At the first sign of sunshine, Mancunians flock to the city’s parks like moths to a flame. Whether you’re a local or just visiting to tour the museums and immerse yourself in the gritty music scene, you’ll spot no shortage of lush locales for a moment of calm.
While you’ll find the majority of the best parks in Manchester’s outer suburbs, there are a handful of green spaces in the city center worthy of your attention. Here’s our pick of the bunch in this Northern powerhouse.
Pack a picnic and then enjoy some works of art in Whitworth Park
This scenic spot sits just off bustling Oxford Road, and it’s easily one of the best parks for a picnic in Manchester. It shares its name with the Whitworth Art Gallery, which sits within its grounds, and is the perfect place for some fresh air before admiring pretty watercolors and bold David Hockney masterpieces.
Whitworth Park really comes into its own in spring, when the trees are in full bloom. On warmer days, it’s possible to lay down a blanket under one of the big old oak trees, and when it’s raining, you can still enjoy the park’s lush greenery through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Whitworth Art Gallery’s cafe.
Visit some alpacas and take in a festival at Heaton Park
At 600 acres, Heaton Park is not only the largest municipal park in the UK but in the whole of Europe. You’ll find it south of the city center, just a short walk from the tram stops «Heaton Park» or «Bowker Vale», and it’s a brilliant place to visit on brighter days.
There are ample amenities to enjoy, from an adventure playground and a serene boating lake to the swish 18th-century Heaton Hall. Designed by James Wyatt, the grand building sits right in the heart of the park and is well worth popping into on the rare occasions it’s open to visitors. Heaton Park is also the only park in Manchester with an animal center, home to donkeys, alpacas and various birdlife. (Keep an eye out for the elusive peacocks.)
Due to its size and accessibility, Heaton Park regularly hosts some of the top outdoor events in Manchester. This includes Parklife, an annual three-day festival that attracts music lovers from across the UK.
Cathedral Gardens is the place to be for food festivals and Christmas markets
The 15th-century Manchester Cathedral is a must-see in its own right. Once you’ve appreciated its medieval interiors and beautiful stained glass windows, head outside to the Cathedral Gardens.
While compact, the landscaped park has tinkling fountains and a large grassy area that often hosts food festivals and other outdoor events. You’ll also spot the glass-fronted space-age facade of the National Football Museum, easily one of the top museums to visit in town.
Planning a wintertime trip? From mid-November until late December, the Cathedral Gardens are one of the major venues for Manchester’s Christmas markets.
Take a break from your bar crawl in Vimto Park
Okay, so this tiny stretch of greenery barely passes as a park, but it’s still a nice spot to stop for a breather if you’re exploring the city’s lively Gay Village. Vimto Park is named for the bright purple soft drink that was first developed back in 1908, just a few steps away at 19 Granby Row; you’ll even spot a giant statue of a Vimto bottle at its center.
Learn about the spiritual history of All Saints Park
Another splash of greenery located along hectic Oxford Road is All Saints Park. It’s surrounded by Manchester Metropolitan University buildings, so expect to see students sprawled across its benches during term time.
Despite being an oasis of calm today, All Saints Park has a slightly gruesome past. Back in the early 19th century, it served as the burial ground for the now non-existent All Saints Church, and there are estimated to be more than 16,000 bodies buried beneath its manicured lawns.
Step away from the buzz of the city and relax in Angel Meadow Park
Speaking of burial sites, Angel Meadows is another city park that’s been built on the site of an old cemetery. It sits in the so-called Green Quarter, just east of Manchester Victoria station (right behind the iconic Co-op HQ building), and it’s a favorite spot for office workers seeking a little vitamin D during their lunch hour.
As you stroll around, you’ll spot a few informational boards revealing the dark history of the park. One particularly eerie fact is that more than 40,000 of the city’s poor were buried in these grounds during the late-18th and early 19th centuries. Don’t be surprised if you glimpse the remnants of old headstones poking out of the undergrowth.
The kids will love Fletcher Moss Park
Tucked away in the tranquil yet trendy neighborhood of West Didsbury is Fletcher Moss Park. The locals would argue it’s the best park for kids in Manchester – and they might just be right.
The park was donated to the local community in 1914 by Alderman Fletcher Moss and consists of more than 90 acres of both wild and landscaped gardens. The main attractions are the Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens and the Rockery, both of which are filled with flora and fauna from around the world.
Fletcher Moss Park also has public tennis courts and other sports facilities if you’re feeling active. If coffee and a wander is more your vibe, the park’s tea room has an outdoor seating area overlooking the botanical gardens.
Get away from it all at Reddish Vale Country Park
When it comes to the best parks in Greater Manchester, it’s hard to beat Reddish Vale for its sheer size. It’s a straight shot down the A6 from Manchester City Center, and aside from the odd hum of the nearby M60 on the wind, you’ll feel like you’re in the heart of the countryside.
Reddish Vale Country Park is divided by the meandering River Tame and the impressive Reddish Vale Aqueduct, which currently serves as a railway bridge for trains destined for the nearby Peak District. There’s a handful of different trails crisscrossing the park, most of which begin or end at the large fishing pond that’s seemingly home to dozens of swans, geese and ducks.
On hot days, strip off your shoes and paddle barefoot in the river, or seek shade beneath the trees of Reddish Vale’s enchanting woodland.
See urban sustainability in action in Cotton Field Park
New Islington is just a short hop away from the Northern Quarter, and it’s fast becoming one of Manchester’s trendiest neighborhoods. That’s all down to cool new developments like Cotton Field Park.
The urban green space has been designed around the area’s canals and features a boardwalk dotted with plants and plenty of benches where you can sit and admire your surroundings. Cotton Field Park has sustainability at its core, so keep your eyes peeled for its floating wildlife islands hosting all kinds of birdlife.
Top tip: if you’re visiting in June, July or August – typically the sunniest months in Manchester – make a beeline for the park’s manmade beach, where you can lay out on the sand or even hire rowing boats to take you out on the water.
Chorlton Water Park is a perfect pick for fans of outdoor activities
With a name like that, it’s easy to see why this is the best park with water in Manchester! Chorlton Water Park sits south of the city and is actually part of a nature reserve encompassing meadows, woods and grassland.
The main attraction is the lake, which is particularly popular for family picnics and fishing (you can buy day or season passes from the Chorlton Carp Anglers). Prefer to practice your putting skills? Just north of the lake is the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Golf Club. You’ll also spot the River Mersey weaving its way through the bottom section of the park; follow it east, and eventually, you’ll end up in Fletcher Moss Park.
Take a romantic stroll through picturesque Alexandra Park
This elegant Victorian park is our top pick for a romantic stroll in the city. It’s located in Whalley Range, a South Manchester neighborhood that’s a favorite with families and young professionals.
Alexandra Park first opened in 1870 and has managed to retain its original charm, albeit with the addition of a few modern facilities, such as a kids’ play area, a cricket ground and a football pitch. It’s especially picturesque in autumn when the wide, treelined pathways are littered with crunchy leaves in a riot of red and orange shades.
If you’re visiting with your better half, make your way to the ornamental lake in Alexandra Park’s southwest corner. It’s fringed by a great independent coffee shop that serves up a fantastic vegan full English breakfast. Alternatively, grab a bench near the water and while away some time watching swans and ducks frolicking in the shallows.
You might also like:
Manchester’s new art trail turns the city into an open-air gallery
England’s most beautiful castles: fall under the spell of these 8 exquisite fortifications
8 best hikes to discover England’s beautiful countryside