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Small dog in bright red coat with owner's legs in the background
Photograph: Hannah Deller 'Dog Show' as featured on in the TV series, 'Grayson's Art Club'

5 totally unmissable things to do in Manchester this summer

Manchester is an essential destination at any time of year. But here are five incredible reasons to visit as it opens up this summer

By Rob Martin
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With all its epic parks and gardens – plus an increasing number of outdoor drinking spaces – Manchester is a totally brilliant place to be in summer. And so what if the sun’s not out? If the weather turns, there are enough galleries, theatres and amazing restaurants to keep you more than occupied. 

But this summer, after more than a year of being more-or-less closed for business, Manchester looks set to explode with the kind of big, must-see events and openings that mark the city as an essential tourist destination. And the brilliant thing about Manchester is that you could probably fit a lot of it into a weekend. (Preferably a long one.)

So whether it’s art, nature or a taste of luxury that whets your whistle, here’s our pick of five unmissable things to do in Manchester this summer.

Best things to do in Manchester this summer

Grayson Perry in crotchet dress with wig and handbag inside gallery space
Grayson Perry in crotchet dress with wig and handbag inside gallery space
Photograph: Andrew Brooks

Join ‘Grayson’s Art Club’ at Manchester Art Gallery

Art

One of TV’s biggest lockdown shows was ‘Grayson’s Art Club’, and you’ll soon be able to check out the accompanying exhibition too. It runs all the way through summer to October – so there’s plenty of time to catch what’s bound to be one of the UK’s most-visited shows of the year. Manchester Art Gallery is the perfect venue for it, with a lovely café for a post-exhibition pick-me-up. 

May 19-October 31 2021

Manchester International Festival
Manchester International Festival
Photograph: Tarnish Vision

Catch Patti Smith at Manchester International Festival

Things to do

The MIF is back and the lineup suggests this year’s edition will be a scorcher. Highlights include performances from Patti Smith and Arlo Parks, Cillian Murphy’s latest film, and immersive installation ‘The Walk’ in which a giant puppet child will walk all the way from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester. Much of MIF21 is free, and tickets for paying events are available from Thursday May 20. 

July 1-18 2021

 

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A pathway surrounded by flowers leads to a formal pond which is all overlooked by an old red-brick house
A pathway surrounded by flowers leads to a formal pond which is all overlooked by an old red-brick house
Photograph: RHS | Neil Hepworth

Get close to nature at RHS Garden Bridgewater

Things to do

Lovers of the outdoors can now head to Salford to spend a day at one of Europe’s biggest – and most impressive – new horticultural projects. The 154-acre garden at the former Worsley New Hall estate features the largest public-access walled garden in the UK, with more than 250,000 plants. Let’s all keep our green fingers crossed for a glorious Manchester summer, huh?

Pride Manchester with LGBT Flag paraded down a street
Pride Manchester with LGBT Flag paraded down a street
Photograph: Rob Martin

Hit the streets and party at Manchester Pride

Last year’s Manchester Pride was set to be the city’s biggest and most OTT celebration yet. In the end, of course, it never actually happened. But what that does mean is that in 2021, the party will be doubly exciting. Tickets are available online now.

August 27-29 2021

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A curved counter made from green tiles sits between two pillars, lit from beneath
A curved counter made from green tiles sits between two pillars, lit from beneath
Photograph: The Midland Hotel

Stay the night at the new-look Midland

Hotels

The Midland Hotel has always been one of Manchester’s grandest buildings and now, following a £14 million refurbishment, it is bringing some quality old-school glamour back to the city. Even if it’s a little too luxurious for your wallet, afternoon tea there is as much an institution as the hotel itself.

Get the most out of your stay

A canal in city-centre Manchester
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 20 best things to do in Manchester right now

Things to do

It may be best known for its musical legacy, having gifted the world the likes of the Stone Roses, the Smiths and (however temporarily) legendary club the Hacienda. But don’t get hung up on the past – our pick of the best things to do in Manchester right now shows this city’s evolving at a staggering pace.

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