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Manchester

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Manchester Town HallManchester Town Hall
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Manchester Town Hall

Manchester is the largest city in the North of England. It lies at the centre of Greater Manchester, which has a population of over 2.5 million, and frequently contests the title of UK's second city with Birmingham.

Manchester is world-renowned for its influence on the histories of industry and music, and for its sporting connections. It is known as one of the most gay-friendly and multicultural cities in Europe, and boasts the largest campus university in Britain.

In addition to Manchester, Greater Manchester contains the boroughs of Salford, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham and Tameside which are also discussed under the subject of 'Manchester', as well as BoltonBolton, BuryBury, RochdaleRochdale and WiganWigan. It is administered independently, but parts of it are often considered to be in their former counties, Lancashire and Cheshire.

manchester Travel Guide :

Manchester

Districts

  • South Manchester — Rusholme, Moss Side, Withington, Didsbury
  • The Quays — Ship Canal, Salford Quays, Trafford Wharf, Old Trafford
Manchester

Understand

Manchester

City information

Manchester is located in the centre of the Northwest of England, about equidistant from Liverpool and Leeds. Due to its proximity to the PenninesPennines, it receives more than its fair share of wet weather. Make sure you have an umbrella if you're visiting Manchester, even in the summer!

Manchester used to have a reputation for being a dirty and boring city, but things have dramatically changed in the last decade and it is now a pleasant, open, clean and exciting place, and well worth a visit, even if just for a day.

The adjective associated with Manchester is Mancunian or simply Manc.

  • Manchester Visitor Information Centre, Town Hall Extension, St. Peter's Square, +44 (0) 871 222 8223 (email: touristinformation@marketing-manchester.co.uk,; fax: +44 (0) 161 236 9900") 1 (http://www.visitmanchester.com) M-F 10AM-5.15PM (recorded information available by phone outside these times). The Visitor Centre has up-to-date lists of places to eat and sleep.
Manchester

History

Manchester was the site of the Roman Fort Mamucium (breast-shaped) in AD 79 but a town was not built until the 13th Century. A priests' college and church (now Chetham's school & library and the Cathedral) were established in Manchester in 1421. It was not until the start of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries that this small Medieval town would build its fortune.

The wet climate and presence of an existing cloth trade, coupled with the mechanisation of industry being invented in nearby BoltonBolton created a thriving cotton industry in Manchester and in Trafford, which became the first industrial estate in the world. Manchester's success during the Victorian era and before is evident everywhere you look. Grandiose neo-Gothic buildings line the old financial district around King Street, and public institutions such as the University and the many libraries are dotted around everywhere. There is even a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Square (Brazennose Street, straight across Albert Square from the Town Hall main entrance) commemorating his personal thanks for Manchester's support during a cotton crisis created by the American Civil War.

Manchester was instrumental in the establishment of socialism in the UK, and was the birthplace of the Trades Union Congress which led to the creation of the Labour Party. It was also home to a number of philanthropists of the industrial age such as John Owens and John Dalton, who bequeathed large parts of their fortunes to improving the city.

In more recent times Manchester has been famous for its influence on the world music scene. The Madchester movement of the early 1980s, started by Factory Records and Joy Division led to the creation of the Haçienda nightclub (now unfortunately demolished after standing empty for many years) and the birth of modern club culture. Manchester has given life to many hugely successful musicians, among them The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, James and Badly Drawn Boy.

In 1996 Manchester's city centre was rocked by a huge IRA bomb blast. Although preliminary intelligence managed to clear people from the scene enough for there to be no fatalities, the very heart of the city was ripped to shreds. A huge amount of money and effort was put into regenerating the blasted region of the centre, redubbed the Millennium Quarter. The area has renewed interest in the centre and contains the entertainment and shopping heart of the city.

Manchester

Student life

Manchester is home to two of the largest universities in the UK, University of Manchester (formerly Victoria University and UMIST) and Manchester Metropolitan University (aka 'Man Met'). There is also a university in Salford and the Royal Northern College of Music is housed in the city. Together they create a body of over 65 thousand students living full-time in the city.

Manchester is often compared with Sheffield when competing for 'best student city' titles. It is very welcoming to the student lifestyle and many establishments in the centre and South Manchester are geared towards students; eating and drinking in Manchester can be very inexpensive due to the high competition that goes on between these establishments.

However, if you don't like hanging around with students, there are many places which are not frequented by students, although you may have to be prepared to pay a little extra. Also, because of the high numbers of students, some places have a strictly over-21s only policy, so it would do to take identification with you when you go out if you look like you might be under 21.

