Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > England > North West England > Greater Manchester > Manchester
- For other places with the same name, see Manchester (disambiguation).
Manchester is a vibrant, post-industrial gem at the heart of North West England. The city that used to be nicknamed 'Cottonopolis' (a reference to its most famous export) has hung up its clogs and, thanks to successive regeneration projects, is now a major centre for culture and commerce; seen by many as the capital of the north of England, and sometime regarded as England's second city.
The site of the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station and arguably the birthplace of socialism and the industrial revolution, Manchester remains at the vanguard of British culture and technology with a verve and vibe of its own. This vivacious spirit is augmented by the city's two world-famous football clubs and large student population; whilst the mills have been swapped for Michelin stars and the warehouses for world-class shopping and museums, this is still a city that is very proud of its industrial past and of its influences on music and sport.
Smaller than London, Manchester offers the 'buzz' of a large city without the overwhelming scale of the capital. Outside of the city 'proper' lies Greater Manchester, home to 2.8 million inhabitants as well as unique shopping destinations, urban havens and beautiful countryside. The region also hosts Manchester Airport, one of the UK's best-run international airports and the busiest British airport outside of South East England.
Throughout time, writers have sought to describe the magic of Manchester: George Orwell called it "the belly and guts of the Nation"; Edward Abbott Parry "a synonym for energy and freedom", but Ian Brown, lead singer of The Stone Roses, perhaps summed up the Mancunian spirit best when he said "Manchester's got everything except a beach". The sand is almost certainly on order already.
|Piccadilly-East Centre |
Covers the area of the city centre bounded by the A57 (M), Oxford Road, and the A62. It covers the locales of Piccadilly, Chinatown, the Gay Village, and Piccadilly Gardens.
|Victoria-Shopping District |
Covers the area in central Manchester north of Piccadilly Gardens and east of Bridge St and Princess St. It covers the locales of the Millennium Quarter, the Northern Quarter, Ancoats and St. Ann's Square as well as the multi-million pound Arndale shopping centre.
|Spinningfields-Albert Square |
Covers the area in central Manchester north of Castlefield and east of Quay St and Peter St. It covers the locales of Deansgate, Albert Square, and the newly developed business district of Spinningfields.
Covers the area in central Manchester west of Quay St, Peter St and Oxford St. It covers the locales of Castlefield and Petersfield (also known as St Peter's Fields).
Covers the area north of the centre as far as the M60. Includes Sportcity, Prestwich, Crumpsall, Moston, Newton, Blackley and Beswick.
Covers the area south of the centre as far as the M60. Includes the neighbourhoods of Hulme, Moss Side, Stretford, Whalley Range, Withington, Didsbury and Chorlton-Cum-Hardy.
|University Corridor |
Covers the Oxford Rd/Wilmslow Rd corridor from the A57(M) to the bottom of Fallowfield. Includes both universities, Rusholme, and Fallowfield.
|The Quays |
Covers Salford Quays, Trafford Wharf and Old Trafford, home to award-winning architecture, museums and the northern home of the BBC.
|Salford and the Western Districts. |
Covers all of the City of Salford and its outlying districts; from urban heartland to open countryside.
The city is in the North West of England, between Liverpool and Leeds. It is seen by many as a young, vibrant and cutting edge city, where there is always something happening. The "Manchester brand" is seen to extend well beyond the city's boundaries (covering all of neighbouring Salford and Trafford, as well as districts of other boroughs) and even beyond those of Greater Manchester. This serves to reflect the influence it has on the wider region as a whole.
Manchester is a friendly city as well. Northerners do talk to each other and to strangers. Just compare asking for directions in London and Manchester and the difference is often clear. Locals seem more proud than ever of Manchester and all it offers. Some outsiders may find this fierce pride in their city somewhat "un-British". Positive comments and praise go down a treat with the locals, and with all that has happened, such is often due.
The adjective associated with Manchester is Mancunian or simply Manc. The distinctive linguistic accent of the city's indigenous inhabitants is much more closely related to that of Liverpool with its strong north-Waleian (Welsh) roots than it is to the Lancastrian or Cestrian of the neighbouring cotton towns.
Although it has gained the stereotype of being very wet, it is actually less than the UK average.
- 1 Manchester Visitor Information Centre, Piccadilly Plaza, Portland St, M1 4BT, ☏ 0871 222 8223 (high cost number), fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su 10:30AM-4:30PM (recorded information available by phone outside these times). Has up-to-date lists of places to eat and sleep. The old visitor centre used to be near the town hall so if you ask for directions and someone says that's where it is then they're wrong. Try asking for directions to Piccadilly Gardens - the new Visitor Information Centre is near the tram stop there.
Manchester was the site of the Roman fort Mamucium (breast-shaped), founded in AD 79, but a town was not built until the 13th century. The old Roman road that ran to the nearby fort of Coccium (Wigan) is mirrored today by the route through Atherton & Tyldesley. A priests' college and church (now Chetham's School and Library and the Cathedral) were established in Manchester in 1421. Early evidence of its tendency towards political radicalism was its support for Parliament during the Civil War and in 1745 for the Jacobite forces of the Young Pretender.
It was not until the start of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that this small mediaeval town would build its fortune. The presence of an existing cloth trade, coupled with the mechanisation of spinning in nearby Bolton, created a thriving cotton industry in Manchester. The damp, humid atmosphere was good for cotton spinning since it meant fewer broken threads and reduced the risk of explosions from cotton dust. Water power rapidly gave way here to steam invented by Boulton and Watt and a steam-driven factory was built in Ancoats, immediately north-east of what is now the city centre. By the end of the 19th century, Manchester was one of the ten biggest urban centres on Earth (even before counting the wider population, within 50 miles of the Northern England region, such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, and Central Lancashire).
Whitworth, inventor of the eponymous mass-cut screw thread, also manufactured his equally revolutionary rifled guns in huge quantities at his factory on Sackville Street. After their initial meeting at the Midland Hotel, still one of the city's most luxurious, Rolls and Royce began manufacture of their luxury motor cars in Hulme.
Trafford Park, in Trafford, was to become the first industrial estate in the world, housing the Ford Motor Company and much of the pre-wartime aircraft industry, notably the 'Lancaster' Bombers of the AVRO Co.
Manchester's success during the Victorian era and before is evident everywhere you look. Great Ancoats Street was a source of wonder to Schinkel, the neo-classical architect from Berlin. Equally grandiose neo-Gothic buildings line the old Financial District around King Street, and public institutions such as the University and the many libraries are dotted around everywhere. There is even a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Square (Brazennose Street, straight across Albert Square from the Town Hall main entrance) commemorating his personal thanks for Manchester's support during a cotton famine created by Britain's refusal to run the Federal blockade of the slave-owning Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Continuing its radical political tradition, Manchester was the home of opposition to the Corn Laws and espoused Free Trade, as well as Chartism and the Great Reform Act. It was instrumental in the establishment of socialism in the UK. Both Engels and Marx frequented the city; the former conducted his famous inquiry into the condition of the working class, and the latter sought to draw universal rules from the particular circumstances of the early industrial revolution. Cleaving to a more gently pragmatic English tradition it was the birthplace of the Trades Union Congress which led to the creation of the Labour Party. It was also home to a number of philanthropists of the industrial age, such as John Owens and John Dalton, who bequeathed large parts of their fortunes to improving the city.
Manchester has also been famous for its influence on the UK music scene. The Madchester movement of the early 1980s, started by Factory Records and Joy Division, led to the creation of the Haçienda nightclub (now unfortunately demolished after standing empty for many years) and the birth of modern club culture. Manchester has given life to many hugely successful musicians, among them The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Fall, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, James, and Badly Drawn Boy.
Central Manchester is home to two of the largest universities in the UK. The University of Manchester (formed from a merger of Manchester University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST)) and Manchester Metropolitan University (also known as 'Man Met', formerly the Polytechnic, itself a conglomeration of municipal colleges), as well as the Royal Northern College of Music. There is also a university in Salford, within one mile of the city centre, which is renowned as a European Centre of excellence in Media. Together they create a body of over 86,000 students living full-time in the city.
Manchester is often named 'best student city'. It is very welcoming to the student lifestyle and many establishments in the centre and South Manchester are geared towards students; eating and drinking in Manchester can be very inexpensive due to the high competition that goes on between these establishments.
However, if you want to be far from students, there are many places that are not frequented by students although you may have to be prepared to pay a little extra. Also, a few places have a strictly 21+ policy so take identification with you. But those places are quite rare. In the student areas of Fallowfield and Withington, some venues operate a student-only policy so production of a student card (or something resembling a student card) is necessary.
Manchester is famous all over the world thanks to its football clubs, including Manchester United (Old Trafford) and Manchester City (Etihad Stadium, Sportcity). Both clubs offer stadium tours every day. Tickets for Premier League games can be hard for tourists to obtain, though cup matches are easier. Tickets to all matches are sold in advance, with no admission available on the day.
Old Trafford is also home to the Lancashire County Cricket Club. despite no longer being a part of the county of Lancashire. Tickets for Lancashire matches are almost always available on a walk-up basis, though there is a discount when purchased in advance.
