Manchester is one of my favourite UK cities to visit. It’s just an hour away from where I live in the Lake District, so perfect for a quick shopping-and-cocktails trip. Known for its industrial past, its canal system, and its sport, museum, and nightlife culture, Manchester has so much to see and explore.
But how does Manchester stack up to the likes of London, Glasgow or Edinburgh as an accessible destination? As it turns out, there are a few top attractions that aren’t particularly easy to see if you have access needs. The Manchester Cathedral, for instance, is a very old building and one that is relatively untouched in terms of modern touches like accessibility features. However, while there are one or two venues like this, there are also several among the city’s best cultural attractions that do accessibility very well.
Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall is a gorgeous building - arguably the prettiest in town. It’s positively oozing history, having been built late in the 19th century, packed with busts, sculptures, and murals that depict some of the history of the city. For those who know their architecture, it can be appreciated as an uncommonly spectacular exhibition of the Gothic revival style, and is frankly as nice to look at outside as in. With the exception of the clock tower, the rest of the building is easily explored by wheelchair – lifts are available, and the guides are super helpful.
I mentioned that Manchester is known for some of its museums, and its galleries are no exception. The Castlefield Gallery is a fairly unassuming building set aside for exhibitions of contemporary art, and situated in the vibrant conservation area of Castlefield, which is filled with green spaces, canals and waterfront bars. The gallery is quite easy to explore by wheelchair, with a ground-level entrance and lifts to the upper floors. As a nice bonus, the gallery is also free to visit, meaning you can see some of the finest art in the city at no cost.
People’s History Museum
The People’s History Museum of Manchester is not so much a place for visual displays as one for history. The building is actually quite interesting itself, occupying a one-time hydraulic pumping station but refurbished as a somewhat striking modern museum. Inside however, you’ll effectively be taking a tour through time to learn about the working people of Britain and various advances they’ve achieved throughout their history (such as trade unions, women’s suffrage, etc.). It’s quite the display of history, and with wheelchair-accessible lifts and various facilities in place to serve specific needs (such as audio tours for people with hearing impairments), it’s an attraction that has thought a lot about accessibility.
When it comes to watching football in a British city, there are always options. For a tourist though, football really needs to be experienced in person, which is still where the passion lies. Old Trafford in Manchester is one of the most renowned and historic football venues in the world, and a must-see if you’re in town during the season. Accessibility can often be a challenge in an older stadium, but Old Trafford is known to be fairly accommodating, with accessible seating, wheelchair bays, an accessible lounge, audio headsets and a Changing Places facility.
The Victoria Baths are an unusual but very pretty attraction in Manchester, commonly recommended for visitors. They were first constructed early in the 20th century as functioning public baths, but were closed in the 1990s, after which point the building simply sat unused. Following a very expensive restoration though, the Victoria Baths became beautiful once more, and the facility now stands essentially as a tourist destination. The baths aren’t meant to be used anymore, but are still seen as a sightseeing stop around the city. And wheelchair accessible viewing points make it yet another suitable stop in Manchester.
Where are your favourite accessible places to visit in Manchester?