Manchester's Top Landmarks

Manchester's Top Landmarks, Manchester, England (A)

In the words of Ian Brown "Manchester has everything but a beach." England’s third largest city is probably the coolest outside of London. Manchester gave birth to the Industrial Revolution, was destroyed by the IRA bomb in 1996 and transformed into an edgy, urban metropolis. The tour takes you around the important landmarks that reflect Manchester's interesting past, the dramatic changes it has undergone and its vision for the future.
How it works: The full article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. Download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the sights featured in this article. The app's navigation functions guide you from one sight to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Manchester's Top Landmarks
Guide Location: England » Manchester
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 4.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: Victoria Brewood
Author Bio: Victoria is a Broadcast Journalism graduate from Manchester who left England to explore the world. As a travel junkie, Victoria continues to see the world one country at a time and shares her travel advice with others. With a passion for writing, video and photography, Victoria has been travelling the world ever since and continues to sustain a life as a travel writer on the road.
Author Website:
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • URBIS Museum
  • Manchester Art Gallery
  • Manchester Town Hall
  • Central Library
  • The Bridgewater Hall
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • John Rylands Library
  • The Wheel of Manchester
  • The Old Wellington & Sinclair's Oyster Bar
  • Manchester Cathedral
URBIS Museum

1) URBIS Museum

As you approach Manchester you might be forgiven for thinking this bizarre-looking glass triangle on the horizon is a ski slope, but it is in fact a museum. The URBIS was one of the success stories to come out of the Millennium and showcased Manchester’s popular culture.

The innovative ramp-shaped building has a funicular glass elevator and stands in the Cathedral Gardens, one of Manchester’s latest green parks. It cost £30 million to build, with £20 million of that funded by a grant from the Millennium Commission. The URBIS showed off all the great things that Manchester has produced- think Coronation Street, Oasis, Shameless and the Hacienda Club.

It also looked at urban living and how cities work, illustrated by facts, statistics, exhibitions and videos. The URBIS exhibitions celebrated Manchester's Industrial past and everything that modern-day Manchester has produced.

That was until it was sent off to make way for a Football museum. The URBIS is currently closed to the public but football fans can rejoice as the URBIS makes way for the National Museum of Football. Moved from Preston after it suffered serious financial problems, the museum will contain FIFA and FA collections and will open in the summer of 2011.
Image Courtesy of Norbert Blech.
Manchester Art Gallery

2) Manchester Art Gallery

Take advantage of the free-entry to Manchester Art Gallery and admire the works of Manchester artists, a wide selection of British art and a large number of European masterpieces.

The gallery was designed by Charles Barry, who is best known for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament after a devastating fire. The Art Gallery underwent an extension and refurbishment by Hopkins architects in May 2002, with 35 million pounds being spent on letting in more light, opening a new wing and installing an interactive children’s gallery. Since the make-over it has become a world class gallery, winning many awards.

The Manchester Art Gallery is well known around the world for its 19th century British paintings. Highlights from the 19th century art selection include a collection of major Pre-Raphaelite works and the impressionistic paintings of Adolphe Valette.

The older wing has the country’s best collection of Pre-Raphaelite art plus a collection of 37 Turner watercolours. The new gallery houses a permanent collection of 20th-century British art including pieces by Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Stanley Spencer, Henry Moore and David Hockney. There’s also a changing programme of exhibitions, from historic art to contemporary photography. Manchester Art gallery also exhibits glass, silverware and furniture as well as paintings.
Image Courtesy of Skip88.
Manchester Town Hall

3) Manchester Town Hall

This incredible Victorian Gothic town hall in Albert Square is one of Manchester’s greatest buildings. This huge, rather impressive building was completed in 1877 and designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who also created the Natural History Museum in London.

If you take a look at the exterior the Town Hall is a built in a 13th century gothic style and the clock face of the Town Hall stands 280 feet high. The statue in front is of the Roman Governor Agricola, who created the original fort on which Manchester has developed and expanded. Although its primary purpose is to act as the administrative centre in Manchester, it is also a beautiful piece of architecture too.

One of the main highlights inside is the Great Hall, which contains twelve murals illustrating important moments in Manchester's history. The murals have three key themes running through them; Christianity, commerce and the textile industry.

There are also many clues into Manchester’s past as you step inside the building. Many of the symbols throughout the Town Hall point to Manchester’s role in the industrial revolution and the cotton industry.

You may have heard the expression “As busy as a bee”. Well the Manchester Bee is a symbol of hard work and if you walk to the top of the staircases, you’ll find bees beneath your feet in a mosaic on the floor.

At the top of the spire is a golden ball in the shape of a cotton bud which is about to open, and there are cotton plant designs throughout the Town Hall- a reminder of Manchester’s cotton mills.