In 2002, Manchester was the host to the Commonwealth Games and a large area of East Manchester was converted into a new Sportcity. The centre-piece of this is the stadium. It was used for athletics during the Games, after which it was converted for football and Manchester City moved in. Next door to this is the Regional Athletics Arena, which was used as a warm-up track during the Games.
The Manchester Velodrome started off the whole regeneration of East Manchester and formed part of the bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games (and for Manchester's failed bid for the 2000 Olympics). Britain's great success in the cycling events in the 2012 Olympics owes much to this venue and many of the medal winners are based in and around the city. A BMX centre was added in 2010. Sportcity also includes the National Squash Centre, and a number of tennis courts.
Manchester is a very mixed city. Many races and religions have communities in the city and it has a long history of being more tolerant than most cities to people of any background. The very large number of British Citizenship ceremonies, held in Heron House by the Town Hall each year, are testament to this.
Manchester is also extremely gay-friendly and very liberal-minded. It is very well known as being one of "The Big 3" in terms of sexual diversity along with Brighton and London. The Village is an area concentrated around Canal Street and is very popular with people of all sexualities. It is also home to an annual 12-day Pride festival with the involvement of people of all types; attracting all kinds of people: not just from Manchester but from the entire country and abroad, further reflecting Manchester's unique approach to tolerance and acceptance. Expect to see amongst others the likes of gay police officers, fire fighters and health workers in the good-natured parade.
The atmosphere of the village area is very friendly and welcoming, as is Manchester's very large LGBT community, known to be one of the most accepting in the country. Manchester is certainly the most gay-friendly major city by far and has the largest and most visible LGBT community of any major city outside London. Most Mancunians have grown up with a tolerant attitude towards sexuality and it is extremely rare to come across homophobia, making Manchester a very welcoming city for LGBT people.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Manchester has a temperate maritime climate and rarely gets too warm or too cold. The city receives below average rainfall for the UK. It is not significantly far behind London in terms of the average number of hours of sunlight per day (based on the last 100 years data from Met office) though it does have a few more days with rain. However, as a result of relatively mild winter conditions, there is never a period that one should avoid visiting due to extreme weather conditions.
As with any city it puts on a good show when the weather is fine in spring and summer and there is a lot of al fresco drinking and eating. It does have its fair share of dull, grey days, which can strangely add to its charm for the visitor.
- Main article: Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) south of the city is Britain's largest airport outside London, with flights to over 200 destinations, including North America, the Gulf and Far East. Most flights use Terminal 1, holiday charters are usually from T2, and T3 has smaller aircraft on domestic and near-European hops. Train is the quickest way downtown: they run frequently to Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations, taking 20 mins, for a fare of £4. Many trains continue direct to other cities: via Warrington to Liverpool, via Preston and Carlisle to Edinburgh and Glasgow, via Huddersfield, Leeds and York to Middlesbrough, Durham and Newcastle, and via Sheffield, Doncaster and Scunthorpe to Cleethorpes. Trains are sparse after midnight, use Bus 43 bus which runs all night, taking 50 mins to Piccadilly. There's also a tram, most useful for the southern burbs.
As of 2020, there are fewer domestic flights than usual in the UK. Eastern Airways continues to fly.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport has mostly budget flights across Europe by Easyjet and Ryanair. There's a coach to the airport from Manchester's central coach station, taking 45 min. There are also trains hourly between Liverpool South Parkway (the station near John Lennon Airport) and Manchester Oxford Road in city centre.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in Great Britain
Free city centre tram travel
If you've arrived in the city centre by train from any station in Greater Manchester, you could be entitled to free Metrolink tram travel within the network's ‘Zone 1’ (formerly known as the 'City Zone') (see map here). If your train ticket lists your destination as 'Manchester CTLZ' then you can travel within the 'City Zone' for free throughout the period of your ticket's validity (the same day if it's for a single journey). Tickets that list their destination as 'Manchester STNS' are not valid and you will need to purchase a separate Metrolink ticket to use the system. More information may be found on the Transport for Greater Manchester website.
Avanti West Coast operates service between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston. This journey, on the West Coast Mainline, takes just over 2 hours in Pendolino trains that do not need to slow down when going around bends. Prices are as low as £11 each way if booked online in advance.
The outer ring road of the Manchester conurbation is the M60. It is accessible from Leeds or Liverpool by the M62 and from Scotland and the south by the M6. From the north and Scotland follow the M6 and then the M61. From the south take the M6 and the M56. The most direct route from the M6 to the M56 and South Manchester is to take the A556 leaving the M6 at junction 19, but it has a 50 mph/80 km/h speed limit for most of its length and can be somewhat congested at busy times of the day. It is signed Manchester and Manchester Airport.
Another route would be to carry on northbound up the M6, taking you directly to the M6/M62 interchange. Here, you would follow signs for Leeds and Manchester North. This can, however, seem a longer way round, but it does also give you access, via the M60 orbital road, to places around the conurbation and is a much better option if you wish to access the northern part of Greater Manchester.
If a little lost in the city centre, follow signs for the inner ring road, as there are signs to most destinations from this road.
Parking in the city centre of Manchester can be expensive. Avoid the multi-storey car parks if you can and look for some open-air car parks. There are good ones by Salford Central Station, behind Piccadilly Station and opposite the cathedral.
If you have to use a multi-storey, the one by the Coach Station and the Village is handy. This is fine as a last resort if you have been driving around for an hour, looking for a place to park. There are increasingly more and more double yellow lines, which designate no parking at any time.
Ladywell Park & Ride is situated near Eccles (M602, Junction 2); the car park is free and there is a tram station. Similarly, parking at the Trafford Centre (M60, junctions 9 and 10) is free and there are buses to the city centre and Stretford tram station.
On Saturday from 12:30 to Monday morning, just over from the city centre into Salford, you can park on a single yellow line (remember that you can never park on a double yellow line) or in a designated space without paying, unlike in the city centre where restrictions apply even during weekends. Streets like Chapel Street, Bridge Street, and the areas around them are a good bet and much safer now with all the new housing developments. There you are just a short walk from Deansgate.
Problems are rare as long as you take the usual precautions and do not leave valuables on display. Try not to put things in the boot (trunk) after a shopping spree if people are watching. Avoid parking under the bridges at all costs, and try the main roads, just off one or next to one of the many new blocks of flats where it is well lit. Watch out on bank holidays around here. Sometimes these are treated like a Sunday in the centre, but people have been known to get parking tickets on the Salford side. If unsure, treat a holiday, on the Salford side, as a normal day of the week or ask a warden if you can find one!
There are several free parking bays for motorbikes around Manchester city centre. The locations are on the Council's website.
Chorlton Street Coach Station is the central coach station in Manchester, close to the centre, between Chinatown and The Village on Chorlton Street. Coaches run from all over the country and are generally the most reasonably-priced way to get into Manchester. London to Manchester on the coach can take about four hours, but it depends on the time of day and number of stops.
- National Express is a comfortable and frequent service which runs 24 hours a day from some cities, including London and Birmingham.
- Stagecoach Megabus run services to London, Scotland, South Wales and the West. Fares also start at £1, and must be booked in advance online.
The nearest cruise terminal is Liverpool Cruise Terminal, opened in 2007.
The Bridgewater Canal goes through Manchester and is a leisure waterway. The Manchester Ship Canal can only be used on the Mersey Ferry cruise from Salford to Eastham between April and October.
Transport in Greater Manchester is overseen and co-ordinated by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) (Information: 0871 200 22 33).
TfGM operates a multimodal journey planner which is a great help in planning getting around the Greater Manchester area.
TfGM sells a number of tickets which are valid for multiple operators, such as the any bus day ticket or System One. If you are planning to do a lot of travelling in one day, these might be your cheapest option. Metrolink Saver day tickets are good value if using the Metrolink tram network. There are tickets for single people and family tickets. The best value are valid after 09:30.
Dotted around the city centre on main streets including Deansgate, Oxford Road, and Market Street, are the pedestrian-level street maps. They are usually placed in normal advertising hoardings, which can make difficult to spot from a distance. The maps have been updated with different colours for district area of the city centre. Your position is marked by a dark circle. They cover the whole centre down to the university district and also central Salford up to Salford University.
As with any other large UK city, an A-Z map is often handy. These street maps, in book form, are available from newsagents or book shops and, depending on size, cover everything from the city centre to the whole Greater Manchester conurbation.
On foot in the city centre
Manchester city centre's many attractions are easily reached on foot, and walking provides the perfect opportunity to take in the architecture of the city.
TfGM travel shops are found in Shudehill and in Piccadilly Gardens and timetables, maps and information can be found for all services here.
Piccadilly Gardens bus station is generally for services to the south of Greater Manchester along with Wigan and Bolton. Shudehill Bus Station has services to the north of Greater Manchester.
