Manchester Central Library
Officially, The Lowry is the most visited attraction in Greater Manchester, but only because the official list for some reason doesn’t include Manchester Central Library. It recorded a staggering 2m visits in 2019/2020, making it the busiest public library in the UK.
The attraction is obvious even if you’re one of the few folks around here who’ve never been inside. This domed building with its entrance framed by classical pillars is a Manchester icon.
Step inside and you’ll find another celebrated space – the circular Wolfson Reading Room on the first floor. It’s an elegant, if echoey, haven with its individually numbered and lit desks and atmosphere of quiet, focused study. Head here during term-time and you can almost hear the cogs turning as the students cram for exams.
Other notable rooms include the Henry Watson Music Library (complete with pianos and a regular public jamming session). And the renovated ground floor cafe and Archives+ area with its Sound Collection and BFI Archive.
There are regularly-changing art exhibitions on the first floor, family events in the children’s library, and literature events in the performance space.
Have we forgotten anything? Oh yes, the books. Head to the lower ground floor for the lending library, with its reading nooks, newspapers and magazines.
Specialist collections elsewhere in the building include the local history archives, the Gaskell collection and the Coleridge collection (you need to make an appointment to see some of these).
Back in 2014 when the renovated library reopened, the head of Library Services said they wanted it to be “Manchester’s front room”.
And in a sense it is: it’s a welcoming, well-presented place that for many Manchester residents, feels like home.