If you want to venture inside you’ll have to go on the organized tour which leaves from the tourist office. The Town Hall is usually open on weekdays and some Saturday’s, although some rooms may sometimes be closed for functions.
Image Courtesy of Stephen.
Central Library

4) Central Library

Central Library in St Peters Square is one of the largest libraries outside of London, with miles upon miles of shelves. Supposedly if you placed the shelves end to end, they would stretch over 35 miles.

Built in 1934, after years of searching for a place to house Manchester’s books, it's an instantly recognizable landmark. E. Vincent Harris, who won the competition to design the library and town hall extension, based its circular shape on the Pantheon in Rome. Its neo-classical style and its design, influenced by the 2nd century pantheon, make it look a lot older than it actually is.

The library houses literally thousands of books, archive and important local Manchester documents, including 30 books published before 1500. Special collections include the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, one of Manchester’s most notable writers, the Theatre Collection, a record of the history of theatre in Manchester and the Newman Flower Collection of Handel Manuscripts, which contains music works by George Frederic Handel.

The library is currently closed for refurbishment until 2013.
Image Courtesy of G-man.
The Bridgewater Hall

5) The Bridgewater Hall

The Bridgewater Hall is Manchester's concert venue, hosting hundreds of performances by international musicians in every genre including classical music, pop, rock, jazz and world music.

The hall is the home of the Halle Orchestra and is also a regular venue for performances by the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata.

It had been decided that Manchester needed a performance venue that would produce the best possible sound and could compete with other international concert venues, so a competition was held in 1989 to decide which architects would be responsible for the design of the new concert hall. The winners of the competition were Renton Howard Wood Levin and after several revised plans, construction commenced in 1993.

The main priority when designing the building was sound, so acoustic considerations came first. The Bridgewater Hall auditorium seats nearly 2400 people and the seating tiers are designed to draw the audience closely into the performance. The main focal point at the front of the auditorium is the Hall’s incredible pipe organ worth 1.2 million pounds.

The Bridgewater Hall, named after the Third Duke of Bridgewater, opened in 1996 when spectators were welcomed to watch the first ever performance on 11th September. Later that year the hall was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on Wednesday 4th December. The Bridgewater Hall is an example of Manchester’s finest civic building and continues Manchester’s tradition of producing world-class performances, concerts and musicians.
Museum of Science and Industry

6) Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry is a museum dedicated to Manchester’s role in the industrial revolution and contains everything you need to know about Manchester’s developments in Science.

MOSI is located at the site of the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway, the Liverpool Road station, and is the city's largest museum with exhibitions housed in two huge Victorian warehouses. The Museum opened at the site on 15th September 1983 on the 153rd anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The warehouses contain one of the largest collections of steam engines and locomotives along with aircraft and factory machinery from the cotton mills. You can stand on the platform of the oldest surviving passenger railway station and experience the deafening noise of working cotton machinery. If that wasn’t enough, you can crawl through an atmospheric Victorian sewer, enjoy a view of the stars as seen from the North West in the purpose-built planetarium, or watch holograms of Manchester’s scientists explain their discoveries.

In the Museum of Science and Industry you can learn about industrial and scientific achievements that made Manchester one of the world leaders in the science world. There are six key themes; Science and Technology, Industry and Innovation, Energy, Transport, People and Communications. You can even get a hands-on experience in Xperiment, the Museums science learning centre.
John Rylands Library

7) John Rylands Library

On Deansgate in Manchester is the John Rylands Library, a late-19th century Victorian building in a Gothic style. What’s so different about this library is that it looks a lot more like a cathedral than a place for housing books.

It is considered by many as Manchester’s most beautiful building and houses some of the earliest books ever printed. Mrs Rylands purchased Earl Spencer’s collection of early printed books and the manuscript collections of Earl Crawford. Other special items inside the John Ryland’s library include magnificent manuscripts, the Gutenberg bible and the papers of famous local figures Elizabeth Gaskell and John Dalton.

The library was founded by the widow Rylands to remember her husband John after he passed away. Desgined by architect Basil Champney, the library looks very much like a church and houses around 40,000 books. It opened to readers in 1900 and since July 1972, has served as the Special Collections section of the John Ryland’s University Library. The library underwent major renovations until it reopened in 2007.

The most fantastic part of the library is the breathtaking Reading Room, one of the finest in the world. Designed to look like a monastic library, statues of Mr and Mrs Rylands grace each end of the cathedral-like room.
The Wheel of Manchester

8) The Wheel of Manchester

The Wheel of Manchester in Exchange Square is a great way to see spectacular 360 degree views over the city of Manchester.