Manchester

Sporting

Manchester is famous all over Europe thanks to its two world-class football clubs, Manchester United (Old Trafford) and Manchester City (City of Manchester Stadium, Sportcity). In 2005 a new club was formed by disenfranchised Manchester United supporters opposed to the takeover of United by Malcolm Glazer, and the state of modern football in general. FC United of Manchester play their home games at Gigg Lane, Bury.

Old Trafford is also home to the Lancashire Country Cricket Club.

In 2002 Manchester was the host to the Commonwealth Games, and a large area of East Manchester was converted into a new Sportcity, the centrepiece of which is the new athletics and football stadium.

Manchester

Cosmopolitan

Manchester is a very mixed city. Many races and religions have communities in the city, and it has a long history of being more tolerant than most cities to people of any background. Bear in mind, however, that it's not very used to tourists so you might get the occasional funny look if you're dressed in a backpack and trying to read this guide in a loud voice.

Manchester is also very gay-friendly. The Village is an area concentrated around Canal Street and is very popular with people of all sexualities. It is also home to an annual Pride festival and Mardi Gras. Thanks to its high homosexual population, most Mancunians have grown up with gay people and homophobia is rare but not unheard-of in the centre.

Manchester

Get in

Manchester

By plane

Manchester International Airport 2 (http://www.manchesterairport.co.uk/) in the South of the city is the largest airport in the UK outside of London. Nearly 100 operators fly to and from hundreds of locations worldwide, including most major cities in Europe.

Direct trains run from the airport station (reached by Skyway, between terminals 1 and 2) to Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations about every 20 minutes and cost about £3. Taxis are available from outside each terminal, costing about £15 and taking about 30-45 minutes.

  • Jet2 3 (http://www.jet2.com/) is a discount operator that flies between Manchester and a number of popular European cities.

John Lennon Airport 4 (http://www.liverpooljohnlennonairport.com/) in Liverpool is served by budget carriers Easyjet 5 (http://www.easyjet.com/) and Ryanair 6 (http://www.ryanair.com/) and is also conveniently located for access to Manchester. A coach service runs connecting the airport to Manchester's central coach station and takes about 45 minutes. Some airlines will provide this service for free.

Manchester

By train

Manchester city centre is served by two major railway stations, Victoria in the north and Piccadilly in the south. These stations are well-connected with the rest of the UK. Fares vary dramatically depending on time of day and rail operator.

Other stations close to the centre are Deansgate/G-Mex, Oxford Road and Salford Central but generally only local services will stop at these stations.

Connections from London run from Euston to Piccadilly on the Virgin Voyager service, which can take between 2 and 3 hours, depending on whether Virgin is running its flagship Pendolino train which does not need to slow down when going round corners. The Voyager is a very expensive service, but dramatically cheaper fares are available online 7 (http://www.virgintrainsfares.co.uk/Virgin_Value_Retailing/vv_home_page.asp) if you book well enough in advance (at least 14 days is advisable).

Manchester

By car

The outer ring road of the Manchester conurbation is the M60. It is accessible from Leeds or Liverpool by the M62, and from Scotland and the South by the M6 (followed by M61 and M56 from the North or South respectively).

Bear in mind that parking in the city centre of Manchester can be very expensive (£10-20 per day). Avoid the multi-storey car parks if you can and look for some open-air car parks just outside the centre, such as in Castlefield or on Bridge Street in Salford. Ladywell Park & Ride is situated near Eccles (M602, Junction 2); the car park is free and there is a tram station. Similarly, parking at the Trafford Centre (M60, junctions 9 and 10) is free and there are buses to the centre and Stretford tram station.

Manchester

By bus

Chorlton Street Coach Station is the central coach station in Manchester, located close to the centre, between Chinatown and The Village. Coaches run from all over the country and are generally the most reasonably-priced way to get into Manchester. London to Manchester on the coach can take about 4 hours, but it depends on the time of day and number of stops.

  • National Express 8 (http://www.nationalexpress.com/) is a comfortable and frequent service which runs 24 hours a day from some cities, including London.
  • Stagecoach Megabus 9 (http://www.megabus.com/) is less comfortable but can be very cheap (some cities have buses to Manchester for as little as £1). You must book in advance over the web.
Manchester

Get around

Transport in Greater Manchester is overseen and co-ordinated by the GMPTE (Information: 0870 608 2 608) 10 (http://www.gmpte.com/). GMPTE sells a number of tickets which are valid for multiple operators, such as the any bus day ticket or the Wayfarer. If you are planning to do a lot of travelling in one day, these might be your cheapest option.

