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The Essential Guide to Chetham Library

The Essential Guide to Chetham Library

For book lovers, Manchester is the place that is enamoured with dozens of libraries every avid reader can be excited about. While most would point to the John Rylands Library, people often overlook the Chetham Library, which in our opinion, is just as good.

On your next trip, don’t forget to include this spot in your itinerary. To help you plan your visit, we’ll go deeper into its age-old rooms and dusty shelves, unveiling what Chetham Library has to offer. Read on!

Things to Know

Currency: Euro
(Check the current exchange rate)

Language: UK English

Calling Code: +44

Address: Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB, United Kingdom

Contact Details: +441618347961


Opening Hours: Weekdays only 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM

Chetham’s Library is renowned as the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world. 

Yes, entry to Chetham’s Library is completely free of charge! All you have to do is visit the library during the opening hours and enjoy the luxury of thousands of books at your disposal.

Established in 1653 through the will of the affluent merchant Humphrey Chetham, the library functions as an independent charity. It is part of the larger Chetham’s Hospital complex, which also encompasses Chetham’s School of Music.

The library’s holdings are impressively extensive, featuring over 100,000 printed volumes, including 60,000 that were published prior to 1851. Additionally, it is home to a valuable collection of manuscripts, among which are 41 mediaeval texts. 

It has also earned multiple accreditations, and its collections are recognized for their national and international significance.

Adding to its historical allure, Chetham’s Library was the rendezvous point for Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the summer of 1845. The research they undertook at this venue was instrumental in shaping their groundbreaking work, ‘The Communist Manifesto’.

Best Time to Go

Generally, the best time to visit Chetham’s Library is during the morning. This is because only a few people are in for the most part which means that you have mostly the place to yourself. 

All Chetham Library visitors will need to schedule their visit in advance due to the shared site with Chetham’s School of Music. Library Tours can be booked and purchased online or by telephone.

The best way to see Chetham’s Library is by booking a guided tour, which is led by knowledgeable volunteers. Since the library shares its location with Chetham’s School of Music, tours are only available on weekdays and require advance booking.

These tours provide invaluable insights into the library’s history and unique features. One of the tours that stood out was an 11 a.m. session, which not only covered the basics but extended beyond an hour, offering a comprehensive and informative experience.

How to Get There

By Train: If you’re taking the train, the nearest station to Chetham’s Library is Victoria Station. From there, it’s a quick 3-minute walk to the library. 

After exiting Victoria Station, head southwest toward Long Millgate. Make a right turn onto Long Millgate, and you’ll soon find Chetham’s Library welcoming you on your left side.

By Bus: For those opting for bus service, the closest stops are either Victoria Station or Exchange Square. Both are within a 3-4 minute walking distance to the library. 

If you disembark at Victoria Station, you can follow the same walking directions as mentioned for train travellers. 

Alternatively, if you get off at Exchange Square, start by heading northwest on Corporation St toward Withy Grove. Then, make a left onto Long Millgate, and you’ll find the library shortly thereafter.

By Taxi: Taking a taxi offers a convenient drop-off right near the main entrance of Chetham’s Library on Long Millgate. You can simply instruct the driver to take you to this historic location. Given its prominence, most local taxi drivers are familiar with how to get there.

By Car Service: If you’re planning to use a car service, popular apps like Uber and Lyft are readily available in Manchester and can take you directly to Chetham’s Library.

By car: If you’re driving to Chetham’s Library, you can get discounted parking onsite. Specifically, you can get a 30% discount with APCOA Printworks car parking if you book in advance via their website. 

Another nearby parking option is Q-Park Deansgate North, which is a five-minute walk from The Stoller Hall. While the library no longer offers discounted parking vouchers for this car park, other public parking managed by Manchester City Council is within easy reach.

Things to Do

Guided tours take around one hour, and it’s advised that all visitors review the Visiting Information prior to booking tickets. Late arrivals, 15 minutes or more after the tour has started, will not be admitted. 

One of the most enriching ways to experience Chetham’s Library is through a guided tour. These tours are packed with historical facts and fascinating stories. 

You’ll get to see the gated book presses with thousands of books dating from as early as the 16th century, historic furniture and paintings, and even a remarkable chained library. The tours are led by expert volunteers who bring the library’s history to life.

Pro tip: Plan your visit around special events for a unique experience

Chetham’s Library occasionally hosts special events, talks, and exhibitions. Keep an eye on their calendar and plan your visit accordingly. These events offer a unique opportunity to delve deeper into specific topics and engage with experts in the field.

If you’re interested in political history, don’t miss the desk where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels conducted their research in the summer of 1845. This is more than just a piece of furniture; it’s a landmark in the history of political thought.

Neat Tidbit: Explore the library’s special collections for a deeper understanding

The library has special collections that you can explore by arranging a visit in advance. These collections include: 

The Halliwell-Phillipps collection, 

The W.R. Hay portfolio collection

Digitised ballads in the Axon, Holt, and Halliwell Phillips collections 

Each of these collections offers a unique perspective on history, literature, and music.

For a lighter moment, keep an eye out for the mediaeval cat flaps. Yes, you read that right! These unique features add a whimsical touch to the library’s otherwise serious atmosphere.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that photography is allowed in Chetham Library. However, you’ll need to wait for your guide to arrive and explain the safeguarding procedures. 

Flash photography is discouraged, and sound effects on cameras should be turned off to maintain a respectful atmosphere.

You can study inside Chetham’s Library, having access to thousands of books from historical texts and fictional archives. There are a dozen seats that are wonderful for long hours of studying or reading. 

