Imperial War Museum North

You may be thinking of getting away from Manchester for a holiday – but millions of people are actually doing the opposite. You’ve probably seen some of them wandering round the city centre clutching their umbrellas.

According to the most recent figures from Marketing Manchester, there were approximately 1.15m international visits to Manchester in 2015, and 1.38 million visits to the Greater Manchester area – making Manchester the third most popular destination in the UK for overseas visitors, behind London and Edinburgh.

Of the 1.38m visits to Greater Manchester, 23% were holiday visits, whilst 31% were business visits and 30% were seeing friends and relatives.

A hardcore 2% came here to study. And a mysterious 14% of visits were classed as miscellaneous.

But where are they all going? We got behind the statistics to find out. How many have you been to?

1The Lowry (842,288*)

Nicknamed Salford’s Guggenheim, this waterside theatre and gallery complex at Salford Quays stands out with its steel and glass structure, promenade and stunning views across Manchester Ship Canal. The complex includes 2,000 square metres of gallery space containing a collection of LS Lowry’s work as well as other artists. There are also two theatres which regularly stage groundbreaking work as well as drinking and dining venues.

Manchester is often referred to as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It was here that Stephenson’s Rocket, one of the first ever steam trains, arrived in 1829 so it’s fitting that this massive museum celebrating scientific and technological change occupies a former railway building near Castlefield. It also boasts a passenger railway of its own, a number of exhibits including a Supermarine Spitfire and a replica of the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (the first ever stored-program computer, nicknamed Baby).

3Manchester Art Gallery (490,722)

Set inside a Grade II listed, 1823-built formerly scholarly society building on Mosley Street, this city centre art gallery has a collection of more than 25,000 objects including a particularly strong collection of Victorian art and is free to enter. See if you can spot the painting of the lion which inspired the logo on the Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin. Also home to the Gallery Café, recently relaunched by star chef Mary Ellen McTague, and, until September, the True Faith exhibition about Joy Division and New Order, part of Manchester International Festival.

Based in the towering glass Urbis building close to Victoria Station, this football museum is set out over four floors. You’ll find some real pieces of history from the great game such as the first ever rule book from 1863, LS Lowry’s original Going to the Match painting, the match ball from the 1966 World Cup Final, Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ shirt and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup trophy. Plus there’s plenty of interactive games and exhibitions for the whole family, along with a changing exhibition space – and entry is free. Goal!

Pic Mike Peel Commons

Set inside a beautiful neo-gothic building of the University of Manchester on Oxford Road, this museum of history, archaeology and culture contains over 4.5 million items from across the world. It’s home to a number of Egyptian mummies, preserved animals and a Living Cultures Collection – plus a vivarium with live amphibians and reptiles. Free entry and now open seven days a week.

Well worth the journey (the number 8 bus from Shudehill), this is a free cross-cultural museum, gallery space and underfloor aquarium all inside a beautiful Georgian building on in Bolton town centre.

Pic Manchester Airport

For anyone interested in planes, this is an aerospace-themed visitor attraction close to Manchester Airport. It includes the chance to get a guided tour of Concorde, look inside the attack aircraft Nimrod, watch planes take off and land and a restaurant with a view like no other.

Pic IWM North

The newest of five branches of the Imperial War Museum, exploring how war affects people’s lives.  This aluminium-covered building was built in 2002 to give visitors a multi-sensory experience of war, the first in the UK designed by acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind and features the AirShard, a structure which is neither either indoors or outdoors, looking out over Salford Quays.

Explore the Theatre of Dreams and get behind 130 years of Manchester United, one of the world’s greatest football clubs. There’s an exciting new exhibition covering the run-up to the famous 1977 FA Cup Final, and you can visit the Red Café. There’s also the chance to go on an 80-minute tour of the stadium.

The north’s transport networks have heritage well worth celebrating. The East Lancashire Railway is a 12.5-mile line with steam trains running from Rawtenstall to Bury where you’ll find the free transport museum. Here you’ll be able to learn more about our weird and wonderful industrial heritage – including a horse drawn tram that was once a chip shop – plus a display of vintage vehicles.

Statistics courtesy Visit Manchester 
* Number of visitors per year 

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Editorial Assistant and Writer. Lover of music and poetry but mainly Manchester.

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