Like many cities and destinations globally, Greater Manchester has had a slow start for 2021 and felt the devastating effects of COVID-19.
However, the city region is positioning itself as a solid contender to bounce back quickly, and we are now looking ahead to the future with exciting developments on the horizon, including new outdoor experiences, rich new cultural projects, refreshed and refurbished hotels, diverse food and drink offering, and some genuinely world-leading events.
RHS Garden Bridgewater
At the top of the list for many visitors in 2021 will be the new RHS Garden Bridgewater, The Royal Horticultural Society’s first new garden in 17 years, which will open on 18th May in the historic grounds of Worsley New Hall in Salford.
The 154-acre garden is currently the largest gardening project in Europe and will feature one of the UK’s most enormous Walled Gardens, a Kitchen Garden, orchards, and a Chinese Streamside Garden, amongst other spaces.
In a similar vein, widespread greater appreciation of outdoor space during the COVID-19 crisis will have people flocking to Northern Roots, a 160-acre area in Oldham that plans to become the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park.
Science and Industry Museum
In Manchester city centre, a series of expansions at well-loved cultural venues will complete throughout 2021, starting with a new Special Exhibition Gallery at the Science and Industry Museum, which will open in May in line with government restrictions being lifted.
It will launch with Top Secret, a free exhibition that will explore over a century’s worth of communications intelligence through hand-written documents, declassified files and previously unseen artefacts from the Science Museum Group’s and GCHQ’s historical collections.
Manchester Jewish Museum
This will be closely followed by Manchester Jewish Museum, which will reopen on 2nd July.
Housed inside a former synagogue built in 1874, Manchester Jewish Museum has been overhauled to double its original size and will feature a brand-new gallery, learning studio and kitchen, shop and café, alongside the majorly renovated synagogue, which will also double up as a performance space.
Manchester Art Gallery
Then in November 2021, a dedicated Fashion Gallery is set to open at Manchester Art Gallery with an opening exhibition focused on male image and the ‘dandy’ style fashion, made famous in the late 18th and early 19th century.
Live performance venues reopening
Several performance venues across the city region will also reopen after significant upgrades, including Octagon Bolton, one of the region’s best-loved theatres, which will welcome visitors back in 2021 after three years of redevelopment work to the town centre building; Contact, the UK’s leading young person’s arts organisation, which has also undertaken a complete transformation over three years and will reopen in autumn 2021 with the first dedicated space for art, health and science in a UK theatre; and Manchester’s oldest music venue, Band on the Wall which will expand into a derelict Victorian building to the rear of the venue and will start hosting gigs for up to 540 people from September 2021.
Manchester International Festival
A collection of high-profile events that have been confirmed for 2021 also make it onto the list of things to look forward to this year.
A major highlight will be the return of eighteen days of dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work as part of the biennial Manchester International Festival in July.
Following a successful 2019 outing which featured work from Yoko Ono, Idris Elba, Skepta and David Lynch, this summer’s event will be a festival for our times with work by some of the world’s most exciting artists responding to the moment we’re in.
After a year without many of the city’s most iconic events in 2020, it’s arguable that any event in 2021 will hold a special significance with residents and visitors this year.
However, Manchester Pride in August captures the very spirit of the people of Manchester – their warmth, diversity and proud communities – and promises to be an unmissable event.
Rugby World Cup
And if that were not enough, towns across Greater Manchester will be playing a crucial part in the Rugby League World Cup and Women’s Rugby League World Cup tournaments throughout October and November, with both finals taking place back-to-back at Old Trafford on 27th November.
Brand new hotels
Manchester’s hotel scene has boomed in recent years and will be joined by some exciting new additions in 2021.
Scottish beer brewing giants BrewDog have announced that they will open their first hotel in England in June, following the DogHouse brand’s success in Scotland and the USA.
The 18-bedroom hotel will feature Punk IPA on tap in every room, beer fridges in the showers, a rooftop terrace with a fire pit, and will allow guests to bring their pets.
Also new for 2021 will be climate-conscious brand Qbic, bringing their fourth European hotel to Manchester in May, with rooms made from essentially recycled materials and a series of quirky sustainable initiatives and rewards for guests.
Alongside these new brand hotels, several of the city’s existing hotels have undergone dramatic refurbishments, including The Midland Hotel and The Edwardian Manchester; however, the most noticeable change comes from the former Principal Manchester re-emerged as Kimpton Clocktower Hotel.
City of Literature
Elsewhere in the region, building on Manchester’s UNESCO City of Literature status, awarded in 2017, Manchester Poetry Library will open in 2021 as part of Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The new library will add to a rich literary tourism trail that includes the iconic John Rylands and Chetham’s Libraries, as well as Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, which will have a new reason to visit from May when a recreation of the celebrated author’s bedroom is added to the property.
Wigan Pier will also build on, or instead reshape, its literary connection – made famous by George Orwell’s 1937 book, The Road to Wigan Pier – when the long-vacant 18th century industrial buildings of the pier are transformed into a new neighbourhood waterside attraction in 2021.
I’m A Celebrity…
The I’m A Celebrity… Jungle Challenge attraction will bring an exciting mix of tasks and trials based on the hit show, including jungle zip lines, treetop rope courses and climbing walls in summer 2021.
Imperial War Museum North
Meanwhile, over the other side of the water at MediaCityUK, a poignant moment in November 2021 will see the iconic poppies structures return to Greater Manchester.
POPPIES will be displayed permanently for the first time within the Air Shard of the architecturally renowned Imperial War Museum North.
New restaurants in Manchester
Greater Manchester’s thriving food and drink scene is raring to go with a host of new venues and operators that either opened during the pandemic – see Four Side Pizza and What the Pitta – or are due to open as soon as they can do so from May.
In the latter camp are places like Ramona, serving up Detroit style pizza in a former M.O.T garage, new underground food halls Society and Hello Oriental, cocktail bar Schofield’s and live music venue The Blues Kitchen.
Escape to Freight Island
The runaway success of venues launched during the COVID-19 crisis was Escape to Freight Island, which opened as a 600-seat open-air venue, with live music alongside street-style food and drink from ten independent traders.
The site will be further developed in 2021, taking over the massive inner parts of the former Mayfield Station, with more vendors and long-term plans for events, working holistically with music partners such as The Warehouse Project.
Escape to Freight Island will be one of the must-visit places for those looking to party and reconnect with friends from April 2021.
The Factory is a highly anticipated world-class cultural space designed by Rem Koolhaas’s architects’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), due to be completed in late 2022.
At 13,300 square metres, The Factory will be ultra-flexible, enabling large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition not made anywhere else in the world.
Manchester Museum transformation
There is also much more to come in Greater Manchester beyond 2021, which tourism bosses hope will sustain increased visitor numbers over the coming years.
Highlights include a transformation at Manchester Museum to add a South Asia Gallery and a new China Gallery, due to open in August 2022.
Manchester’s first new city centre park
Then in 2023, Manchester’s first new city centre park in over 100 years, Mayfield Park, is set to open, as well as the UK’s first city-based wellbeing resort Therme, a new large-scale music venue, Co-op Live Arena, and Modern Surf Manchester surf lagoon, from the same company behind Surf Snowdonia.