Of course, let’s not forget the primary purpose of any library: reading and research. With a collection boasting over 100,000 volumes, including 60,000 published before 1851, the library is a treasure trove for avid readers and researchers. 

However, given the library’s historical significance, you might find yourself reading less and marvelling more at the ancient texts and manuscripts.

Joke of the Day: Become a Librarian for a Day

Well, not really, but given the library’s rich history and extensive collection, you might feel inspired to take up a new career path!

How to Have an Efficient Time at Chetham Library 

While the library’s primary focus is on its guided tours, it also offers seating in various areas during these tours. 

If you’re planning to study (why study in Manchester), it’s advisable to arrive early to secure a comfortable spot. The library’s historic architecture and unique features provide a serene backdrop that can make your study session quite inspiring.

The library is located in a 600-year-old building with uneven flooring and a flight of eighteen steps. 

While seating is provided in all areas during tours, the library unfortunately has no lift and no disabled toilet facilities. If you or someone in your group has mobility issues, be sure to plan your visit accordingly.

If you require further details or assistance, especially regarding accessibility, it’s a good idea to contact the library in advance. They can provide you with the information you need to make your visit as enjoyable as possible.

Since there’s no shelter outside the library gates and you’ll need to wait there for your guide, make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Whether it’s sunny, rainy, or cold, being prepared will make your wait more comfortable.

If you’ve booked your visit online, keep an eye on your pre-event emails. These often contain discount codes for parking, which can make your visit more cost-effective.

Where to Eat 

Address: Unit 10 Exchange Sq, Manchester M4 3TR, United Kingdom

Contact Details: +441618348961


Operating Hours: Monday to Thursday 12 to 9:30 PM; Friday to Saturday 12 to 10 PM; Sunday 12 to 9 PM

Located just a short walk from Chetham’s Library, Delhi House Cafe offers a modern twist on traditional Indian cuisine. 

This restaurant is perfect for those looking to spice up their life. The atmosphere is contemporary, and the menu features a range of Indian and Asian dishes that are sure to tantalise your taste buds.

Address: The Corn Exchange 11 Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3TR, United Kingdom

Contact Details: 


Operating Hours: Sunday to Wednesday 12 to 10 PM; Thursday to Saturday 12 to 11 PM

Also nearby is Riva Blu, an Italian restaurant that has garnered a lot of love and attention for its delectable fare. 

The ambiance is cosy and inviting, making it a great spot for a romantic dinner or a hearty meal with friends. The menu is filled with Italian classics, from pasta to seafood, all prepared with a modern twist.

Address: 6 Todd St, Manchester M3 1WU, United Kingdom

Contact Details: +441613597498


Operating Hours: Daily 6 to 10 PM 

For those interested in British cuisine, Mamucium Restaurant & Bar is a must-visit. The restaurant offers a beautiful interior and a menu that celebrates the best of British cooking. 

Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional roast or something more contemporary, Mamucium has you covered.

Address: Exchange St, Manchester M4 3TR, United Kingdom

Contact Details: +441618348312


Operating Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:30 AM to 10 PM; Friday to Saturday 11:30 AM to 10:30 PM; Sunday 12 to 9:30 PM

If you’re craving German food, Doner Haus is the place to be. This restaurant offers a range of German dishes, including vegan options. The atmosphere is casual, making it a great spot for a quick meal or a laid-back dinner with friends.

Address: The Printworks, Manchester M4 2BS, United Kingdom

Contact Details: +441618301560


Operating Hours: Sunday to Thursday 12 to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday 12 to 11 PM

For those who love Mexican cuisine, Chiquito is a restaurant located near Chetham’s Library that’s both affordable and delicious! 

The restaurant offers a cheerful experience with a menu that includes everything from tacos to enchiladas, and the vibrant atmosphere makes it a great place for a fun meal with family or friends.

Where to Shop


Located near Chetham’s Library, Harvey Nichols offers an amazing shopping experience that caters to luxury seekers. The store features high-end brands and designer collections, making it a go-to destination for fashion aficionados.

In addition to its high-end retail offerings, Harvey Nichols also features a beauty department where you can indulge in some pampering!


Selfridges is another shopping destination near the library. The store offers a wide range of products, from fashion to home goods, and provides a shopping experience that is both luxurious and enjoyable.

If you come famished, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s also a hub for food lovers. The Food Hall offers a variety of gourmet options, from artisanal cheeses to freshly baked pastries, providing a delightful break during your shopping spree.


The Arndale Centre is a shopping mall that offers a variety of retail stores, from high-street brands to independent boutiques. The atmosphere is bustling, making it a great place for a shopping spree.

Moreover, it also features a health and beauty section where you can find everything from cosmetics to wellness products. It’s the perfect place to pick up some self-care items after a long day of shopping.


For those who prefer a more eclectic shopping experience, Afflecks is an emporium that offers a range of independent shops. From vintage clothing to handmade crafts, this is the place to find unique items.

Afflecks is also home to several tattoo and piercing shops, adding a rebellious edge to your shopping experience. If you’re looking to make a more permanent memory of your trip to Manchester, this could be the place to do it.


King Street is known for its luxury retail stores and popularity among shopaholics (even those who aren’t, quite frankly). The street offers a more relaxed shopping experience and is home to several designer boutiques and high-end brands.

It’s not just about shopping; it’s also a historical landmark. As you stroll down the street, you’ll find several plaques and statues that tell the story of Manchester, adding a cultural element to your shopping experience.

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