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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrManchester is informally known as the “Capital of the North”, and with a population of 2.55 million, is the second-largest metropolis in the United Kingdom. Though it began as a Roman fort settlement, it is most acclaimed, both locally, and across the world, for its influences in the world of music, science, sports, and technological advancement.
Known as a city full of innovation and culture, and renowned for its liberal atmosphere, and wide acceptance of diversity, Manchester is as much a city that has to be visited; as much for its exciting atmosphere, nightlife, and recreation, as for its sights. It is highly multicultural, multiethnic, and renowned for its acceptance of others, and non-judgmental attitude towards people's differences.
Manchester will forever be the birthplace of new ideas and radical approaches, and this is reflected not only in its own music and arts cultures, but also in the accomplishments that have arisen from progress within the city. Manchester was, for example, the first place where scientists had split the atom, the home of the first railways station, and the place where the first stored-program computer was created. It was also the home of several socially driven movements, such as the UK women's suffragettes, and the birthplace of the ideas of both capitalism, and communism.
Manchester is not a city that will ever be understood by taking a few pictures, but one that will be loved through the experience of being there.
HistoryIn its earliest history, the Brigantes , the Celtic tribe of the Northwest of Britain, had a stronghold near to what is now Manchester Cathedral. In the 1st century, General Agricola ordered for fortification to be built in the area, to protect Roman interests from the Celts. The remains of the foundations are still visible in Castlefield. The fort was named Mamucium, which means “breast-like-hill,” and is closely related to the word ‘Mancunian’, by which locals are still known today.
In around the 3rd century, Roman inhabitation of the area ceased, and Manchester barely features a mention in history until a parish church was constructed in 1421, which is now Manchester Cathedral.
In the 14th century an influx of skilled Flemish spinners came to the area, and many believe this influx is at least partly responsible for the region's increasing importance in the textile trade. By 1540, Manchester had grown to be the biggest town in Lancashire, driven largely by the wool and linen trade.
This expansion was not to slow down any time soon. In 1780, Richard Arkwright constructed the first mill in Manchester, and it was around this time that scientist John Dalton was busy cracking away at his atomic theory.
The big boom came for Manchester during the industrial revolution, which the city was on the forefront of. The production for cotton spinning was taken to new heights, transportation networks such as the canal system continued to develop and cut costs, and factories produced goods in a whole new way, and at an entirely different pace.
By the 19th century Manchester was considered the world's first industrialized city, and its urbanization allowed it to get ahead in terms of politics, ideas, education, arts, and standards of living, thought this industrialization came at a price; with an unseen pollution smogging the skies.
The industrial glory continued, until the events of World War I prevented proper export, causing Manchester to suffer in the Great Depression . World War II mobilized the city into production mode, but the Manchester Blitz caused considerable devastation, and one that the city was to struggle to recover from.
The 1980s saw a major regeneration of the city of Manchester, into what it has become today, and in the 21st century Manchester is considered the “second city” in England, and is the second most-visited, after London. A hub of culture, diversity, and liberal ideas, Manchester is worth a visit for what it has now become. Much of what Manchester was, no longer remains, though pockets of historic sightseeing, and the general architecture of the city reveal glimpses of the past.
SightseeingThe historical sights of Manchester are few and far between, giving the damage that the city suffered during the Wars, and given the fact that it largely grew during the 19th-century Industrial Revolution. To truly experience the city, the modern and cosmopolitan aspects must too be embraced. Having said that, there are still some historic sights to be enjoyed and discovered.
Manchester Town Hall & Albert SquareThe Town Hall is a grand Neo-Gothic building, and a symbol of the power that Manchester gained during the 19th century. It sits proudly in Albert Square, and you can take a tour of the inside of the building to discover more about the history and politics of Manchester.
CastlefieldThis is the site of the original Roman settlement known as ‘Mamucium’, where the first fortifications of the area where built. The remains can still be seen, and the area has historic importance for the city, also being the place where the Rochdale and Bridgewater Canals meet one another.
Manchester CathedralLocated close to Victoria station, is the impressive Manchester Cathedral, which is the widest in England. It was the site of the first chapel built in the city, and now features a visitors' center.
University Of ManchesterManchester University was the birthplace of radio astronomy, atomic science, and the computer, and apart from that the architecture is particularly impressive. The Manchester Museum can also be found within the complex.
Museums and GalleriesThe industrial history, as well as the Roman beginnings, and the vast accomplishments, advancements, and political movements of Manchester, can be experienced through the museums and galleries around the city. Manchester is a place of ideas, and those ideas have to be explored to understand where the “Manc Vibe” came from.
