Guide to Manchester England

It was the renaissance of Manchester that inspired Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Newcastle and many other towns and cities across the nation.

Manchester can claim, rightly, to be at the heart of the Industrial revolution and is a city with as impressive a history as any other outside London. Centre of the cotton trade for over a hundred years, in the late 19th century (1887-1894) Manchester took the outrageous step of turning an inland city into a major port. It did this by building the Manchester Ship Canal linking the Mersey estuary which faces the Irish Sea, to the centre of the city 40 miles away inland. In so doing Manchester had its first rebirth as its industrial power had waned in the latter part of the century and Liverpool had taken precedence. Now sea-going ships could sail in land to the new docks. The sight of a large ship moving through the countryside is still an awe-inspiring sight. Manchester thus stole a march on it great rival Liverpool which has been the junior partner ever since.

It took an IRA bomb on Saturday 15th June 1996 to kick start Manchester’s second renaissance. Almost as boldly as its forefathers, this time the very map of the city centre was changed with new streets appearing, startling new buildings rising up and old landmarks disappearing to the extent that someone who had been away from the city for 10 years would hardly believe they were in the same city.

A prime factor in all this change was the Metrolink system which utilised an existing rail network but added the crucial addition of the ability for the train to leave the train station and run along tram lines across the city centre. Now city engineers from all over the world come to look at the Manchester Metro.

So take a trip around the city centre and begin with the Victorian splendour of Albert Square, a large public space in front of the Gothic Town Hall. A guided tour of this masterpiece will not disappoint. The entire building is an architectural wonder in stone and wood panelling.

Adjacent to the town hall is one of the great Public Libraries in Britain, Central Library built in a rotunda form and also worth a visit just to marvel at its central reading room.
Not far from here you may want to visit one the greatest pre-Raphaelite art collections in the world at Manchester’s City Art Gallery.

The great exhibition hall known formerly as GMEX and now as Manchester Central was formerly one of the world’s first railway stations and featured one of the longest platforms in the world. The Labour Party had its annual conference there last year.

Across the road is the Bridgewater Hall, a striking modern building, which is the home of the world-reknowned Halle orchestra and attracts famous virtuosi, guest conductors and orchestra from around the world.

If it’s shopping you like Manchester boasts a refurbished Arndale Centre, a brand-new complex which revolves around the only Selfridge’s outside London as well as the Deansgate and Affleck’s Palace for the younger trendy types.

In addition to these marvels, in the “Triangle” near to Selfridges, you can watch an outdoor giant television screen or take a trip on Manchester’s answer to the London Eye, a giant wheel giving vistas across the city. The nearby medieval Wellington Inn is a good place to slake your thirst and watch the world go by.

Manchester is world famous for its music scene and nightlife, if you want to go “clubbing”, and has many great restaurants to meet every taste. Manchester also has one of the few IMAX cinemas in Britain.

If you have an interest in Britain’s industrial heritage the Museum of Science and Industry has much to offer, and across the way there are even the remains of the Roman fort which saw the beginnings of city almost two thousand years ago.

Manchester has also become a centre for gay culture. The Gay Village around Canal Street has become a venue where gays and straights can both hang out and enjoy the atmosphere and there is an annual Gay Pride carnival which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Outside the city centre you can find Old Trafford Football Ground with its shops and museums and tours of Manchester United’s famous stadium.

Just off the M60 motorway near Barton Bridge rises the neo-palladian architecture of the Trafford Centre a shopper’s dreamland and many a husband’s nightmare.

Neighbouring Salford boasts the Salford Quays complex of shops, a theatre, the Imperial War Museum designed by Liebeskind and the delights of waterside living and dining.

Manchester is placed centrally in England so that you can make day trips to North Wales, the Lake District, Yorkshire and even the Midlands.

Yes, the drab old sorry city of 30 years ago has emerged like a butterfly from its cocoon to become one of Europe’s great cities once again.