World’s first industrialised city
Returning to the city where I lived for some months 11 years ago, and to this date, the best city I’ve ever been in the UK; Manchester. Living in London is just for a reason, work. Unfortunately a position as I have in London would be much harder to get in Manchester that’s a fact, otherwise I would not hesitate in coming back to live here. Not only the cost of living is much lower, it is also much lower the housing prices where you can at least afford a very nice house instead of a microscopic apartment in London. People also is way friendlier and nicer in every sense, and they do know how to party! The huge amount of beautiful large pubs, clubs and discos still fascinates me when comparing to tiny, tasteless, and ever crowded places in London.
Manchester although not the next largest city after London, title that goes to Birmingham, it is the second city in importance after London. Both Manchester and Birmingham have a never ending fight in which is the most important, but it is publicly and official for the UK it remains Manchester.
So what makes the city different or from where such importance? Taking a brief look at some of its facts then it comes self-explained: Nicknamed as Cottonopolis back in the industrial era, over 70% of the world’s cotton was produced here. No other city in the world had as many factories as Manchester, and truly became the world’s first industrialised city, where the world’s first industrial estate was created at Trafford Park. Back in its heyday, another unprecedented achievement occurred; the city became one end of the world’s first intercity passenger railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Another event at the Midland Hotel saw Mr Rolls and Mr Royce meeting for the first time before the formation of the famous car company Rolls Royce. Pioneering in many aspects, but also a melting pot where great artists and musicians have born. There is a phrase that somewhat in certain aspects, still described itself on the spot: What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.
But not everything has been as beautiful as it sounds for the city. The industrial revolution came at a cost, and not only the exploitation of workers and many others living in misery; but the decaying years and closure of almost all industries that lead to the almost collapse of the city until its regeneration that kicked-off after the 1996 IRA bomb that shattered the commercial city centre. Ever after it has proven to rise as the city that is today, with its culture, finance, shopping, education, sports and countless more making an attractive pole that easily matches London on smaller scale.
For architect lovers as I am, this city has no equal. The vast amount of buildings of every style that perfectly blend with each other is quite unique, specially around the former factories and cotton mills, where large luxurious warehouses were built, and their grand headquarter offices showcasing their wealth, noticeable in the new-Gothic and neo-Baroque structures that were so much tendency back in the days; and of course, red bricks. “The red brick city”.
A weekend to visit Manchester can be too short. This is actually one of the cities with a lot more to see and do than what you originally would expect. It takes also some extra time if you are planning to visit the Old Trafford football stadium (world famous and must-do for a football lover), and the Salford Quays, the docklands of the city. Also, something you should not let it go is a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. There is probably no an equal anywhere else in the world, and definitely for sure nowhere else in the world you will be able to see the very first passenger train station of the Manchester-Liverpool railway.
For more information about Manchester check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The United Kingdom’s currency is the British Pound (GBP). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Manchester
- Trafford and Salford Quays Where the stadium of one of the world’s greatest football team is and the docklands of the city.
-Old Trafford The stadium of Manchester United Football Club. The best way to reach it is by Metrolink to the station of the same name.
-Salford Quays Right at the other side of the Old Trafford, this area is still under re-development with new buildings coming up. From a derelict former harbour and canals of the city to one of the greatest urban developments in years. Several Metrolink station serves the entire area.
-The Lowry Occupying an entire quay is a complex of a shopping and entertainment moll, concert hall, museum and gallery. The Lowry Bridge and Imperial War Museum at the other side of the bridge are part of this complex.
-MediaCity Across the bridge from The Lowry on the banks of the Manchester Canal. Home to the BBC and ITV studios, and the University of Salford as the main tenants. The collection of greatly designed buildings and public piazza are a new icon in the city.
- Castlefield and Deansgate Quays South of the city on the boundaries of the historic core that lies just north. This area is famous for the former cotton mills and warehouses now converted to lofts, shopping, galleries, bars and beautiful promenades and walkways through the canals and piers.
-Roman Fort Original settlement of the city, the Fort of Mamucium, from 79AD. Few remains are visible, only some foundations, with a gate partly rebuilt.
-Museum of Science and Industry Just north of Castlefield and the Roman Fort. Probably unique in the world for the incredible collection of still working machinery and engines, both steam and diesel, the collection of locomotives, automobiles, aircraft and machinery from the old cotton mills. It is also home to the Liverpool Road Station, the very first passenger train station in the world.
-Deansgate East of Castlefield. Both the Metrolink and trains call at this station, one behind the other linked by a bridge. Beautiful lofts and apartments on converted warehouses and plenty of great bars and restaurants thrive the area.
-Beetham Tower Until recently the tallest residential building in Europe. Since its construction by local architect Ian Simpson it has become the new landmark and silhouette of the city.