Manchester

Maps

Dotted around the city centre in all the places you wouldn't look for them are the pedestrian-level street maps. They are usually placed in normal advertising hoardings, which makes them all the more difficult to spot. From a distance the map looks like a light-brown horse's head on a blue background.

Once found, the elusive maps are very handy for navigating all regions of the centre, even as far south as the universities. Your position is marked by a blue circle.

Manchester

Bus

Most of the buses in Greater Manchester are operated by First 11 (http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/northwest/manchester/home/index.php) or Stagecoach 12 (http://www.stagecoachbus.com/manchester/) and serve most places you are likely to want to go in the conurbation. The main bus station for the south is Piccadilly Gardens and a new state-of-the-art £24million Interchange has been built at Shudehill for the north, though will not be opened until January 2006, with buses in the meantime serving streets around the Victoria Train Station and a temporary bus station named Exchange.

Metroshuttle 13 (http://www.gmpte.com/content.cfm?subcategory_id=370432) is a free minibus run jointly by the local council and First. It runs three lines that bewtween them cover most of the major areas in the city centre as well as all the stations and many of the larger car parks.

The number 250 bus 14 (http://www.gmpte.com/travel-pics/routemaps/250_90_91_25083.pdf) goes from Piccadilly Gardens to the Trafford Centre and is much more reasonably-priced and convenient than the tram.

The South Manchester corridor that begins with Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road is the most-served bus route in Europe. Buses connect the centre with the universities and Rusholme as often as every 1 minute. The general rule on this street is to get on any bus that is not operated by Stagecoach, and your fare is likely to be under £1. Some buses have a student fare, which they will charge you if you look like a student, regardless of whether you ask for it or not.

Manchester

Metrolink

Map of the Metrolink networkMap of the Metrolink network
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Map of the Metrolink network

Metrolink 15 (http://www.metrolink.co.uk/), also known as the tram, is the name for Manchester's troubled local mass-transit system.

Currently, Metrolink runs two lines, AltrinchamAltrincham-BuryBury (every 6 minutes at peak times, every 12 off-peak, at peak times trams either terminate at Piccadilly or do not stop at Piccadilly Gardens or Piccadilly at all) and Piccadilly-EcclesEccles (every 12 minutes at peak times, every 15 off-peak). A small part of the city centre from Piccadilly to Cornbrook is shared between the two lines. There are plans to extend the system to 5 lines, with the three new destinations at Oldham/RochdaleRochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne/Tameside and the airport, but these have been hit by major setbacks, including the withdrawal of several million pounds pledged by the government.

In part due to its financial difficulties, Metrolink is quite expensive to travel on. If you are going to be using it for more than one journey in a day, your best bet is to buy a Metromax ticket. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the automated vending machines at each station. Press the required destination followed by the required ticket type and then insert your money - most machines accept notes. Change is not guaranteed over £7 at any machines, or at all at some machines with the appropriate warning lamp.

The following stations might be useful to you:

  • Piccadilly and Victoria - the city's two main rail stations are joined only by tram.
  • Altrincham - the end of the line is the interchange for buses and trains in Cheshire.
  • Harbour City - closest station at Salford Quays to the Lowry and Imperial War Museum North.
  • Heaton Park - alight here for Manchester's chief parkland.
  • Ladywell - large free car park for Park & Ride service to Salford Quays and the city.
  • Old Trafford - for Manchester United and the cricket ground.
  • Stretford - change here for a connecting bus to the Trafford Centre. Joint tickets are available from the usual machines.
Manchester

Taxi

Taxis are considerably cheaper than in London. As a general rule, you should be able to get anywhere you need to go within the city for £5-10. You may only flag down the black cabs (London-style Hackney carriages) - other taxis must be booked in advance over the phone, and are marked with the yellow Manchester City Council sign on the bonnet, and the firm's phone number (again on a yellow strip) on the sides.

You may find it difficult to get a black cab after the pubs shut on Friday and Saturday nights in the city centre, so it serves to have a back-up plan for getting back to your accommodation. The black cabs with the amber "TAXI" sign illuminated are the ones that are looking for fares.

Manchester

Train

Local rail services run regularly, and to most places in the surrounding area and beyond. Most trains will pass through Piccadilly or Victoria, but it will do to call National Rail Enquiries (08457 48 49 50) 16 (http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/planmyjourney/) to find out which one before setting off.