The free bus has replaced the old Metroshuttle bus service. It runs on two routes starting from Piccadilly station. Route 1 runs through the city centre, every 10 minutes M-F from 7AM, Sa from 8:30AM, until 6.30PM, then every 15 minutes until 10PM (every 12 minutes on Sundays and public holidays, between 9:30AM and 6PM). Route 2 runs a circular route along the edge of the city centre, linking Piccadilly, Oxford Road, and Victoria railway stations (also Salford Central station in the weekday peak, 6:30-9:10AM, and 4-6:30PM) and Shudehill bus interchange; this route operates every 10 minutes M-F from 6:30AM, Sa from 8:30AM, until 6:30PM, then every 15 minutes until 10PM (every 12 minutes on Sundays and public holidays, between 9:30AM and 6PM). These bus routes can be caught straight from all city centre railway stations (Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Victoria) as well as many of the larger car parks. Areas on the fringes of the city centre (such as Spinningfields, Petersfield, Oxford Road Corridor, Millennium Quarter) are now easier to access from other parts of the city. Due to the volume of pedestrian priority around areas such as Deansgate, traffic in the city centre is often slow at peak times.
Most of the buses in North Manchester are operated by First whilst Stagecoach operate in South Manchester and serve most places that you are likely to want to go in the conurbation. The main bus station for the south is Piccadilly Gardens and a new state-of-the-art £24-million interchange has been built at Shudehill for the north. However buses for Wigan, Leigh, Lowton and Bolton can be found at Piccadilly Gardens as well as for Altrincham and Droylsden at Shudehill. The North/South rule generally applies other than those exceptions.
The South Manchester corridor that begins with Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road is the most-served bus route in Europe. Buses connect the centre with the universities and Rusholme, as often as every one minute. The general rule on this street is to get on any bus that is not operated by Stagecoach and your fare is likely to be under £1. Some buses have a student fare, which they will charge you if you look like a student, regardless of whether you ask for it or not. Be warned, though, during peak hours it can take as long as 30 min to make the three-mile journey from Piccadilly Gardens to Rusholme. The 42 (operated by various companies) is usually the most frequent service, operating through the night from Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Wilmslow Road, Rusholme and beyond.
The number 43 bus not only runs all day to the airport but also throughout the night at regular intervals. Train services from Piccadilly also serve the airport all night.
Buses to the Trafford Centre include the Stagecoach-operated Route 250, from Piccadilly Gardens to the Trafford Centre and the First-operated Routes 100 and 110, from Shudehill, via Blackfriars (the stop is just off Deansgate) and Eccles, to The Trafford Centre. The quickest, most direct option is the Stagecoach X50 bus route. They run every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and take only 25 minutes. There are other bus services from Central Manchester to The Trafford Centre and additional services from other towns and suburbs in the conurbation.
Bus tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver. A 1-day Anybus pass costs £5.80 (Anybus & Tram pass off-peak costs £7.30) (July 2019). These "System One" tickets can be used on any bus and details of prices are available at their website.
Metrolink trams run through central Manchester via St Peters Square, Deansgate / Castlefield and Cornbrook. The lines then fan out:
- - light blue and orange lines west to Salford Quays, Media City and Eccles; and east to Piccadilly, Etihad Stadium and Ashton-under-Lyne.
- - green and purple lines west to Old Trafford, Stretford and Altrincham; eastbound the purple line ends at Piccadilly while the green line goes west to Victoria, Bury, Oldham and Rochdale.
- - yellow line starts at Piccadilly and joins green line at Victoria then to Bury, Oldham and Rochdale.
- - red line (opened in March 2020) west to Imperial War Museum and Trafford Centre.
- - dark blue line south to Wythenshawe and the airport; and east to Victoria.
- - pink and lilac lines west to East Didsbury; and east to Victoria, Oldham and Rochdale.
Trams normally run every 5-10 min between 05:30 and 00:30.
See TfGM Metrolink website for fare deals, service updates and travel planner; you must buy your ticket before boarding.
The Metrolink system, when used to its optimum, can provide good value for money. If you are going to be using it for more than one journey in a day, the best ticket to buy is a 1-day Travelcard (either peak, if travelling before 9:30AM on weekdays, or off-peak if travelling at other times) as return tickets are no longer issued. 7-day, 28-day, and annual travelcards are also available. However, Metrolink can work out expensive for short peak-time journeys.
Tickets must be purchased in advance from the automated vending machines available at each station, or you can buy travel cards from the Get Me There smartphone app. Alternatively, UK-issued contactless debit and credit cards can be used (one card per passenger) - you must “touch in” and “touch out” on the readers on each platform at the start and end of your journey. If your card reports transactions to your phone instantly, you’ll notice that 10p is debited when you first “touch in” in a day, the rest of your charge will be debited in the next few days once it’s known how much you’ve travelled in the day - daily fare caps apply. Every ticket machine has a map of the system on it. Choose the required destination followed by the required ticket type on the touch pad and then insert your money or debit card. They can be operated in English, French, German, Spanish or Polish. Failure to buy a ticket or “touch in” before travel can lead to a £100 fine. Tickets do not have to be validated on board but must be produced if requested by Metrolink staff.
From January 2019 a zonal fare system applies, with the City Centre being “Zone 1” and surrounded by concentric Zones 2 to 4. Passengers must be in possession of a ticket valid in all the zones they are travelling through, for example Manchester Airport and Bury are both in Zone 4, but travel between them involves travelling through Zones 3, 2, 1, 2, and 3, therefore you need to have either a single ticket for Zones 1+2+3+4 (£4.60 in 2019) or a 1-day Anytime travelcard (valid M-F before 9:30AM) (£7 in 2019) or a 1-day Off-peak travelcard (valid M-F after 9:30AM, and all day at weekends and public holidays) (£4.80 in 2019) for zones 1+2+3+4. Two- and three-zone tickets involving travel in Zone 1 are more expensive than ones that do not. Certain tram stops are on the border of two zones, and for ticketing purposes can be considered to be in either zone, so only a ticket for the smaller number of zones needed to reach them is needed. Single-ticket journeys must be completed within 2 hours of buying the ticket. If you buy a ticket using a smartphone you must be able to display it if requested, so make sure your battery won't run out before your ticket does, otherwise you will be liable for the £100 standard fine.
Peak fares apply M-F before 9:30AM (except public holidays).
Off-peak Family Travelcards are available, covering groups of 1-3 children (under 16) travelling with 1 or 2 adults. Weekend Travelcards are valid from 6PM on Friday until the last tram on Sunday (2019: £6.60, Family Weekend Travelcards: £9.20).
‘Get Me There’: Transport for Greater Manchester is beginning the roll out of a ‘touch on – touch off’ smart card type of system for all public transport within the boundaries of Greater Manchester. The Smart Readers are installed at each stop, but are only used with concessionary passes and when using debit/credit cards.
Use the following Zone 1 stations for:
- Victoria — for the Main Line Railway Station, Urbis, Chethams Library, Manchester Cathedral visitors' centre, The Triangle and the Northern half of Deansgate.
- Exchange Square - for Arndale Shopping Centre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Urbis, Chethams Library, Manchester Cathedral visitors' centre, The Triangle and the Northern half of Deansgate
- Shudehill — for Bus Interchange, The Printworks, Manchester Arndale and parts of the Northern Quarter.
- Market Street — for the main shopping area, including parts of Manchester Arndale and Affleck’s Palace.
- Piccadilly Gardens — for bus station, Coach Interchange from Chorlton Street Coach Station, Chinatown, The Gay Village, Manchester Art Gallery, Cube Gallery and parts of the Northern Quarter.
- Piccadilly — for Rail Interchange and Metroshuttle and Oxford Road Link buses. Manchester Apollo is a 10-minute walk from here.
- St. Peter's Square — for Oxford Road Station, Central Library, The Library Theatre, Bridgewater Hall, The Midland and Radisson Hotels, Manchester Art Gallery, The Town Hall and Albert Square. Buses down the Oxford Road corridor to The Palace Theatre, The Green Room, Dance House and Contact Theatres and to the universities and beyond.
- Deansgate-Castlefield — for Rail Interchange from Deansgate Station, Manchester Central (exhibition centre/conference & concert venue), Beetham Tower, Great Northern, MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), the southern half of Deansgate and the beautiful and vibrant canal side area of Castlefield.
Other interesting destinations:
- MediaCityUK (Zone 2) — Around 15 minutes from the City Centre on the MediaCity/Eccles line. Closest station to the Lowry, Lowry Outlet Mall and Imperial War Museum North as well as the MediaCityUK home of the BBC, and University Of Salford. Cross over the Manchester Ship Canal/River Irwell by one of the footbridges to visit the Imperial War Museum or the ITV's Granada studios
- Etihad Campus (Zone 2) — Next to Manchester City Football Club's Etihad Stadium, this stop is particularly handy for football matches as well as the concerts and exhibitions that the stadium plays host to.
- Heaton Park (Zone 3) — Around 10 minutes from the City Centre on the Bury Line. Alight here for Manchester's chief parkland. This is the biggest municipal park in the country and a great day out in summer. It has seen much investment of late. Inside you will find a pet zoo, tramway museum, boating lake, stables and golf centre with pitch and putt. The former stately home Heaton Hall is in the park and is open to visitors in the summer months.
- Old Trafford (Zone 2) — Around 10 minutes from the City Centre on the Altrincham Line. For Manchester United Football Club and the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club.
- Stretford (Zone 2/3) — Around 10 minutes from the City Centre on the Altrincham Line. Take care at night.
- Ladywell (Zone 2) — Around 15 minutes from the City Centre on the Eccles Line. There is a large, free car park for the Park and Ride service to Salford Quays and the city.
