Unless you have four hours or less, a layover in Manchester doesn’t have to be restricted to a boring wait in one of the airport lounges. There are better things to do on a Manchester layover than sitting twiddling your thumbs and watching youtube on your iPad while waiting for your outgoing flight to be announced.
Manchester International Airport is less than ten miles from the city center, and there are super efficient public transport links, when the services aren’t striking, between the two. The journey by train from the airport to Manchester Piccadilly Station in the heart of the city takes less than 20 minutes. It’s a service that departs regularly, roughly every ten minutes, so don’t even consider grabbing a cab as that will take longer and cost you considerably more.
Make things easy on yourself as you venture out into the city. Visit a Manchester luggage storage and store your belongings first. Public transportation and sightseeing are so much easier with your hands free.
What To Do On A Short Manchester Layover
The way any international airport is working these days, with all the extra Covid and security checks, means that to be able to go venturing outside of the airport, you really need at least five or six hours unless you thrive on stress. Believe it, there’s nothing more stressful than running at breakneck speed down a never-ending airport concourse only to arrive at the gate to be told it’s closed.
Explore Picadilly – The Heart Of Manchester
No matter what terminal you land in at Manchester International Airport, once you’re through passport control, you can be at the airport train station in under 15 minutes. Jump aboard the first train that comes along, and don’t get off until you get to Picadilly Station.
Step out of Piccadilly Station, and you’ll be in one of the busiest and most attractive parts of this old industrial city. The area of Manchester known as Piccadilly has a huge plaza and garden at its center and is surrounded by pedestrianized streets. That’s a big help when you’re feeling slightly jet lagged and aren’t a hundred percent sure which way the traffic is going to be coming from.
What can you do in Piccadilly? Any of the following, but keep an eye on the time so you’re not late getting back to the airport.
- Wander around the gardens and take photos of the fountains
- Eat lunch, or dinner, at Jamboree
- Go shopping in the Urban Exchange
- Buy some souvenirs from Manchester Souvenir
- Play a game of virtual golf at The Green Sports Bar
If you have plenty of time on your Manchester layover:
- Hire a bicycle and ride the Ashton Canal Towpath
- Dream about returning to take a canal boat ride from the city center to Ashton-under-Lyne. You won’t have time on a short layover as there are 16 locks to navigate, and they are time-consuming.
See The Sights The Easy Way
Traveling can be tiring, and depending on how long your flight was, you’ll probably feel too drained to go tramping around the streets of Manchester. Forget the leg work and jump on the hop-on hop-off bus instead. It’s the fastest way to see the city sights and, unless you go on a free walking tour, the cheapest.
The full sightseeing tour on the hop-on hop-off bus takes just an hour and a half, so it is an ideal activity for a short daytime layover in Manchester. The closest pickup point to Piccadilly Station for the bus is the Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street which is only a ten-minute walk away.
If you have a few hours, then you’ll want to jump off at either Salford Quays and MediaCityUK or even both. They’re two places that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Manchester. If you don’t have time to get off the bus and take a walk around, at least you’ll have seen them and the Old Trafford Stadium, too.
What To Do On An Overnight Manchester Layover
When you have a longer overnight layover in Manchester, you might be tempted just to grab a room in one of the airport hotels and sleep your time away. Don’t. Instead, consider taking a room at one of the hotels in Salford Quays. Somewhere like the Premier Inn is relatively economical and is in a great spot right on the canal side.
Salford Quays is a renovated dock area and one of the most exciting parts of Manchester to stay in. The city’s Metrolink, around the corner from Piccadilly Station, will get you there in about 20 minutes. As well as being architecturally interesting, stay in Salford Quays, and you’ll be in the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely dinner followed by drinks in one or two of the many bars there.
Plan in advance of your layover, and you’ll be able to catch a show at the magnificent Lowry Theatre. If you want to do something even more unforgettable, then you should check out some of the entertainment options in MediaCityUK.
MediaCityUK is part of Salford Quays and as well as being home to several TV studios, offers some fun activities you can’t do anywhere else. If you’re adventurous, you’ll love the Get Me Out of Here I’m A Celebrity Jungle Challenge which is all about clambering through an indoor jungle canopy and collecting stars.
Imperial War Museum North
For a more sedate, serious, and cost-free activity, the Imperial War Museum North is a good bet, although it does depend on what time you arrive at the quays as to whether it’ll be open or not. The museum closes at five in the afternoon, and it’s recommended you reserve a time slot to go in online before you arrive if possible.
Having a long layover in Manchester definitely gives you more options as to what you can do and where you can go. Salford Quays and MediaCityUK are superb spots to spend a weekend in, let alone a few hours on a layover. If you can change your outgoing flight to get more layover time, why not do it? You won’t be disappointed with Manchester, and the longer you’re there, the more you’ll like it.
Metrolink – https://unsplash.com/photos/UDHOuwbRIL4
Salford Quays/MediaCity – https://unsplash.com/photos/o1nfIn7rKH4