With so many things to see and do, Manchester is the perfect destination for a city break. Considered by many to be the capital of the North, this city truly has its finger on the pulse, with a thriving business and media sector, celebrities, fashion, fine dining, sport, arts, and much more.
Ask most people around the world what they associate with Manchester and they will mention football. Both Manchester United and Manchester City have their grounds here where you can follow in the footsteps of the city’s heroes and buy a range of souvenirs. Both grounds also have their own museums and behind-the-scenes tours if booked in advance.
The city is home to a busy media hub, including offices and studios associated with two major television channels. Granada Television produces a range of classic telly here, from soap favourite Coronation Street to the gritty drama Prime Suspect, and offers seasonal tours of the studio, as well as tickets to live-audience shows including stand-up with Peter Key, Harry Hill and Caroline Aherne.
BBC TV recently relocated leading shows including Blue Peter, Dragon’s Den and Match Of The Day. Tours and studio tickets are available throughout the year.
Manchester is an ideal spot for both the fashion-conscious and shoppers serious about savings. Visit Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls for the latest designer labels or take a trip to Cross Street where you’ll find independent boutiques specialising in clothes and accessories.
The Arndale is Manchester’s indoor shopping centre featuring major fashion brands, an extensive food court and free wifi throughout. A little further out, the Trafford Centre features hundreds of high-street store outlets as well as Selfridges and John Lewis – perfect for bagging a bargain. One of the largest shopping centres in Europe, the Trafford Centre can be reached by car, or regular busses run from the city centre.
If you’re looking for something a little different, the streets to the north of Piccadilly Gardens are a treasure trove of independent shops and local designers selling vintage clothes as well as goth, punk, rock, indie and metal styles. Visit Affleck’s Palace in the Northern Quarter for vinyl, posters and comics.
Renowned for its musical heritage, Manchester is the birth-place of Factory Records and the legendary Haçienda. Rising to fame in the 80s and 90s, ‘Madchester’ gave us The Smiths, the Stone Roses and New Order to name a few.
Visit one of the oldest and most diverse venues is the Band on the Wall, a live music venue in the Northern Quarter district of the city. Built in the 1860s as the flagship pub of a local brewery, it was originally called the George & Dragon. It got its nickname in the late 1920s or early 1930s from the stage high on the back wall. Today it remains a popular venue for jazz and blues acts.
Live music fans should check out The Albert Hall, an A Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel in Manchester City Centre. The grand and ornate chapel has been restored into a stunning purpose-built music hall and is set to become one of the most atmospheric music and events venues in the UK. Closed for over 40 years and resurrected by Trof, the people behind Gorilla and The Deaf Institute, as an unrivalled events venue, restaurant and bar. Previous acts have included Bombay Bicycle Club and Bonobo.
Head below the railway tracks on Whitworth street and you’ll find Gorilla, a club space and live venue hosting upcoming and big DJs and live acts, not to mention an acclaimed kitchen with award-winningburgers.
For massive headliners, the largest indoor arena in Europe, Phones4U Manchester Arena regularly welcomes top acts like Michael Buble, Justin Timberlake and Miranda Hart (not on the same stage, fortunately).
Manchester is noted for its excellent theatres. Larger venues include the Manchester Opera House, a commercial theatre that often plays host to touring West End shows, the Palace Theatre, and the Royal Exchange Theatre, a small producing theatre in Manchester's former Cotton Exchange.
The Lowry also features two theatres running crowd-pleasing musicals including Fame, Stomp and Happy Days as well as top comedy nights; previous shows include stand-ups Richard Herring, Russell Kane and Lee Hurst.
Manchester has a rich cultural heritage displayed throughout museums and galleries. The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) celebrates Manchester’s industrial history and houses a large collection of steam locomotives, working machines from the industrial revolution as well as aircraft and space vehicles. It is appropriately housed in the former Liverpool Road railway station, the terminus of the world's first passenger railway.
Sitting at the heart of the redeveloped Salford Quays, The Lowry, named after the painter, L.S. Lowry, exhibits his acclaimed paintings of industrial scenes in the north of England and works by other noted artists.
The Cornerhouse on Oxford Street is Manchester's international centre for contemporary visual arts and independent film. It has three floors of art galleries, a bookshop, a bar, café and three cinemas showing indie flicks and general releases.
Tucked behind Oxford Road in an old mill is the Anthony Burgess Foundation. The author of the acclaimed novel, A Clockwork Orange is remembered here. The Foundation houses a collection of Burgess’s own furniture, paintings and musical instruments, as well as a café, study centre, library and exhibition space which has regular events such as book launches, talks and small concerts.
Head to Proper Tea opposite Manchester Cathedral, an independent tea room owned by TV celebrity Yvette Fielding of Blue Peter fame, for loose teas and homemade cakes. The veteran presenter can often be found behind the till.
Teacup café on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter is run by the legendary Manchester DJ, Mr Scruff. Trendy, but with a friendly atmosphere, Teacup even features Mr Scruff’s own tea. Perfect if you’re on a quest for the perfect brew.
If you’re looking to treat yourself, visit Michael Caines at Abode, the celebrity chef’s two-star Michelin restaurant. For those that like spice, head to Curry Mile – we particularly like Mughli.
Manchester’s thriving gay and lesbian scene centres on the famous Canal Street, home of the hit TV series Queer as Folk. Today, Canal Street is as much about café culture as its famous clubs and bars and features its very own VIP card, so you can take advantage of great local deals in restaurants and shops.