Manchester

See

  • Chinese Arch on Faulkner Street. Manchester boasts the second-biggest Chinatown in Europe, and around the glorious arch are supermarkets, restaurants, and a visitor museum.
  • Manchester Museum. http://museum.man.ac.uk/ (free admission) Good collections of Egyptian mummies and some fine Victorian exhibits. These include a collection of stuffed apes in best "aggressive wild beast" poses, which can't be changed to reflect more modern sensibilities because of the historical importance of the exhibit.
  • Museum of Science and Industry. http://www.msim.org.uk/ (free admission). This is a great museum for those interested in our (global) industrial heritage: sited at one end of the world's first passenger railway line, the working cotton weaving machines are particularly worth experiencing. Regular demonstrations of their operation are worth catching, since it drives home just how awful conditions were. There is also the opportunity to explore the city's former sewers (now fully cleaned !) to get an idea of the living (and dying) conditions of Manchester's cotton workers.
  • People's History Museum. http://www.peopleshistorymuseum.org.uk (free admission) This museum aims to document the way that the lives of ordinary people have developed since the industrial revolution. Contains sections on trade unionism, factory working conditions, and working-class leisure; also has a large collection of banners from unions and political organisations from around the UK. Well worth a visit in its own right, it also works well as a complement to the nearby Museum of Science and Industry (though the two are run separately), giving the 'view from below'.
  • Imperial War Museum. http://www.iwm.org.uk/north/ (free admission) The Imperial War Museum in London contains tanks, guns, 'planes and uniforms to delight all comers: The Northern experience is full of videos of old people talking about rationing. The building itself however is visually very striking, so combine it with a trip to the Lowry for a feel of modern architecture.
  • The Lowry. http://www.thelowry.com/ This is a an art gallery and very modern theatre. The gallery contains an impressive selection of works including, unsuprisingly, a large selection of works by L.S. Lowry. The building is very modern: it's designed to encourage exploration, according to the architect, so he made the building widen and deepen from the entrance and refused to have any signs for the toilets! It's also in Salford, but don't let that worry you: use the tram, about fifteen minutes out from the city centre.
  • Manchester Art Gallery. http://www.manchestergalleries.org/html/mag/mag_home.jsp (free admission) The main attraction is the collection of pre-Raphaelites from Waterhouse and Alma-Tadema, but a changing display area and modern art of the city are represented too.
  • Whitworth Gallery. http://www.whitworth.man.ac.uk/ (free admission) Combines more modern art than the Manchester Art Gallery with some displays of costume and textiles.
  • Urbis - museum of city life. http://www.urbis.org.uk (free admission, except for temporary exhibitions) Great building, all modern sweeping glass, dull contents, all worthy audio-visual displays and "Whither the city? Listen to some recordings of homeless people!". However, its now free, so take the lift up to the top for the view: it's just round the corner from the cathedral.
  • Royal Exchange http://www.royalexchange.co.uk/ The Royal Exchange was the commercial heart of Manchester, and at one time the largest commercial room in the world. A beautiful classical building, it fell into disuse in the 1970s, only to be rescued in the 1970s by the restoration of the building and the addition of a ultra-modern theatre in the round in the centre of the main trading hall, squatting like an alien invader. Pop in during the day for a coffee or a drink: it's in the centre of the posh shopping area. You can admire the trading board, which still shows the prices of goods in Liverpool on the last day of trading.
  • John Rylands Library on Deansgate http://rylibweb.man.ac.uk/spcoll/guide/ is a fantastic building. Built in the first years of the 20th century in a high neo-Gothic Victorian style, its ridiculously medieval style hides innovative technology like heating and air conditioning. Secular saints like Shakespeare stare down on readers and visitors in the beautiful main reading room. It is currently closed for major restoration work, but is due to reopen in 2006.
  • Gay Village Based around Canal Street, this area of converted cotton warehouse flats, bars, and clubs, is host to a vibrant and exciting gay community. Some establishments welcome all orientations, some are more exclusive, but the general attitude is tolerant of all orientations, and there are some great places to eat and drink.
  • Chethams Library. http://www.chethams.org.uk/
  • SportCity. SportCity in the east of Manchester was the site of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. As well as the stadium (now home to Manchester City) there are numerous sporting facilities, including the National Cycling Centre and the National Squash Centre as well as an athletics arena. These are open to members of the public.
Manchester

