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9 Cool Things to do in Manchester in a Day

Learn about things to do in Manchester in a day. Find out what to do in Manchester England. Visit Manchester UK for one day.
One of the best things about living in Dublin is the opportunity to travel and take short weekend city breaks on Ryanair. Our very first Ryanair weekend was to Manchester City and Liverpool in Great Britain

The general reaction that we got when we mentioned our weekend getaway to friends and colleagues was "why there?" with a raised eyebrow. We always answer "Why not?!" 

After all, Manchester has one of the best known football teams in the world: Manchester United, and besides, every place is worth visiting at least once and the price and distance was certainly perfect for a weekend jaunt. 

The flight from Dublin to Manchester is less than an hour each way and cost less than $100 per person. We paid strict attention to the Ryanair guidelines for baggage. 

Ryanair is great if you are good at following rules. If you’re not, it will cost you. 

We flew into Manchester and out of Liverpool. Read on to discover what to do in Manchester in a Day. We arrived on time to Manchester City Centre with no worries or unexpected surprises.
Things to do in Manchester in a day

1. Breakfast at Cafe Metro

We arrived before 8 am on the first flight of the day and set out to find breakfast. We ate a no-nonsense meal of scrambled eggs and toast at Cafe Metro. It was a solid stop to fuel up for the day.
Things to do in Manchester UK - eggs on toast for breakfast

2. A Quiet Walk in Manchester

An advantage to arriving before many shops opened was that was had time to enjoy the graffiti painted on the metal doors protecting each establishment and along the sidewalk including
Things to do in Manchester in a day: look for street art

  • A kid tucking a cupcake in her cap.
  • An unexpected broom and dustpan sculpture.
  • Sidewalk poetry

I especially liked the sidewalk poetry and thought I'd transcribe it here:
The telling lines within a sea of faces where sufferers take cover of street caves. Where wander the wayward and lost where the runaway can chart his journey back home. Here the water runs, the world defrosts, the street breathes beneath this stone
Things to do in Manchester UK - sidewalk poetry

3. Exchange Square and Around

We wandered through a flower decorated shopping street to Exchange Square which features a large Ferris wheel. The Triangle Shopping Centre featured a light filled glass atrium. 

I found it amazing to think that less than 15 years ago, this whole area lay in ruins due to an IRA bombing. We stopped to pay our respects at the bright red post box that survived the destruction and still stands on the same spot today. 

We wandered toward St. Ann's church and were impressed by Barton Arcade -- both inside and out. On a whim, we popped into the John Rylands Library -- also impressive inside and out. The library featured a large, book-lined and wood paneled reading room for students and scholars.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other city break ideas in the UK? For a similar vibe in other cities in the UK spend 2 days in Glasgow Scotland or a weekend in Birmingham England with an added bonus of some great eating and drinking opportunities

The Museum of Science and Industry

Things to do in Manchester England in a day: Visit the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) was our next stop in Manchester. We saw various types of engines on display. We also got to see a coal powered locomotive in action. For a few pounds, you could go for a short ride. 

We decided to skip it and leave room for the families with excited children. The decorations around the rail yard were also impressive. In the distance, we could see the striking (and asymmetrical) Manchester Hilton. 

I liked the texture of the rusting railcar in front of the orange brick. Another fascinating sight at the MOSI was the Water Supply and Sanitation exhibit. Part of the display involved walking through a Victorian era sewer -- not as gross as it sounds.
Things to do in Manchester England in a day: See the machines at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

4. Ancient Rome in Manchester

Romans once occupied this part of the world and there were some ruins close to the museum. We chanced upon a series of restaurants situated in a courtyard and enjoyed pizza and a glass of red wine at  Manchester's Don Marco.
Things to do in Manchester in a day - look for Roman ruins

5. Canal Walk in Manchester

Fed and re-energized, we walked along the Rochdale Canal Towpath. Gorgeous orange flowers were strategically placed in baskets along the water's edge. 

En route to our hotel, we walked along Canal Street, the center of Manchester's Gay Village. Restaurants and bars featured plenty of seating right along the water. It was a lovely spot.
Things to do in Manchester for a day - Take a walk on the canal

6. Oldham Street

We checked into the City Inn and were surprised to find an array of period costumes on display in the lobby. After a brief siesta at the hotel, we decided to walk along Oldham St, a funky street full of shops and restaurants. 

We passed Sweet Tooth Cupcakery and had to stop. The treats on display looked that good! The cupcake varieties were named after celebrities. We had the Johnny Cash and Jack Nicholson. 

The Johnny Cash was essentially cookies and cream and Jack Nicholson was blueberry and maple flavored. They were amazingly moist and sweet -- I'm not sure how the flavors relate to the names though.
Period costumes in the lobby of the City Inn in Manchester England

7. Manchester Craft and Design Centre

We continued on to the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. There were some amazing studios selling everything from jewelry, to knitted goods, to prints and paintings. We saw an odd display of fake dead birds on the stairwell between the ground and 1st floor. 

We decided to head toward the Printworks. The Printworks featured an unusual mix of blazing neon and old advertisements faded into the brick. 

We popped in to a popular pub called The Ape and Apple for a pint. I have to say, I prefer Irish beer to British cask ales. English cask ales tend to be closer to room temperature and thus less refreshing and satisfying to my palette.
Things to do in Manchester England - Visit the Manchester Craft and Design Centre

8. Manchester Town Hall and Dinner at Abdul’s

We saw a striking gargoyle-fish fountain outside the Manchester Town Hall. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We stopped at Abdul's a popular spot among students featuring kebabs and other quick Middle Eastern fare. 

The peas and rice was surprisingly spicy (4-alarms!) -- highly recommended if you like your food to have heat. We'd wandered slightly outside the city limits for dinner but soon made our way past the welcome sign once again. 

We saw more impressive street art on Oxford Road and down some of the nearby side streets.

9. Cornerhouse Cinema and Art Gallery

Our last stop of the evening was the Cornerhouse Cinema and Art Gallery where we bought tickets to see The Illusionist. We arrived about 10 minutes before the art exhibits were scheduled to close so did a quick walk through. 

There were four stories of exhibits to choose from. Unrealised Potential documented a variety of avant-garde proposals in the artists' minds that they would implement if only they had support and funding. 

The exhibit itself was a series of contracts pasted onto the wall. It was a little blurry, but one particular submission proposed to turn an everyday city space into a pigeon-coop to be occupied by feral pigeons. 

We definitely feel like we realized the full potential of Manchester in a day -- we covered about 10 miles on foot between sun-up and sun-down. It was totally worth the visit. Now, on to Liverpool for a day!

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One Day in Manchester EnglandHow to Spend One Day in Manchester England

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 9 Cool Things to do in Manchester in a Day
9 Cool Things to do in Manchester in a Day
Learn about things to do in Manchester in a day. Find out what to do in Manchester England. Visit Manchester UK for one day.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog