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Living in Manchester: a guide for students

A varied mix of music, shopping, sport and a buzzing social scene make Manchester (UK) a student-focused city with a lot for you to discover. Get ready to explore the UK's top 3 student city (QS Best Student Cities 2025) that’s bursting with cultural events and authentic international cuisine.

What makes Manchester one of the best student cities in the UK? Students living in Manchester can live affordably while still eating well, socializing regularly and exploring everything the city has to offer.

What makes Manchester a great international student city?

  • It’s the most linguistically diverse city in western Europe, with up to 200 languages spoken in the city at any one time. It’s estimated that half of the city’s adult population is multilingual, with 4 in 10 young people speaking more than one language.

  • Manchester’s eclectic nightlife offers something for everyone, from the hipster bars of the Northern Quarter to the party palace of the Printworks.

  • Greater Manchester has the highest number of theater seats per head of population outside of London, and covers the whole spectrum of fringe, opera, classical music and dance productions.

  • The city boasts four professional orchestras, the only Comedy Store located outside of London, and a renowned independent cinema.

  • There are numerous literary festivals hosted across the year, as well as critically acclaimed exhibitions from world- famous artists.

What things are there to do in Manchester for students?

Living in Manchester means you’ll have plenty of fun things to do and unique places to visit. Some of the best things about Manchester include:

  • Gig culture – a world-renowned music scene.

  • Art galleries – more than 30 museums and galleries.

  • Industrial heritage – 95km of canals and six steam engines.

  • Shopping heaven – 42 traditional markets, selling everything from food to clothes.

  • Green space – thousands of acres of parks and countryside, including the beautiful Peak District National Park.

Discover more things to do in Manchester for students here.

Nightlife in Manchester

Manchester is famed for being one of the best cities for nightlife in the UK. Whether you're looking for a gourmet dinner, upmarket wine bar, traditional 'real ale' pub or a place to dance the night away, Manchester has it all.It remains one of the best cities in the world to hear live music and is a major destination for touring bands. From jazz festivals and world music events to classical music and opera, the diversity of music available is hard to beat.

Sport in Manchester

Manchester is home to two of the biggest names in sport: Manchester United and Manchester City. Manchester United’s ground, Old Trafford, is the biggest stadium in the English Premier League (Statista 2020), while Manchester City is based at the striking Etihad Stadium.

Fancy getting involved? The city offers a range of state-of-the-art facilities for you to enjoy, including:

  • Chill Factore indoor skiing and snowboarding slope

  • City of Manchester Stadium

  • Manchester Aquatics Center

  • Manchester BMX Track

  • Manchester Climbing Center

  • Manchester Regional Gymnastics Center

  • National Squash Center

  • Regional Athletics Center

  • Regional Tennis Center

  • The National Cycling Center (Manchester Velodrome)

  • The Salford Quays Watersports Center.

Can I find international food in Manchester?

With hundreds of restaurants, there is a wide range of quality, modern British and international cuisine for you to experience while living in Manchester.

From fine dining in Spinningfields to street food at The Maker’s Market, you’ll find options to suit your mood and budget. Deansgate offers everything from tapas to traditional British food, while the cafés of the Northern Quarter are a favourite with locals.

Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in Britain and has many Asian restaurants and supermarkets. There are also many restaurants and shops in Rusholme, offering South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine and produce.

The best part? INTO Manchester’s city center location means you’ll never be far from your next great meal.

Where can I go shopping in Manchester?

From the high street to designer boutiques, Manchester is the place for fashion. Whether you want to update your wardrobe, upgrade your electronics or buy decorations for your bedroom, you’ll find a range of shops in the city center and further afield.

The best neighbourhoods in Manchester for shopping include:

  • Arndale Center – high street styles 

  • Northern Quarter – vinyl and vintage boutiques 

  • Trafford Center – 200+ shops under one roof 

  • The Avenue – designer labels 

  • Afflecks – indie shopping, from KPOP to comics.

What events can I attend in Manchester?

Manchester has a full calendar of eclectic festivals and events throughout the year, including:

  • Parklife – Multi-genre music festival in Manchester's Heaton Park

  • Greater Manchester Fringe Festival – celebrates new and emerging talent in comedy, performance and art

  • Manchester Science Festival – an exciting and fun celebration of science and technology

  • Manchester International Festival – a biennial international arts festival, with a specific focus on emerging and new work

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – the city's longest running music festival is dedicated to jazz-influenced sounds

  • Manchester Food and Drink Festival – a festival for foodies, with events all over the city celebrating Manchester's diverse culinary heritage.

What’s the cost of living in Manchester for students?

The living cost in Manchester for international students is significantly more affordable compared to other large UK cities, such as London. In fact, Manchester is one of the top 10 most affordable cities in the UK for students (Student Living Index 2021).

Rent prices in Manchester are more than 50% cheaper than in London (Numbeo September 2021) and you'll find food and entertainment more affordable too. While living in Manchester, you can expect your monthly spending budget to look something like this:

  • Bus pass: from £49 per month

  • Takeaways: £34.20 per month*

  • Groceries: £100 per month*

  • Nightlife: £33.70 per month*

*Figures have been taken from the Student Living Index 2021 and reflect average student spending in Manchester.

What travel options are there in Manchester?

The city center is easy to explore by foot. Walk around the city’s Northern Quarter to find modern street art and ceramics, or immerse yourself in Asian culture in Manchester’s Chinatown.

You can also use the affordable and efficient Metrolink (Manchester's very own tram network) or extensive bus network to visit the various parts of the city and its surrounding suburbs.

By plane

Manchester Airport offers direct flights to 199+ destinations across the world. Located just 20 minutes from the city center, over 100 airlines and 300 tour operators offer direct flights to all of Europe's major cities, as well as daily flights to the Far East and US; including four flights a day to New York.

By train

Manchester was home to the world's first railway system, and this transport legacy continues today. There are 92 National Rail stations in Greater Manchester, including trains to London every 20 minutes.

Where is Manchester located in the UK?

Located in the north-west of England, Manchester has exceptional rail links across the UK – London can be reached in just 2.5 hours. Other popular UK destinations include:

  • The Peak District – Britain's first national park that covers a vast area in the center of the UK, with hundreds of hiking trails and mountain treks to explore. 

  • The Lake District – famous for its many lakes and the surrounding mountains, this is the second largest national park in the UK. It was also the inspiration for the writers Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. 

  • North Wales – experience traditional Welsh culture less than an hour from Manchester. Head to the coast to enjoy watersports or go to Mount Snowdon to climb the highest mountain in Wales.