12 best things to do in Manchester

Once known for its industrial might, Manchester has transformed into a thriving, modern hotbed of leisure, culture and sport. Whether sampling delicious food at the Piccadilly Gardens Food Market, enjoying beautiful architecture at The John Rylands Library or indulging in a spot of retail therapy in The Millennium Quarter, the city has something for everyone.

Make the most of your time while visiting by booking car hire in Manchester, which lets you see all the main attractions in and outside the city.

Start planning your trip to the gateway to the north, with our top 12 things to do in Manchester.

1. National Football Museum

Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd Street, Manchester, M4 3BG

Situated in the heart of the city centre, fitting given Manchester’s footballing pedigree, the National Football Museum is home to more than 140,000 footballing memorabilia. Items cover everything from the game’s origins and the World Cup, to famous players and legends from the past.

Visitors can try their hand at the museum's interactive quizzes, testing their knowledge against some very tough questions, as well as exploring limited-time exhibitions. With so much on display, it’s a pilgrimage every football fan should make.

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2. The Millennium Quarter

Corporation Street, Manchester

If you’re looking for a little retail therapy, you certainly won’t leave the Millennium Quarter disappointed. It’s home to Exchange Square, found in the central shopping district and in the historic core of the city.

This major retail space boasts the Manchester Arndale, a favourite among high-street brand lovers and the bustling restaurants of the Edwardian Corn Exchange. High-end shoppers can also experience luxury shopping, with a visit to department stores like Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

3. The John Rylands Library

150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH

Opened to the public in 1900, The John Rylands Library forms part of Manchester University. The building achieved a Grade I listing and is often cited as one of Europe's most stunning accomplishments in the field of neo-Gothic architecture.

Head to the grand Historic Reading Room and explore this magnificent and peaceful space, surrounded by thousands of books accumulated over decades. The John Rylands Library is an architectural triumph for the city and a wonderful homage to the man who helped put it on the map.

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4. Imperial War Museum

Trafford Wharf Road, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester, M17 1TZ

The Imperial War Museum offers visitors a fantastic insight into the history of British conflicts and their subsequent impact. Also known as the IWM North, the museum is located on the picturesque waterfront at The Quays and covers all battles from the First World War, to present day.

The Main Exhibition Space houses a wide range of historical army equipment and weaponry, alongside smaller exhibits detailing how the fields of science and technology were used in combat. The Big Picture Show allows visitors to immerse themselves in bygone times, bringing the realities of war to life.

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5. Museum of Science and Industry

Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP

The Museum of Science and Industry showcases Manchester’s industrial breakthroughs, starting from the Industrial Revolution. The sheer scale of the exhibits and information on display is mind-boggling and paints a vivid picture of just how central to the development of UK industry the city continues to be.

Equally impressive is the feeling of standing on the platform of Liverpool Road, the world's longest-surviving passenger railway station. You can also witness science in action at the Experiment Exhibition and discover how a cotton mill worked when in operation years ago.

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6. Wythenshawe Community Farm

Wythenshawe Park and Gardens, Wythenshawe Road, Wythenshawe, M23 0AB

Wythenshawe Community Farm gives families the chance to experience, hands-on, the day-to-day running of a working farm. First established back in 1984, the charitable organisation lets visitors get involved with everything from taking care of the animals, to the up-keep of the land.

The on-site experts will educate visitors on where their food actually comes from, showing how to grow your own vegetables as well as inside the livestock pens. Cows, sheep and horses are all based at the complex, and visitors can get up close and personal with the residents, as well as see them at feeding time.

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7. Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL

Manchester Art Gallery owns almost 13,000 individual works, including paintings, sculptures  and an extensive range of ceramics, arms and armour. Best known for its Victorian collection, the gallery has perhaps the most recognised piece, ‘Work’, created by Ford Madox Brown on-site.

Founded by a collective of Mancunians keen to boost the city's status as an educated and cultured centre, Manchester Art Gallery provides visitors with dose of artistic flair, whatever happens to be on display during their visit.

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8. Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Duke Street, Manchester

Visit Castlefield Urban Heritage Park for a scenic canal-side walk and see how it played a pioneering part in British industrial history. It’s located in the southwest corner of Manchester city centre, penned in by the Mancunian Way and the River Irwell on the border of Salford. Castlefield itself is also home to a partially reconstructed Roman fort, one of Manchester's very oldest artefacts.

This alone is enough to attract visitors to find out more about its exciting history, but with Castlefield being the terminus of the Bridgwater Canal, it was also a vital location as part of the Industrial Revolution.

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9. People’s History Museum

Left Bank, Manchester, M3 3ER

The People's History Museum aims to promote the role democracy has played in society, showcasing, among other exhibits, the largest collection of political material in the UK. It displays and preserves key artefacts and documents relating to Britain's social history, including women's suffrage, trade unions and general elections.

The museum also has thousands of photographs and the biggest accumulation of political banners in the world. For anyone looking to understand how British working people lived through the ages, the People's History Museum provides a memorable window into that past.

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10. Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, The University of Manchester, Macclesfield, 
Cheshire, SK11 9DL

Travel out of town to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jodrell Bank. It’s host to a number of radio telescopes, including the mighty Lovell Telescope – the largest steerable dish radio telescope in the world.

With 35 acres of landscaped grounds to walk around, there’s plenty for visitors to explore, along with the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, which gives you an insight into the world-leading research that takes place on site. Don’t forget to pay a visit to The Planet Café for a bite to eat, complete with incredible views of the telescope.

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11. Piccadilly Gardens Food Market

Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester    

Enjoy a culinary treat at the Piccadilly Gardens Food Market, which serves up a huge menu of delicacies from around the world. Its location in the centre of Manchester means the market is something of a hotspot during the end of the working week, when local employees head out for a treat.

Visit to discover culinary delights that range from Jamaican patties to British fish and chips. It’s popular with both locals and tourists and makes for a fantastic place to rest and enjoy amazing flavours from across the globe.

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12. Matt and Phred’s

64 Tib Street, Manchester, M4 1LW

Providing a welcoming atmosphere and relaxing musical ambience, Matt and Phred's is Manchester's most famous jazz venue and a highlight of the trendy Northern Quarter. Visitors can enjoy a range of musical styles, with performers from around the world, as well local up-and-coming artists taking to the stage.

The venue's regular open-mic sessions even make it possible for visitors to get up and do their thing onstage, in front of a friendly and appreciative audience. The intimate nature of the club gives any gig night a special feel, and you might just see 'The Next Big Thing' on Matt & Phred's stage.

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Don’t miss out on the amazing sights when you visit. Book your car hire in Manchesteronline with Hertz and start planning your trip today.