Two great football teams, its legendary music scene and a tempting array of shops attract visitors to Manchester every day. I have lived in the northern city all of my life and am addicted to the place; there is always something going on whether I am in the mood for an all night clubbing session or afternoon tea with friends.
Manchester is an exciting city to be in right now as new restaurants, hotels, bars and shops are springing up all of the time; rumours about it being grim up north just aren’t true. Its centre isn’t the mass of grey concrete that many people expect, instead it contains a fascinating mix of ultra-modern buildings such as Beetham Tower (home to the Hilton Manchester Deansgate) and grand old buildings such as the neo-gothic town hall, plus there is plenty of green space in the suburbs. If you still need persuading that a trip to Manchester is a must-do, read my list of the top reasons to visit below.
The stylish shopping
Manchester’s city centre alone will thrill shopaholics whether they are looking for a new designer handbag or a vintage pair of shoes. Add in the independent shops in suburbs such as Chorlton and Didsbury, and the huge indoor shopping centre the Trafford Centre and it is clear to see why Manchester’s residents are (mainly) so stylish.
Sport: two great teams
Although football isn’t really my cup of tea, even I can’t deny that Manchester boasts two brilliant teams (Manchester United and Manchester City in case you are less of a football follower than me). Add to this Lancashire County Cricket Club – a great day out; Manchester Aquatics Centre – the only complex in the UK with two 50m pools; The Chill Factore – an indoor skiing and snowboarding slope; and Manchester Velodrome – Britain’s primary indoor Olympic cycling track, and it is clear that Manchester is a must-visit destination for sport lovers from across the world.
The theatres: from musicals to experimental theatre
Lovers of all things dramatic are spoilt in Manchester. The city centre is home to five main theatres showing everything from musicals to experimental drama, and Salford Quays boasts The Lowry - a theatre, arts and entertainment venue. My favourite venue is the Royal Exchange - a seven-sided, glass-walled performing space in Manchester’s former Cotton Exchange where Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren and Hugh Grant have performed.
The bars: fancy a pint in a public toilet?
Manchester’s bar scene is buzzing and ever-growing and you can take your pick from quirky one off bars or big name chains; real ale pubs or swanky cocktail bars; jazz bars or comedy bars; there is even a bar in a converted public toilet (it’s called The Temple if you want to visit).
Music: Oasis and The Halle Orchestra
“Mad for it”, Madchester, the Hacienda, The Bee Gees, the Stone Roses, Elbow...Manchester’s music scene is world-renowned, and for good reason. The Hacienda may now be trendy flats but the music venues, the new bands and the music festivals still exist and are exciting as ever. It’s not just pop music though; The Halle Orchestra was founded in Manchester and still regularly performs in The Bridgewater Hall.
Architecture: surprisingly suave
Manchester isn’t known for its good looks but the city centre is full of surprising architectural delights. You can’t miss the 47 storey high Beetham Tower (the highest residential building in Europe), but smaller buildings to look out for include the neo-classical Central Reference Library (based on Rome’s Colosseum), the all glass wedge-shaped Urbis (soon to be the National Football Museum) and the former Free Trade Hall (now the Radisson Edwardian Manchester).
Art and culture: Lowry land
Manchester’s art scene is exciting and constantly evolving with the more traditional exhibition spaces such as the Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth Art Gallery being complemented by contemporary venues such as the Cornerhouse. The largest public collection of art from one of the city’s most famous residents, LS Lowry, can also be found in The Lowry Art and Entertainment Centre.
The food: curries and cupcakes
It’s not all pies and Eccles cakes in Manchester – although read about a great place to get a pie on my Manchester Cafés and Restaurants page – and the city’s residents and visitors are spoilt by the range of top-quality restaurants, restaurants offering food from around the world, cafés, delis and bars. You can even eat on Manchester’s famous Curry Mile then slope off to a “cupcakery”...if you so wish.
The celebrations of diversity
One of the best things about Manchester is the city’s diversity and friendliness. Every year the city holds Manchester Pride – an extravagant event that raises money for Manchester’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV communities (see more on my When to go to Manchester page). Mancunians don’t need much of an excuse to party and other celebrations include a Chinese New Year Parade (in the second largest Chinatown in the UK), the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester and the newly-launched Manchester Day Parade.
You’ll never be bored
There’s always something going on in the capital of the north whether it is the annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival, the Christmas Markets or a stadium gig by a world-famous band. Take a look at a few highlights on my When to go to Manchester page.
I hope that you enjoy your visit – leave a comment on the forum and let me know.