My top things to do in Manchester

By Dr Charlotte Russell, Clinical Psychologist

My top things to do in Manchester The Travel Psychologist

Situated in the North-West of England, Manchester is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. It may not always have the best weather, but it is top of the list when it comes to friendly Northern charm and its openness to different ways of living and being.

Manchester is perfect if:

· You like a variety of activities; there really is something for everyone

· You want a busy, bustling atmosphere and vibe

· You like a museum or two!

· You’re interested in architecture or you just want to see an eclectic mix of beautiful buildings

My top recommendations for Manchester 

Museums & Sights 

St Peters Square

Here you will find the beautiful central library and the back of the townhall. Both are very beautiful buildings that complement one another. There are lots of places to sit in the square so it is a fantastic place to people watch!

My top things to do in Manchester The Travel Psychologist

St Peter’s Square

Manchester Art Gallery

Just on the edge of St Peter’s square, Manchester Art Gallery is an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. They have a range of exhibits that vary. The café is also a great place for a coffee or lunch.

People’s Museum

The People’s History Museum is very interesting especially if you are into history, politics or want to be amazed at what ordinary people have been able to achieve. There are themes around equality and social justice across the displays and these can be very inspiring to learn about.

John Ryland’s Library

John Rylands Research Institute and Library is a truly beautiful building to visit and have a look around. It is a good place to spend an hour or so, particularly on a rainy day. It is just on the edge of the Spinningfields district, with a number of nice restaurants nearby if you want to combine this with your visit.

Manchester Museum 

Manchester Museum underwent a multi-million pound renovation recently and re-opened its doors in 2023. There’s a lot to love about it, including the range of exhibits and the beautiful building situated at Manchester University. Their Egyptian collection is particularly interesting and impressive.

The museum is located around 25 minutes walk from St Peter’s Square, or can be reached by bus. If you like coffee make a stop at University Green – Bold Street Coffee before or afterwards.


There’s no doubt that Manchester has world class shopping. Check out the Arndale Centre in the City Centre, and the Trafford Centre a few miles out of town. The Trafford Centre has ample parking and can also be reached via tram from town.

Bars and Restaurants 

Evuna – Evuna on Deansgate is one of my favourite tapas bars and the food and service is always first class. They also have a fantastic selection of Spanish wines so it is well worth a visit. They usually serve a lunch menu with a fixed price and this is very good value.

My top things to do in Manchester The Travel Psychologist

Tapas at Evuna

Phetphailin – Located in China town, Phetpailin is a Thai restaurant with a great selection of food. It is small and perfectly formed! A big bonus is that the restaurant allows you to bring your own alcohol so it can be a great choice if you want to have a nice meal and have a tipple at a reasonable price. Given its small size the restaurant can get very busy and tables are reserved for 90 minutes so I’d recommend that you check the menu beforehand so that you know what you want to order.

If you are looking for a restaurant that is a little more special  then check out The Ivy in Spinningfields. The food and service here are top notch and it’s a great choice if you have something to celebrate. Whilst I’m not usually one for a bathroom-selfie, it’s hard not to take one when you visit The Ivy.

Cloud 23- Located on the 23rd Floor of Beetham Tower – the home of the Hilton Hotel. Cloud 23 is legendary for its cocktails and afternoon teas with panoramic views over the city. I would always recommend that you book your table in advance.

Another excellent option for great views is 20 Stories – Restaurant and Bar – Manchester. Again this is a great place for a cocktail and is super-instagrammable!

My top things to do in Manchester The Travel Psychologist

View from Cloud 23

Manchester Gin Experience – I would thoroughly recommend the Distillery tour & guided tasting. Not only do you get a refreshing G&T, and the opportunity to try 5 different gins, you get to hear the story of how Manchester Gin was founded and an introduction to how the gins are made. The tours are led by charismatic individuals who are great at making it fun and keeping you engaged!

My top things to do in Manchester The Travel Psychologist

Manchester Gin

Canal Street – home of Manchester’s legendary gay scene, Canal Street is a great place to have a drink in a place where everyone is completely free to be who they are. I love this about Manchester.

Last but not least

If you’re feeling hedonistic – go for a delicious curry in Manchester’s legendary ‘curry mile’. Located in Rusholme, a few miles from the city centre, there are around 70 restaurants here including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi. It’s easy to get a bus here from the city centre, using Google Maps to navigate. Prices in the restaurants are generally very affordable.

If you want a sense of accomplishment – Make sure you wear a pedometer or Fitbit when exploring the city. Its easy to clock up 15,000+ steps exploring so you’ll have definitely earned a cocktail or piece of cake by the end of the day!

Reasons to be optimistic – I’m going to get very philosophical with this one; Spending time in the city helps you to appreciate the mix of old and new. When you’ve lived here long enough you get to see restaurants shutting down and new ones taking their place. The city is like a living thing, and I love how it reminds me of how endings are also a new beginning.

Please note our destination guides contain personal recommendations and not professional advice