Manchester in 2023
Greater Manchester has been named as a must-see destination for 2023, with four leading travel publications placing the city-region on their lists for the year ahead. Lonely Planet has added Manchester to its Best in Travel List 2023, National Geographic says we're Best of the World 2023, and both Conde Nast Traveler and TimeOut have named Manchester as one of the best UK cities to visit!
The latest update of our Tourism Watchlist features countless reasons to visit Manchester in 2023 and includes a round-up of key stories and openings you should have on your radar for the year ahead. Curated by Marketing Manchester, the tourism board for the region, it features what to expect from key cultural moments and exciting hotel developments to the booming food and drink scene, and major milestones and anniversaries to watch in 2023.
Culture, heritage, and museums
Science and Industry Museum: music exhibition and refurbishment projects
Site of the world's first passenger railway, the Science and Industry Museum is full of fascinating machinery telling the story of Manchester's industrial heritage. Their new Special Exhibitions Gallery is currently hosting a bold new exhibition Turn it Up: The Power of Music until May 2023, and work to its Grade II-listed Power Hall will complete in 2024 with a new multi-sensory gallery.
Manchester Art Gallery: dedicated Fashion Gallery exhibits Dandy Style
Exploring 250 years of men's fashion from the 18th Century to present day, Manchester Art Gallery's new exhibition Dandy Style has opened as the inaugural exhibition of their dedicated new Fashion Gallery. Featuring work from artists including David Hockney, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, it runs until May 2023.
Manchester Museum: expanded museum reopens with Golden Mummies of Egypt
Opening in February 2023
After a three-year closure, the much-loved Manchester Museum reopens following a £15 million transformation adding a two-storey extension, new exhibition hall, South Asia Gallery, and Chinese Culture Gallery. Its opening exhibition, Golden Mummies of Egypt, will be a UK premiere of Manchester Museum's first international touring exhibition - following a successful tour of the USA and China.
Factory International: highly anticipated Northern cultural powerhouse opens
Opening in June 2023
A major new cultural space for Manchester, Factory International will open in the heart of the city in June 2023. The new venue, designed by Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), will be home to the biennial Manchester International Festival, and will feature an opening exhibition from Yayoi Kusama titled You, Me and the Balloons, featuring spectacular inflatable sculptures. Its standalone premiere production will open in October 2023 with Free Your Mind, an immersive performance based on The Matrix films and directed by Danny Boyle.
Wigan Pier: icon of the industrial North brought back to life
Opening in 2024
Wigan Pier – made famous by George Orwell's 1937 book, The Road to Wigan Pier, will be given a new lease of life this year. After several years of work, the long-vacant 18th Century industrial buildings of the icon pier will be transformed into a new waterside destination that includes a gin-distillery, micro-brewery, food hall, events venue, and cultural hub.
Manchester Town Hall: Victorian heart of Manchester reopens following six-year transformation
Opening in 2024
Closed since 2018, Manchester's impressive 19th century Town Hall will finally reopen to the public in 2024 following an extensive renovation project to protect it for future generations. One of the most significant heritage projects in the UK, the Our Town Hall project will open with a new exhibition telling the story of the iconic building, whilst giving visitors access to previously unseen areas, including the Victorian police cells, courtyard, and clocktower on new guided tours.
Music and entertainment
House of Books & Friends: cosy bookshop aims to tackle loneliness
Set inside an impressive Victorian Gothic former club, whose members included Winston Churchill, House of Books & Friends is no ordinary bookshop. The social enterprise opened in December 2022 with the aim of combatting social isolation following the pandemic, and has created a space for people to meet, discuss books, shop and enjoy the café.
New Century: iconic music venue reopens with music and food offering
New Century, a legendary music venue whose past performers include Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, has been reborn. Opened in September 2022 in the NOMA area of the city, the 800-capacity venue comes complete with a sprung dance floor and 60's style “disco ceiling” alongside an all-new food and drinks space with six vendors, including a butty shop concept from renowned local chef Adam Reid, bao's from Baobros23, Wild by Ply pizza, Zumuku Sushi, and Tallow steaks and burgers.
