Manchester is well-equipped to keep tourists entertained on rainy days, with its world-class museums, shopping centres and iconic attractions like Old Trafford. You can stay dry while exploring the city thanks to its extensive and affordable train, tram and bus network. And, many of the best indoor venues in Manchester are free entry.

    Whether you’re a sports fanatic, bookworm, art lover or gin connoisseur, the city has you well catered for when the sun isn’t shining. Here’s our guide to the best things to do when it rains in Manchester. 

    1

    Manchester Art Gallery

    Browse artworks from classic masterpieces to interactive displays

    • History
    • Budget

    The Manchester Art Gallery displays over 25,000 works of art, including watercolour and oil paintings, prints, miniatures, sculptures and drawings. Built in the Greek Ionic architectural style during the early 19th century, it’s famous for its collection of Victorian art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It also boasts an impressive collection of international art, including an Egyptian canopic jar from around 1100 BC.

    The Manchester Art Gallery opens every day and, with no admission fee, it's an excellent place to escape the rain. If you're a night owl, head to the gallery on the 1st Wednesday of the month – doors stay open until 9 pm.

    Location: Monday from 11 am to 5 pm, Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Open: Monday from 11 am to 5 pm, Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 235 8888

    Map

    photo by Robert Cutts (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    2

    Trafford Centre

    Shop at Manchester’s largest shopping complex

    • Shoppers

    With over 200 shops, restaurants and attractions spread over 2 million sq ft, The Trafford Centre is the largest shopping complex in North West England. It was designed in a late-Baroque style to reflect Manchester’s industrial past. Inside, there are over 3,000 drawings as well as a range of Egyptian Revival and Art Deco elements.

    The Trafford Centre is connected to the city centre by tram and train, including one that leaves from Manchester Piccadilly. Leisure facilities include the UK’s busiest cinema, Europe’s largest food court (The Orient) and activities such as Laser Quest. There’s lots of art on display to match the centre’s opulent marble interior. Check out the classical Roman and Greek statues in the Barton Square section.

    Location: The Orient, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 8AA, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday from noon to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 749 1717

    Map
    3

    Manchester Central Library

    Spend a few hours exploring Britain’s second-largest library

    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    Manchester Central Library is one of the city’s most iconic architectural gems, designed and constructed in the 1930s based on the Pantheon in Rome. This Grade II listed building is home to 45,000 shelves of books, over 30 of which were published before 1500. Special collections include The Gaskell Collection, the Theatre Collection and the Newman Flower Collection of Handel Manuscripts.

    Manchester Central Library is in St Peter’s Square, where you can also see architectural masterpieces such as the Midland Hotel and Manchester Town Hall. As the nation’s second-largest public lending library, you won’t struggle to find something to read. Just be prepared to jostle for reading space – the library can attract up to 10,000 visitors per day.

    Location: St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD, UK

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 9 am to 8 pm, Friday–Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +44 (0)161 234 1983

    Map
    4

    Breakout Manchester

    Escape from a locked room in Crystal Maze style

    • Families
    • Group

    Breakout Manchester is one of the city’s quirkier attractions, where groups of friends and families must crack Crystal Maze-style puzzles to escape a game room. Each escape room has a different theme. In Vacancy B, your task is to escape through a locked door in a motel room. Fancy something a little spookier? Try the Cursed Carnival room, where your task is to escape a haunted carnival.

    Breakout Manchester is in the Northern Quarter, just a short walk from Manchester Art Gallery, and accessible via tram on a rainy day. If you’d prefer a virtual escape room experience, you can play at home as a group using Skype. Remember – you’ll have just 60 minutes to complete the challenges to secure your freedom.

    Location: 51 Church St, Manchester M4 1PD, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 839 8012

    Map
    5

    Old Trafford

    Tour the stadium of Manchester United

    • Families

    With a capacity of nearly 76,000, Old Trafford is the largest club football stadium in the UK. Securing tickets to watch Manchester United play can be notoriously difficult for non-members. However, you can book a 70-minute tour of the stadium to see the changing rooms, the tunnel, trophy and award exhibitions, and the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.

    Old Trafford Stadium tours take place daily, except on match days. It's also a good idea to book your slot well in advance. You can reach Old Trafford by taking a train from Manchester Piccadilly or via a tram from the city centre, which leaves around every 6 minutes. While you're in the area, don't forget to check out MediaCityUK and the Salford Quays.

