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As a dedicated street art fan, it’s no surprise I was excited to spend a month in Manchester in 2021. The Manchester street art wasn’t the only reason I was visiting but it was a major draw. This colourful, quirky city is one of my favourites in England.
Accommodation: Booking.com // Hostelworld
Activities: GetYourGuide / Viator
Getting there: Air (Skyscanner) train (Trainline), bus (Busbud)
Getting around: Foot / bus / tram
Read next: how to spend a weekend in Manchester
Interested in UK street art? Read my other guides:
Manchester street art map
Manchester street art tour
If you’re taking a quick trip, you might want to take a street art tour with a local expert (£10). This is a good option to reduce the hassle of following Google pins then discovering the mural you’re looking for has been painted over!
Who are the top Manchester street artists?
- Akse – Manchester’s most famous street artist has been spraying murals around the city since 1992. Originally from France, he now calls Manchester home and the Northern Quarter is brighter for it!
- C215 – Christian Guémy creates lifelike portraits of people covering topics including homelessness
- Case – Andreas von Chrzanowski is a German artist who explores movement through art, often creating murals of hands
- Hyuro – the late Tamara Djurovic was an Argentinian street artist known for her faceless depictions of women, highlighting the issue of gender based violence
- Faunagraphic – Sarah Yates creates jaw-dropping urban murals inspired by nature, often birds
- Nevercrew – Swiss artists, Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni create huge murals examining the relationship between humankind and nature
- Tankpetrol – this Polish artist based in Manchester is known for his detailed stencil art
- Mateus Bailon – inspired by the connection between humans and nature, this Brazilian artist is known for his colourful bird murals.
Where to find street art in Manchester
Two words: Northern Quarter! This colourful area isn’t known for famous Manchester landmarks but its independent spirit, quirky cafes and local businesses. Most of the Manchester street art can be found in this area, although there are a few notable murals in the Gay Village and city centre. Let’s go find them!
Read next: the best cafes in Manchester’s Northern Quarter
Follow my tried and tested Manchester street art route below, starting in the NQ…
The first mural to see on Port Street is this detailed pair of hands painted an old red brick building.
Head north on Port Street (towards Ancoats) and you’ll find yourself in an open space with a car park. Here you’ll find two impressive Manchester street art murals.
The Ian Curtis mural by Akse depicts the lead singer of Joy Division who took his life aged just 23. It was unveiled by his former bandmate, Peter Hook, in time for Mental Health Awareness Week in 2020. It aims to raise awareness of the crisis and encourage those in trouble to seek support.
Just a few metres away is a beautiful bird mural (above right) by Mateus Bailon whose work takes inspiration from nature.
Not far from Port Street is this impressive bird mural by Faunagraphic AKA Sarah Yates. It’s been a famous feature of the Northern Quarter for 10 years now, making it one of Manchester’s oldest murals.
It was commissioned by Converse for their Wall to Wall project in 2011 and painted across three days by Yates who was just 24 at the time. Overcoming the lack of diversity in the male-dominated street art business, she’s become one of the world’s top urban nature graffiti artists and now creates animal-themed murals around the globe.
Just a few metres from the murals mentioned above is Tariff Street, another hub for Northern Quarter street art. This smoking man was created by artist, C215, who turns facial portraits into urban art.
This particular Manchester mural linked to homelessness was created for the Cities of Hope festival in 2016. It was partly covered by scaffolding during my visit in October 2021 but hopefully that will change.
On the other side of Tariff Street is this enormous mural by Nevercrew. It shows the silhouettes of tiny people falling from a quartz crystal.
I watched this piece of Northern Quarter street art being painted in October 2020. The artist is Liam Bononi, a Brazilian artist based in Liverpool. You can see one of his most famous murals near the Anglican Cathedral. Use my Liverpool day trip guide to plan your trip.
This mural isn’t quite street art: it appears on a Stevenson Square shopfront rather than a wall. Still, the bright colours and quirky imagery prompted me to snap a photo.
Just a few metres away, you’ll see another important Northern Quarter mural…
Little Lever Street
This mural by Akse titled Enigma shows Manchester local Ste Wing who, like Akse, has Vietnamese heritage.
It was created for the 50 Windows of Creativity project showcasing the work of local venues and businesses. You can download the app of the same name to find the 50 locations around the city. Proceeds go to the WeLoveMCR charity helping to improve the lives of Manchester people.
Little Lever Street / Bradley’s Court
Not far from the Akse piece above, you’ll find this huge mural of a woman in a red dress on the corner of Little Lever Street and Bradley’s Court. I found it by accident while passing through this quiet backstreet. A real hidden gem!
Named Serenity, this mural by art duo SNIK is a tribute to women who stand up to injustice. It’s no coincidence that it’s so close to Stevenson Square where the suffragettes gathered 100 years ago.
Back Thomas Street
These striking animal images painted on black walls use just a couple of colours per mural. Spot tigers, rhino, chameleons and snakes on Back Thomas Street. I couldn’t find an artist tag here so I’m not sure who created them.
On Back Turner Street, this colourful mosaic depicts the late Frida Kahlo. Sadly, I couldn’t find evidence of who created her.
This gorgeous yet hidden Manchester mural is partially eclipsed by some red bins beside What the Pitta!.