AO Arena: UK's largest indoor venue set to expand
Now open with developments completing in Autumn 2023
The UK's biggest arena is set to become even bigger in 2023, thanks to a new £50m reconstruction project that will raise the 21,000-person capacity to 22,900. AO Arena will create brand-new entrances, premium experiences, custom designed lounges, and premium seating. Plus, the venue's production areas will be dramatically upgraded with a complete overhaul of the backstage experience for artists, production, and crew.
Co-op Live: UK's greenest new live music venue to open
Opening in December 2023
With construction well underway adjacent to Manchester's Etihad Stadium, Co-op Live is preparing to open its doors to 23,500 fans in late 2023. The venue will feature an impressive 32 bars, restaurants and lounges, sourcing enticing homegrown food and drink across its four levels. With a music-first focus, Co-op Live will host over 120 major live events in its first year, and will feature an innovative 'smart bowl', bringing fans closer to the music and built specifically with acoustics in mind.
METRIX: immersive football experience set to open
Opening in late 2023
Following a successful pop-up run, new football experience METRIX will open with a permanent site at The Trafford Centre, the UK's third-largest shopping mall. Players will get the chance to play physical and virtual games with smart technology and virtual reality, and live data will track ball speed, power, touch and accuracy for players to compare with their friends.
Green space and gardens
RHS Garden Bridgewater: new developments at Europe's biggest gardening project
Two years after opening, Salford's RHS Garden Bridgewater will add two new garden highlights in 2023 with the addition of the first of a series of structures at its Chinese Streamside Garden – a music pavilion. The gardening project is one of Europe's largest and has further plans to expand.
Castlefield Viaduct: derelict train line transformed into urban park
The National Trust has taken the first 330m of a long-abandoned Grade II-listed railway bridge to create Castlefield Viaduct, a new urban park reminiscent of New York's The High Line. After years of locals calling out for the space to be transformed, the attraction opened the first phase of a public consultation which could see it extended to up to 1km. The park features planting that reflects Manchester's industrial heritage and will change throughout the seasons.
GM Ringway: 300km circular walking trail takes in dramatic views
Broken down into 20 stages, and covering a 300-km route, the GM Ringway is a new walking trail starting in the city centre, taking in all ten boroughs of the Greater Manchester region. Visitors will be able to join any one of the twenty stages by public transport, with traffic-free routes. Ramblers will pass more than 40 Grade II and II*-listed buildings, and 14 scheduled ancient monuments, whilst taking in stunning views of the Peak District and the valleys of the South and West Pennines.
Northern Roots: ambitious urban farm project moves forward
Now open with developments completing in Summer 2023
Plans for the UK's largest urban farm and eco-park have progressed at Northern Roots, a 160-acre site in Oldham, 30-minutes outside of Manchester City Centre. The green space is already open for exploration, planting and exploring one of the 12 bee hives, with wider plans for Summer 2023 to add a new visitor centre with shop and café, a learning space, swimming pond, natural amphitheatre and a large market garden.
Mayfield Park: first new city-centre park in 100 years
Mayfield Park is a newly created 6.5-acre park adjacent to Piccadilly Station. Complete with 142 trees, 120,000 plants, and a children's play zone with six slides, Mayfield Park is woven around the historic River Medlock, which is now teeming with biodiversity following an extensive clean-up effort. Open from Dawn until Dusk, visitors to the park will also benefit from neighbouring food venue Escape to Freight Island, with further cafes, restaurants, homes and businesses set to be constructed around the park in the coming years.
Food and Drink
Manchester's food and drink scene shows no sign of slowing, with 2022 offering a raft of independent openings to secure the city's reputation as a foodie destination. At the start of the year, new neighbourhood Kampus opened its doors, with a set of openings including Nell's New York Pizza, local brewing legends Cloudwater, and sell-out bakery Pollen, with its second site in the city. Closing off the year came Exhibition, a trio of independent kitchens taking over the site of the former Museum of Natural History, which was based there in 1909, with the concept promising to level up dining with nightly DJs and a changing menu.
