For years Manchester was maligned and misunderstood by tourists. Today however, it is embracing a Cinderella-like metamorphosis. It is a city reborn. No longer just the home of Coronation Street and Manchester United, Manchester is bridging the gap between its rough and ready industrial past and a postmodern future. A newfound youthful vitality has made the city a destination worthy of rediscovery.
Imposing and slightly intimidating stone architecture reflect back to the city’s heady heyday as a manufacturing superpower and mother to the industrial revolution. Massive monolithic buildings stand in stark juxtaposition to new and cutting-edge architecture like the controversial Beetham Tower. This intriguing blend of old and new, traditional and ultra-modern have given Manchester a decidedly cosmopolitan flair.
The city has grown from its working class roots and is now fashionable and fabulous. While millions of tourists throng to London every year, Manchester is largely overlooked and as a result feels much easier to navigate and enjoy. Whatever your personal interests may be, you are sure to find Manchester will surprise and delight.
The dining and drinking scene in Manchester is simply world class. You like Indian food? Try Akbar’s or the Indian Tiffin Room. Cuban more your style? Revolución De Cuba will delight. Mexican is well represented too with El Capo attracting diners to its moody space. For the best BBQ duck head to Happy Seasons in Chinatown. If you want some tasty tapas in a homey apace, try The Molly House in Manchester’s vibrant gay village. Looking for beer? Albert’s Schloss, the Oast House, Rain Bar and Port Street Brewbar are a few of our favourite drinking holes. Weary after a big night out? Head to Home Sweet Home or the Koffee Pot for hearty home-cooked breakfasts.
Searching for a great place to stay? Look no further than The Atrium serviced apartments. Their well-appointed suites are welcoming and comfortable and are within an easy walk to literally anywhere you could want to go in the CBD.
Shopping more your style? While Manchester pales in relation to glossy London it does offer great options to fill those suitcases. The city centre offers all the usual high street brands and is also the home of bustling Arndale Mall. For inexpensive brand-name health and beauty products check out Bodycare. For film and music fans, Fopp is a must. You can spend hours strolling through the uber-hip and trendy Northern Quarter district searching out cutting edge fashion and home décor. A short bus ride from the CBD is the massive Trafford Centre. With over 280 stores, Europe’s largest food court and the UK’s busiest cinema, it could easily take a day to see it all.
Manchester also has a thriving arts and culture scene. The newly refurbished Whitworth Art Gallery, one of the most visited sights in the city, has 55,000 items in its collection. The Imperial War Museum North is a splendid, albeit sobering, museum housed in a striking building next door to the new Coronation Street studio (sorry, no tours are currently offered) and across the Manchester Ship Canal from the buzzing Media City and revitalized Salford Quays. For contemporary art, film and theatre head to the new arts centre Home on First Street. If you love live music, make Band on the Wall your first stop. In Manchester you will always find ways to keep yourself busy.
Perhaps Manchester’s greatest strength as a tourist destination lies in its accessibility to some of the UK’s most exciting destinations. Using Manchester as a base, tourists can visit the Lake District, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, North Wales, Chester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the striking countryside of Cheshire in easy day trips. The city is a transportation hub with frequent trains to pretty much anywhere, including London, just over two hours away. Within the city itself, an excellent network of buses and light rail ensure that getting around is a breeze.
Manchester is making waves. Laugh if you will, but if you don’t visit this truly terrific city on your next trip to the UK you are missing out. Make no mistake. Manchester is great.
Words: Mark Garrison