36 hours in Manchester: Top things to see, do and eat

what to do in manchester
From visiting football stadiums to checking out cafes and playing mini golf, here are some cool things you can do if you have less than two days to spare in the city. Source: Paul Ellis/AFP

If you’re planning on making the best out of your time in the UK, you might want to consider visiting Manchester. The question, “What to do in Manchester?” might cross your mind, but we’ve got good news: you’re bound to experience a great city life like no other.

Manchester is one of the UK’s top cities that sees thousands of visitors every day. Aside from international tourists flocking to the city now that travel borders are reopening, Manchester attracts locals from all over the UK too. The National Rail notes that two of the city’s stations — Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria — see countless visitors daily as Manchester acts as a midway for their final destination. 

So, whether you’re a local or an international traveller exploring the UK, you’re likely making a quick stop at the city of Manchester. 

We’ve scoured the web to curate some of the must-dos, including places to eat and see if you have a mere 36 hours in the city: 

what to do in manchester

As one of the UK’s top cities, Manchester attracts local and international tourists alike. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

What to do in Manchester: 36 hours

DAY 1: 

1. Dine at Federal Cafe & Bar 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and what better place to build your sustenance and energy for your visit to Manchester than an affordable all-day brunch and coffee at Federal Cafe & Bar in Northern Quarter?

This small cafe is located in the heart of Manchester and offers customers an authentic, welcoming experience the moment they walk through its doors. 

The cafe also offers cocktails all-day long; you can get two cocktails for twelve pounds. 

2. Take a walk around Northern Quarter 

Once your tummy is filled and happy, have a stroll around the Northern Quarter. It’s one of Europe’s hippiest neighbourhoods, and for a good reason: it’s home to the coolest boutiques, stores and bars. 

For a shopping fix, visit Afflecks — Manchester’s eclectic shopping centre — which features over 60 independent stalls and shops selling everything from thrift clothes to vintage records to cool artwork. 

Not done shopping? The Manchester Craft and Design Centre is another excellent place to check out. Here, you won’t find any high street brands but an impressive array of quality artisan goods — handmade, bespoke and personal. 


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3. Lunch stop at Wolf At The Door 

Famished after all the window-shopping and sightseeing? Visit Wolf At The Door —for excellent bao and tacos priced from £1 onwards. 

The bar also prides itself on serving one of the best wines, killer cocktails and a regularly-updated selection of draught beers in the city. 

4. Visit John Rylands Research Institute and Library

Located at the University of Manchester — one of the world’s top universities — the John Rylands Research Institute and Library is a must-see attraction if you’re in the city. 

Upon stepping foot in the building, the word “library” might not be the first word to cross your mind. You’ll be met with jaw-dropping, Victorian neo-gothic architecture, making the building appear like a magnificent castle or cathedral. 

Entrance to the library is free, and it should take you about 30 minutes to cover the whole building. 

5. Visit Old Trafford Stadium 

A big football fan? Then the Old Trafford Stadium is a must-see attraction. 

It’s home to the world-renowned Manchester United Football Club, so there are many things to see and do at the stadium.

You can book a tour, pick up a souvenir at the Megastore or simply enjoy the unforgettable moment of stepping foot on the famed football club’s home grounds. 

6. Shop at Trafford Centre

After the stadium tour, head over to the prestigious Trafford Centre — about a 24-minute train ride or 10-minute drive from the Old Trafford Stadium — for a great shopping and dining experience. 

It’s the UK’s third-largest indoor shopping and leisure centre that is home to 200 shops, over 60 restaurants, cafes and bars, Europe’s largest food court and exciting leisure activities. 

The centre’s unorthodox architecture is not to be missed as well. It offers shoppers a unique and vivid shopping experience with its Raccoco and Baroque-style design — something you can hardly get in the UK. 

DAY 2: 

1. Start your day with brunch in Ancoats 

If you’re exploring other areas for popular breakfast spots, Ancoats is a neighbourhood you should add to your list. 

Head over to Trove, a family-run bakery which has opened its second branch in Ancoats, for something quick and delicious. Here, you’ll be presented with delectable seasonal brunch dishes as well as an array of mouthwatering pastries and bread. 

2. Visit the City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad Stadium) 

Football fans shouldn’t miss a visit to Etihad Stadium, home to the Manchester City Football Club.

Similar to Old Trafford Stadium, you can book a stadium tour (prices start from £25) — which lasts about 90 minutes — to learn more about the building and shop to your heart’s content at the gift shop. 


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3. Play mini-golf in neon lights and loud music

If you’re up for some loud music and flashy fun, check out Junkyard Golf Club — Manchester’s home of mini-golf with three fun golf courses. Each golf course has its own theme, guaranteeing you a fun evening of mini-golfing drowned by colourful neon lights and loud music. 

The golf club also has various drinks to quench your thirst. 

One game per person during a weekday (excluding Fridays) will only set you back by £8.50. Walk-ins are not recommended, so make a reservation online.