- West Central I will consider this as the half part of the city from Deansgate to Piccadilly Gardens west and along Mosley Street.
-The Great Northern Warehouse Across the road from the Beetham Tower. An unique survival of a three-way railway goods exchange station, serving the railway, canal and road networks of the Manchester region built in 1898, converted into a leisure complex in 1999.
-Manchester Central Side to side from the Great Northern, this is the former central train station, converted to an exhibition and conference centre, known as G-MEX. It was the northern terminus of the railway line to London St Pancras.
-Bridgewater Hall Across from the Manchester Central. This concert hall was built in 1996, home to The Hallé orchestra, the UK’s oldest extant symphony orchestra.
-Quay and Peter Streets Running west to east, from the River Irwell to Mosley Street where it then turns into Oxford Road. It contains beautiful and important buildings such as:
-Opera House Opened in 1912, in classical style.
-Sunlight House Completed in 1932 claiming the title for the tallest building int the country. The first steel framed high rise building in the UK.
-196 Deansgate Next building after the Sunlight House, in typical terracotta facade.
-Albert Hall Still known as the Brannigans for the nightclub that was there. Originally built in 1910 as the Methodist Central Hall, it is now a concert hall.
-Radisson Edwardian Housed on the former Free Trade Hall, implementing the historical building with the new one as a great work of art.
-Theatre Royale Opened in 1845 is the oldest surviving theatre in the city.
-Saint George’s House Beautiful art-deco building with light brown terracotta facade next to the Theatre Royale.
-St Peter’s Square At the confluence of the north-south Mosley Street and west-east Quay/Peter Streets axis, is one of the key landmarks.
-Midland Hotel Built in 1903 in Edwardian Baroque style to serve the Central Station has always been since its opening a landmark among the wealth and famous.
-Manchester Central Library One of the iconic buildings in the city, built in 1934, entirely circular resembling the Pantheon of Rome.
-Town Hall Extension Occupying an entire side opposite the Library and along Mosley Street, was completed in 1938 blending perfectly with the older neo-Gothic Town Hall main building and St Peter’s Square.
-Friend’s Meeting House Right behind the Library, small classical style building, home to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
-Lawrence Building A great example of neo-Gothic architectural style matching with the buildings nearby.
-Albert Square It can be said this is the true heart of the city, one of the landmark squares where the impressive Town Hall presides as centrepiece.
-Town Hall Just across from the Town Hall Extension and St Peter’s Square. Completed in 1877 in neo-Gothic style is one of the finest and largest example in the whole of the UK in this style. 2 facades, one facing Albert Square as the main, and another facing Mosley Street, are both works of art on its own.
-Albert Memorial Similar yet in minor scale as that in London. Located in the middle of the square.
-Surrounding buildings At both sides of the square are beautiful neo-Gothic buildings. The one facing directly opposite the Town Hall is unfortunately an ugly one.
-Along and between Deansgate and Cross Street Deansgate, as before mentioned, starts by the Beetham Tower and runs south to north all the way to become Victoria Street near the Cathedral and end at Victoria Train Station. Cross Street starts at the Albert Square and runs parallel to Deansgate then becoming Corporation Street and ending also by the Victoria Train Station.
-Lincoln Square Sandwiched in between Deansgate and Cross Street, just behind the Albert Square. The statue of Abraham Lincoln is in the middle.
-St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church Known as the Hidden Gem, was completed in 1794; located behind Lincoln Square and the post office.
-John Rylands Library In Deansgate, a short walk after Lincoln Square. To anyone’s surprise one of those unexpected buildings, extremely beautiful. Designed to resemble a church, in refined neo-Gothic style, it was completed in 1899. The most impressive is the inside reading room, grand as a cathedral.
-St Anne’s Square Along St Anne Street which links both Deansgate and Cross Street. Full of pretty buildings at all sides.
-St Anne’s Church At the southern end of the square, dating from 1712.
-Royal Exchange Was the last of several buildings on the site used for commodities exchange, primarily but not exclusively of cotton and textiles. Nowadays houses the Royal Exchange Theatre and a shopping centre.
-Market Street The perpendicular street from Deansgate towards Piccadilly Gardens passing through the commercial and shopping heart of the city.
-Millennium Quarter At the northernmost part of the West Central of the city centre. It is home to Manchester’s Cathedral, Victoria Train Station, the Triangle and Printworks leisure centres.
-Exchange Square The “Piccadilly of Manchester”, surrounded by shopping malls and entertainment venues, the Manchester Wheel and large screens.
-Manchester Cathedral Built over the period between 1421 and 1882 in mainly Gothic style. Was greatly enlarged and improved during the Victorian era.
-The Triangle The former Corn Exchange building was transformed into an up-scale shopping and leisure centre, and more recently a food court.
-Arndale Centre The largest urban shopping centre in the UK. It covers a huge area of this part of the city.