- Chorlton (Zone 2) — Around 15 minutes from the City Centre on the Manchester Airport and East Didsbury Lines. This area of South Manchester has lots to do in summer including the Unity Festival in Chorlton Park and the Big Green Festival as well as the Chorlton Arts Festival. Many creative people such as artists, writers and actors have come to live in Chorlton. Until January 2009 Chorlton was the location for the Cosgrove Hall animation studios where the children's series Chorlton and the Wheelies and Dangermouse were created. Parts of the area are used by film crews for TV locations, such as The Second Coming.
- Altrincham (Zone 4) - For food-related experiences
- Bury (Zone 4) - East Lancashire Railway. Preserved steam (and diesel) trains most weekends and other days in school holidays. Excellent fine dining trains on Sundays.
For anyone who wishes to combine tram travel with sight-seeing there is a book by local author Barry Worthington called The Metrolink Companion which gives a detailed description of what to see as you journey along all of the lines.
Taxis are considerably cheaper than in London. As a general rule you should be able to get anywhere you need to go within the core of the city for £5-10. Because of the nature of the tight local authority boundaries within the conurbation, taxis easily cross these, and there are few problems as long as your journey stays within Greater Manchester. As a general rule, taxis are required to put the meter on for journeys within the M60 ring road (and sometimes little farther). If you are to travel farther, it is best to agree a price in advance. You may flag down only the black cabs (London-style Hackney carriages): other taxis must be booked in advance over the phone and are marked with the yellow Manchester City Council sign on the bonnet, and the firm's phone number (again on a yellow strip) on the sides. These are often called minicabs or private hire cars.
Avoid rogue mini cabs at all costs. Even if the car has a Manchester City Council plate, or one from one of the other metropolitan boroughs, you are not insured if the cab was not booked in advance.
You may find it difficult to get a black cab after the pubs shut on Friday and Saturday nights in the city centre, so it serves to have a backup plan for getting back to your accommodation. Larger groups are most likely to be able to "flag" down a taxi on the road. If you are struggling for a taxi after midnight and don't mind waiting around drunk people, it can often be easier to join a queue outside larger clubs, such as those in The Printworks, as black cabs often stop here. The black cabs with the amber "TAXI" sign illuminated are the ones that are looking for fares. Otherwise, buy something at a takeaway and then ask for a taxi: the employees do that all the time.
There are a number of taxi ranks within the city centre, staffed by security/logistical staff during busy periods. These ranks are serviced only by black cabs, but there are also private hire taxi/minicab companies that you can walk to and then wait (inside or usually outside) until a car becomes available.
The online taxi App Uber is now becoming more predominant in the city, and you should be able to request an Uber taxi within 10 minutes from anywhere in the city.
Local rail services run regularly and to most places in the surrounding area and beyond. All trains pass through either Piccadilly or Victoria, but you may wish to call or visit the website of National Rail Enquiries (0845 748 4950, a premium rate call from most mobiles) to find out which one before setting off. If you plan to take several off peak journeys within Greater Manchester, you could consider a "Rail Ranger" ticket, which, as of January 2018, costs £6.80 per day for adults and £3.40 for children under 16 (accompanied children under 5 are free). This is a large area and means you could travel as far north as Bolton and Rochdale, as far south as the airport and Stockport, as far west as Wigan and as far east as The Peak District. They also include free travel on the Metrolink within the central zone. These can be bought at ticket offices or on the train.
TfGM has a "London tube-style" map of the Greater Manchester rail network, including Metrolink.
If you are in a hurry to get to outlying places by train and are unsure where to buy your ticket, as long as you board the correct one, these can be bought on the train from the guard who will walk through the carriages. Piccadilly in particular can be quite confusing to the visitor. There are some ticket machines if the queues are too long. A note of caution to buying tickets on the train; some service providers will charge you the 'standard fare' which is basically the full peak time fare if you buy on the train; this can work out very expensive.
Train services from Piccadilly serve the airport all night.
See and do
- Manchester's Chinatown around George Street and Faulkner Street has been a feature of Manchester since the late 1970s. It is home to the bulk of Manchester's east-Asian restaurants and many traders in Chinese food and goods. As night falls upon Chinatown, the neon lights come on, adding to the ambient feel of the area. There are many eateries to try too. They range from Chinese to Japanese; reaching out to a wide spectrum of tastes. There are also Chinese shops for the locals to buy items imported directly from China, such as newspapers, magazines, DVDs and medications.
- The Village, also known as the Gay Village, has built up around Canal Street out of the many cotton warehouses in the area. It is home to one of the oldest and most-established gay communities in Europe and is known for its tolerance toward all kinds of people. Many of Manchester's most famous bars and clubs are to be found here, most of which are as popular with straight party-animals as they are with the gay crowd. The Village hosts a major Pride festival every year (August Bank Holiday; the last weekend of the month).
- Manchester's Northern Quarter has developed massively over the last few years and is brimming with restaurants, bars, live music venues and independent shops.
- Check out the Curry Mile, an 800 metre-long stretch of curry restaurants, sari shops, and jewellery stores in Rusholme.
- If you have time and want to mix with trendy, monied residents try an evening out in the very upmarket southern suburb of Didsbury. This is a popular nighttime destination for many from across the conurbation. "The village" (not to be confused with the Gay Village in the city centre) as it is known is too far from East Didsbury station for comfort, but a taxi is possible from the city centre or there is a good bus service.
- Castlefield is the site of the original Roman settlement Mamucium and has been known as Castlefield since Medieval times. The walls that still stand over two metres high are from as late as the 16th century. It is the centre of Manchester's canal network and a transport nexus of unique historical importance. The Castlefield Basin joins the Rochdale and Bridgewater canals, the latter being the first cut canal in Britain. The nearby Museum of Science and Industry contains Liverpool Road station, the first passenger railway station in the world. Very important in industrial times, it became run down in post-war times until it was completely regenerated in the 1990s and designated Britain's first Urban Heritage site. These days the area is like a small country oasis in the heart of the city, with regular events and a handful of great pubs around the canals and the neighbouring streets. It is also the only place to see wildlife in Manchester's centre.
- The University of Manchester, on Oxford Road, where amongst other things, the atom was first probed by Rutherford, the first computer was built, and where radio astronomy was pioneered. It was here too that the element Vanadium was first isolated. The architectural style of the new curved visitor's centre contrasts with the old buildings on the opposite side of Oxford Road, within which Manchester Museum is to be found.
- Manchester Cathedral, in the Millennium Quarter. The widest cathedral in England with important carved choir stalls (school of Lincoln) and pulpitum. A visitors' centre provides an intimate experience for newcomers to the cathedral. This is near to Harvey Nichols, Urbis and Victoria Station.
- Manchester Town Hall, on Albert Square. This imposing and beautiful neo-Gothic masterpiece by Alfred Waterhouse is a symbol of the wealth and power of Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. The building is closed to the public until 2024, because of renovation work expected to cost several hundred million pounds. The Town Hall is on the wide cobbled area of Albert Square, which is all accessible from St Peter's Square Metrolink station.
- John Rylands Library, on Deansgate. The bequest to the people of Manchester by who was once the world's richest widow, Henriquetta Rylands, in memory of her husband John, but now administered by the University of Manchester. It contains the 'Manchester Fragment' the earliest known fragment of the New Testament, part of St. John's gospel found near Alexandria and dating from the first part of the second century, shortly after the gospel was first written. Tours can be booked around lunchtime. The library was designed by Basil Champneys and is the last building built in the perpendicular gothic style. There is a good cafe on the ground floor.
- St Ann's Church is on one side of St Ann's Square and offers a quiet refuge from the noise of the city. There is always a warm welcome inside. It is very popular for weddings on Saturdays.
There are many theatres and concert venues in Manchester, (The Opera House, Palace Theatre, Royal Exchange, Dancehouse Theatre, and The Contact, not forgetting The Lowry at The Quays, which has three theatre spaces). Further afield, The Bolton Octagon, Bury Met, Oldham Coliseum, the lovingly restored 1930s Stockport Plaza with a wonderful 1930s tearoom overlooking Mersey Square are worthy of note. The Plaza shows films and hosts theatre productions and stages what are becoming very popular pantomimes at Christmas. The Garrick in Stockport as well as The Gracie Fields Theatre in Rochdale are all worth a mention too, as are university and RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) venues.
You can catch the likes of Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran at the Manchester Arena, which is the largest of its kind in Europe and seen as one of the best such venues in the world. Other such venues include the Apollo, Bridgewater Hall, and the revamped Manchester Central.
- Central Library, near Albert Square. As mentioned above. A beautiful, round, civic building from the 1930s, Central Library has just reopened following a major renovation and now offers a beguiling mix of old and new and showcasing its extensive collections. The company that used to shared the building is due to move to a new development named HOME merging with The Cornerhouse.
- Manchester also has a couple of big multiplex cinemas located centrally: AMC off Deansgate (as cheap as £3.20 if you're a student) and the Vue in the Printworks show the usual Hollywood fare. The latter is home to an 'IMAX' screen.
- Imperial War Museum North at the Quays. Great museum with fantastic architecture, in Trafford Borough, across the water from The Lowry, near Manchester United's Stadium, and designed by Daniel Libeskind, who also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The museum focuses on the people involved in war, whether it's the people who worked in the factories in World War II, or the soldiers who suffered in the battlefield. Tours are offered and displays are updated on a regular basis.