Tib Street / Thomas Street
Proving the street art in Manchester is dynamic and always changing with the times, this lifelike mural of Captain Tom Moore was created by Akse in 2021.
For anyone living under a rock (with the news lately, I don’t blame ya), Captain Tom walked 100 laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS in April 2020. He ended up raising over £30 million, becoming a household name and receiving a knighthood from the Queen before passing away less than a year later.
If anyone deserves to be memorialised by a Manchester mural, it’s Captain Tom!
Don’t miss the beautiful crane mural by Qubek on the other side of the concrete block displaying the Captain Tom mural. Find it on the corner of Tib Street and Thomas Street.
Unlike some of the more serious Manchester street art telling tales of social injustice, these friendly frog murals add a pop of colour to Olivier Morosini hairdressers on Tib Street.
This groovy image of two cosmic women on Church Street is one of Manchester’s oldest murals. Created by Subism Collective in collaboration with Red Bull, it’s been in place since 2011.
Ten years is a long time for one image to withstand the elements, both natural and physical. Many murals in Manchester have been painted over or demolished with old buildings, yet this mural has stood the test of time.
For more Northern Quarter Manchester street art, find this quiet square off Oak Street. The soldier mural titled ‘War impact in children lives’ by Hyuro was created for the Cities of Hope project, blending politics and surrealist sensibility.
Next to it is a portrait of Anthony Burgess (author of a Clockwork Orange) by Manchester graffiti artist, Tankpetrol, originally from Poland.
After your visit, visit nearby Manchester Craft and Design Centre to browse work by local artists.
Symbolising the plight of NHS workers, this poignant mural by Akse is an important one for 2020 and 2021. It depicts Manchester Royal Infirmary nurse Debra Williams with a halo, symbolising all that key workers have done during the last 18 months.
Find it on the side of Sweet Mandarin restaurant on the corner of High Street and Copperas Street.
Annoyingly, someone has scribbled on her mask. Perhaps Akse will be back to tidy it up.
New in October 2021, this mural by Akse depicts the main character, Gi-hun, from Netflix sensation, Squid Game. Look closely and you’ll see he’s holding the Manchester bee.
Find this mural on Copperas Street, just a few metres from the nurse mural on High Street.
Cross Keys Street
Leave the Northern Quarter and cross the ring road to find other Manchester graffiti spots. Just behind Ramona’s pizzeria, one of the coolest restaurants in Manchester, you’ll find impressive urban art on Cross Keys Street.
A mural by Phlegm shows a whole city enclosed in a bottle. Beside it is a colourful bird mural by Mateus Bailon similar to the one on Port Street.
ZEN offices, Swan Street
German street artist, Case, created this powerful mural of a troubled-looking man to highlight mental health issues. This is another topical piece of Manchester street art created for the Cities of Hope festival, aiming to raise money for worthy causes.
Find it on the side of the ZEN offices on Swan Street.
Faulkner House, Chinatown
Despite the fact I was running for a bus in the pouring rain, I stopped in my tracks when I passed this incredible bird mural on Faulkner Street.
After doing some research, I learnt that street artist, Peachzz, spent five days painting this mural, all with a cracked rib. What a trooper! The project was two years in the making, inspired by traditional Chinese art. With Chinatown just down the road, it couldn’t be better placed.
Keep an eye on Peachzz‘s Facebook page to find more of her murals. She’s also responsible for some of the street art in Vienna, Austria.
Molly House, Gay Village
Some of the best Manchester street art outside of the Northern Quarter can be found in the Gay Village.
The most impressive mural is this enormous lineup of LGBT icons on the side of the Molly House. Further down on Richmond Street, you’ll find a mural of Drag Race UK star, Divina De Campo. Sadly, the mural was vandalised but, guess what? Akse returned to clean it up. That Manchester spirit always prevails!
Everywhere – look for bees!
Since the bee is Manchester’s emblem, of course you’ll see it represented in the street art. The worker bee symbolises not just Manchester’s industrial past, but how the city came together during the catastrophic bombing at the 2017 Ariana Grande concert.
Bonus – catch an artist in motion
I was lucky to catch Liam Bononi painting the above mural on Cavell Street and I returned a few days later to see the finished piece.
The same thing happened when I spotted Akse (at least I think it was him) working on the Squid Game mural on Copperas Street. I came back later to photograph that one, too – am I dedicated to Manchester street art or what?
Thanks for reading!
I hope this blog enhances your trip. Don’t forget to use my Manchester street art map above if you get lost!
More street art guides:
- Vienna street art guide
- Visiting Wynwood Walls art district, Miami
- Street art guide to Oaxaca, Mexico
- Melaka street art, Malaysia
- Where to find street art in Penang, Malaysia
- Ipoh self-guided street art tour
- Street art in Woodstock, Cape Town
- Where to find street art in Singapore
More Northern England blogs:
- How to spend a weekend in Manchester
- The top Manchester days out for every type of traveller
- Where to find the best coffee in Manchester
- The coolest places to eat in Manchester for 2021
- 11 cheap eats in Manchester
- How to spend a weekend in the Lake District
- The ultimate Liverpool day trip from Manchester
- Things to do in winter in Liverpool
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING THE UK
Flights (international and domestic): I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals and campers in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
Browse UK tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Pack the latest copy of Lonely Planet UK.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.