Culture + Style

Art Walk on the Wild Side: A Tour of Manchester’s Graffiti Street Art

Stroll through Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter (NQ) and you’re likely to see famous faces like Prince or David Bowie gazing out at you from much-larger-than-life street murals. The former cotton industry center brims with outdoor artwork that delights, surprises and delves deep into social issues, all within a short walk of Piccadilly Station.

Take a Self-Guided Tour

If you want to stroll the streets and snap unforgettable selfies in front of famous faces or other street murals, a trio of self-guided tours takes you past some of the most famous works from the 2016 City of Hope Mural Project — the world’s first street art convention aimed at amplifying the need to address social issues affecting the city — as well as other original artwork.

Some mural spaces are ever-changing, so don’t be surprised to see something totally different along your walk than you expected. There’s no “going wrong”: Manchester’s graffiti street art is everywhere in the Northern Quarter. See most of the art by foot on a 2.5-hour exploration of the area.

manchester graffiti art
(Photos: Henrik Haven)

Stevenson Square: Walk 0.2 miles east of Piccadilly Station and discover some of the most famous pieces of the North Quarter. From whimsical “wanted” posters painted larger than life across from the police station to the famous faces of Bowie and Prince, the Stevenson Square walk is especially delightful before business hours when closed shop shutters reveal more colorful murals.

Walk the Streets: Take a journey by foot south of Stevenson Square to find streets steeped in some of the most iconic pop street art in Manchester, including works from the 2016 City of Hope Mural Project.

Explore the depiction of social issues ranging from human dignity and freedom to homelessness on the route, which runs between Faraday and Great Ancoats Streets from Tib to Tariff streets. The walk makes an ideal way to get outdoors during beautiful weather, but at least one work, 722-481 BC by Faith 47, transforms after dark with a geometric light installation that explores shadows and symbols.

Manchester graffiti art
(Photo: Henrik Haven)

Dive Deep

Take an award-winning tour that visits some of the city’s oldest street art and explores how it was responsible for revitalizing the NQ. Award-winning tours by Skyliner run fortnightly but can be scheduled by request.

For tours that focus entirely on the Cities of Hope projects of 2016 and 2018, book a tour through the foundation. Grab a cup of complimentary coffee to enjoy along the way as you get the lowdown on the project, the artists and the foundation’s goals. The tour meets at The Art of Hope on Tib Street just 0.7 miles from Piccadilly Station.

Sip a Brew with a View

manchester graffiti art
Sip a drink with a view at The Pen and Pencil. (Photo: Courtesy of The Pen and Pencil)

Grab a cocktail and tapas with an artsy view at The Pen and Pencil at the intersection of Hilton and Tariff streets. The redbrick building has a view of “Inhuman Barriers” across the street on Hilton House that will have you contemplating issues of immigration and integration as you sip on a signature Sometimes Sunny in Manchester fruity cocktail or bite into a bottomless free-flow brunch.

The NQ is home to cafés, pubs and restaurants with tucked-away terraces and sun-dappled spaces that open up views to the city even on drizzly days.

Watch It Happen

Cities of Hope 2018 brings more award-winning artists to create 20-story murals in the city addressing social topics that include poverty, conflict, voice, environment, equality and justice. Each world-renowned artist partners with a local artist age 18 to twenty-five. Take tours through the foundation and watch the paintings take shape, visit completed works, and enjoy live street performers along the way.