Here is a perfect plan for one day in Manchester with lots of options depending on what YOU want from a day in Manchester!
One of the great things about Manchester is how compact the city is and therefore how easy it is to see a lot with just 1 day in Manchester!
There are so many different areas and things to do in Manchester city centre but much of the city is easy to explore on foot and great transport links make it easy to visit nearby places to the city centre such as The Trafford Centre and the 2 Manchester Football Stadiums!
After living in Manchester for a while, I wanted to give you my recommended perfect 1 day Manchester itinerary taking you from the morning all the way to night time, filled with the best places to visit in Manchester and the best things to do!
One Day in Manchester
Another one of the best things about Manchester is its diversity!
Diversity in people, activities and areas so in this Manchester travel blog and Manchester itinerary,
I’ve given you a few options of ways you can spend your day as you might want to spend the whole day in the city seeing museums, the shops and eating, or, you might want to visit one of the two world-famous football stadiums or the pretty famous Trafford Centre for shopping, and eating!
My Perfect One Day in Manchester
I’ll give you more Manchester itinerary options below with lots more detail but incase you’re in a rush, here is what my perfect day in Manchester would look like:
- Breakfast / Brunch in a cool cafe in the city like Ezra & Gil
- Walk around the Science & Industry Museum & Manchester Art Gallery
- Visit in St Peter’s Square, Manchester Library, John Ryland’s Library
- Lunch at one of the Food Markets like Mackie Major
- Post-Lunch Coffee in a hipster Northern Quarter cafe like Fig & Sparrow
- Wander around the independent Northern Quarter Shops
- Shopping near the Arndale Shopping Centre – including Selfridges
- Take a look at Manchester Cathedral
- Dinner on Wilmslow Road aka Curry Mile
- Evening Event / See a Show in the City Centre
Getting To Manchester
Manchester is really well connected by air, train and bus.
Flying into Manchester
Manchester Airport is just south of the city and is connected by train and tram to the city centre by a 20-30 minute journey, making landing and getting into the city pretty quick and easy.
Plan your journey from Manchester Airport into the City with Transport for Greater Manchester.
Train into Manchester
Doing a day trip to Manchester from another city in the UK is a great idea. You can even do a day trip to Manchester from London if you book the 2-hour train. Manchester Picadilly is the main train station but there’s also Manchester Victoria.
Check The Train Line for trains to Manchester!
Want to spend a day in Manchester and another day near Manchester?
Here are the best day trips from Manchester!
Bus to Manchester
Manchester is served by the National Express and Megabus which are affordable ways to travel to Manchester.
The journeys do take longer so if you are travelling from another city for just a day in Manchester, check how long the bus will be vs the train which will probably be quicker.
Getting Around Manchester
Once in Manchester City Centre, the city is very walkable however to help you get around the city quicker and save your feet, there is a tram and bus system.
The best way to look into the trams and buses around Manchester City Centre is on the Transport for Greater Manchester website.
The following tram stops are all in the city centre and great to start your exploring from:
- St Peters Square
- Piccadilly Gardens
- Piccadilly Station
- Market Street
- Exchange Square
A Day in Manchester
Ok now let’s get into ways to spend a day in Manchester and how to visit Manchester in one day:
One Day Manchester Itinerary
Morning – Breakfast at one of the many nice cafes in the city centre
Manchester is not short of breakfast and brunch options! The Northern Quarter is full of independent cafes as is the trendy area of Ancoats, and there are plenty of places near the Library and Town Hall.
On the weekends, you’ll see Mancunians queuing for brunch so if you’re spending your 1 day in Manchester on a weekday, take advantage of the lack of queues.
I personally really like Ezra & Gil, Another Heart to Feed, Foundation Coffee House and Evelyn’s Cafe.
Mid-Morning – A Museum or two
Manchester doesn’t have as many museums as London but there are a few to visit.
Manchester Museum is like a Natural History Museum which is the most popular I’d say followed by the Science Museum.
The Science & Industry Museum is one of the great things to do in Manchester with kids. It’s very interactive for children and educational for adults, especially regarding the cotton industry which is what Manchester grew on so if you are new to the UK or Manchester, this is a great place to learn about Manchester’s past.
If you’re into art, Manchester Art Gallery is a lovely building to visit and well located close to Manchester Library and St Peters Square.
For Harry Potter vibes in Manchester City Centre, pop into John Rylands Library, it’s a beautiful building inside and fee to enter!
In this area is also Chinatown so if you’re craving Bubble Tea in Manchester, you’ll find some here!
MY PERFECT PLAN: You could easily go for Breakfast at Ezra & Gil, head over to the Science Museum and walk back to Manchester Library. You’ll see St Peter’s Square and the beautiful hotel that is The Midland on route and go to Manchester Art Gallery afterwards.
Mid-Morning Alternative Option – Free Walking Tour
Last summer I did a free walking tour with Free Manchester Walking Tours and it was really great!
They meet at 11:00 in Sackville Gardens (rain or shine) so this will give you time to get into the city and over the next 3 hours you’ll walk around a lot of the city and learn too!
I really enjoyed learning about Manchesters History and visiting spots I’d never seen or heard of before and the guides are enthusiastic about Manchester.
You don’t need to book which is great as you can decide on the day and don’t have to commit and then cancel!
