15 Best Manchester Tours

Written by Alex Bird
Updated on
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The city of Manchester is located in central England between Liverpool and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the North Sea and Europe to the east.

About 550,000 people live within Manchester city limits, but the surrounding suburbs are home to nearly three million residents, making it one of the United Kingdom’s most populous urban areas.

Featuring a distinct feel when compared to the capital city of London, Manchester is most well-known for its resilient and hard-working residents, raucous sports fans, and industrial economy.

It’s also a hotspot for arts, cuisine, live entertainment, and features lots of easily accessible historical and natural attractions.

1. Private Welcome to Manchester Tour with a Local

ManchesterSource: trabantos / shutterstock

Discovering a new city with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide is a great way to kick-off a vacation.

Not only will you see things from a local perspective, but you’ll generally have a more engaging, educational, and all-around fun experience than those stuck on large, traditional tours.

On this private welcome tour, guests will follow their guide’s lead as they familiarize themselves with the neighborhood in which they’re staying. Then, they head off to take in many of the city’s premier attractions.

Tours are customizable and may last between two and six hours, depending on the participants’ schedules and interests.

2. Manchester Food Tour with a Local Guide

Manchester Food TourSource: Juiced Up Media / shutterstock
Manchester Food Tour

Though it doesn’t exactly rank up there with Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing when it comes to the world’s most notable cuisines, Manchester is home to a blossoming culinary scene that has made big waves in recent years.

This gastronomic adventure tour allows guests to experience the city’s eateries from a street-level perspective while learning lots about the area’s history and culture along the way.

Tours include eight tastings at distinct culinary haunts spread across the city. Though portions are moderately sized, by the end of the excursion, everyone will have had the equivalent of a hearty meal.

Tours start mid-morning and last a few hours.

3. 60-Minute River Cruise

Manchester RiverSource: jeafish Ping / shutterstock
Manchester River

From the comfort of a river vessel, it’s possible to get a thorough overview of Manchester’s layout and take in some of its most iconic attractions.

This one-hour tour departs from one of the city’s centrally-located wharves. It includes unobstructed views of Media City, Old Trafford stadium, the Pomona Docks, and the Imperial War Museum.

Guests will benefit from interesting historical narration along the way and probably discover a number of things they may want to explore further on their own when the tour is officially over.

Boats include both indoor and outdoor seating for guests’ comfort regardless of the weather.

4. SEA LIFE Entrance Ticket

SEA LIFE AquariumSource: litttree / shutterstock
SEA LIFE Aquarium

There’s no denying that having a local professional guide at your side often makes all the difference when visiting a new area, but sometimes it’s just more fun to see and experience things on your own.

If that sounds like you and your travel companions, then spending a few free and relaxing hours at SEA LIFE Manchester Aquarium is a great option.

It’s one of the country’s most impressive aquariums and features an amazing array of fish, birds, and reptiles from all over the world.

The aquarium is a big hit with families traveling with kids and features educational and interactive exhibits that keep young minds engaged.

5. National Football Museum Admission Ticket

National Football Museum, ManchesterSource: trabantos / shutterstock
National Football Museum, Manchester

Manchester’s National Football Museum is one of the city’s premier sports-related attractions.

Though it’s possible to see it with a local guide, many diehard football fans choose to purchase their own ticket and experience it on their own terms.

Tickets are good for an entire day and give guests access to the museum’s multiple floors that include football paraphernalia, interactive exhibits, and interesting accounts of players and coaches from seasons past.

Visitors can test their skills on the ever-popular Penalty Shootout Challenge, have their photos taken with famous trophies, or just enjoy a casual stroll while recalling notable matches of yesteryear.

6. LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Entrance Ticket

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, ManchesterSource: Richard Oldroyd / shutterstock
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester

During much of the fall and winter, the weather in Manchester isn’t particularly conducive to outdoor activities.

Luckily, there are plenty of indoor options available for those who’d rather not brave the elements.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center is the ultimate indoor playground; it’s actually comprised of dozens of exhilarating attractions all under one roof.

It’s all about fostering an atmosphere of activity, creativity, and engagement for young minds, and it tends to occupy little ones as few other places can.

The center is wheelchair friendly, has an on-site café, and touches on everything from space and the natural world to aviation and technology.

7. Haunted Manchester City Exploration Game and Tour

Manchester by NightSource: Henryk Sadura / shutterstock
Manchester by Night

App-based game tours are fun and educational options for those who’d rather not spend their time crammed into a stuffy bus on an all-day tour.

Using their collective brainpower to solve clues and decipher riddles, guests will use their smartphones as a map and GPS guide to lead them to many of the city’s most significant attractions.

Each step brings the team closer to unlocking the tour’s hidden story, and since it’s an unguided excursion, participants can take as much or as little time as they’d like at each site.

Tours last about 90 minutes and focus on the eerie, macabre, and hair-raising.

8. Silent Disco Adventure Tour

Silent Disco TourSource: www.getyourguide.com
Silent Disco Tour

Like dandelions and microbreweries, silent disco adventure tours are popping up all over the place.

Though it pales in relation to Liverpool, which is the home of The Beatles, Manchester has its own rich music traditions.

On this tour, guests will be able to act as if they were famous performers while taking in many of the city’s premier attractions.

Participants are encouraged to throw caution to the wind and sing and dance as if their lives depended on it.