Check out Manchester Museum to see the collections from Egypt, and the natural history collections. The Museum of Science and Industry is an incredible tribute to the advancements of civilization that the city has birthed, and features the world's first rail station; Liverpool Road. The Imperial War Museum houses an impressive collection of war artifacts from the days of the samurai sword, to the days of the the tank.
The Lowry art center in Salford, displays the works of painter L.S. Lowry , while the Manchester Art Gallery displays permanent collections of European arts.
RecreationManchester is not so much a city of sightseeing. It is not the same experience as London, where you could legitimately spend a few days on the tourist circuit, and feel like you had accomplished something. To truly experience Manchester, you really have to get involved! You should try and “live there” for a day or three. Eat out. Experience the famous nightlife and music. And just sit around and soak up the Manc vibe that you won't find anywhere else in the world.
A good place to start, is to sit around, relax, do some people watching, and have a chat to some other dosers. This isn't London; people are very open to talk to strangers in Manchester. There are many parks and squares in Manchester, which make for the perfect place to sit around, such as Piccadilly Gardens, Urbis, or one of the many parks.
You can also view Manchester from the Wheel of Manchester.
Food And DrinkThe food and drink in Manchester is as widely varied as the number of different types of people who are cooking it. You can find all of your usual city center corporate “food” here, along with a whole host of dining options, from the traditional pub lunch, to the live buffet, with entertainment.
If you are looking for a fill-me-up, warm-me-up, good value meal, that is also truly British through and through, it has to be the pub lunch. Traditional favorites include homemade meat and potato pies, sausage and mash, chilli, burgers, lamb roast dinners, and more.
Check out the “red hot world buffet” for an entertaining experience, with singers, magicians, and food from all over the world, or go down Deansgate to find an upmarket restaurant. Either that or check out one of Manchester's world districts.
ChinatownSince the 1970s, Manchester has seen the rise of its own Chinatown, which offers karaoke, bars, and many Asian restaurants. Some of them are a little touristy, and the food is not so good, so if you see a restaurant with no one eating there on a busy night, then you know why. Most of the food is pretty good, and it is possible to get all you can eat for as little as £ £10 ($15).
There are also Chinese supermarkets, medicine shops, and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you have just stepped onto another planet; neon lights and Chinese ornamentals, disorientate the visitor, while the locals and business owners speak Chinese to each other, adding to the stimulus of mild confusion.
The Curry MileThe legendary “Curry Mile,” in Rusholme, is a busy road full of, you guessed it, curry restaurants. Not quite a mile, but with 800 meters of back-to-back, door-to-door curry restaurants, Rusholme is, again, like stepping into another world. It is possible to get a very good curry here, with all the bread and rice, for under £ £10 ($15), or you could splash out and go the whole haul. In the tiny gaps between curry restaurants, there are also Indian shops, shisha bars, and kebab houses.
NightlifeManchester is an atmosphere unlike any other city in the United Kingdom. While not as large as London, it offers the same variety of entertainment, with clubs, bars; pubs, restaurants; theaters, cinemas and more. The atmosphere is eclectic, liberal, and a little crazy. The weekends are very alcohol-fueled, and people of all ages stumble about the streets together. Classy establishments sit streets away from underground dance venues; and sometimes, the raves are in plain sight.
Known for its diversity, Manchester is informally zoned, with a hip area, an indie area, and an entire Gay Village, which welcomes straight and gay people with open arms and a kiss on the cheek. Whatever you want from a night out, you will find it in Manchester.
Music SceneThe music scene in Manchester is one of the best in the country, and the area gave rise to many renowned musicians, including Oasis, Stone Roses; The Smiths, New Order; Happy Mondays, and more. The scene is considered Manchester's own, and a pride for locals. The “Madchester” scene is famous for the Hacienda club, created by Factory Records and Joy Division in the 1980s, and giving rise to the modern day rave culture.
The proud musical heritage of Manchester can still be experienced today, at least to some extent, in its wide and varied take on nightlife. Indie bars such as 42nd street, merge with modern day bar-clubs on Deansgate, and tucked away in-between are rave clubs that pound out music until the early hours. For large gigs featuring internationally recognized artists, you can see what is on in the Apollo, or the Manchester Arena at the weekends, the largest arena of its type in Europe with 21,000 seats. For local talent, check out the student union for near daily gigs.
