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Great accessible UK weekend breaks: Manchester

19th May 2023

Manchester is one of the most exciting places to visit in the UK, and whilst it is a modern city, it is also full of history as it is known around the world for being the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

The city centre is full of unique restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and attractions that can make it difficult for visitors to decide what they want to do.

Those with mobility problems don’t need to worry about visiting Manchester as people who struggle to get around and need to use stairlifts at home can expect accessible transport, shopping, restaurants, attractions and city tours. Here’s a guide to the most accessible places you’ll want to visit in Manchester.

How accessible is Manchester?

Manchester has something to offer to people of all mobility levels. Emma Campbell, who runs the Powder Rooms blog, believes that Manchester is a city that accommodates people with all tastes and mobilities:

“Manchester is such a thriving city, with something to accommodate everyone's tastes. It's a city full of theatres, shopping centres, activity attractions, a fantastic dining and drinking scene, plus lots of beauty spots in and around Greater Manchester. There is guaranteed to be a place in Manchester to attract different types of people. Plus, the city is known for its friendly Northern folk and polite attitude!

“A lot of the major shopping centres, theatres, and activity attractions seem to offer alternatives to make it easy for anyone with mobility problems to enjoy themselves still. This is normally around lifts, ramps and trained staff at all main venues who are able to assist. You'll also find Manchester's transport - the Metrolink, bus services and trains - are all tailored to make travelling super easy, which is great for anyone in a wheelchair or with mobility issues.

“A lot of Manchester's hotels, restaurants, bars, gyms and cafés ensure there are lifts in place as an alternative for stairs, making even those ultra-modern establishments suitable for mobility problems. The city is always keen to suit and attend to everyone's needs, and you can always check with the venues before attending just to double-check.”

Best accessible attractions to visit

When it comes to attractions, Manchester is home to some of the most accessible attractions that are definitely worth visiting.

IWM North

The Imperial War Museum North is set inside an iconic building inspired by the idea of a conflict-shattered world.

It is recommended that visitors allow at least two hours to explore the museum, which is located on The Quays. During a visit, people can walk through a timeline of history from the First World War to the present day.

More than 2,000 objects are being displayed at the museum, and the award-winning 360-degree cinematic Big Picture Shows is definitely worth seeing. Another impressive display at the museum is the Poppies artwork created in response to war and conflict.

The museum has six manual wheelchairs available for those with mobility issues, lifts to all floors, accessible toilets throughout and 16 designated parking spaces for people with disabilities. There also is seating throughout the museum for visitors who need help to walk for an extended period.

The John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library boasts one of the world's finest collections of rare books and manuscripts. Although the library is part of The University of Manchester today, it opened in 1900 as a gift to Manchester and its people.

Not only do people visit to see the collection of books but to see the stunning Grade One listed neo-Gothic building that the library is located inside. The library hosts various exhibitions, so it is worth double-checking to see if an event is taking place during your visit.

The library’s main entrance has level access, a lift to all floors of the library, and there are accessible toilets available to members of the public. However, you should be aware that there is no accessible parking at the library, and you will have to use the nearest public car park, which is around a 10-minute walk away.

The Trafford Centre

Image credit: Neil Turner

Just west of Manchester city centre is where the Trafford Centre is located. This indoor centre is a shopper’s paradise with brands such as All Saints, Lacoste, Selfridges, Pull & Bear, Victoria’s Secret, and Khaadi.

There is also an Odeon IMAX cinema, a treetop adventure, a Laser Quest, and an entertainment area where you can go bowling and play arcade games located within the Trafford Centre. There are also around 50 restaurants located at the centre, so visitors can enjoy a rest to break up their shopping trip.

The Trafford Centre boasts lots of facilities to help visitors who have mobility problems, as there are nine speaking lifts located around the centre, accessible toilets, and there are electric wheelchairs and electric scooters available to use from the customer services desk in the main dome.

People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum looks at the development of democracy in the UK and what could happen in the future.

Visitors can learn about equality, social justice and cooperation as the museum collects items of national importance from the last 200 years related to British labour and politics.

The museum has the largest collection of political material in the UK, and it houses more than 95,000 photographic images related to the UK’s labour history.

The museum can be visited all year round and is entirely wheelchair accessible, with lift access to all galleries and floors. Blue badge holders can park close to the museum, and staff are on hand to help people around the museum.

READ ALSO: Accessible weekend breaks across the UK

Best restaurants in Manchester

Manchester is well-known for its cuisine, and here are the best and most accessible eateries in the city that people should feast their eyes on.

The Pasta Factory

This little Italian eatery is regarded by many as the best place to try Italian cuisine in Manchester. As diners walk in, they will notice a deli section stocked with freshly made pasta and sauces, which is a luxury here in the UK.

The Pasta Factory is renowned for using traditional family recipes for its pizza, pasta, fish and steak dishes. Instead of lasagne and carbonara, customers can try Reginette al Barbera con ragù di cervo and ravioli di prosciutto alla toma di Lanzo.

There is also a wide-ranging drinks menu, with many of them imported from Italy, like the San Paolo IPA.


Sticking with the international theme, diners in Australasia can try modern Australian cuisine that combines Pacific Rim flavours and European cooking.

There is a blend of Indonesian, Southeast Asian and Australia’s strong ties with Japan throughout the menu. Diners can try premium Australian fillet steak or duck breast, Salmon with wasabi cream cheese, and cucumber.

