Last Updated on January 9, 2023

In England, they call it football, while in the U.S., we call it soccer. No matter the name, Manchester United has been a perennial powerhouse “side” for generations; the Lakers or Yankees of the English Premier League. It’s where David Beckham rose to global superstardom as 17-year-old midfielder in 1992 making his debut with the first team. When thinking of things to do in Manchester, England, “the beautiful game” always comes first.

Manchester is the center of the largest metropolitan area in the north of England. Its historic core lies within the country of Lancashire.

Manchester’s history dates back to the establishment of the Roman fort Mamucium in 79 AD. The town remained a manorial township throughout the Middle Ages, but blossomed dramatically as a textile manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. The city’s extraordinary wealth from this period is reflected in its architectural variety where top English architects designed buildings from Greek Classical to turreted Gothic castles to those sporting Venetian palace facades.

Today, Manchester is a center for cultural, creative, and digital innovations along with football. It is host to Europe’s second-largest media and digital hub. As a tourist destination, it’s one of the favorite places to visit in England, outside of London, with things to do in Manchester, England ranging from architecture, culture, art, music, sports, nightlife and attractions.

Manchester Cathedral

The Gothic Manchester Cathedral in the heart of the Medieval Quarter dates back to the 15th century and remains a religious monument of breathtaking beauty.

Rebuilt, repaired and refurbished over the years, today, the cathedral is a perfect mixture of medieval, Victorian and modern architecture. It is renowned for captivating stained-glass windows that add an ethereal beauty to the historic structure.

Visitors are welcome to tour the cathedral during non-service hours throughout the week with free admission.

University of Manchester

As England’s first civic university, University of Manchester’s roots date back to 1824. As one of the most prestigious colleges in the UK, the university is centrally located in the city with its buildings interspersed in other downtown city locations.

As such, the university owns and operates several cultural sites such as the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, the John Ryland’s library and the Jodrell Bank Observatory, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Manchester Art Gallery

This impressive gallery occupies three connected buildings in the Manchester City Centre. Its renowned collections include more than 2,000 oil paintings, 3,000 watercolors and drawings, 250 sculptures and over 13,000 decorative art objects in a variety of mediums.

The gallery is particularly noted for its collection of Victorian works, especially decorative arts and Pre-Raphael Brotherhood paintings.

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Located on the site of the ancient Roman fort, Mamucium, the park is home to several historical sites. History abounds here. The warehouses of Castlefield have been restored to their 19th-century appearance. A portion of the old Roman fort’s still stands along with its gate house and granary.

The Bridgewater Canal with its iconic bridge and adjoining walkways is also a popular park attraction.

The Lowry

This dazzling waterside location at the heart of The Quays is a stunning, award-winning structure housing two theaters, art galleries, cafes, bars, and a restaurant.

Theatres offer a wealth of entertainment from West End musicals, live bands, famous comedians, world-class dance and drama performances and opera. The gallery features changing exhibitions by LS Lowry, one of England’s favorite artists, along with works by local, national and international creatives. While there is a charge for performances, entrance to the gallery is free.

Heaton Park

This lovely historic landmark is one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, covering over 600 acres. Its many attractions can yield a whole day of fun for your family looking for things to do in Manchester, England. The park features play areas, an animal farm, Tram Museum, bowling greens, a boating lake, golf course and horseback riding.

In addition, the heritage Heaton Park Tramway operates within the park offering seasonal Sunday afternoon rides on its rail cars. Four historic electric trams and one horse-drawn tram run on a stretch of track dating back to the original Manchester Tramway.

Manchester Football

Manchester’s two premier football teams are Manchester United and Manchester City. The Manchester City team is a recent powerhouse thanks to new ownership and an influx of cash, playing in Etihad Stadium built in 2002. Manchester United has an impressive world following and plays football at Old Trafford stadium. Even my son-in-law and grandson journeyed to this football mecca to see them play.

Old Trafford has been home to United since 1910. With a capacity of over 74,000 fans, it is one of the largest football stadiums in the UK, second only to London’s Wembley Stadium.

Football aficionados consider this historic venue holy ground. The game time atmosphere in Old Trafford is electric with tens of thousands of United fans cheering their team to (usually) victory.

Tickets are in great demand and need to be purchased well in advance. However, if you’re visiting on a weekday, daily passes provide entrance to players’ dressing rooms and press rooms. Upon exiting, collect your personalized certificate as proof that you’ve visited this glorious stadium.

National Football Museum

This museum located in Manchester City Centre is England’s only national museum for football – preserving, conserving and displaying an impressive array of football collections.

Showcasing England’s cup and league trophies, its Hall of Fame, stadiums, clubs, players, and iconic football memorabilia, the museum traces the history of English football from its origins to modern times. Classic items sharing the football story beyond the UK include Maradona’s jersey worn when he scored the ‘hand of God’ goal, also known as the goal of the century in World Cup competition, Pele’s 1962 World Cup Medal, and so much more.

Hotels near Manchester United

If you’re looking for a hotel to crash during your pilgrimage to Old Trafford, check out the map below which centers the stadium as the starting location for your search.

Booking.com

Author

  • Michael Kompanik

    Michael Kompanik is a retired Navy CAPT and San Diego freelance journalist. His love of Europe began with his NATO assignment to Naples, Italy in the 90s where he traveled extensively to 17 European countries. Since then, trips to Europe are always on his radar.

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