48 hours in Manchester – A 2 day Itinerary

The past decade I’ve had the pleasure of living and working in the UK – specifically Manchester. I’ve been to this vibrant city many times, exploring its various attractions, dining spots, and hidden gems. I’m here to share my knowledge with fellow travellers who are looking to discover all that Manchester has to offer in just two days!

From the best restaurants, music venues, or shopping districts; there’s something for everyone. In fact, Manchester is so diverse it can be overwhelming – but no worries! With a bit of planning you can make sure to get the most out of your visit and experience all that Manchester has to offer in two days.

Is Manchester worth visiting? Absolutely! Read on for a 2 day itinerary for Manchester.

This beautiful northern city may be most famous for its football team, but it’s becoming more and more known for its rich cultural landscape, fun nightlife, and interesting history. Spend 48 hours in Manchester with us- you won’t regret it!

As one of England’s most vibrant industrial towns, Manchester offers a lot of insight into the history of the UK.

You’ll find beautiful shops, restaurants, and accommodation in converted warehouses, and incredible street art at every turn. And of course, it’s impossible to visit Manchester without indulging in some football (or soccer, whatever you’d call it!) related fun. 

Manchester has its own airport, the Manchester Airport, so you can fly in from a number of other European destination.

But the most simple way to get to Manchester is by train. With multiple departures from all over the UK to Manchester Piccadilly Station daily, it’s incredibly easy to plan a quick weekend in Manchester (or mid-week treat!)

Modern home interior with bedroom setting including bedside table with lamp.

Manchester is really easy to get around, so you can really stay anywhere in the city, but there are a couple neighborhoods worth shouting out! The City Center is an obvious choice- walk straight out of the train station and you’ll find yourself right in the thick of it all, with fab shops and restaurants at every turn.

While there are lots of things to do in Manchester City Center, if you’re more about the nightlife than the retail therapy, staying in the Northern Quarter may be the right choice for you- this hip neighborhood is full of quirky indie shops selling records and vintage clothing, but it truly comes alive at night, when locals flock to its fun historic pubs and live music venues.

How many days in Manchester do you need? While you could easily spend weeks without getting bored, 2 days is enough time to see many of the city’s highlights.

Wherever you stay, there are great public transport links to get you to anywhere you want to go within Manchester! So put on your comfy walking shoes and let’s start exploring this fun UK city.

Plan your trip?

Avoid hidden fees in the exchange rate while withdrawing from millions of ATMs abroad, paying in restaurants and shops, and buying your accommodation and flights using the Wise Card. You can hold up to 40+ currencies at once to spend in in over 150 countries, and convert them in real time with the free Wise app.

Need help planning your trip from start to finish? Check out these helpful links:

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Overview of your 2 day Manchester itinerary

Day 1 in Manchester

  • Have a traditional full English breakfast
  • Stroll the Northern quarter
  • Take a look at the Manchester Cathedral
  • Peruse the John Rylands Library
  • Pop to Chinatown for lunch
  • Become a fan at the National Football Museum
  • Dinner at Printworks
  • Head for a laugh at the Frog and Bucket comedy club

Day 2 in Manchester

  • Grab breakfast at a local cafe
  • Explore the trendy area of Ancoats
  • Visit the Alan Turing memorial
  • Go for a scenic lunch in Salford Quays
  • Check out the Manchester United Museum and Old Trafford football ground
  • Browse some vinyl
  • Enjoy a typical pub meal downtown
  • Go for live music at the Band on the Wall
  • Bonus Activity: Catch a match!
Modern apartments on both side of river Irwell passing through Manchester city center UK.

Day 1 of your Manchester itinerary

Have a traditional full English breakfast

Start your day off right with a traditional “full english” breakfast- classic British breakfast fare which includes eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, and – very importantly- beans!

Also known locally as a fry up, you’ll find these at basically any sit-down café or pub, but we love the vibe and food at the Koffee Pot in the Northern Quarter. This spot is also in a perfect location!

Stroll the Northern quarter

The Northern Quarter is an amazing creative area, so it’s one of the best places to visit in Manchester.

Window shop at designer stores inside old warehouse buildings, wander in and out of trendy art galleries, and taste-test delicious artisan coffee at one of the area’s many independent coffee shops. There are tons of things to do in the Northern Quarter, so take your pick!

Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK - Teacup Kitchen in the Northern Quarter of Manchester on Thomas Street

Take a look at the Manchester Cathedral

The Manchester Cathedral’s origins date all the way back to the 13th century, but the current building is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.