- The Lowry, at Pier 8 on the Quays Home to the City of Salford's collection of the paintings of L.S. Lowry. The centre also contains two theatres and a drama studio which put on everything from "Opera North" productions to pantomime, local works and quality touring productions.
- Manchester Art Gallery, near Chinatown. Designed by Sir Charles Barry architect of the Houses of Parliament. The gallery has a particularly fine collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings.
- Manchester International Festival a Biannual event; generally in July - check website is a major landmark in Manchester's annual calendar of events, the Manchester International Festival (MIF) offers one-of-a-kind, world-class events and cultural experiences across the city. Highlights of previous years include Sir Kenneth Branagh's performance of Hamlet in a de-consecrated church and concerts in a disused railway depot.
- Manchester Museum, on Oxford Road. Highlights include a fossil skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Egyptology, including painted mummy masks of the Roman era.
- Gallery of English Costume, in Platt Hall Rusholme is now open once more and well worth a visit.
- The Museum of Science and Industry in Castlefield is very popular with families and school groups and holds a vast collection of exhibits. The first ever passenger railway station is part of the museum, whilst a reconstruction of 'Baby', the first ever stored-program computer, created by Manchester University, is also on display.
- People's History Museum, on Bridge Street between Deansgate and the now much improved Salford Central Station. On Bridge Street, to the left, fans of modern architecture should look out for the new Manchester Civil Justice Centre. It is slowly becoming known to Mancunians as "the filing cabinet". You will see why! For a better view, take it in from the new square, on the other side, into the Spinningfields district, itself worth a detour. There is a good cafe on the ground floor of the museum with a view of the river. Look out too for the now renovated Doves of Peace Statue outside the museum. This was first erected in 1986 to celebrate Manchester's decision to promote itself as a nuclear free city.
- National Football Museum, in Millennium Quarter. Originally opened as a "museum of the modern city" in its unmistakable all-glass building, 'Urbis' is now the National Football Museum after all the exhibits were transferred from Preston. Well worth a visit if you're at all interested in "the beautiful game".
- The Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road. This gallery houses modern and historic art, prints, and a collection of rare wallpapers. During the summer, forget the bus and walk down Oxford Road through the University area, looking out for The Aquatics Centre (a legacy of The Commonwealth Games) and The Royal Northern College of Music. Walk even further and seek out the above mentioned Gallery of English Costume near the famous Curry Mile in Rusholme, which is unique in Britain. At the Whitworth The Gallery Café was declared "Best Family Restaurant" by the "Which?-Good Food Guide 2009". The menu is simple with an emphasis on seasonal, local produce.
- The Bridgewater Hall, near St. Peter's Square and the Manchester Central Exhibition Centre in Petersfield, was completed 1996 and is the home of the Halle Orchestra, the world's first municipal symphony orchestra, and also houses travelling famous musical acts. The centrepiece of the hall is the 5,500-pipe organ by Rasmussen. An elegant bistro and restaurant are open at normal meal times to the general public. There is a bar next door down the wide steps, overlooking a pleasant water feature. Look out, too, for the polished stone sculpture outside!
- The Manchester Jewish Museum in Manchester North.
Exploring the metaverse
Virtual football is being pioneered at Manchester City, an immersive metaversion of their stadium and games. Sure it's artificial and distanced, but no more so than watching on TV. Launch details are not yet announced. This could be the start of the next big thing in travel, even more revolutionary than commercial aviation, especially for fragile or inaccessible destinations. So if you ever get to tour the rings of Saturn, your journey began in Manchester.
- Watch cricket at Old Trafford. This is home to Lancashire County Cricket Club, one of the 18 "First Class Counties", the top tier of English cricket. County matches normally last 3-4 days. The stadium also frequently hosts international or "Test Matches", lasting up to five days. The stadium is off Talbot Road leading southwest from the city.
- Manchester City FC, Etihad Stadium, Rowsley Street M11 3FF, play in the Premier League, the top tier of English football. Long regarded as Manchester's second team, since the early 2010s City have overtaken United. Their stadium, capacity 55,000, is in Sportcity 2 miles east of city centre. Their women's team play in the Women's Super League, with home games at Man City Academy.
- Manchester United Matt Busby Way, Stretford M16 0RA, play in the Premier League, the top tier of English football. Their fans' most heated rivalry is not with neighbouring Man City, but with Liverpool FC. Another important rivalry for them is with Leeds United, which stems from the historic animosity between Lancashire and Yorkshire that has existed since the Wars of the Roses. Their 75,000-capacity stadium is two miles west of city centre at Old Trafford. Their women's team play in the Women's Super League, with home games at Leigh Sports Village.
- Sportcity is the "largest concentration of sporting venues in Europe." It is to the east of the city centre, about 30 minutes walk from Piccadilly Station. It was built to host most of the events for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is home to the National Cycling Centre, Manchester City FC, and other important sporting venues.
- Rugby League World Cup Finals are held in England 15 Oct - 19 Nov 2022, postponed from 2021. Old Trafford hosts several matches including the final, with others played at Manchester Central.
- Ice hockey: Manchester Storm play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, the UK's top tier. Their home rink is Planet Ice in Altrincham.
- Belle Vue Aces race at the National Speedway Stadium and host Premiership speedway.
- Chetham's Library is Manchester's best kept secret - even most residents of the city are largely oblivious to its existence. Europe's oldest English language Public Library is tucked away next to the futuristic Urbis just off Millenium Square. One of Manchester's oldest buildings, it still has the original collection of books, all chained to their shelves. This is where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would visit while in Manchester and where Engels wrote the world-changing book The Condition of the Working Classes in England, a key influence on the development of Communism. You can still sit in the window seat where they would talk. The 15th-century structure is part of Chetham's Music School - there are no signs: ask at the security hut and they will happily let you in for free.
- St Mary's, The Hidden Gem, near Albert Square. The oldest post-Reformation Catholic church in the country, dating from 1794. It contains one of the greatest pieces of art in Manchester, and the altar is quite magnificent. This is a quiet refuge from the noise of the city.
- The futuristic Trinity Bridge, designed by the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, who was heavily involved in the designs for the Olympic village in Barcelona, is in the Chapel Wharf Area. This links the twin cities of Manchester and Salford, leading to the five star Lowry Hotel on the Salford bank. It is all a block behind Kendals, near the Freemasons' Hall. A nice pleasant view.
- The Hulme Bridge in Hulme and the Merchant's Bridge in Castlefield, by Catalan Square, are also worth a look.
- Parsonage Gardens is at the back of the House of Fraser (Kendals) Department Store. This is a quaint garden. Nice to relax in when the weather is fine and to read a book. Nearby there is also an observation platform which looks over the River Irwell and is ideal for taking photos of Trinity Bridge and The Lowry Hotel. This does also serve as a carpark, on an overhang, for one of the office blocks, but you may use it. It is a little hidden away but you access this to the right of 20 St Mary's Parsonage, which runs along one side of the gardens.
- Portico Library and Gallery, near Piccadilly Gardens. Home of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical society. Speakers here have included Dalton, the father of Atomic theory and describer of his own colour blindness, the Salford physicist Joule for whom the metric unit of energy is named and Roget (who compiled his celebrated Thesaurus here). The Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein here claimed to have attempted to repeat Franklin's celebrated kite and lightning experiment in the Peak District while employed at Manchester University.
- Midland Bank Building (was the King Street branch of HSBC) is a domineering piece of architecture from 1928, reminiscent of Dublin's General Post Office. Go inside for a look if you can - its banking hall is now a restaurant owned by Jamie Oliver. It is at the upper end of King Street near Armani and Vivienne Westwood, towards Mosley Street.
- The Cloud 23 Bar on the 23rd floor of The Hilton, Deansgate, within the Beetham Tower, offers a sublime view across Greater Manchester. Whilst the bar may be pricey, the view from even half-way up the gleaming skyscraper is magnificent. If you're not feeling thirsty you can also visit the bar and enjoy the vista for free. Just ask in the lobby.
Manchester's shopping district is one of the most diverse shopping districts in the UK and the majority of city centre shops are within reasonable walking distance of each other (15 minutes at most) and most are served by a metroshuttle service.
Even in the most upmarket stores you are treated in a friendly manner. The Arndale Centre is a large 1970s city-centre shopping precinct with 280 stores. Although renovated, the place retains some of its 1970s concrete charms and still some of the infamous yellow tiles that are a testament to the urban planning of that era. It is connected via link bridge to the Marks and Spencer and Selfridges department stores adjacent in Exchange Square.
There are a number of large shops aimed at bargain hunters, including the largest Primark in the country, which is great for a bargain and much loved by visiting cabin crews, and an Aldi food hall on Market Street (just off Piccadilly Gardens).
The Millennium Quarter (at the back of the Arndale Centre) is now quite smart and good for shopping. There's The Corn Exchange, an upmarket shopping centre based in the beautiful old Corn Exchange, worth a visit for the building alone and Selfridges, spread across 5 floors with its large Louis Vuitton concession and fantastic food hall in the basement. You will find everything from sushi to fine chocolates, kosher foods, to a juice bar, etc. Harvey Nichols, opposite the Triangle, offers luxury fashions and produce to Manchester's rich and famous. The centre of Manchester's shopping area has traditionally been St. Ann's Square, and there are many shops nearby.
