Hot Travel: Manchester, U.K.

A world renowned Mecca for music and football, Manchester is one of England’s most popular destinations. Edwin McFee guides you through its must-visit spots.

Where exactly is it?

Manchester lies in a bowl-shaped land area bordered to the north and east by the Pennines– a mountain chain that runs the length of northern England – and to the south by the Cheshire Plain. Manchester is equidistant between Liverpool and Sheffield, lying 35 miles from both.

How do I get there?

Manchester is dead easy to get to. Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Easyjet and Flybe all operate a regular service to the city, and you can fly from Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Should you feel the need to indulge your inner Captain Jack Sparrow, you can also take a ferry to Liverpool, and then make the short trip to Manchester via car, bus or train.

What is the transport like?

Great – you can take your pick from trains, trams and buses. Big but not overwhelming, Manchester is easy to navigate, so it won’t take long to find your bearings. Manchester Piccadilly is the principal railway station: opened in 1847, it serves intercity destinations such as London, Birmingham and Glasgow, as well as other destinations throughout Northern England. Piccadilly is the fourth busiest station in the UK outside London.

What’s the nightlife like?

One of the best things about Manchester is the nightlife and, as you might expect from the place that gave us The Smiths, the Stone Roses and Oasis, the music scene remains one of the best in the world. Particularly checking out are the O2 Ritz (Whitworth Street. Tel +44 161 714 4140, academymusicgroup.com/o2ritzmanchester) and the Deaf Institute (135 Grosvenor Road, Tel +44 161 276 9350, thedeafinstitute.co.uk). Elsewhere, from real ale pubs such as the award winning Marble Arch (73 Rochdale Road +44 161 832 5914 marblebeers.com) to cool club/multi-purpose spaces like the just opened Gorilla (54 Whitworth Street +44 161 826 2998 thisisgorilla.com), the city’s nocturnal life is always vibrant, eclectic and electric.

All the mainstream heavy hitters perform in venues like Manchester Arena (Victoria Station, Tel +44 161 950 5000, manchester-arena.com), while the Northern Quarter is a hipster haven. Comic book, wrestling and video game fans will also feel like they’ve died and gone to Valhalla in Fab Cafe (111 Portland Street, Tel +44 161 212 2997, fabcafe.co.uk), which, among other things, has its very own Dalek as well as geeky quiz nights, theme events and a cracking indie disco.

What is the drink like?

In a word, intoxicating. Greater Manchester once served as the former home of Boddington’s and some of the UK’s best-known breweries are based here. For example, Robinson’s, who were founded in 1838 and produce Iron Maiden’s Trooper and Dizzy Blonde, and Hyde’s, who are the creators of some of the best bitters around, are both located in the area. The Robinson’s Brewery tour is particularly good fun should you feel the need to soak up some knowledge in addition to beer suds (Apsley Street, Tel +44 161 612 4100, robinsonsbrewery.com). Cider and perry (an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pears, if you haven’t already figured it out) are also popular tipples in the city. This summer, meanwhile, sees the return of Manchester Beer Week, which runs from June 29-July 8 (mcrbeerweek.co.uk).

What’s the food like?

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the good old-fashioned pie and a pint deals in the local pubs. Another local favourite is the humble Eccles cake, which originated in the area. The famous “Curry Mile” is also a big hit; it’s located in the Rusholme part of the city and features a shed-load of restaurants, kebab houses and takeaways. If you fancy something a little more up market, check out the multi-award-winning Manchester House (Bridge Street, Tel +44 161 835 2557, manchesterhouse.uk.com) and Adam Reid at the French (Peter Street, Tel +44 161 932 4198, the-french.co.uk). Both have earned Michelin stars for their exquisite cuisine.

What are the touristy things to do?

Soccer lovers will adore the National Football Museum, which features a treasure trove of memorabilia (Cathedral Gardens, nationalfootballmuseum.com). Fans of the beautiful game should also feel duty bound to visit Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium (Ashton New Road, Tel +44 161 444 1894, mancity.com), and there’s also Manchester United’s Old Trafford to check out too, if you’re feeling masochistic! Elsewhere, the likes of the Manchester Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry will give you get a flavour of the city’s culture and history.

What should I bring home?

There are plenty of treasures you can bring home for yourself or a loved one. Bargain hunters and fashionistas should have a wander around the Trafford Centre (Regent Crescent, Tel +44 161 749 1717 intu.co.uk/traffordcentre) and the Arndale (Arndale, Tel +44 161 833 9851, manchesterarndale.com). But in my experience, you can never go wrong with some vinyl from the Northern Quarter, a football scarf (sky blue, of course), some traditional English ale, and maybe a few Eccles Cakes for your dear old granny.

Why should I go?

Not only is Manchester the place where scientists first split the atom, the world’s first stored-programme computer was also built at the University of Manchester. Furthermore, it’s the birthplace of the football league and internationally renowned as one of the coolest cities in the world. It’s only a 50 minute flight away, it isn’t as stressful to stroll around compared to London, and there’s plenty of things to do that won’t cost an arm, leg or future first born. The question should be: why wouldn’t you go?

When should I go?

Much like Ireland, Manchester is infamous for its rain, so unless you’re made out of sugar-lumps, it doesn’t really matter what season you visit (as long as you bring a jacket). Don’t let the weather deter you from visiting either, as you may be surprised to learn that the area receives only 806mm of precipitation annually, compared with the UK average of 1125mm.

What’s my challenge?

Make a pilgrimage to the iconic Salford Lads Club. Made famous by The Smiths, who were pictured outside the building on the inside sleeve of their The Queen Is Dead album, the place has since become a mythic meeting spot for music lovers – and is always good for a Facebook profile photo.

Anything else?

There are regular markets all year round in Manchester featuring street food and local independent crafts. Keep an eye on grubmcr.com for future events. Also, book lovers should visit Chetham’s, the oldest surviving public library in the world, which looks like something from a Harry Potter movie.

 

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