The best buildings in Manchester

Manchester has undergone extensive redevelopment over the last couple of decades and now boasts many examples of striking modern architecture alongside the buildings that mark moments in its history. Manchester is home to some of the most distinctive buildings in the UK, from the neo-gothic town hall to the 168-metre-high Beetham Tower.

Manchester has been under the media spotlight this year as large-scale relocation takes place from BBC offices in London to the new MediaCity in Salford, south-west of the city centre. Salford’s MediaCity has been labelled by British tabloids an architectural eyesore, sparking debate over the aesthetic properties of England’s northern cities.

While some criticise the move and dismiss Manchester as an area of little architectural interest, others fiercely defend the city and point to its buildings as important and attractive historical markers.

town hall manchester

Manchester Town Hall

Exemplary of the Victorian neo-gothic, Manchester Town Hall was built in 1877 following the designs of architect Alfred Waterhouse. The imposing building is Grade I listed with 12 statues at the entrance depicting such figures as Henry III, St George and Elizabeth I. To the interior are 12 murals by renowned pre-Raphaelite Ford Maddox Brown.


Manchester Urbis

Urbis, Manchester

Designed by the controversial Ian Simpson Architects and opened in the Millennium Quarter in 2002, Urbis is an unusual and impressive glass-fronted building situated in Cathedral Gardens. It was built as part of a regeneration project following the 1996 IRA bombing. Since then it has been home to a number of exhibitions with a focus on British popular culture. In 2011 the building was closed and will soon be reopened as the National Football Museum.

 The Lowry

Situated in Salford Quays, the Lowry is a gallery and theatre complex with a striking architectural design. Built in 1999, the building offers another example of modern design in the city. The Lowry was named after LS Lowry, the artist famous for his paintings of industrial urban scenes, and marks Manchester’s development since the beginnings of the industrial revolution. The building features a large curved steel canopy at the entrance that lights up at night.

Beetham Tower

Another controversial Ian Simpson design, the Beetham Tower is a 47-story skyscraper. Completed in 2006, the tower is the tallest in Manchester and the highest reaching residential building in Europe. While some dislike the sharp, modern structure of the building, in 2008 it won the Project of the Year Award from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for the north-west.

Manchester Beetham Tower

Manchester Beetham Tower

The future of Manchester

While modern architectural additions to the city have received mixed responses, such designs do make a bold statement – the northern city has moved on from the days of industrial expansion and is looking to the future. The mass exodus of BBC filming from London to offices in Salford forms part of a rising interest in Manchester as an area of redevelopment. Compared with the notorious expenses associated with living and building in the capital, investors increasingly find urban regions in the north of England tempting areas of investment.

Large-scale redevelopment brings business and tourism to the city. As a result, the demand for accommodation and conference facilities around the city is expected to increase. Centres such as the LutherKingHouse bed and breakfast in Manchester  are, accordingly, providing business meeting and conference facilities alongside more traditional services. For more information visit

The redevelopment of rundown areas in Manchester also means the city appears a sound investment opportunity, so further modernisation is likely to continue. There are plenty of architectural gems to be found in Manchester – and plenty more in the making.

Resource Box

Visit Manchester

Manchester’s official tourism website.

The Guardian

The Guardian’s collection of articles relating to the BBC move from London to Salford.


FutureEverything is an annual music and arts festival held in Manchester.


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