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Attractions in Manchester: Chinatown, Gay Village & University

The Manchester Museum (photo by DrPhoenix - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Between Piccadilly and Oxford Road Stations

Palace Hotel (former Refuge Assurance building), Manchester (© Stuart Taylor |

Take Princess Steet from the Town Hall or Portland Street from Piccadilly Gardens to reach Manchester's Chinatown, a couple of streets brimming with Chinese restaurants.

Further east, along the Rochdale canal is the Gay Village, with its gay bars and restaurants concentrated on Canal Street.

From the university follow Witworth Street till the junction of Oxford Street. There stands Cornerhouse, the city's emerging scene for independent cinema and contemporary visual arts. Across the road stands the majestic red-rick Refuge Assurance Building, constructed bewteen 1891 and 1895 by Alfred Waterhouse (architect of the Town Hall). It is now the Palace Hotel.

Around the University

Follow Oxford Street for a few hundreds metres to the south of Cornerhouse to get to the University of Manchester, one of the city's top attractions. It was established in 2004 by the merger of the Victoria University of Manchester (established 1851) and UMIST (established 1824). Its 40,000 students make it the third largest university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. Its academic achievement is enviable, with 23 Nobel Laureates among their former students and staff. The main reason to come here is not to admire the brick buildings of the university itself, but rather to visit its four attractions owned by the university.

  • The Manchester Museum is an enormous museum covering natural history, zoology, geology, archeology, ethnology, and Egyptology, among others. The museum opened to the public in the 1880s, and was one of the pioneers in studuing and dissecting ancient Egyptian mummies from 1890. The techniques developed here to reconstitute the faces of mummies and skeletons are now used in criminal forensics. The museum also has a vivarium and an aquarium to throw a bit of life among the stuffed animals and mummies.
  • The Whitworth Art Gallery is the second big art gallery in town. It is dedicated mainly to British watercolours (including works by Turner, Constable, Blake and Cox), drawings, prints, modern art and sculptures, but also has more unusual collection, such as old textiles or wallpapers.
  • John Rylands University Library is the largest non-legal deposit library in the UK, and the third largest academic library after those of Oxford and Cambridge. While the main building is on the university campus, the beautiful Victorian Gothic building at Deansgate 35 (north of Manchester Central, 2.5 km from the university building) is of greater interest for tourists. The historic reading room, with its high vaulted ceilings reminiscent of a cathedral, is especially spectacular. The library boasts exceptional collections of ancient printed works, including thousands of papyrus fragments from North Africa and Greece, medieval illuminated manuscripts, early printed books from Europe (e.g. a Gutenberg Bible), China and Japan, as well as personal papers of distinguished historical figures such as Elizabeth Gaskell, John Dalton and John Wesley.
  • The Godlee Observatory was constructed in 1902 on the roof of the University's Sackville Street building. Visitors can peek into the telescope or take the panoramic vista on the city.

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

South and east of Manchester Central is Castlefield, the ancient Roman part of town. The site has become the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. A reconstruction of the north gate and a few houses can be seen at the Castlefield Roman Fort.

The world's first passenger railway terminated at Castlefield's Liverpool Road railway station. The station now houses the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Manchester's most impressive museums. Visitors will learn everything about the Industrial Revolution, steam locomotives, early telegraphs and telephones, and even the city's sewing system. The museum also features a 4D theatre experience and a science gallery for children.

Other places of interest in the neighbourhood are the Castlefield Gallery (contemporary art), the Beetham Tower (see History section), and the cafés, bars and restaurants along the Deansgate Locks.


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