Are you aware of all the cultural activities that Manchester has to offer? Did you know that you don’t have to travel to London to enjoy great museums and historical buildings? It turns out there is plenty to do in our city! Read on to discover 7 exciting activities to do this spring and make the most of your time as a student here at Manchester.
My handpicked selection of museums
1. The People’s History Museum
The People’s History Museum in Spinningfields provides a great overview of the development of democracy in Britain and provides insights about the intricacies of the political parties of the country. Although the subject may be daunting for some people, the exhibitions are interactive and are set out in a very entertaining way. What I liked most about this museum was the amazing exhibition of banners that were used for campaigning (like for example, the rights of people with disabilities and the right to vote for women). Some of these banners are huge and the amount of detail will amaze you. The entrance is free and you can spend about two hours roaming its exhibitions.
2. Museum of Science and Industry
Another great free museum is the Museum of Science and Industry, located just a short walk away from the People’s History Museum. Inside, you will find a brilliant exhibition of all things that made Manchester an industrial hub in the late 18th century. Be prepared to be astonished with a live demonstration of authentic weaving machines that transform raw cotton into textiles. Allow at least 2.5 hours to visit the several rooms filled with machines, trains and very old computers. Entrance is also free.
3. Manchester Art Gallery
If you are more into art, you can visit the Manchester Art Gallery, also in the city centre. The building itself is beautiful and majestic. Inside, you will find world-class art from many periods, varying from Renaissance oil paintings to modern art installations. My personal favourite exhibition was Martin Parr’s photographs of Mancunians: it shows the day-to-day life of normal people during the seventies, eighties and nineties. This curious time capsule is a temporary exhibition and will be removed by the end of April, so hurry up! (pro tip: it is also free!)
4. Imperial War Museum North
One final recommendation would be to visit the Imperial War Museum North in Salford (you can get there very easily by tram). The modern building of the museum was built on top of a bomb site that fell during the Manchester Blitz in WWII. The exhibition takes you along a chronological exploration of conflict, starting in the First World War and finishing with modern day warfare. Although it is fascinating to see vehicles, tanks and guns, you will also understand the importance of remembrance and the symbolism of memorials.
Manchester has many other museums that didn’t make it to the list. I encourage you to search for them and visit them because they are as good as the ones I have featured here.
Public libraries and historic buildings
5. Manchester Central Library
If you are interested in architecture, Manchester also has beautiful buildings you can visit and enjoy. If you plan to visit the Manchester Art Gallery, make some time to visit the Manchester Central Library, which is only one block away. This building was completed in the 1930s and was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The huge dome can be spotted from far away and is very nice from the inside. If you have time, enter the reading room in the second level, where the dome is located: you will experience a curious echo effect of the sounds in the room! You can even break from the crowded places at uni to study and come here instead!
6. John Rylands Library
The University of Manchester´s own John Rylands Library is one of the most important buildings of the city. Listed as a Grade 1 building of exceptional interest, the John Rylands Library is a neo-Gothic construction that will transport you back in time. If you are a fan of Harry Potter (like me!), you will feel as if you are walking through the corridors of Hogwarts waiting for Peeves to appear. The Library has some historical items within its collection, such as the first edition of James Joyce´s Ulysses and what is believed to be the oldest fragment of a New Testament text.
7. Chetham Library
Another listed exceptional building you must visit is the Chetham Library, near the Manchester Victoria Station. The Chetham Library is the oldest public reference library in the UK (it’s over 350 years old).. One fun fact about the library is that it was used as meeting space by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels during the summer of 1845, when they were researching the working conditions of Manchester’s factories.
I hope you have fun visiting these places in Manchester. I am sure you will have a great time and learn a lot about the city during the process.