Escape London: Take a Cultural City Break in Manchester
Judith Baker discovers the endless charm and appeal of of The North's buzzy cultural capital, Manchester...
Photo: George Holt
Voted the third best city in the world last year by Time Out, after San Francisco and Amsterdam, Manchester is one of the UK’s best-loved cities.
With an industrial heritage and a vibrant night life, the city combines history, culture, sport and music making it an ideal weekend break just a two hour train journey from London.
From achieving world fame as the heart of the Industrial Revolution to inspiring generations with music from bands like Oasis, The Smiths, Joy Division and Stone Roses, Manchester has always led the way. And these days the city continues to surprise with the reimagining of industrial areas and creation of green spaces.
Manchester’s close neighbour Salford has changed dramatically over recent years with the creation of Media CityUK, home to the BBC and ITV.
The energetic Salford Quay area also has the Lowry Arts Centre and the striking Imperial War Museum North.
Parks & New Green Spaces
Despite its image of dirty cobbled back streets and dark satanic mills, Manchester has worked hard to create new green spaces and park lands.
The RHS’ new 154 acre garden set in historic grounds at Worsley New Hall in Salford features one of the UK’ biggest walled gardens and the new Blue Peter Garden which was showcased at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and then transported up North.
The National Trust has also revealed plans to transform the disused Castle viaduct into a stunning new green space for city dwellers.
Taking on a similar approach to New York’s famous High Line, the new elevated garden will provide a slice of nature with stunning plants and flowers taking over the space and giving it a whole new lease of life.
Famous football clubs Manchester United and Manchester City both offer behind the scenes tours of Old Trafford and the Etihad and cricket enthusiasts can also visit Emirates Old Trafford, the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club.
The National Football Museum is also found here.
Manchester has a number of museums and galleries, ranging from the grand Manchester Museum with its impressive Egyptology collection and the stunning Imperial War Museum North to smaller intimate places such as The Pankhurst Centre, former home of the famous suffragette and dedicated to the story of women’s fight for the vote.
There is a wealth of places to eat in the city from Michelin-starred establishments such as The French in the Midland Hotel to the many eateries in buzzing Spinningfields, inspired by New York’s meatpacking district.
Or head to The Northern Quarter where among the cafés and bars you can spot striking contemporary street art and the creative Craft and Design Centre housed in a former Victorian fish market.
Manchester’s Chinatown has been at the heart of the city for decades.
This year The Manchester Food & Drink Festival will celebrate its 24th anniversary from September 16-27 in Cathedral Gardens with live entertainment as well as hundreds of foodie experiences.
24 hour party city
Manchester is famous for its lively night life and the city has spawned bands including Joy Division, The Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis.
The music scene is best experienced not just at big stadiums and festivals, but in the small clubs and pubs found around the city such as the Warehouse Project.
The Gay Village around Canal Street is the thriving heart of Manchester’s LGBTQ+ scene.
Co-op Live is an indoor arena currently under construction in Manchester. Due to open in 2023, it is to have the largest maximum capacity (as seats plus standing spaces) of any indoor arena in the United Kingdom; greater than the existing Manchester Arena which is under two miles away.
With a mixture of magnificent Gothic architecture and contemporary spaces, the city of Manchester is full of character.