place to wind down with a drink or enjoy some dancing.