The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

The bright lights of Salford Quays in Manchester at night © Daniel_Kay / Getty Images

Ask a local what the weather is like in Manchester and they’ll probably tell you to always be prepared for rain. While drizzle can be forecast at any time, it’s a common misconception that it’s the rainiest city in the UK. Summers are often sun-soaked and the winters are bright and crisp.  

Weather aside, Manchester is a city with multiple personalities. Which one you’ll experience largely depends on the season. Want to check out a buzzing music festival? Or maybe you value crowd-free attractions? Discover the best time to visit Manchester below.

High Season: June to August 

Best time for festivals and fine weather

This is peak time in Manchester, when warm – and hopefully dry – weather entices both locals and travelers to the city’s parks, beer gardens and canalside bars.  June, July and August are also the best months for festivals in Manchester, including Parklife (a magnet for music lovers) and Manchester Pride (one of the largest festivals of its kind in the UK). Hotel prices are consequently at their highest; booking a few months in advance is advised. 

The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

Manchester is famous for its Pride festival and its LGBTQIA+ scene © Roots Shoots / Getty Images

Shoulder Season: September to December

Best time for football and festive markets

This is a prime time for a trip to Manchester when the streets are adorned with attractive autumn foliage. Temperatures can stay mild until November, although pack an umbrella as unexpected rain showers aren’t uncommon. 

September is the start of football season when fans swarm into Manchester to watch their teams play at Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium. Hotel prices can rise steeply, so double-check match dates if you’re hoping to book an autumn weekend break.

Tourism picks up with the arrival of the city’s Christmas Markets. They typically open in mid-November and attract hordes of visitors keen to indulge in tasty street food or shop for last-minute gifts. Pop-up bars selling glühwein also appear and an ice rink is erected in Cathedral Gardens. Want to get in the Christmas spirit without the crowds? Visit mid-week. 

Low Season: January to May

Best time for crowd-free attractions and cheap hotel deals

Once the Christmas Markets close up shop, Manchester becomes noticeably quieter. As well as giving locals some welcome relief, it’s good news for visitors hoping to save a few pounds on hotels or less time standing in queues. The downside? Expect some of the worst weather conditions, including incessant spring rain showers and the occasional wintery snow day.  

January

January is a quiet month and when it’s coldest in Manchester. To make up for the post-Christmas slump in business, many restaurants across the city offer 50% off deals. If you’ve decided not to take part in Dry January, book tickets for the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival which typically takes place towards the end of the month/early February.  

Key Events: Manchester Beer and Cider Festival

The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

Football is akin to religion here at Old Trafford stadium, home of Manchester United © naipung / Shutterstock

February

February historically sees less rain than other winter months; however, snow is not uncommon. Luckily, the city’s indoor attractions tend to be less busy, making it a good time for museum visits. 

Manchester comes alive with Chinese New Year festivities at the start of the month. Red lanterns are strung up outside the Town Hall and a vibrant Dragon Parade weaves its way through Manchester Chinatown. 

Key Events: Chinese New Year

March

Temperatures begin to rise in March, although it’s often very rainy. Nevertheless, it’s a cheap time to visit Manchester thanks to plummeting hotel prices. Several cultural events are held in March. Movie buffs will want to check out the city’s international film festival, while shamrocks and Guinness feature as standard at the Manchester Irish Festival.

Key Events: Manchester Film Festival, Manchester Irish Festival, Submerge Festival

April

Despite the term "April showers", Manchester actually sees less rain than the months before. Spring is in full bloom in the city’s parks making for some very picturesque strolls. Over Easter, families flock to Spiningfields – one of Manchester's best city center neighborhoods – on Good Friday to watch the annual Duck Race along the River Irwell. 

Key Events: Manchester Duck Race

The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

Cool down on a summer's evening wandering the industrial heritage along the canals © Arthur Yu / EyeEm / Getty

May

The weather can go either way in May, with recent years seeing both endless rain and early heatwaves. Manchester’s music season kicks off with the Jazz Festival. The 10-day event features 80+ performances that take place across the city, many of them free.

Key Events: Manchester Jazz Festival

June

Come June, the city hums with activity just like the worker bees which have become its mascot. Manchester’s best festivals take place this month, including Parklife when upwards of 80,000 people flood into leafy Heaton Park. Manchester Day is also marked in June and celebrates all things Mancunian with food, drink, music and family-friendly events.

Key Events: Sounds of the City, Parklife, Manchester Flower Show, Manchester Day 

July

In a city known for its drizzle, you might be wondering what the hottest month in Manchester is. Typically, temperatures are at their highest in July and can reach upwards of 68°F (20°C). On brighter days, punters spill out onto the streets from the bars or jostle for tables at the city’s top alfresco dining spots.  

Key Events: Manchester Reggae Festival, RHS Flower Show

August

If you’re lucky, the weather will stay fine – or at least dry – into August. The end of August is when Manchester Pride takes place, with highlights including a huge parade and lively concerts featuring globally-renowned popstars. 

Key Events: Manchester Pride

The best time to visit Manchester for food, festivals and football

September sees foodies flock north to the Manchester Food and Drink Festival © ElenaChaykina Photography / Shutterstock

September

The summer festival hype may be over, but the good weather often continues well into September. Football is a religion for many Mancunians. The season is usually in full swing by the end of the month, causing an influx of sporting fans and a rise in hotel prices. Foodies can rejoice as the city also hosts the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.

Key Events: Manchester Food and Drink Festival

October

Attractive autumnal scenery and a slew of seasonal events make October one of the best times to visit Manchester. October half-term can cause a spike in accommodation prices as families head to the city for various Halloween festivities. 

Key Events: Oktoberfest, Manchester Science Festival (biennial), Halloween in the City

November

November is one of the wettest months in Manchester, so pack a good raincoat. It’s also a great time for seasonal festivals. The sky above the city lights up with hundreds of fireworks for Bonfire Night on November 5th. Want to get in the festive mood early? Manchester’s much-loved Christmas Markets open in multiple locations across the city center from mid-November.

Key Events: Bonfire Night, Manchester Christmas Markets

December

The arrival of winter can signal a drop in temperatures. Christmas is also on everyone's minds as the festive markets get busier the closer it gets to the 25th. This is one of the best times to visit Manchester for shopping, whether in the markets or the city’s malls.

Key Events: Manchester Christmas Markets

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