Manchester was the world’s first industrialised city and is still one of the most vibrant. It’s a place where you can see hard-earned industrial wealth sitting comfortably alongside pioneering architecture. It’s modern with a soul.
Getting your bearings
Piccadilly station is Manchester’s main rail station, with a link to the airport. The city also has a recently redeveloped coach station. The city is fairly compact, although taxis are the best option for getting from one end to the other. It’s also well serviced by trams, particularly from the central area, Piccadilly Gardens, but bus is the best way to get out to the suburbs.
WORTH A LOOK
Since the IRA bomb of 1996, the centre of Manchester has undergone massive redevelopment. The most improved area is Cathedral Square, about five minutes walking distance from Piccadilly Gardens. The most spectacular building in the square is Urbis, a wedge-shaped construction covered in glass which houses a museum for cities.
Also in the square is the old printworks building which has been redeveloped into a vast and moody entertainment complex, with bars, a cinema and restaurants. Just off the square is the wonderful, old Wellington pub, which is enchanting on the inside and much-loved during summer on the outside.
For shopping, the best place to go if you’re looking for something with an edge is King’s Street, home to a string of high-quality shops. Although more shops have also started to crop up towards Cathedral Square, King’s Street is still a good place to start. If you’re after an interesting tourist treat to take home with you, St Anne’s Square is a good option.
Named after the artist LS Lowry, who was famed for his paintings of matchstick men, this theatre and art gallery is a great place to see the Manchester panorama, which is particularly dramatic at sunset.
Imperial War Museum North
Across the water from the Lowry is the Imperial War Museum North. Designed by Daniel Libeskind (who is currently designing the replacement for the Twin Towers), the museum’s design is based on the concepts of war and conflict, with the building formed by shards representing land, sea and air -and looks extraordinary.
Britain’s first urban heritage site still offers an excellent blend of canals, brickwork and bars, the highlight of which is Barca. Also in Castlefield is the outdoor arena where, following the news that Sydney won the Olympic bid over Manchester, the watching crowd burst into Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
The Deansgate Locks are a few years old now but have replaced Castlefield or Canal Street (home of Manchester Mardi Gras) as the place to go, with a mix of different of bars.
Finish off your visit by going to Didsbury, a beautiful Manchester suburb where the tradition is to have a pint in 12 of the pubs as you stumble through the village.