Street Art in Manchester: Self-Guided Tour

Last Updated on 13/02/2022 by secretmoona

When I visited Manchester last year, one thing I was excited about was discovering the street art scene. The cool Northern Quarter is the best place to explore the street art in Manchester. Home to countless cafes, independent shops, restaurants and bars, the neighbourhood is a great place to stroll through. 

The self-guided tour is a great way to explore Manchester’s off the beaten path. It pushes people to venture to areas where tourists wouldn’t usually visit.

Street art in Manchester - Ian Curtis by Akse

Street Art Manchester: A Walking Tour

There are plenty of guided and self-guided tours available to you. If you want to learn more background and information about the piece and artists, you might want to join a guided tour, especially a private tour. A self-guided tour is the best option for those who wish to explore independently. 

Arm yourself with the above Manchester street art map or Street Art Cities app, the 50 Windows of Creativity, a new self-guided art trail. Allow at least 2.5 hours to explore for both the guided and self-guided tours. Alternatively, join the brilliant Skyliner Street Art Tour: the modern history of the Northern Quarter tour.

The only downside of the self-guided tour is discovering that the mural you are looking for has been painted over or, best case scenario, replaced! Street art is an ephemeral art so don’t be surprised if your favourite artwork has disappeared! Having said that, most of the big murals are commissioned therefore would take not weeks, but months or years before being replaced.

Where to find street art in Manchester? Northern Quarter

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is where street art is concentrated. You will find street art everywhere: massive murals on the side of buildings, more modest ones on walls, on pavements, on wheelie bins or more subtly on the shutters of shops. The neighbourhood, located in the northern part of the city, is characterised by red bricks from its industrial past. The area has a New York vibe, and it is often used as a filming location.

Stevenson Square

Destitutus Ventis Remos Adhibe by Folie

New street art in Manchester's Northern Quarter by Folie
Destitutus Ventis Remos Adhibe in the Northern Quarter by Folie

Without a doubt, anyone visiting the Northern Quarter will see Stevenson Square. This place is filled with great public art, which changes from time to time. The disused public toilet in the middle of the square is the artist’s canvas. 

Destitutus Ventis Remos Adhibe by Folie shows a hand reaching for the sun between the clouds. The black and white artwork replaced the portrait of George Floyd by Akse (I was expected to see that, actually!) Some of Akse’s notable works are often displayed here. 

Tariff Street

Mural by C215

Street art in Manchester - C215 for Cities of Hope festival
C215 for Cities of Hope festival

I was excited to see the impressive smoking man by C215. Still, I felt a little disappointed as it was covered by scaffolding during my visit. I mean, why hide such a fantastic piece of art?! The artist created the mural for the 2016 festival “Cities of Hope“. The festival organisers matched each artist to a local organisation to create a mural and raise awareness. C215’s social justice issue was homelessness.

Porky Pig – Looney Tunes by Captain Kris

Street art in Manchester - Looney Tunes graffiti trail
Looney Tunes graffiti trail by Captain Kris

This artwork was created by Captain Kris in partnership with Warner Bros and features 12 characters in 12 locations. This work shows Porky Pig popping a pipe at Pen and Pencil. QR codes are hidden within the artwork to make the trail fun, revealing a virtual map allowing people to find the other Looney Tunes characters.

Make Do Mend by Nomad Clan

Make Do Mend by Street artist Nomad Clan
Make Do Mend by Nomad Clan

This mural in Tariff Street / Port Street corner depicts a set of hands painted between two buildings. The work references Manchester’s industrial past. 

Port Street

Ian Curtis by Akse

Ian Curtis from Joy Division by AkseP19
Ian Curtis from Joy Division by AkseP19

Heading towards Ancoats, you’ll find one of the most impressive murals I have ever seen. The details are just perfect, and you can see the sheer talent of the artist by comparing the photo he took inspiration from and the actual artwork. Just Google it! 

The portrait is of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, who took his own life at a young age. The mural by AkseP19 marked World Mental Health Day and aimed to raise awareness and encourage people to seek help. 

Faraday Street

10 Birds by Mateus Bailon

This piece inspired by nature and animals shows the importance of nature. Colourful and well-detailed birds and green leaves in a black background take up the entire side. You will find it near Faraday Street in Ancoats, a neighbouring area in Manchester.  

Copperas Street

Stranger Things – Eleven by Akse

Eleven from Stranger Things outside Sweet Mandarin
Eleven from Stranger Things outside Sweet Mandarin – AkseP19

This giant mural of Eleven from Netflix’s Stranger Things is located on Copperas Street outside the Chinese restaurant Sweet Mandarin. Again, this is another example of Akse’s talent.

Black Turner Street

Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance by Nomad Clan

Respect my Existence by Nomad Clan
Respect my Existence by Nomad Clan

This piece of art was commissioned for Dr Martens. Sadly it was partially obstructed by wheelie bins.