    Location: Sir Matt Busby Way, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M16 0RA, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 868 8000

    Map
    6

    Manchester Museum

    View over 25,000 historic artefacts that include dinosaur bones

    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    The Manchester Museum is set inside a neo-Gothic building that’s typical of Manchester University architecture, boasting impressive exhibitions of natural history, anthropology and archaeology. With over 4.5 million items from every continent in its collection, Manchester Museum is the UK’s largest university museum, attracting nearly half a million visitors every year.

    Inside the museum, you can browse Eskimo carvings, aboriginal items from Australia, Egyptian mummies, and some of the world’s most critically endangered amphibians. There are also impressive collections of bird and mammal fossils, including a red panda and a lowland gorilla. There are even space rocks, crystals and a life-size cast of Stan the T-Rex.

    Location: University of, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 275 2648

    Map

    photo by DrPhoenix (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

    View LEGO replicas of Manchester’s landmarks with the kids

    • Families

    LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is one of Manchester’s best indoor playgrounds for the kids, particularly when gloomy skies and drizzle dominate the weather. Inside, there are 3 exhilarating rides, around 10 LEGO build and play zones, a 4D cinema, and miniature LEGO replicas of Manchester’s most famous landmarks.

    Manchester’s LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is open to walk-in visitors daily, but you can get discounted tickets and guaranteed entry by booking online at least 24 hours in advance. To make your budget stretch as far as possible, you can purchase a pass that grants entry to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and Sea Life for about £15.

    Location: Unit D5, Barton Square, intu Trafford Centre, Manchester M17 8AS, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 749 2870

    Map
    8

    Mackie Mayor Market

    Enjoy international delights with cocktails alongside locals

    • Food

    Mackie Mayor Market occupies a Grade II listed building that was constructed in 1858. It’s popular with locals that enjoy cheap bites with a pint on a rainy day. Two floors of communal seating areas provide ample space for you to relax alongside the locals. Food vendors sell favourites ranging from steaks and pizzas to tacos and Thai street food.

    Even though Mackie Mayor Market's main draw is its cheap beer stalls and food vendors, events that take place here range from baptisms to yoga with brunch. The market is open daily except on Mondays, though you should book a table in advance if travelling with more than 10 people. Choose dishes from the feasting menu if you’re dining and drinking with a large group.

    Location: 1 Eagle St, Manchester M4 5BU, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 9 am to 10 pm, Friday–Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Map
    9

    City of Manchester Distillery

    Create, drink and learn about the city’s best gin

    • Food

    The City of Manchester Distillery is an award-winning producer of gin, rum and vodka. In 2016, it opened its doors to the public, becoming Manchester’s original ‘Gin Experience’. While you tour the distillery and find out how your favourite spirits are made, you’ll get to try plenty of samples and even make your own unique blend. If you’re looking for an excuse to enjoy a tipple on a rainy day, the City of Manchester Distillery is it.

    Tickets to tour the distillery can cost around £100, but you can take a bottle home with you as a memento of your trip. You can walk to the City of Manchester Distillery from Manchester Victoria train station in under 10 minutes. Or, you can reach the Green Quarter of Manchester by tram on the yellow line to remain dry on a rainy day.

    Location: 21 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4HF, UK

    Open: Friday from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm, Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm and from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)161 839 2667

    Map
    10

    Manchester Palace Theatre

    Catch an evening comedy, musical or opera performance

    Manchester Palace Theatre is one of the city’s foremost theatres, located on Oxford Street close to Manchester University. Constructed in the late 19th century, it’s one of the best-equipped theatres outside of London, and it’s hosted world-famous shows such as Lion King and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as acts ranging from Peter Kay to Laurel and Hardy.

    If you’re looking for a last-minute evening activity on a rainy day, you’ll be glad to know that there is no formal dress code at Palace Theatre Manchester, though you may look a little out of place without a pair of jeans. Keep your eyes peeled for events that take place at the theatre during Manchester Pride Festival in August.

    Location: 97 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6FT, UK

    Open: Box office: Monday–Saturday from noon to 7 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +44 (0)333 009 6690

    Map
    Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer

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