Manchester, England

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyPound Sterling
Local languageEnglish
Country England

Introduction

Manchester is a fantastic and vibrant city with an exciting, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Despite its size and reputation as the ‘capital of the North’ it still manages to retain a familiar and friendly atmosphere and is divided into lots of mini-centres which create a great sense of local community. Famous for its soccer teams and lively music scene, which has produced the likes of the Smiths and Oasis, Manchester has overcome industrial decline, bombings (in WWII and by the IRA in 1996) and is now a city full of attractions and things to do. It’s superb for shopping (thanks partly to the IRA bombings which saw the centre completely redeveloped and improved) and is a great place for fans of Victorian architecture. Manchester played a crucial role during the Industrial Revolution and the continuing period of industrialisation which went on into the twentieth century. This period is reflected in the paintings of one of the city’s most famous sons, L.S.Lowry whose depictions of Greater Manchester especially the city of Salford which neighbours Manchester are immediately recognisable and are in part available to view at the Quays in Salford.


There are a huge number of museums and galleries, music venues, theatres, which is enough to keep even the long-term or returning tourist entertained; Urbis, in the city centre, is an attraction dedicated to urban culture including exhibitions from the future of cities to the history of punk rock; the People’s History Museum, the Pankhurst Centre – in the former home of two suffragettes; the Chinese Arts Centre; and the Manchester Jewish Museum are all great example. For an overall view visitors should start off by taking an open top bus tour from St Peter’s Square.

Going to Manchester?

Use our Trip Planner and start your trip here.

Things to do

With 8,000 attractions noted in Great Manchester, you’ll certainly not be short of things to do, but here’s a list of the top city centre points of interest to use as a guide.


The Museum of Science and Industry can be found within the former Liverpool Road Station which was one of the original railway stations in the world. The museum has 15 permanent and temporary exhibitions on show for its visitors not only to look at but also touch, smell and interact with. It aims to show aspects of the city’s proud industrial routes with textiles and engineering displays as well as demonstrations of working steam engines.


To fully understand the psyche of the city, you have to take part in one of the football stadium tours Manchester City at Main Road or Manchester United at Old Trafford depending on which takes your fancy. They take you around the locker rooms, trophy cabinets and onto the hallowed turf itself.


Manchester town Hall is a huge Victorian building (from the 1870s) in Albert Square, just to the north of St Peter's Square (from where the open top bus tours depart). Alfred Waterhouse designed the neo-Gothic style building. With its almost 300 ft tower it is one of the distinctive landmarks that dominate Manchester’s skyline and certainly one worth seeing, its interior is boasts ornate decorations, especially in the Great Hall, which contains 12 murals by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Maddox Brown.


Whilst wandering through the centre be sure to take a look at Manchester Cathedral which might seem like a relatively modern church because of the extensive refurbishment carried out during the nineteenth century, but in fact dates back to the 8th century. Evidence for that comes from the so called ‘Angel Stone’, which is a fragment of a Saxon Church. In the 19th century it was discovered embedded in the wall of the original South Porch of the Cathedral.


The Quays area of Manchester (out to Harbour City or Broadway on the city’s Metro) is one which has been developing fast and now has plenty to offer locals and visitors alike. Here you can find the Imperial War Museum North offering insights into the impact of war on the lives of the everyday people of Manchester and the surrounding area. As well as this it is here that you can find The Lowry: home to arts and entertainment projects as well as The Lyric theatre. It is also here that you will find The Lowry Galleries bringing changing exhibitions of local, national and international artists. A stunning collection of Lowry’s own paintings are displayed at The Lowry in Salford Quays. There are cafes, restaurants and gift shops as well as a modern shopping centre right opposite the Lowry.

Local transport

GMPTE, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive is responsible for Manchester’s public transport system. Greater Manchester has an efficient public transport system so that wherever you want to go, it’s generally quick and easy to do so.


There is an extensive bus network operated by several operators. They serve the Greater Manchester area and also Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire.


The great thing about Manchester’s buses is, that there are free city centre bus services: Around the city centre, on three routes – the green, orange and purple one – travelling is completely free for everyone all day. Metroshuttle operates from Monday to Saturday from 7am-7pm and on Sundays from 10am-6pm, taking visitors around the city centre's main attractions.


Metrolink is the city’s tram company. Metrolink trams run through the city centre connecting major railway stations and tourist attractions.

Recommended places and events to visit in Manchester

Plan your trip to Europe

European Trip Planner

Use our trip planner to put together your list of destinations to visit on your trip.


European Rail Passes

Compare rail passes and point to point tickets.


Travel Articles

Find inspiration in our travel articles and journey suggestions.