Little Lever Street

Enigma by Akse

Nomad - Akse’s portrait of Ste Wing - Street Art Manchester
Akse’s portrait of Ste Wing

Akse’s contribution to the 50 Windows of Creativity trail is an impressive mural of the portrait of local creative mogul Ste Wing. As the creative director of creative agency Visionarism, he mentors young people. He is a great advocate for mental health issues.

Tib Street

Captain Tom Moore by Akse

Akse's tribute to Captain Tom Moore - Street art in Manchester
Akse’s tribute to Captain Tom Moore

Akse created the mural of Sir Captain Tom Moore. Captain Tom became known for raising money for charity for his 100th birthday. He walked 100 laps of his garden during the coronavirus pandemic. He raised £32m and received a knighthood before passing away.

Swan Street / Cable Street

Swan/Zen Buildings by Case

Swan Buildings mural by Case
Swan Buildings by Case

This colossal mural depicts a troubled-looking man holding a metal bar to highlight mental health issues and disability. It was created for the 2016 Cities of Hope festival to raise money and awareness for various causes.

Thomas Street

Mural by Otto Shade

I found these striking murals by chance. The mural representing colourful rhinos, tigers, chameleons and snakes stand out on the black wall. The art is located on the side of the Landmark building, down the side of Wolf at the Door.

Gun Street/Blossom Street

Mural from Qubek – Manchester Creative Studio

Manchester Creative Studio Mural by Qubek - Manchester street art
Manchester Creative Studio Mural by Qubek

Work from the Cities of Hope festival representing Manchester’s Bee. As the emblem of Manchester (it symbolises the city’s industrial past), you’ll find bees represented a lot. Another mural from Qubek depicts 22 bees representing the people who lost their lives during the bombing at Arian Grande’s 2017 concert.

High Street

NHS Nurse by Akse

NHS Hero by Akse - street art Manchester
NHS Hero by Akse

As NHS frontline staff were working hard against the Covid 19 pandemic, Akse painted the portrait of Debra Williams, a nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary. The mural was a thank you to all healthcare staff. The nurse is shown in scrubs with a mask and a halo hanging over her head. You can find this piece on the side of Sweet Mandarin restaurant on the corner of High Street and Copperas Street.

Other notable street art

Here are some other murals I stumbled upon…

Top street artists in Manchester

  • Akse – One of Manchester’s top street artists, Akse has been on the scene since 1992. The French-Vietnamese has made Manchester and the Northern Quarter his home since 1997. He is known for portraying people including Davie Bowies, Sir Captain Tom Moore, Marcus Rashford and George Floyd.  
  • Captain Kris – A London-based New Zealander, is a street artist and illustrator. Comics and cartoons dominate his artworks. 
  • Case – Case Maclaim, also known as Andres von Chrzanowski, is a German artist who explores movement through art. Most of his creations are hands.
  • Nomad Clan is a Manchester-based female street artists named Cbloxx and AYLO. The main focus of the work is to celebrate local history while touching on socioeconomic issues proudly. 
  • C215 – Christian Guémy, the Paris-based French stencil artist, creates portraits of celebrities and random people he meets. 
  • Qubek – Manchester-based graffiti artist and muralist. You can find his work right across the city. Most of the city’s bee murals are from him.
  • Mateus Bailon – the London-based Brazilian artist, features the natural world, primarily birds and fish. inspired by the connection between humans and nature, this Brazilian artist is known for his colourful bird murals.
  • Lei-Mai LeMaow is an artist and designer from Liverpool, living in Manchester. With a background in graffiti and streetwear and a love for lettering and illustration, her work is an unapologetic mixture of modern styles and traditional techniques.

Interested in Street Art? Read my other guides

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

12 thoughts on “Street Art in Manchester: Self-Guided Tour

  1. A self guided tour is such a great way to discover a new place & I love the idea of looking for street art! Thanks so much for sharing this guide to Manchester!

  2. I love street art. I did not realize Manchester had so much street art. I will definitely be adding Manchester to my bucket list after this blog post.

  3. How cool is this?! I honestly didn’t realise Manchester had so much incredible street art. I will definitely keep these spots on my radar for when I finally visit.

  4. I’m obsessed with street art and I especially love when an entire town embraces it and you can do these self guided walking tours. Such a fabulous post. Definitely saved this for later reference and will be on the look out for all the art mentioned.

  5. This is such a fun post! I love looking for murals while I am on vacation. I was so impressed by the detail in the Ian Curtis by Akse mural. Wow! I also loved the mural of Eleven from Stranger Things because I’m a big fan of the show. Thanks for sharing this guide!

    1. Thank you. Akse is so talented, I mean all the artists are, but the Ian Curtis is my favourite. It’s unbelievable how detailed it is. A masterpiece if you ask me!

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