Step into one of the 42 capsules and take a ride sixty metres into the sky to see Manchester’s urban landscape from above. Each capsule seats up to eight people and is equipped with air conditioning, heating and wheelchair access. If you’re celebrating a special occasion there’s also a VIP capsule with champagne on ice. Lasting around 13 minutes The Wheel of Manchester experience is a great way to see the city with audio commentary pointing out local landmarks.

Although the wheel is similar to the London Eye, it is actually transportable- you might have seen it on the Champs Elysees in Paris. The Wheel was brought to Manchester in 24 containers and took two weeks to construct. It’s held up by 9000 gallons of water, is 60 metres high and weighs 300 tonnes.
Image Courtesy of Matthew Hartley.
The Old Wellington & Sinclair's Oyster Bar

9) The Old Wellington & Sinclair's Oyster Bar

As you watch Mancunians have a pint in the black and white Tudor building of the Old Wellington pub, you wouldn't really realise that this public house is actually one of the oldest buildings in Manchester.

The Old Wellington Inn was built in 1530 and Sinclair’s Oyster Bar, directly next to it, was built in 1720.

But what is most remarkable about these two buildings is their incredible history. The Old Wellington and Sinclair’s have been moved not once, not twice, but three times in their history.

Originally situated in an area called the shambles, they have stood the test of time, surviving a terrorist bomb and redevelopment of the city centre.

In the 1970's the two buildings had to be moved to make way for the Arndale shopping centre that was being built. The two buildings were carefully lifted and moved intact bit by bit to a new location 1.5 metres away.

The IRA bomb of 1996 did significant damage to many buildings and some damage to the Old Wellington, which took around a year to be restored. In the years following the bomb, the entire city centre was redeveloped and both buildings were moved by 200 metres, and repositioned at right angles to one another. This last move meant the Old Wellington had to be painstakingly dismantled and reassembled exactly as it was before in the new location opposite Selfridges.
Image Courtesy of ChristianeBue.
Manchester Cathedral

10) Manchester Cathedral

Although there has been a parish church building on this site since the late Anglo Saxon or Early Norman period, the cathedral we see today looks nothing like the building that would have stood there all those years ago. The cathedral has been modified over the years after structural damage caused by the Civil War, damage caused by a German bomb during the Manchester Blitz in the second World War and further damage caused by the IRA bomb of 1996.

In the thirteenth century a stone parish church was constructed in the parish that was to become Manchester, serving people in a 60 mile radius. In 1421 it was raised to the status of a Collegiate Church before becoming a Cathedral in 1847. Its official name is The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George in Manchester.

Although it has suffered a lot of damage due to wars, the Gothic main body of the Cathedral mainly comes from the wardenship of James Stanley.

Some of the most interesting parts of the Cathedral include the beautiful wooden roof, the Anglo-Saxon Angel Stone and the stained glass Fire Window. The interior has several examples of woodwork including woodcarving created by the ‘Ripon Carvers’ carried out between 1485 and 1506. Other features of note are the choir stalls and misericords, as well as the five modern windows by Tony Holloway on the west side of the building representing "St George", "St Mary", "St Denys", "Genesis" and "Revelations".
Image Courtesy of mark.watmough.

Walking Tours in Manchester, England

Create Your Own Walk in Manchester

Create Your Own Walk in Manchester

Creating your own self-guided walk in Manchester is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Manchester Historical Architecture Tour

Manchester Historical Architecture Tour

Manchester’s architectural scene is rich in style variety. Throughout centuries, the city has evolved in phases, each of which left its own peculiar imprint on its tapestry. There are medieval red-brick buildings in Manchester coexisting with concrete-and-glass structures from the modern era. On this self-guided walk you will visit some of the most important historical architecture in the city.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Edwardian Architecture Tour

Edwardian Architecture Tour

A product of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester is noted for its warehouses, railway viaducts, cotton mills and canals, reflecting the most ambitious and exciting phase of its past. Much of the city's architecture developed during the reign of King Edward VII, 1901-1910, which gave birth to the Edwardian architectural style so much popular in the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Manchester Introduction Walking Tour

Manchester Introduction Walking Tour

The seventh most populated city in England, Manchester is an important cultural, industrial and historic center.

The recorded history of Manchester began with the civilian settlement associated with the Roman fort established circa 79 AD on a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell. Having been a manorial township throughout the Middle Ages, Manchester enjoyed rapid...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Top 10 Cafes and Sweet Shops in Manchester

Top 10 Cafes and Sweet Shops in Manchester

Heading up Oldham Street from Picadilly Gardens you arrive at The Northern Quarter; the ‘cool’ part of Manchester, think Brooklyn, Shoreditch, Le Marais; trendy young things with fancy haircuts frequent the coffee houses, boutique and vintage shops during the day and the bars once night-time...