King Street and Spring Gardens to the immediate north of the city centre offer a Vivienne Westwood store (a local girl, from the nearby Peak District), Joseph, DKNY, Emporio Armani and Collezione; these catering for, amongst others, the city's Premiership footballers, soap stars (Coronation Street has been produced in the city since the early 1960s), and the many media types who can also be found in the area.
Deansgate has a fair number upmarket stores, as do some of the roads off it. The House of Fraser store, considered by many to be the top people's shop, (still known as "Kendals" to most Manchester people and "Kendal Milne's" to an even older generation) is on Deansgate and has been on roughly the same site since the mid-19th century. It is somewhat old school and the eating places are worth a visit. The new champagne bar, on the third floor, is the latest addition. One of central Manchester's few quiet green squares is just behind the store. This is Parsonage Gardens. Deansgate is also home to Ed Hardy, the General Store, Edwards as well as some high end restaurants.
Just off Deansgate is The Avenue a luxury designer shopping destination in the Spinningfields district of the city centre. It is the home to stores such as Flannels, Mulberry, Emporio Armani and Armani Collezioni, Brooks Brothers, Ermenegildo Zegna, Oliver Sweeney and Joseph. Combined with cafés and restaurants this is a top retail and leisure venue in the city centre.
There is also an outlet mall at The Lowry, in Salford Quays, near the Media City: UK development which houses the BBC's northern presence and Salford University's school of Media and Performance.
The Trafford Centre is a huge out-of-town shopping centre and accessible by car, taxi, bus or tram. It was linked to the Metrolink tram system in March 2020. Dubbed by many a Temple to Consumerism, it is one of the largest, and possibly the grandest of such centres in Europe. It has its own branches of Selfridges, Debenhams and the best of Greater Manchester's two John Lewis stores. The other is in suburban Cheadle. The centre is spectacular, luxurious, and 'posh' inside and out. Look out for the biggest chandelier in Europe, near the Great Hall! The cinema is also one of the best in the area and has even hosted some UK premières in the past. The centre is now also linked to an annexe offering homewares and furniture, built in an Italianate style around a very large outdoor fountain. With supermarkets and DIY outlets nearby, Mancunians can buy everything in this area without venturing into the city or any other town centre.
Of particular interest
- Merchandise from the football clubs Manchester United and Manchester City is available from many locations including dedicated superstores in Old Trafford and Sportcity, respectively.
- Afflecks Palace in the Northern Quarter is "an emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce," and a shopping arcade in a five-storey Victorian building, featuring a range of more than 50 independent stalls catering to a young alternative crowd. It's a lot of fun: strange costumes, lots of goths, punks, and teenagers. Saved from closing in April 2008, it is now known as "Afflecks".
- The Northern Quarter is Manchester's answer to Soho, and there is a mishmash of stores which sell music, art, and clothing. More and more bars and cafes are opening too. At night look out for the illuminated, public art attraction on top of the Church Street car park. It is lit from 9PM to 1AM.
- Every Christmas time, continental style Christmas markets take place in Albert Square, in St. Ann's Square, and along both New Cathedral Street and Brazennose Street. You can buy all the usual Continental and British Christmas curios as well as various foodstuffs. Good fun and very atmospheric at night when it's all lit up.
- Also at Christmas, into the new year, there are open air skating rinks in Spinningfields as well as a snow slide and other attractions at Piccadilly Gardens. There is also a winterbar at the Spinningfields location.
- The small but perfectly-stocked food section of Harvey Nichols has a particularly fine wine department. Wines range from relatively inexpensive to the highest levels, e.g. Château Latour, vertical ranges of Petrus, Vega Sicilia, etc. They are still remarkably good value in context, e.g. 1990 Krug Clos de Mesnil 1990, arguably the greatest Champagne ever made and incomparably finer than the footballers' wildly overrated Crystal is about £150 cheaper than usually quoted elsewhere.
- Of late, there is a flower market at the Market Street corner of Piccadilly Gardens Thursday through Saturday from 10AM-6PM. Some food stalls and craft stalls can be found there too.
- Also hunt out the Craft and Design Centre, in the old Smithfield Market Building, in The Northern Quarter. The complex is full of artist studio space and boutiques, as well as a cafe.
- There are regular events in Albert Square, St Ann's Square and on New Cathedral Street, all year around, where you can buy art, listen to music and sample foods from far and wide.
- If catering for yourself, there are several Sainsbury's Local stores around the city centre, at Oxford Road, Mosley Street, Quay Street, Bridge Street, Piccadilly Station. Tesco Metro supermarkets can be found on Market Street (the largest supermarket in the centre), on Piccadilly and on Quay Street, which is near the Sainsbury's and Granada TV. M&S food outlets are within the M&S store next to Selfridges and there are also M&S Simply Food stores at Piccadilly Gardens and within Piccadilly Station. You will find increasingly popular Co-op food stores near both Victoria, by the movement's headquarters, opposite the Arndale Market, at Piccadilly Gardens and just outside Piccadilly station. For more upmarket food products, Harvey Nichols has a deli and foodhall as does Selfridges. The city centre's first Waitrose store opened near The Avenue development in Spinningfields, with another expected to open on the approach road to Piccadilly station very soon. At the other end of the spectrum there is the Arndale Market and a large Aldi store in the Arndale Centre, which is, in common with most UK outlets, much more upmarket than the stores in Germany. This is also accessible from Market Street. There is also a Lidl and a Tesco on Oxford Road near Manchester Royal Infirmary.
- For something a little bit different, the newly refurbished Manchester Arndale Market features many food stalls, including a rather large fish store and a butchers. Chinatown has many specialist shops and the landmark Wing Yip superstore on Oldham Road in the Northern Quarter is excellent for everything oriental.
- There are various other mini-markets and late night stores around the city centre and in Piccadilly station. There are three 24-hour Spar's, one in Piccadilly gardens, one on Piccadilly station approach and the third opposite the former site of the BBC Studios on Oxford Road. Just out of the centre is a large Sainsbury's, in Regent Retail Park, Salford, an Asda store in Hulme, and a Tesco Extra hypermarket in Cheetham Hill.
- Free copies of The Manchester Evening News are given out around the city and at the airport on Thursday and Friday, as well as inside and outside some selected newsagents in town. There is a charge of 70p for the other days of the week including Saturday's edition. This is very good for listings, especially on a Friday, with the City Life pull out section. The free Metro newspaper is handed out in the mornings. This too has some listings. Online sites such as Live-Manchester.co.uk also provide Manchester gig listings, information about theatre shows and arts and museum exhibitions.
There is no doubt that Greater Manchester's four universities continue to be a big draw and Manchester itself claims to be the UK's most popular student city. The University of Manchester receives more applications than any other UK university, whilst Manchester Metropolitan University also offers a wide variety of courses.
More and more language schools are also now opening and offer a more reasonable option than the likes of London and other southern venues. The average price for 1 hour's English (A1 to B2 Level) lesson in a class of 8 to 10 students is about £5.
There are numerous temporary agencies in the city and there is work in the hospitality industry to be had. There have been reports, of late, of teacher shortages (though not quite on par with London), and this could be of interest to overseas candidates with the relevant qualifications. Manchester has the highest job ratio of the eight English Core Cities and is therefore a very good place to find work. It could also be seen as a good alternative to London for employment opportunities.
Many thousands of East Europeans have been drawn to the city, but according to the press reports, a great number are now returning due to perceived job insecurity and the falling value of the pound, as a result of the economic downturn. Many, to date, have found work in the building trade, where there has been a boom as of late.
Manchester is an important financial centre and the media are also well represented, as can be seen in the BBC's relocation of many of its departments to the Media City at Salford Quays and ITV-Granada (makers of Coronation Street)'s move to the same site. MediaCity UK is home to many BBC studios.
Retail is a large employer, in and around the city, and there are many gyms in need of trainers for the growing city centre population.
As you would expect from such a cosmopolitan city, Manchester has a huge selection of restaurants and eateries that serve a vast array of cuisines. Look hard enough and you will be able find any type of international and British food. It is also worth exploring some of the suburbs for superb, small independent bistros and restaurants. West Didsbury and Chorlton are noted for their large number of great eateries. If you can get there, the quaintly named and somewhat trendy village of Ramsbottom, just north of Bury, directly north of Manchester, is said to be "the new Chorlton", in regards to restaurants, and the place to eat. The usual, well-established UK chains like Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express, Nando's, and Bella Italia. are all to be found in Manchester city centre and out of town too.
There are hundreds of kebab and pizza shops on Oxford Road and in Fallowfield and Rusholme. In Rusholme, in particular, locals speak of the £10 curry, where if you bring your own drinks into the curry house, you should leave with change from a ten-pound note.
Some of the cheapest, long-established curry cafés, though, are still to be found in the back streets of the Northern Quarter and Central Deansgate offering a novel twist on the traditional British café.
There are plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets in Chinatown for less than £10. Prices tend to change with the time of day and likely demand. If you eat earlier in the day, you can have a full all-you-can-eat meal, including soup, starter, and dessert for around £5.