Mid-Morning Alternative Option – Manchester United or Manchester City Stadium Tour
If football is the only thing you can think about when you think of Manchester, you have to book onto a stadium tour at Old Trafford or a tour of the Etihad Stadium.
These tours do not run every day as they depend on the matches and other events but on days they do run, they offer time slots from 10:00 and they are a great way to spend one day in Manchester!
I recently did the Manchester United’s Stadium Tour with my stepsons and although we are not big football fans, we really enjoyed it. Here’s my full review!
Check availability and book the Old Trafford Stadium Tour here!
Check availability and book the Etihad Stadium Tour here!
Lunchtime – Find a market for lunch
There are endless places to eat in Manchester and again, one of the reasons I love Manchester so much is the diversity in food!
Be sure to read my post for the best halal food in Manchester if you are looking for a halal lunch!
Manchester City Centre has a few inside food markets which are a great way to see how cool and edgy the city is in places.
Plus, if you are spending a day in Manchester with friends, food markets are a great way for everyone eat different things but you can still sit together.
MY PERFECT PLAN: I recommend having lunch in Mackie Major or Society MCR.
Afternoon – Explore different areas of the city
If there are 2 area’s of Manchester City Centre I recommend you visit, they are the Northern Quarter and Ancoats and this is where I suggest going after lunch.
Both areas are very edgy and hip. The Northern Quarter (often shortened to NQ) is full of independent cafes and shops with a focus on vintage shops.
Afflecks in the Northern Quarter is a bit of an institution. It’s like an inside market over multiple levels with lots of independent stores. The clothing and items are not my type of thing but the place has a good buzz about it so it’s fun to pop inside, and it’s definitely a good place for teenagers to visit in Manchester!
See if you can spot the famous ‘And on the sixth day God made MANchester sign’!
Ancoats is an up and coming trendy neighbourhood. It’s known for it’s food and drink scene but I also love the old red brick buildings in the area which once would have been factory mills. Here are the best things to do in Ancoats.
A afternoon coffee or drink here is definitely a good idea!
Get a look at Manchester with a guide, or book the hop-on hop-off bus if you’d rather not walk around the city yourself!
Afternoon Alternative – Shop in The Trafford Centre
Old Trafford and The Trafford Centre are 2 places most people think about when they think of Manchester.
The Trafford Centre is a great place to go shopping in Manchester, it doesn’t have the BEST shops imo, but it does have some good ones. It has a lot of nice places to eat in the food court, and the interior of The Trafford Centre is certainly something to be witnessed!
You can get to The Trafford Centre by bus or tram from the city centre if you do not have a car and if the weather is not good enough for wandering the city, or you want to see this famous Manchester institution, spending a few hours here is a great addition to your one day in Manchester.
There are lots of activities and attractions within The Trafford Centre and Trafford Park, I’ve detailed many of them here in this list of family attractions in Manchester, think Legoland, Sealife Centre, indoor Skiing & Snowboarding, indoor Skydiving, Rock Climbing and mini Dinosaur golf!
Legoland and Sea Life and located within The Trafford Centre and good activities to keep children happy during their one day in Manchester!
MY PERFECT PLAN: After exploring the city in the morning and having lunch, get the bus or tram to The Trafford Centre for a few hours of shopping. Go to Archies in the food court and get burgers for dinner (another Manchester institution), or head back into the city for dinner.
Evening – Go to the Curry Mile for Dinner
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this guide to a day in Manchester, Manchester is a diverse city which can be seen in it’s food, and one of the best places to eat in Manchester is along Wilmslow Road, also known as the ‘Curry Mile’.
This is a stretch of road just outside the city centre full of Arab and Asian restaurants varying in budget and what they offer.
If you’re craving some Indian, Pakistani, Turkish food, or you want to try a new cuisine like Afghan, Iranian, Yemeni or Syrian, head here!
Evening Alternative – Have a fancy Dinner in the city
Manchester City Centre is full of really nice restaurants too if you want a fancy dinner during your one day in Manchester.
Some restaurants which offer high quality food, a nice atmosphere and where you can dress up a bit are:
- The Ivy
- 20 Stories
- Rump N Ribs Steakhouse
- Don Giovanni
Late Evening – Check out a band or theatre performance
Manchester has a great evening entertainment scene. Whether you want to head to the bars, see a band or watch a show, there’s always a lot of things to do in Manchester in the evening.
Here’s What’s On in Manchester right now, and what’s on at the Palace Theatre which is the biggest Theatre in Manchester with many world class West End shows!
Best Hotels in Manchester
Ending your day in Manchester, based on my staycations in the city, here are the hotels I love the best in Manchester:
- Wilde Aparthotels – $$ (Read my review here)
- The Midland – $$$
- Dakota – $$$
- Kimpton Clocktower – $$$
- Native Manchester – $$
- Leonardo Hotel – $$
I hope this has helped you plan your one day in Manchester with a variety of things to do in Manchester in one day and places to visit!
- For more of my Manchester posts see:
- 22 Day Trips from Manchester!
- 25+ FUN Family Days Out IN Manchester
- 23+ Fun Family Days Out NEAR Manchester
- BEST Halal Restaurants in Manchester | ULTIMATE Guide to Halal Food Manchester!
- Review | Manchester United Museum & Stadium Tour! How Good is it?
- Review | Wilde Aparthotels Manchester! Budget Friendly, Central, Stylish!