A MECCA for arts lovers, music fans, sports enthusiasts, and shopping aficionados, Manchester has almost as much going on as London.
The “Madchester’’ music movement was born during the late 1980s and early ’90s, mixing alternative music with sounds from the electronic dance scene, and grew to launch bands such as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and Charlatans.
Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill leads Madchester-themed tours taking in venues – The G-Mex Centre, The Boardwalk Club, The Hacienda, The Ritz – plus Factory Records headquarters and Dry 201.
During the tour Craig points out public art celebrating the movement, explains the city’s architectural history by identifying significant buildings, suggests top spots to eat and drink, and takes short cuts through delightful neighbourhoods tourists usually miss.
Manchester rivals Melbourne when it comes to love of the game – everything from cricket to bike riding with the National Cycling Centre in town – but, because two of England’s biggest football teams hail from here, it’s the round-ball game that rules.
Manchester United offers tours of Old Trafford, but those keen to stick near the CBD can see Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and visit indoor warm-up spaces, the change room and the grandstand level reserved for VIPs to watch matches. Visitors also walk through the players’ tunnel, as if getting ready to hit the hallowed turf.
Manchester is home to the National Football Museum where more than 2500 treasures are on display.
The Quays is Manchester’s waterfront district, which started out as Salford Docks but was redeveloped after the port closed in 1992. It now houses the Imperial War Museum’s northern campus, MediaCityUK where the BBC and Coronation Street are based, a performing arts centre known as The Lowry, and The Lowry Outlet Mall.
The precinct, a 15-minute tram trip from Manchester’s city centre, is jammed with destinations to dine and is a favourite with architecture lovers.
Here you can launch a daytrip to Liverpool with Mersey Ferries offering a five-hour voyage along the Manchester Shipping Canal to the home of The Beatles and White Star Line between April and October.
When an IRA bomb destroyed part of downtown Manchester in 1996 it signalled the start of a new era for the city, with the heart of the metropolis redesigned during the recovery.
The revamp turned Manchester into a shoppers’ paradise with luxury boutiques around Harvey Nichols and Selfridges on Exchange Square and Shambles Square, high-street brands in Arndale Shopping Centre, indie boutiques in the Northern Quarter, and artist studios in the heritage Manchester Craft and Design Centre.
The writer was a guest of Visit Britain and Visit Manchester
Escape route – Manchester
Manchester is 330km from London in the north of England and while the journey takes four hours by road, via the M40 and M6, Virgin Trains runs regular services between the two cities with the ride from Euston Station to Manchester Piccadilly taking two hours.
The Macdonald Manchester Hotel and Spa is one block from train and tram stops at Manchester Piccadilly and walking distance from the town through Gay Village with abundant drinking and dining options.
For more information see the Visit Manchester website