Sam's Chop House on Chapel Walks is popular with visitors looking for a British dining experience (not an easy feat in the UK's big cities), as well as Sinclair's Oyster Bar at Cathedral Gates. Many hotels offer menus that tend towards national dishes.
Amongst the enormous range of Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown, the Great Wall at 52 Faulkner St offers authentic, reasonably priced food, including many one bowl/plate dishes (Roast pork and roast duck in soup noodle is particularly popular). The only downside is that the service charge increases the bill.
Rusholme's Curry Mile is, as the name suggests, home to a lot of Indian restaurants! Due to the high concentration of curry houses, and all the competition, you should be able to get a really good curry in just about any restaurant.
Also upmarket is a new venture by the side of the Museum of Science and Industry. This is Akbar's on Liverpool Road and they claim, on the side of buses, to be "probably the best Indian restaurant in the North of England". Also popular in town are the two EastZEast; the original is under the Ibis Hotel, behind the former site of the BBC building (now a car park), and the new, very luxurious one is on Bridge Street, opposite the Manchester Central Travelodge, off Deansgate. Look out for the doorman at the riverside location. There they also offer free valet parking to all guests. These two are classy but not overpriced. Some have claimed the menu could be a little more adventurous, in view of all they seem to have invested. The riverside branch seems popular for Asian weddings, lately, which must say something about the quality of the venue.
Also just off Oxford Road on Chester Street is an Indian restaurant which has won lots of awards Zouk Tea Bar & Grill. They have a good mix of people dining there and it is open for lunch as well as evenings.
Further out, Moon in Withington and Third Eye in Didsbury, both in south Manchester, are excellent. Individual takes on traditional dishes are served alongside local specialities, and cost about £6 a dish.
In Chorlton, you should be able to find Coriander Restaurant, Azid Manzil and Asian Fusion. They are all on Barlow Moor Road.
- YO! Sushi A sushi bar with conveyor belt in the Arndale Centre (1st floor), Piccadilly Station (1st floor) and Trafford Centre Selfridge's store. They also serve many hot rice and noodle based dishes as well as deserts.
- Sapporo Teppanyaki Manchester's flagship Japanese restaurant offering Teppanyaki cuisine with a contemporary twist and sushi known for being at its culinary best. The restaurant prides itself in offering a unique and at times highly dramatic dining experience through the established Teppanyaki chefs and their combined culinary skills.
During the period leading up to Christmas from November, there is a Christmas Market stretching from the Town Hall towards St Ann's Square and New Cathedral Street. By the Town Hall section there is a spectacular range of international cuisine. Those not to be missed are the crepes (£3.50-4.50 each, but they are really large) which are some of the best in Europe and the paella (£4.50 a box) which is genuinely Spanish. Other popular stalls include German hotdogs and Dutch pancakes. There is also a stall selling German salamis. If you go there nearer Christmas, you may be able to get a bargain packet of 7-8 salamis for just £10.
Search out the upmarket restaurants in the city's top hotels (including the Lowry Hotel, the Midland, SAS Radisson, and the Hilton, Deansgate). Less grand, but very popular, is the restaurant in the Malmaison hotel, by Piccadilly station. The Market Restaurant, in the Northern Quarter, is long established and has an excellent reputation. Heathcote is well represented with a place off Deansgate whilst the Grill on New York Street (which, as its name suggests, is on New York Street) provides good, honest food in modern surroundings. Abode at 107 Piccadilly is also believed to have brought something new to the Manchester dining scene.
Harvey Nichols, the upmarket department store, has a traditional-style restaurant and cocktail bar at 21 New Cathedral Street, with views onto Exchange Square, and is hard to beat if you like rubbing shoulders with Manchester's wealthy set. When the store is closed there is a dedicated entrance and lift at the side of the building. Their afternoon tea is worth a try, but you may prefer the older style version at the Midland Hotel or a new take on the theme at the Lowry Hotel.
At the top of King Street, in what was once Karim's Indian restaurant, the footballer Rio Ferdinand has invested heavily into Rosso an upmarket Italian, which has so far had good, if not excellent, reviews in the local press which praised the décor and very professional waiters more than the food.
The Armenian restaurant, very long established, hidden in a basement on Albert Square (by the Town Hall) is good, and full of atmosphere. It's to the left with the Town Hall facing you.
There are the usual chains to be had on Deansgate, but try to search out El Rincón de Rafa, hidden away behind Deansgate, near St. John's Gardens. This is an authentic Spanish restaurant, established for many years, and popular with Filipinos, Spanish and people from the Americas, based in the city. It is a stone's throw from The Instituto Cervantes.
On Deansgate, opposite the Cervantes Centre at number 279, is Evuna another Spanish tapas establishment. This newish venture has had very good reviews.
Patisseries and tearooms
In common with a number of provincial towns and cities, Manchester now has its own branch of "Pâtisserie Valérie"; that of Soho fame! It is on Deansgate, opposite House of Fraser, on the corner of St Ann's Street. Gets very busy, but well worth the wait for a table. Service is attentive and the choice is exceptional.
Leckenby's, on King Street, near the House of Fraser (Kendal's) car park entrance, is a welcome addition to the Manchester cafe scene. This more traditional cafe/tea room is open even quite late into the evening and offers a pleasant, upmarket alternative to meeting up in a pub.
There are other tearooms, in the Northern Quarter, and even one on Richmond Street in the Gay Village.
Manchester has a diverse nightlife and can offer a wide range of night-time activities. It has a vibrant and varied nightlife scene, including numerous clubs as well as a huge range of drinking establishments from traditional pubs to ultra-chic concept bars. Very high-profile, of late, is the Cloud 23 bar on the 23rd floor of The Hilton, Deansgate. A bit pricey, but with attentive table service, and worth it for the views alone. By the way the personnel is very friendly and won't kick you out if you just want to have a look - you can go up for free. To avoid the sometimes 2-hour long queues, try it during the week. The bars in The Radisson Blu and The Aurora Hotel are also upmarket. For other upmarket venues (there are some very discreet ones catering for the most privileged in town), your hotel concierge should be of help in pointing you in the right direction.
For a slightly more quirky place to have a drink, The Temple of Convenience is aptly named as it is a converted underground public toilet in the city centre. The bar receives many high reviews although it's quite small and may be crowded.
Famed for its musical past, the University of Manchester Student's Union on Oxford Road hosts almost nightly gigs in its four venues on Oxford Road ranging from local unsigned bands to international superstars. The Manchester Apollo in Ardwick is a slightly bigger venue having boasted appearances from Blondie to new-comers like Kasabian. Smaller bands can also be seen at a range of excellent venues in the city including the Roadhouse, Night and Day, both in the Northern Quarter, and Jabez Clegg, a pub/club off Oxford Road.
The club scene in Manchester is varied with the dance-orientated clubs you'd expect from a city setting alongside indie, rock, and gay clubs. For the commercial dance music fan, the "place to be" would be Deansgate Locks (four bars and a comedy club in a converted railway complex) in Peter's Fields where the clubs and bars can be expensive, but are always full of fashionable types and members of the local student population. More eclectic dance music styles are played at The Phoenix, both on Oxford Road.
The offerings for fans of rock music have been fragmented since local institution Jilly's closed its doors in 2010. Satan's Hollow (off Princess St), with its every-night-is-Halloween decor, plays pop-punk and emo on Tu, F and Sa. If you are interested in Rock and Metal paired with cage dancers and a lapdancing lounge, try the monthly Caged Asylum night at the Ruby Lounge, the self-proclaimed craziest place to be in Manchester at 28-34 High Street. There are also monthly rock nights at Jabez Clegg (near the university), and Alter Ego (Princess St).
For fans of indie and alternative music, there are a whole host of new exciting clubs opening. Any late evening walk up Oxford Road should enable you to collect a variety of fliers for club nights. The Friday edition of The Manchester Evening News has a good listings section, which is handy for the weekend. Papers are handed out free of charge Thu-Fri, at various points in the centre and at some newsagents.
The Retro Bar on Sackville Street, hosts live acts upstairs and a club downstairs with play lists that include Blondie, The Ramones, and Le Tigre. Joshua Brooks on Charles Street is also another club where you can expect a mix of indie, electro, punk, and rock in a budget-friendly, student atmosphere. Weekly, Smile at the Star and Garter in East Manchester is something of a local indie institution with a great playlist. It sells out very early and can often be unbearably busy as a result of this. Saturdays also play host to Tiger Lounge near the Town Hall. This plays more in the way of lounge alongside experimental and indie sounds.
If you want to hear music by Manchester bands like The Stone Roses, visit Fifth Avenue on Princess Street, often brimming with students — unsurprising when you see the cheap drinks prices! They also feature themes such as toga and foam parties. The other, rival centre club for indie music is 42nd Street, just off Deansgate. It plays a mixture of classic and modern indie, 1960s pop, and 1970s funk and soul.
To enjoy Gay Manchester, it is probably best to visit Canal Street with its concentration of bars and clubs and visit places that appeal along the way. Just off Canal Street, the most popular gay clubs are Essential, a multi-floor super-club open until the early hours (sometimes as late as 8AM), Cruz 101 (Manchester's longest running gay club) and Poptastic, a two-room pop and indie club held at Alter Ego every Tuesday and Saturday night. Although entry can be expensive, this is usually reflected in a reduced price bar inside the club.