Tours include high-tech headsets, a professional guide, and throngs of shocked onlookers gawking at the sheer spectacle of it all.

9. Guided City Walking Tour

Manchester Town HallSource: Tupungato / shutterstock
Manchester Town Hall

Despite its large population and the inescapable urban hustle and bustle, Manchester is a very pedestrian-friendly city.

On this small-group walking tour, guests will stretch their legs, see lots of attractions up close and personally, and get a good idea of the city’s geographical layout.

Tour highlights include the city’s industrial heart, its extensive network of human-made canals, and the historic Town Hall.

Tours cover a moderate amount of ground around the city center, feature an afternoon start, and generally last about 2 ½ hours from start to finish.

Don’t be shy about asking your guide for recommendations for places to eat, shop, and sightsee.

10. Lake District, Windermere, and Lancaster Tour from Manchester

Windermere LakeSource: Kevin Eaves / shutterstock
Windermere Lake

The Lake District is the perfect day-trip escape destination for those in need of more rural settings than are typically found within Manchester city limits.

Once in the town of Bowness on Lake Windermere, guests will have the option of taking a leisurely stroll around the lake, exploring the town, or joining a cruise toward Windermere.

It’s a particularly idyllic and beautiful part of the country and was home to famous poet William Wordsworth as a youngster.

Before returning to Manchester, guests will head to Lancaster to gaze upon its regal medieval architecture and impressive castle.

11. Self-Guided Chatsworth House Day-Trip by Train from Manchester

Source: david muscroft / shutterstock
Chatsworth House

After meeting their tour provider at the Manchester train station, participants will receive their travel packets and get an overview of the day’s events.

Then it’s off through the country towards Sheffield, where they’ll board a tour bus for Chatsworth.

The views include picturesque villages and seemingly endless expanses of rolling hills. Once in town, guests will have ample time to explore many of Chatsworth House’s premier attractions.

The home was once the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and features opulent living quarters, impressive art, and sprawling grounds that include breathtaking gardens and spectacular fountains.

12. Hard Rock Cafe Manchester Skip-the-Line Ticket

Hard Rock Cafe ManchesterSource: Najmi Arif / shutterstock
Hard Rock Cafe Manchester

Lovers of hearty American fare and rock ‘n roll memorabilia need not visit two distinct locations to get their fill of both.

Hard Rock Café Manchester is located in the city center and is a popular eatery catering to locals and visitors alike.

During peak times, it can be darn near impossible to get a table, which is precisely why skip-the-line tickets are such good value for those who don’t want to miss out.

Their menu includes great food and beer from all over the world, and the restaurant is decorated in music-related paraphernalia that, for many guests, is like taking a walk down memory lane.

13. Liverpool and the Beatles Day-Trip from Manchester

Beatles Monument LiverpoolSource: Debu55y / shutterstock
Beatles Monument Liverpool

For Beatles aficionados visiting Manchester, Liverpool is just a short train ride to the west. In addition to featuring abundant music-related attractions, it also has its fair share of historical and cultural ones.

Guests of this professionally managed but self-guided tour will depart for the coast by train. Once in the city, they’ll hop aboard a sightseeing bus that will whisk them to the city’s premier sites.

Highlights include Royal Albert Dock, the Beatles Story, the Anglican Cathedral, and the waterfront area that’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Free entrance to the Maritime Museum and the Walker Art Gallery are also included.

14. Historic Chester Self-Guided Tour & Lunch from Manchester

Chester, EnglandSource: Tanasut Chindasuthi / shutterstock
Chester, England

After receiving their detailed and value-stuffed travel packs from their tour operator, guests of this self-guided tour will make their way by train to historic Chester.

The trip takes about an hour, after which guests will have the option of exploring the city on foot or by bus.

Chester is most well-known for its Roman-era attractions that include remnants of the city’s original walls and a cathedral that’s nearly 1,000 years old.

Guests may also opt for a guided walking tour of the city’s center, or continue exploring on their own.

A light lunch of soup and sandwiches is also included while in Chester.

15. Yorkshire Dales Tour from Manchester

GrassingtonSource: arrowsg / shutterstock

Departing from Manchester, guests of this tour will head north to the quaint and scenic Yorkshire Dales village of Grassington.

After exploring the town, participants will head to the majestic Aysgarth Falls, which were a filming location for a number of movies – as was the town of Askrigg, which is the tour’s next stop.

Guests will have ample time to set out on their own to explore the town’s historic attractions, after which there are additional stops at a local town known for its traditional creamery, and the Ribblehead Viaduct that’s been around since the Romans built it centuries ago.

Tours last about ten hours and begin and end in Manchester.

15 Best Manchester Tours:

  • Private Welcome to Manchester Tour with a Local
  • Manchester Food Tour with a Local Guide
  • 60-Minute River Cruise
  • SEA LIFE Entrance Ticket
  • National Football Museum Admission Ticket
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Entrance Ticket
  • Haunted Manchester City Exploration Game and Tour
  • Silent Disco Adventure Tour
  • Guided City Walking Tour
  • Lake District, Windermere, and Lancaster Tour from Manchester
  • Self-Guided Chatsworth House Day-Trip by Train from Manchester
  • Hard Rock Cafe Manchester Skip-the-Line Ticket
  • Liverpool and the Beatles Day-Trip from Manchester
  • Historic Chester Self-Guided Tour & Lunch from Manchester
  • Yorkshire Dales Tour from Manchester