Take in the soaring ceilings and beautiful glass, and see an important part of Manchester’s history. The cathedral is free to enter, but there’s a suggested donation of 3 pounds.

The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George in Manchester, England

Peruse the John Rylands Library

Located on the bustling Deansgate in the trendy Spinningfields area, the John Rylands library is famous more for its stunning architecture than the over 40000 books in its collection.

The Grade I listed building was founded as a memorial to John Rylands by his wife, Enriqueta, who bought the building in 1889.

The inside of the library almost looks like a cathedral, and the famous reading room often hosts exhibitions. Check what’s on when you’ll be in town, and have a lovely time exploring!

Tour Pick
Manchester, England. Illuminated old historical buildings in the city center of Manchester, UK at night

Afternoon Walking Tour

  • 2.5 hours 
  • Max of 15 people 
  • Local Guide
Manchester, UK - John Rylands Library built in 1988 by Enriqueta Rylands, his wife after John's death, it's opened to public in 1900. The library houses some 4 millions invaluable books

Pop to Chinatown for lunch

Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the UK, so you’re guaranteed to find great Chinese food here, as well as a fun atmosphere.

There a number of buildings listed as being valuable historically, and there’s the famous Paifang archway – a gift from Beijing, and the only structure of its kind in Europe.

Head to Red Chilli for delicious and authentic Sichuan cuisine- some of the best in the UK!

Become a fan at the National Football Museum

You can’t ignore the importance of Football to Manchester, and this is your chance to learn more about England’s (and the world’s!) favorite pastime.

Opened in 2012, this museum in the city center shows off tons of interesting football artifacts, including the first-ever match rule book from 1863 and a shirt from the first ever match between England and Scotland.

There’s also an interactive zone, including a play area for under-5s, so it’s a great place to go with kids. You’ll leave with a better understanding and appreciation for the Beautiful Game!

manchester, united kingdom - signs around the front entrance of the national football museum in manchester city centre

Dinner at Printworks

Housed in a historic printing house (hence the name!), Printworks is one of the favorite places for young locals to head out with their friends. The area houses over 20 bars and restaurants, as well as an IMAX cinema and other attractions.

Head to the Bierkeller for beers and a live oompa band, or check out the Hard Rock Café. There’s an option for everyone- you can even try out axe throwing at Boom Battle Bar.

Head for a laugh at the Frog and Bucket comedy club

From Printworks, head to the famous (or infamous) Frog and Bucket Comedy Club. This iconic stand-up venue has a full schedule of acts from both emerging talent and famous comics, including improv shows and themed nights.

They call themselves the Original Home of Manchester Comedy, and its not hard to see why. Enjoy the humor that Northern Brits are famous for to close out your first fabulous day in Manchester.

MANCHESTER, UK - the Printworks urban entertainment venue at night with stores and restaurants in England, United Kingdom

Day 2 of your Manchester itinerary

Grab breakfast at a local cafe

Manchester is known for its great coffee culture, and Off the Press is definitely up there as one of the city’s best spots!

In addition to coffee, find delicious breakfast sandwiches and other prepped foods while you take in the hip vibe of Ancoats, one of the coolest areas in Manchester.

Explore the trendy area of Ancoats

Now that you’ve fuelled up, it’s time to get a better look at Ancoats! Made up of converted mills, this neighborhood is super picturesque.

It’s home to Cutting Room Square, a street that’s been named one of the coolest in the world.

Wander over to Hallé St Peters, a former church that’s been converted into a live music venue. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch a show while you’re in town!

Manchester, England - Low perspective of The Daily Express Building built in 1939. Red lights from cars. Long exposure photography. Located on Great Ancoats Street. Daily Express offices.

Visit the Alan Turing memorial

You may know of Alan Turing from the movie “The Imitation Game”, or just be good with your history!

The computer pioneer, and key figure in helping the Allies win World War II, Alan Turing was based at the University of Manchester after cracking the Enigma code.

His statue in Sackville Gardens shows him sitting on a bench with an apple in his hand, and was unveiled in 2002.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, UK -  City centre of Manchester, Alan Turing statue in face mask, the memorial is in Sackville Park. New normal concept

Go for a scenic lunch in Salford Quays

It’s time to head to the docks! Salford Quays is a lovely part of Manchester. Home to many offices, you’ll also find lovely restaurants with views over the water.

Grab lunch at the Botanist, a restaurant with outdoor seating located in the center of “Media City”, an area famous for its film sets.