-The Printworks A very large leisure centre containing cinemas, restaurants, pubs and discos on the grounds of this former newspaper business.
-National Football Museum Designed by the same architect as the Beetham Tower, Ian Simpson, was originally the Museum of the City, and now all about football.
-Cheltham’s School of Music Behind the Cathedral and side by side with the Football Museum. It is a specialist music school in Manchester, home of the world’s oldest public library. The historic old buildings are worth to see.
-Victoria Train Station Occupies the entire area behind the Cheltham’s School of Music. The second in importance in the city after Piccadilly, is a great piece of Victorian architecture.
- East Central The other part of the historic city, from St Peter’s Square at the south towards Piccadilly Gardens in the north, and east to Piccadilly Train Station.
-Oxford Street Starts at St Peter’s Square and runs towards the south of the city and the university area. It is one of the biggest areas for thriving nightlife. Great buildings align both sides of the street, specially the Saint James Building and the Palace Hotel right by Oxford Road train station.
-City Art Gallery Along Mosley Street neat St Peter’s Square, is the prime gallery in the city.
-Chinatown Centred along Nicholas Street which runs between Mosley and Portland Streets, behind the City Art Gallery. Many shops and restaurants align those streets, and a beautiful Chinese Arch.
-Portico Library A street ahead from the Art Gallery along Mosley Street.
-Piccadilly Gardens The largest square in the city, and shopping paradise. It’s at the northern end of Mosley Street. Majority of the buildings surrounding the square are shopping malls and shops, with the perpendicular Market Street heading west passes through the Arndale Centre.
-Canal – The Village East from Chinatown, in between Portland and Whitworth Streets, Princess Street on the west and Aytoun Street at its northern edge. Many former head offices of cotton mills and other industries have been beautifully restored and are nowadays grand loft apartments specially along Princess St.
-Princess Street The southwestern boundary of the Village. Along this street you can find impressive buildings such as the Manchester School of English, Mechanic’s Institute, the neo-baroque Lancaster House, India House and Bridgewater House, most of which with a great usage of terracotta facade.
-Canal Street The largest LGBT community in the UK, with dozens of discos, bars and shows. A tremendous thriving nightlife not only orientated to LGBT clientele but to anyone.
-Sackville Gardens At the heart of the Village, small square with a garden, and by one of its sides facing the Shena Simon Campus building from the University. The Aytoun Business School from the University is right behind the Shena Simon.
-Manchester Piccadilly Train Station At the east end of the historic city, just north of Canal Street. The main station in the city, built in 1842 and pretty much unchanged in its beautiful design, bearing the striking upgrade, restoration and enlargement over the years, with the latest one completed in 2002.
Manchester International Airport is the second largest outside London and offers hundreds of destinations all around the globe. Knowing the fact of the importance of the city in the UK, third most visited after London and Edinburgh, and perfect starting point for visiting Northern England and Wales, plus the many millions who escape the British weather for sun holidays; all translates in finding flights to pretty much everywhere you desire. From the airport to the city there are very frequent buses and trains towards Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations, and the Metrolink to Cornbrook where you can interchange with the rest of the tram network. A single ticket costs £4.20, or £5 for a day ticket, no matter on which transport method you use.
If you take in consideration nearby airports as John Lennon’s Liverpool and Leeds Bradford, both 1 hours from Manchester, or Birmingham in the south, then you are in an area of huge concentration of large airports serving countless destinations.
From within the UK getting to Manchester is matter of few hours by train or by bus. It is halfway from London than to Glasgow, and a train from London can take as little as 2.15 hours, yet bear in mind the crazy prices. It is always best to get the tickets as more in advance as possible, or otherwise, the bus will be your best bet. Nationalexpress offers plenty of departures from London and every major city in the UK.
Public transportation is composed of commuter trains to the nearby metropolitan cities, trams and countless buses. However, Manchester city centre is entirely walk friendly and sights are near each other. Walking is by far the best way to enjoy and discover the city, with the needs for taking a tram when going to the Old Trafford or the Salford Quays for example. Those are areas farther from the city centre and is best to get transport there.
With a city of such importance and size, hotels are by the hundreds, with many other hundreds B&Bs. The choice and range is very wide, from the top luxurious properties to more modest ones, and everything in between. However, finding a good deal is quite challenging. Overall prices for a hotel night in the city are quite high, and unless you are willing to be on the outskirts at the metropolitan area, then plan in your budget the extra for being more central. Even B&Bs cost way more than other cities, but airb&b can be a good option to give it a try.
Unfortunately I cannot further recommend you anything here since we did not stay at a hotel but at our friend’s home, and obviously, we lived there some years ago so we never had the need to be in a hotel. A good point to start your search, however, is by checking some of our preferred hotel search engine websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.