Buy

  • Merchandise from the football club Manchester United is popular with some tourists. There is a dedicated shop, which Tourist Information in the Town Hall can no doubt direct you towards.
  • Manchester City football club also has its own retail outlet. This is a dedicated shop beside the stadium, which Tourist Information in the Town Hall can no doubt direct you towards.
  • The Arndale Centre is a the largest city-centre shopping centre in Europe, with 280 stores, including the largest Next store in the UK.
  • The area around the Cathedral is now very smart and good for shopping. There's the Triangle an upmarket shopping centre based in the beautiful old Corn Exchange, worth a visit for the building: Selfridges and Harvey Nichols opposite the Triangle offer luxury fashions and produce to Manchester's rich and famous, with the old Kendals department store nearby. The centre of this shopping area has traditionally been St. Anne's Square.
  • The Trafford Centre is a huge out-of-town shopping centre only accessible by car or lengthy bus journey. If you want the kind of shopping you get out here, you would be better served in London.
  • Afflecks Palace near the Arndale Centre is a shopping arcade in a five storey Victorian building, featuring a range of 50+ independent stalls catering to a young alternative crowd. It's lots of fun: strange costumes, lots of goths and punks and hordes of teenagers.
Manchester

Drink

Manchester has a diverse nightlife and can offer a wide range of night-time activities. Famed for it's musical past, the University of Manchester Student' Union (http://www.manchesteracademy.net) hosts almost nightly gigs in it's three venues on Oxford road ranging from local unsigned bands, to international superstars. The Manchester Apollo is a slightly bigger venue having boasted appearences from Blondie to new-comers like Kasabian. Smaller bands can also be seen at a range of excellent venues in the city including the Roadhouse, Night and Day (http://www.nightnday.org/) and Jabez Clegg.

The club scene in Manchester is varied with the dance-orientated clubs you'd expect from a city sitting comfortably alonside indie, rock and gay clubs. For the commercial dance music fan, the 'place to be' would be Deansgate Locks where the clubs and bars can be expensive but are always full of fashionable types and members of the local student population. More eclectic dance music styles are played at the Music Box near Jillys, and The Phoenix on Oxford Road.

For fans of rock music, Jillys on Oxford Road is something of an institution. On a Thursday is costs just £1 to get in, whilst Friday's see them open until 6 or 7 am. It has three rooms incorperating punk, ska, metal, goth and everything in between. Also check out Rock Kitchen on a Saturday night at the Manchester Metropolitan University Student's Union, again on Oxford Road.

For fans of indie and alternative music there are a whole host of new exciting clubs opening, to keep up to date with what's one it pays to purchase a copy of the weekly City Life listings guide, which is very complete and always up-to-date. Current successful nights being championed by City Life (http://www.citylife.co.uk/) include Killing Fantasy (http://www.killingfantasy.com/) on the last Thursday of the month at the Retro Bar on Sackville Street, with a playlist that includes Blondie, The Ramones and Le Tigre. Invest in Property (http://www.myspace.com/investinproperty) at Joshua Brooks is also another of these nights, falling on the last Friday of the month. Again, expect a mix of indie, electro, punk and rock. Weekly, Smile at the Star and Garter (http://www.starandgarter.co.uk/) is something of a local indie institution with a great playlist but be warned, it sells out very early and can often be unbearably busy as a result of this. Saturday's also play host to Tiger Lounge at the Tiger Lounge near the Town Hall. This plays more in the way of lounge alongside experimental and indie sounds. If you want to hear music by Manchester bands like The Stone Roses, visit Fifth Avenue, often brimming with students - unsuprising when you see the cheap drinks prices!

To enjoy Gay Manchester it is probably best just to visit Canal Street with its concentration of bars and clubs and visit places that appeal along the way. Just off Canal Street the most popular gay clubs are Essential, a multi-floor super-club open until the early hours and Poptastic (http://www.poptastic.co.uk/), a two-room pop and indie club held at Mutz Nutz every Tuesday and Saturday night. Although entry can be expensive, this is usually reflected in a reduced price bar inside the club.

For bars, try the so-hip-it-hasn't-got-a-sign cocktail lounge Socio Rehab on Edge Street (ask a taxi driver where it is) and Gaia or Tribeca, both on Sackville Street (near the Gay Village).

Manchester

Get Out

Manchester is within reach of The Lake District, York, Liverpool, the Peak DistrictPeak District, Blackpool and Chester.

Manchester

Stay Safe

Manchester has or had a colourful reputation for gun crime: however, this was mostly gang-related and as a visitor you won't face any greater danger than for any other large U.K. city. If you're uncomfortable around thousands of very drunk young people then you should probably avoid Friday and Saturday night taxi queues in the city centre. Generally, however, be sensible and you'll be fine.

Manchester

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