I love Manchester – it’s my adopted home city (I’m not from here originally). In the time I’ve lived here I’ve come to appreciate everything about it – from the music and nightlife, to the people and places.
One thing I particularly like about Manchester is the way the city allows me to geek out. In fact, Manchester is a great city if you’re a geek, as there is so much to dive into!
Today I am highlighting ten things to do in Manchester if you’re a geek. The following list should help you fill many an afternoon (or five), including a couple of activities that won’t cost you a penny!
Ten geek things to do in Manchester
No geek-visit to Manchester would be complete without a visit to Affleck’s – the city’s self-titled Emporium of Eclecticism. The indoor market – situated on Church Street – has been a staple of Manc-retail since 1981 and boasts a collection of traders, offering unique and unusual products you won’t find anywhere else.
A particular highlight of Affleck’s is Star Wars Man – a trader who sells vintage toys from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. So, if you’re looking for an elusive Wookie, a hard to find Wolverine, or a rare Spidey toy, this is where to look.
Did you know that the streets of Manchester are regularly used as filming locations for films and TV shows? You didn’t? Well, they are!
Not only has the city played host to a number of well-known British TV shows, including Queer as Folk and Skins, but it has also provided the backdrop to TWO Marvel movies!
In 2010, Marvel Studios used Dale Street as the setting for a few scenes in Captain America: The First Avenger. And in 2019, Stevenson Square, Port Street and the surrounding area was transformed into Manhattan for Sony Picture’s, Morbius.
If you’re heading to Manchester it’s worth taking a look around the Northern Quarter to check out the locations of these shoots. You may not be in a Marvel movie, but you can sure feel like you are!
And should you want to know more, you can read about the Morbius shoot in my posts: A Marvel movie is being shot in Manchester – can you guess what it is?, More information about Morbius as filming continues in Manchester, and Morbius completes filming in Manchester.
A walk around Manchester can turn into a real-life art exhibition, courtesy of the amazing street art that is dotted around the city. If there’s a spare bit of space (and sometimes even if there isn’t) artists decorate the walls and alleyways with unique pieces that have the power to stop visitors in their tracks.
If you want to geek out (without spending any money) you can simply do a tour of the city, to take a look at the eye-popping art. There is plenty of it on show – from Game of Thrones to Bowie and Batman – but be warned, pieces change all the time so you have to catch it while you can!
And if you’re doing an ‘art’ tour of the city, then you should also go on a hunt for mosaics of Space Invaders and other classic game-related characters. These nifty little pieces (see above) are hidden around the city in various locations.
So, what are they?
Well, back in 2007 a French artist simply known as Invader placed approximately 50 mosaics around the city centre. Many of these mosaics have now sadly been removed, but there are a number still in existence, if you look hard enough.
Pop into the city, take a wander around, and see how many you can find. And if you want a starting point, head to the corner of Tib Street and Bridgewater Place and look up to see the most famous gaming character in the world.
Comic & RPG stores
Manchester boasts a number of specialist stores, perfect for those into comics, collectables, and RPGs. Head to the Northern Quarter to check out what’s available in Forbidden Planet, Travelling Man or FanBoy3, or drop into the Arndale Centre for Games Workshop.
Oh and if you’re a comic book fan, then be sure to visit Manchester on the first Saturday of May for Free Comic Book Day! FCBD is a great way to offer everyone the opportunity to receive a bunch of comics without paying!
Conventions in Manchester
And if you’re a fan of comics, then be sure to come to Manchester for one of the many comic book & gaming conventions which take place at various times throughout the year. The city plays host to a number of cons, from PLAY Expo Manchester and MCM Comic Con, to Comic Con Manchester and For The Love of Horror, amongst others.
Cons provide the opportunity for film fans, gamers, and cosplayers, to immerse themselves in events specifically aimed at celebrating geek culture. The events include talks, celebrity signings, photo opportunities, stalls, games, shows, and much more.
Lights, camera, action – cinemas in Manchester
Love movies? Who doesn’t?!
Well, if you are a film buff then you’re spoilt rotten in Manchester, as not only does the city have a number of small venues which regularly hold movie screenings, but it also has two large, multi-screen cinemas.
Vue in the Printworks (just across the road from Victoria Station) is a huge 20-screen cinema, with an IMAX. The cinema shows all of the big blockbusters, along with various anniversary screenings – such as the 4K Batman Anthology marathon.
Just up the road at the Great Northern warehouse is Odeon. As with Vue, Odeon shows all of the big movies of the day, along with a number of classic movie screenings (RoboCop, Terminator, Superman etc), and is also home to Grimmfest – an annual, four-day horror festival which takes place every October.
In addition to Vue and Odeon, Manchester also boasts HOME – an entertainment venue which includes a cinema (showing independent movies), a theatre, an art gallery, and a café.
If heaven was a place on Earth, it would be in NQ64 – a subtarranean ‘bar-cade’ nestled away on Short Street, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. NQ64 not only boasts a stocked bar, featuring some imaginative cocktails, it also showcases a fantastic collection of arcade cabinets, pinball machines, and free-to-play consoles.
The arcade games – which range from X-Men and Time Crisis II to The Simpsons and Pac-Man – take tokens, which are available from the bar. Simply load up, hit the machines, and never look back.
I’ve previously talked about NQ64 on this blog. Should you want further details, read through my post: A Saturday afternoon arcade gaming in Manchester.
The Manchester bees
In summer 2018, Manchester City Centre was inundated with bees. Very arty bees.
Created by Wild in Art, more than 100 bee statues were placed around the city centre for visitors to find. Each bee showcased unique artwork, like the bee above which featured classic British cartoon character, Mr. Benn.
Once the exhibit/attraction had come to the end of its run, the bees were auctioned off. However, eagle-eyed visitors are still able to spot some bees, if they look hard enough.
Local businesses snapped up these unique pieces of art, meaning many can still be found in the city – usually tucked away in a shop window or in the foyer of a hotel. Perhaps your next trip to Manchester can involve a bee hunt?
A bit of culture
And finally, should you fancy a dash of more ‘high brow’ geek culture, you are advised to check out the packed programme of events at the Palace Theatre Manchester, Albert Hall, Bridgewater Hall, or the Manchester Opera House. These venues have a regular collection of concerts, shows and plays, many of which are perfect to get your geek on!
Bridgewater Hall is a particular favourite of mine and has allowed me to indulge in the music of film composers, Hans Zimmer and John Williams. Meanwhile, Albert Hall has played host to director/musician, John Carpenter, as well as the excellent band, Postmodern Jukebox.
In addition to the above, Manchester is packed with awesome things to see and do, from an LGBT Heritage Walk, and an underground city tour, to a cat café and a football museum. The city centre also boasts many bars, restaurants, and shops, while further afield a short tram journey connects the centre up with Media City, and various neighbouring towns in Greater Manchester.