The restaurant is accessible for those with mobility problems as there is an entrance at the back of the restaurant for those who might not be able to manage the stairs at the entrance of the restaurant. Once inside, the restaurant is spacious enough for visitors with wheelchairs to manoeuvre around.

The Laundrette

The Laundrette is renowned for its amazing food and vibrant atmosphere, which are just some of the reasons why it is rated as one of the best restaurants in Manchester on TripAdvisor.

The menu for the restaurant is based around carb-fuelled food, and you can enjoy their iconic hand-stretched Neapolitan-style pizza, burgers, fresh salads, and truffle mac and cheese.

The restaurant is accessible to diners with a mobility issue as the entrance is step-free and there are accessible toilets available.

Best accessible tours

Manchester is straightforward to get around as there are lots of accessible tours available, and here are some of the best.

City Centre Cruises

City Centre Cruises offer three-hour cruises for visitors at weekends with Sunday lunch or afternoon tea and a commentary as they sail.

Based in Castlefield, Manchester, the ship sails through a lock onto the Manchester Ship Canal and then returns to Castlefield. During the voyage, visitors can enjoy drinks from a licensed onboard bar.

The cruise is very accessible as there are only three steps up and down onto the boat with handrails and crew on both sides to assist, but there is no wheelchair access.

Manchester Sightseeing Tours

Manchester Sightseeing Tours offers a range of city sightseeing activities within Greater Manchester and a selection of day trips by train or coach to the wider region.

Speaking about the accessibility of their different tours, Manchester Sightseeing Tours said they have several tours that are led by blue or green-badge-certified professionals:

“We offer a range of guided tours in the city centre led by Blue or Green Badge certified professional Tourist Guides that give visitors an insight into Manchester’s rich history. There is a daily Discover Manchester tour that departs at 11 am from Manchester Central Library, or we can even organise a tailored private tour. All of these tours are accessible for those with mobility issues as the pace is leisurely. The buildings included on the tours, such as the Midland Hotel, the Royal Exchange, and the Free Trade Hall, all provide access facilities.

“For football fans, we offer tours of both Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Both stadiums are access-friendly with lifts between floors so that mobility-impaired visitors can enjoy tours of the world-famous clubs and the facilities used by the global superstars of both United and City.”

Visitors using mobility scooters may have to use wheelchairs provided at the attraction, and people wanting to go on tours will need to book online.

New Manchester Walks

The New Manchester Walks brings this 21st-century city alive, and visitors will not only get to see the latest attractions in the city but will also take tours of historical attractions too.

From the Gothic architecture and cotton palaces in central Manchester to the new dockside towers of Salford Quays, visitors will get a great insight into the old and new ways of life.

During tours, visitors can see the Town Hall, the cathedral, Chetham’s, Manchester Art Gallery, John Rylands library, underground tunnels, and the canals and learn about the music scene and the cotton industry.

The tours are accessible for those with mobility problems or wheelchair users, but there are also coach tours on offer to visitors who worry that the walking may be too much. The coach tours around the city include Panoramic Manchester, The Story of Manchester United and the Northern Powerhouse.

Other activities

Watch a game at Old Trafford.

It’s not called the Theatre of Dreams for nothing!

Old Trafford, home to Manchester United, is one of Manchester's most iconic and most-visited attractions, and visitors heading to the North-West should try to catch a game.

Those with mobility issues won’t only be able to see some of the biggest footballing stars but can enjoy one of the most accessible venues in the UK.

There are 306 dedicated seats for supporters with special requirements or mobility issues, including 120 wheelchair spaces. Friends and family can also sit in the wheelchair bay of the North East and North West Quadrants of the venue.

The stadium also has the Ability Suite, a match day lounge designed for supporters in certain areas of the ground with disabilities or access requirements.

READ ALSO: Every premier league team ranked by accessibility

Watch an event at the AO Arena

The AO Arena, formerly the Manchester Arena, is Europe's largest indoor concert venue, and more than one million people visit the venue every year. Before you visit Manchester, you should look to see who is performing at the arena as it was previously voted the International Venue of the Year and is something you should certainly try and experience.

AO Arena hosts a variety of entertainment, from rock, pop and classical music concerts to family shows and world-class sporting events.

If you are wondering what the AO Arena/Manchester arena accessibility is like, then you will be pleased to hear that the venue itself is fully accessible to wheelchair users and visitors with mobility issues. The venue has accessible toilets, and dedicated viewing areas for wheelchair users, accessible parking is available on-site, and there are wheelchairs available to hire.

Head to Heaton Park

Covering more than 600 acres, visitors will never be able to see everything at Heaton Park.

The park is accessible, and visitors can not only enjoy a number of attractions but will be able to learn about this historic area on the edge of Manchester.

For older people with grandchildren, there are play areas and an animal centre, while the tram museum will give a little insight into the history of Manchester.

There is a boating lake, bowling greens and an events programme that takes place each year, including outdoor concerts, dramas and plays.

As you can see, there are some brilliant and accessible things to see and do  in Manchester over a weekend.

You can find more information about stairlifts in Manchester here, and you can visit the Manchester Disabled People's Access Group’s website for more information about the accessibility of the city centre.

If you need help staying independent at home, a stairlift or walk-in bath might help. You can book a home visit today.

For more tips, guides, and advice, visit our news page.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.