StudentVilleA large population of students crawl the streets of Manchester, and the surrounding areas, and the city is very accommodating to its young and inspired population, with student-centered nights out, cheap food and drink, and entire sections of the outskirts dedicated to students, such as Fallowfield.
Manchester features two large universities; Manchester University, and Manchester Metropolis, as well as many colleges for arts, music, and the Salford University, famous for media productions. All in all, this makes up a population of over 90,000 students, and an market to cater to them.
The VillageAround Canal Street, a number of bars, restaurants, and other establishments have built up from the old cotton factories, and surrounding buildings. The Village, also known as Gay Village, is one of Europe's oldest gay communities. There are many well-loved bars, and the atmosphere is accepting and care-free, making it a great party spot for all different types of people.
Theater And OperaThere are no shortage of performing arts venues in Manchester either, and sophisticated ladies rub shoulders with scruffy students to catch some of the more exquisite entertainment that is on offer in the city. The Manchester Opera House features West End productions and large-scale theater shows, as does the Palace theater, and the Manchester Exchange Theater; the city's former cotton exchange. You can expect the same quality of production as you would find in London.
Smaller venues offer a more intimate feel, and you can find plays, poetry and spoken word, and comedy across the city. For local, and sometimes international comedy acts, check out the Frog and Bucket, close to Piccadilly gardens, and for a unique and comfortable atmosphere, check out Contact theater, located close to Manchester University.
ShoppingManchester is well-known and loved for its shopping, and it really does manage to bring it all to the table, with huge shopping centers, hip boutiques, and niche shops selling records, clothes, gifts, and more. The recently renovated Arndale center features 280 stores, in a huge but dense complex, and also features its own food court. It is the largest city center shopping center in Europe. For an out-of-the-city option, check out The Trafford Center, the so called “Temple of Consumerism.”
For a more whacky experience, be sure to have a look around Afflecks Palace; an eclectic mix of indie stores that all occupy a small space within a maze of strange-looking shops, selling everything from books, to tattoos and piercings.
For upmarket shopping, the Triangle complex may be your things; it features a five-floor Selfridges. Deansgate is also a notable upmarket shopping district. The Northern Quarter is a hip and happening place to shop, with music, art, and clothing all on sale.
SportsManchester is world-renowned for its football teams, who can often be seen winning international tournaments. Anyone who comes from Manchester, will know the first question that they will be asked whenever they visit any country, anywhere in the world; “Manchester United, or Manchester City?”
The stadiums of the two clubs can be found nearby. Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, the most popular football club in the world, while Manchester City Stadium can be found in Sportcity; a huge attraction for the sport's enthusiast, with the largest concentration of sports venues in Europe.
Manchester also held the Commonwealth Games in 2012.
TransportManchester is an extremely well connected city, well-known for its transport network; it was the first city in the world to to have a railway station. Train links make for extremely easy access to any major city in the country, sometimes with no changes needed. The main stations are Victoria, and the larger Piccadilly. It is possible to take a train to London from Piccadilly, and arrive in the nation's capital in a few short hours. Train prices can be expensive, especially if not booked in advance.
Manchester Airport is the third-busiest in the country, and services more destinations than Heathrow, so international connections are usually fairly hassle-free. It is possible to take a train directly from the airport to Piccadilly train station.
To get around the city, and the surrounding areas, you can take the newly extended tram system, which offers reliable, if not a little crowded, transport around the whole borough. Buses are also very regular, especially to destinations close to the city, and around the city center. You can expect to find a bus arriving on a busy route every five minutes, and they are very cheap, as little as a pound standard charge.
SafetyGunchester, was once the nickname of Manchester, due to its associations with gangs, guns, and the criminal underworld. Its reputation, does however, precede it, and Manchester is a very safe city to live and visit. Recent restorations to the center, following the IRA bombings of 1996, have done wonders for the city, and most of the once-rough estates have experienced housing redevelopments that have jazzed them up, and made them much more desirable; attracting a mix of people which offers a multicultural vibe, and not a dangerous one.
That being said, if you don't know the area, there is no real reason to visit some of the outskirts at night, and you should generally stick to well lit areas. The city center is very safe. Exercise the same caution as you would in any big city, and remain vigilante, and protective of your belongings.
Manchester, unfortunately, still suffers from one of the highest rates of vehicle crime in the country. If you are renting a car, or parking around Manchester, then park in a secure car park, and keep your belongings out of sight, and your alarm on.
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Author: M.Warburton. Last updated: May 23, 2015