Manchester has experienced a surge of high-end bars, with the opening of Sterling at the Stock Exchange Hotel from the award-winning Schofield Brothers (who are behind Schofield's Bar – named 59th Best Bar in the World); whilst wine bar Climat popped onto the scene at the end of 2022 with its rooftop restaurant featuring 250 global wines, and a 360-degree view of the city.
The year ahead also looks to serve up a delicious selection of eateries – Diecast kicks off the year with a colossal food and drink space set inside a former metals factory, opening in February, the 3,000-capacity food hall will also feature a brewery, night market, urban garden, and beer hall.
Also joining the line-up for early 2023 is Soho House, with their first Northern location taking over three-storeys of the former Granada TV studios to offer a restaurant, private members club and music venue. Gordan Ramsay will open Lucky Cat, the sister restaurant to his London Mayfair pan-Asian;
whilst The Schofield Brothers will strike again when they take over the dining concept at The Stock Exchange Hotel; once a much-loved pop-up Higher Ground returns with a permanent site with a focus on natural wine and local ingredients; well-reviewed hotel LEVEN will bow to demand and open MAYA, their own canal side restaurant; and, ramen and dumpling spot House of Fu will open a new restaurant with late-night bar and karaoke rooms.
Neighbourhoods to watch
Red Bank and Green Quarter
North of Victoria Station in Manchester City Centre, the Red Bank and adjacent Green Quarter areas are on the cusp of an emerging neighbourhood with a whole host of recent openings and further developments set to come. Following the completion of new apartments around historic Angel Meadows Park, the latest independent, Foundation Coffee House, has announced its opening in the area, which joins recent newbie Green Arches brewery and bar, which takes up residence under one of several railway arches, next to The Spärrows, an unassuming Alpine spätzle restaurant that has driven critics wild.
Street food stalwarts GRUB made the Green Quarter their home a few years ago, taking its popular festival-style dining to a permanent location, including its much-loved Plant Powered Sundays.
A short walk up Cheetham Hill to the newly refurbished Manchester Jewish Museum, you can stop into The Derby Brewery Arms, a traditional pub which has found new fame as a queer hangout spot, or drop by Unagi, another new eatery serving up sushi from shipping containers. For those who love to dance, Love Factory, a new large-scale events space that hosts discos and raves has opened, and nearby Partisan hosts regular DJ and dance nights.
Just ten-minutes outside of Manchester by train, the town of Stockport has seen its star rise over the last few years, which has led to a growth in independent restaurants, bars, and shops coming to the town. With attractions in its own right, including the quirky Hat Works Museum, 15th Century Staircase House, and Stockport Air Raid Shelters, the town is steeped in history, as well as cobbled streets and old architecture.
A growing food and drink scene, which is headlined by the small but popular Where the Light Gets In, known for its seasonal, local, no-menu approach to cooking, joins other stops in the town's line-up including The Produce Hall with a number of food hall style vendors set inside a 160-year old market building, Ate Days a Week which has gained a cult reputation for its pun-filled menu and pies; and Foodie Friday, which offers a weekly pop-up of traders in Stockport's Old Town.
Recent announcements include Bohemian Arts Club, a new cocktail bar led by Blossom's singer Tom Ogden. Shoppers will also be delighted by the array of little shops, including Stockport Market, offering indoor and outdoor wares; independent and vintage items from 20th Century Stores, and Rare Mags, where you can find all kinds of titles, books and zines.
170 years after being named a city in 1853, Manchester will mark milestones in 2023 with some key anniversaries in its history. This year marks 100 years since Manchester City FC started playing at the Maine Road stadium, moving some decades later to its current site at the Etihad Stadium, where it is marking 20 years from their first game on new turf.
Jumping back to 1948, Manchester takes claim for the creation of the world's first computer 75 years ago, with 'The Manchester Baby' which was created by a team at the University of Manchester and is now on display at the Science and Industry Museum – which coincidentally, celebrates its 40th Anniversary as a museum, opening in 1983.
In music heritage, the Royal Northern College of Music marks 50 years since its inception, and just ten years later in 1983, iconic Manchester bands The Stone Roses, and Inspiral Carpets, officially formed.