St. Peter's Square
Head to St. Peter’s Square to admire the interesting architecture of heritage-listed buildings, have a drink, join a small-scale event or sit down for some people-watching. As the site of a political protest which ended in tragedy, and home to a cenotaph remembering those who lost their lives in World War I, St. Peter’s Square can also be a sobering experience.
It was at this site, on August 16, 1819, that cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 people gathered for a peaceful protest for political reforms. Hundreds were injured and 11 killed. The “Peterloo Massacre” sent shockwaves through the country and is still a big part of Manchester’s identity. A plaque on what is now a large hotel commemorates the incident and a bigger, contemporary memorial was designed in 2013.
See the iconic circular Manchester Central Library at the square’s west end. This impressive building, and much of the square itself, is undergoing extensive refurbishment, so check the City Council website for accessibility information prior to your visit. As at mid 2013, the Peace Garden and the Messenger of Peace sculpture still feature on the square.
The other big landmark on St. Peter’s Square is the Midland Hotel, one of Manchester’s grandest hotels. Admire its splendid Edwardian Baroque-style architecture from 1903 or enjoy fine dining in one of its restaurants. Make sure you’re dressed for the occasion; The Beatles were once famously refused access because of their “inappropriate attire”! German dictator Adolf Hitler is believed to have considered the hotel his Nazi headquarters for Britain and many believe this is why this area was spared from German bombings during World War II.
St. Peter’s Square is pedestrian friendly. If you come by car, find an undercover car park by looking for the big NCP (National Car Park) signs as you approach the square. Street parking is notoriously difficult and expensive in the city center, so walk, take public transport, or catch a taxi if you can. The square has its own Metrolink tram station and is on many bus routes.