For bars, try the cocktail lounge Socio Rehab in the Northern Quarter (ask a taxi driver where it is) and Tribeca on Sackville Street (in the popular Gay Village). Trof, a funky student bar in Fallowfield, It has a second venture, Trof North, on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter.
Although there are still plenty of cafés and traditional pubs in Manchester, bars and restaurants with much more bohemian and cosmopolitan feels to them are now dominating. The better traditional pubs include:
- Lass O'Gowrie at 36 Charles St.
- Salisbury at 2 Wakefield St off of Oxford Road.
- Peveril of the Peak. Behind The Bridgewater Hall at 27 Great Bridgewater St.
- Britons Protection, 50 Bridgewater St. Behind the stage door entrance of the Bridgewater Hall. It is here where many a poor mug "took The King's Shilling" and found himself press-ganged into the army. Largest selection of whisky in the city.
- Sinclairs. This is just by Harvey Nichols store at 2 Cathedral Gates.
- Grey Horse Inn, 80 Portland St.
- The Old Wellington Inn, the oldest pub in Manchester. It was opened in 1552, and is in the fantastic Tudor-era Shambles Square. Along with Sinclair's the whole place was moved a couple of hundred yards down the road at number 4, as part of the development of New Cathedral Street, after the IRA bomb of 1996.
- The Marble Arch Inn, 76 Rochdale Rd. Real ale brewed by their own brewery Marble and cask ale from micro-breweries nationwide.
Comedy wise, Manchester has a fair number of offerings: The Frog and Bucket at 96 Oldham Street offers student friendly prices and The Comedy Store at 1a-3 Deansgate Locks is the largest comedy venue in town. XS Malarkey at Jabez Clegg on Oxford Road is cheap but good.
- Individual listings can be found in Manchester's district articles
There are thousands of hotel beds in the Manchester, ranging from 5-star establishments to bed and breakfast, via youth hostels and serviced apartments. Most accommodation is focussed in the east of the city centre with easy access to the InterCity Piccadilly Station. If in doubt, consult the tourist office, in Piccadilly Gardens. See City Information section for contact details and address.
Despite its obvious industrial heritage, Manchester is home to a great number of very fine hotels, including the grand old Midland Hotel, where Rolls met Royce and the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, housed in the 47 story Beetham Tower (both in Castlefield - Petersfield).
Manchester Airport is also home to several hotels, which offer easy access to both the airport itself and Manchester City Centre.
For those on smaller budgets, there exists a great number of smaller, chain hotels, throughout the city, including the seemingly ubiquitous Premier Inn and others of its ilk, offering clean, pleasant accommodation for lower tariffs.
Self-catering apartments in Manchester are now becoming popular alternatives to 'traditional' hotel stays. There are thousands of self-catering apartments available throughout the city centre and outskirts - providing accommodation for up to 8 people at a time, for stays of anything from one night to 1 year. You can expect noisy neighbours at weekends!
Take care of the place you are staying in as, according to the local press, there have been some horror stories of people being charged for breakages, etc., for which they were not responsible.
There are various serviced apartment options for business travellers around the city:
- La Reserve Aparthotel, Ducie St
As of Aug 2021, Manchester city centre has 5G from all UK carriers.
Although you will find a whole bunch of available Wi-Fi hot spots in central Manchester, they can be very expensive. Until the free municipal Wi-Fi network comes live in a few years, make best use of the free Wi-Fi available at:
- Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford St - art gallery, cinema, bar.
- Oklahoma Café, 74 - 76 High St - organic, vegetarian and fair trade coffee shop.
- The Castle Pub, 66 Oldham St - traditional pub.
- Revolution, 90-94 Oxford Rd, M1 5WH - trendy vodka bar. The Wi-Fi is also reachable from the Starbucks on the other side of Oxford Rd.
Free Wi-Fi is being phased in on Metrolink trams (see above).
If you're uncomfortable around thousands of intoxicated young people, then you should probably avoid Friday and Saturday night taxi queues in the city centre. You should also avoid any conflict with door staff at bars, clubs and pubs.
All pubs, bars and clubs are best avoided on days where the Manchester derby football match is taking place. Relations between the two sets of supporters have never been amicable, to say the least, but things seem to have deteriorated. What starts out as "banter" quite commonly gets out of hand. Wearing Liverpool or Leeds Utd shirts while you are in Manchester may also draw some unwanted attention to yourself. If you do attend a football match at Old Trafford, or watch a game with fans in a pub, be careful not to raise the issue of the Munich Air Disaster, especially if you are openly identifying as a supporter of a rival team. While the disaster was more than 60 years ago, "Munich chants" and related slurs still cause deep anger and hostility, and could cause violence. Similarly, talking about "oil money" around Man City fans - or accusing them of "buying success" - will cause hostility. As a general rule, on match days, if you are wanting to openly show support for Man Utd, do so in the areas around Old Trafford in Salford and the Quays, and if you want to do the same as a Man City supporter go to the Etihad. If you want to openly support a rival club from another city (especially Liverpool or Leeds), go to those cities!
Persistent begging is an irritation in Piccadilly. There is also a problem with people walking up to you with a story like "I've lost my wallet and need 50p for the bus home". These people often say the same story for years. This is usually a ruse to get money from you or, in some cases, in the hope that you will get a wallet/purse out of your pocket so it can be stolen.
Since 2017 Piccadilly Gardens has become a place where drug addicts and dealers gather, with the open sale of drugs leading to a nasty atmosphere and gang activity. While the area is always very busy - being in between the main Piccadilly train station and Arndale shopping centre - and you are unlikely to be a victim of crime yourself here, quite violent crime can happen at any time. Most of this is between drug gangs or the ever growing groups of homeless people (drawn to the area by the easy access to drugs) but scary things do happen here. In January 2020 several people were hospitalised after a series of armed robberies and muggings during the same evening, while in February 2020 two people were stabbed outside the Travelodge hotel at lunchtime in what the police said was a ‘targeted attack’.
Sadly it is often impossible or impractical to avoid this area: it is a major transport interchange for the city, and several attractive areas (like Chinatown and the Northern Quarter) border here. The police tend to have high visibility in this area but they cannot be everywhere at all times. The best advice is to be very cautious in this area, especially with mobile phones and money. The city council regularly puts on events in the area (like street markets) to try to encourage a more salubrious atmosphere, and given the sheer number of people who have to pass through this area every day you will likely find no trouble here, but be careful. Attempting to buy or take drugs here will bring you into contact with dangerous criminals or the police, so do not be tempted to do that under any circumstances.
Sellers of The Big Issue magazine are not beggars. The magazine is published by the Big Issue in The North, a social enterprise, and sold to the homeless for resale on the streets. All of the vendors are genuinely homeless and are forbidden from begging whilst selling the magazine. Vendors can be found around the city and visitors may want to buy a £2.50 copy. Please buy only from badged, official vendors.
Manchester is generally quite a safe place, especially in commercialised and tourist orientated areas. If you wander into a less desirable area you should be very wary of street gangs hanging around.
Should you encounter a group which looks suspicious, either avoid them all together and walk the other way, or try to walk past them quickly (at a distance if possible) and behave in a way that they do not perceive as disrespectful or confrontational. This can include eye contact or accidentally brushing past them with your shoulder.
Most of the areas in Manchester where tourists venture are safe. The following areas are very much "off the beaten path", with little to tempt the average visitor. Nonetheless, should you choose to go, then caution would be advised:
- Longsight. This is a somewhat rundown residential area in the shadow of the city centre, which has as yet avoided the gentrification of nearby Hulme.
- Moss Side. This area constitutes the heart of Manchester's African and Caribbean community and is worth a visit if you looking for something different. It is an area that has been associated with gang related violence but is no worse than other inner-city areas in Manchester, with such crime having been greatly reduced by police and community efforts. It is adjacent to some pleasant parks, including the small Whitworth Park and larger Platt Fields Park. Catch the Caribbean Festival of Manchester in Alexandra Park every July/August.
- Parts of Hulme but this young, trendy, regenerated area would be of interest to many with its new town houses, quirky architecture and blocks of flats and is next to the centre.
- Cheetham Hill. Avoid at night; but, during the day, this suburb, to the north of Victoria Station, is a lively, colourful mixture of cultures: Jewish, Asian, and newer arrivals to the city from various parts of the world! The shopping area around "The Village" is very much like an inner London high street.
- Wythenshawe. Much of this is a vast public housing district. The area out towards the airport should be avoided.
- Ordsall. This area is on the up and following the example of Hulme with lots of new developments.
- Parts of East Manchester, particularly Beswick and the residential streets of Openshaw.
- Salford. Unless you have good reason, do not wander too far, on foot at least, over the river Irwell into Salford from the city centre. With the great number of new residential developments in the area, it has improved. The straight route from Manchester centre, via Salford Cathedral along Chapel Street to Salford University, is very safe up to Pendleton.
Many countries have consulates and commissions in Manchester, the most in the UK outside London. For others, you may have to travel to London.
Manchester is well placed at the heart of Northern England. Everything is within an hour or so of Manchester's Piccadilly and Victoria stations; major cities, National Parks, picturesque scenery, seaside resorts and swanky suburbs can all be reached by train.
Suburban and beyond