The Lowry Manchester at Salford Quays Media City

Check out the Manchester United Museum and Old Trafford football ground

You can’t visit Manchester without becoming acquainted with Man U! While Manchester has two football teams (Manchester City and Manchester United), Man U has definitely had a historic stronghold in this city.

Visit the Old Trafford stadium on a non-match day, and you can take a tour of Man U’s historic home, including the players’ tunnel and the pitch itself! There’s also a museum, which takes you through the history of this iconic team.

Tour Pick
Interior view of the full at Philip II Arena Stadium in Skopje during the match UEFA Super Cup final soccer between Real Madrid vs Manchester United

Manchester City Stadium Tour

  • 1 hour & 15 mins
  • Man City Fan Guide
  • Behind the Scenes Tour
Old Trafford soccer football stadium of Manchester United - MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM

Browse some vinyl

Manchester is home to some crazy-cool record shops, so take advantage while you’re in town! Check out independent spots like Vinyl Exchange, Eastern Bloc and Piccadilly Records.

Whether you buy any or not, it’s a fun experience that gives some insight into the fun, music-loving vibe of Manchester throughout the years (and gives some love to small businesses!)

Enjoy a typical pub meal downtown

Once you start to get hungry, head over to Sinclair’s Oyster Bar. This beautiful pub housed in a Tudor building is most famous for its massive outdoor space, where you’ll find locals and tourists alike the second the sun comes out.

However, it also has great traditional pub food- like bangers and mash and mash and steak & kidney pudding. Enjoy!

MANCHESTER UK - People visit Thirsty Scholar pub in Manchester UK.

Go for live music at the Band on the Wall

Mancunians are definitely known for loving a good time, and no place in Manchester shows this off more than the Band on the Wall, especially if you’re spending the weekend in Manchester.

This classic Manchester venue for live music gigs came up in the 70s hosting punk bands, and every since its been providing a platform for emerging artists.

The name of the band comes from the 1930s, when it was a pub- the owner built a stage coming out from the wall, meaning bands were playing right over people’s heads! It’s an incredible way to close out your 2 nights in Manchester.

Bonus activity- Catch a Match!

We haven’t included watching a Man United match in our official Manchester itinerary, as being able to do so depends on a lot of factors (seasonality, ticket availability, which days you’re visiting, etc).

But, if you happen to be in the city on a game day, or can plan your trip around a visit to Old Trafford, you should absolutely check out a match!

Football is so important to Mancunians (and most Brits!), so experience a match is one of the most meaningful experiences you can have when spending two days in Manchester.

Interior view of the full at Philip II Arena Stadium in Skopje during the match UEFA Super Cup final soccer between Real Madrid vs Manchester United

Manchester itinerary tour ideas:

There are so many things to do in Manchester, and having a local take you around is definitely a plus! Here are some awesome tours and experiences to get to know this city better when you’re trying to see all of Manchester in 2 days.

Manchester afternoon walking tour

Getting extra context about a city is always a good idea! Get the most for your time by joining this tour, which will show you the highlights of Manchester (and provide some incredible stories!)

Manchester City Stadium tour

Why should Man U get all the attention? Learn about Manchester City football club’s history with this tour of their stadium, guided by an avid fan.

Lake District day trip

If you find yourself with slightly more than 48 hrs in Manchester, we’d highly recommend getting out of the city and into the Lake District. One of England’s most beautiful areas, the Lake District is only a couple hours from Manchester, so a tour is an excellent way to experience this stunning destination.

Manchester food tour

Manchester’s food scene is constantly growing, and the history of food in the city provides a lot of insight into the city itself. Visit some of the city’s most famous eating spots, and try some delicious food, on this tour.

Two curious sheep on pasture at sunset in the Lake District England

Final Thoughts:2 days in manchester

Manchester has plenty to offer, and travelers would be remiss to not at least explore the city for a few days. Whether it’s spending your days sightseeing the many attractions or simply taking in the local culture with a leisurely stroll through town, there’s always something new waiting to be discovered in Manchester.

If you’re looking for a starting point, this two day itinerary is an excellent way to start your exploration of Manchester. Mix and match as you please – each activity is sure to provide an enjoyable experience. With so many options available, there’s no doubt that you’ll craft the perfect itinerary for whatever it is that you come to Manchester looking for.

So pack your bags and get ready for a memorable journey through Manchester! Don’t forget to mix and match this itinerary to suit what you want to see and do in Manchester – you won’t regret it!

Recommended tours in Manchester

Read more on Manchester:

If you’d like to save it for later, please save it to Pinterest.

Similar Posts