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Known around the world for its football teams and cutting-edge music scene, Manchester is a cosmopolitan and friendly place. As the self-styled “Capital of the North”, it is a regional hub for shopping, culture and museums. There’s also a thriving nightlife scene centred around restaurants, bars and clubs.
Manchester: city layout
Central Manchester is an architecturally diverse place where neo-Gothic sandstone buildings sit beside modern glass towers. This area is also a focal point for culture, shopping and nightlife. The northern part of the centre – the Northern Quarter – is a trendy area filled with quirky shops, bars and cafés.
Salford Quays, to the southwest, is one of the UK’s largest dockland redevelopment sites. It is home to a growing number of shops, arts complexes and bars, as well as the multipurpose waterfront project MediaCityUK. Nearby, Old Trafford is famous among sports fans everywhere as the home of Manchester United football club.
What to see in Manchester
Central Manchester’s former industrial areas, and the canals linking them, have been spruced up and refreshed. One such district, the site of Britain’s first modern canal, built in 1764, has been transformed into Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. You can go for a waterside stroll past refurbished warehouses and admire the reconstructed gate to an old Roman fort.
At Salford Quays you can visit The Lowry arts complex and the Imperial War Museum North. Sports fans will probably want to tour Manchester United’s stadium, Old Trafford, or Etihad Stadium, home to United’s great rivals Manchester City.
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Hotels in Manchester
Manchester has accommodation to suit every budget and need. You can stay in the heart of the city near the shops and nightlife, out in a quieter suburb within easy reach of Manchester’s business areas, or in the rejuvenated former docklands area.
Choosing a hotel in central Manchester leaves you close to many sights, as well as a high concentration of bars, restaurants and shops.
You’ll find another cluster of hotels around Salford Quays. This lively waterside area is home to businesses and cultural centres, plus several bars and restaurants. It is also near Old Trafford, if you’re in town to watch a football game.
If you’re visiting for work, staying out of the centre – in suburbs such as Salford to the west or Newton Heath to the north – places you closer to Manchester’s business parks.
Wherever you stay, an efficient bus and tram network will get you quickly into the city centre.
Eating Out in Manchester
Whatever your culinary tastes, from Modern British to street food, you will have no trouble finding somewhere to eat out in Manchester. In addition to high-end dining spots, cafés and gastropubs, the city is also renowned for its Chinese and South Asian restaurants.
Central Manchester is filled with bars and bistros. Good areas to check out include the Northern Quarter, crammed with informal, trendy places, King Street and Spinningfields, in the western half of the city centre.
Manchester’s Chinatown is one of Europe’s largest; besides Chinese restaurants, it’s also home to numerous Japanese and Thai eateries.
The southern suburb of Rusholme is where everybody heads to enjoy a curry. There are more than 30 Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani restaurants along one street, Wilmslow Road, a stretch known as “Curry Mile”.
The city’s food-truck scene is also growing, offering you the chance to sample street food from several cuisines. Keep an eye out for the current location of Guerrilla Eats.
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Shopping in Manchester
People come to Manchester from all over northern England to browse and spend in its shops. Most places have fixed prices, but there’s nothing to stop you haggling a little in markets, or in some speciality stores such as antiques shops.
In central Manchester, a focus for many is Manchester Arndale, one of the UK’s largest and longest-standing shopping malls. You’ll also find several department stores around Exchange Square, as well as the Victorian Barton Arcade. East from there, Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter is filled with fashionable boutiques and music shops.
Spinningfields is home to several upmarket retailers, while for custom-made arts and crafts, you can visit the Manchester Craft & Design Centre. The out-of-town Trafford Centre attracts 35 million shoppers every year.
Top markets in Manchester
Culture & Nightlife in Manchester
Manchester’s culture and nightlife scene has a reputation that reaches far beyond the city limits. Whether you want to listen to a live band, see a cutting-edge art exhibition or simply visit a pub or club, there’s always something going on to suit every taste.
The Royal Exchange Theatre, Britain’s largest theatre outside London, hosts shows performed by big-name touring companies.
The Lowry arts centre, a highlight of Salford Quays, offers exhibitions of all kinds, while Bridgewater Hall puts on 250 classical music performances a year.
If you’re looking for an aperitif, central Peter Street is where you’ll find some of the city’s more exclusive wine bars and cocktail lounges, as well as plenty of traditional drinking dens. Nearby Deansgate and Quay Street are also lively places for pubs and clubs.
Live music venues in Manchester
Visiting Manchester with a Family
Manchester is a family-friendly destination, with plenty to keep children of all ages entertained. You can dip into the city’s industrial past or learn about its sporting legacy. For lovers of the outdoors, some of England’s finest scenery is only a short drive from the city centre.
If you want to learn about how Manchester boomed during the Industrial Revolution, you can visit the canals and warehouses of Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. The Museum of Science & Industry, also here, has a host of hands-on exhibits.
If your kids are sports fans, they will not want to miss out on a trip to the National Football Museum, or a chance to see one or both of the city’s football stadiums: Old Trafford and Etihad Stadium, home to Manchester United and Manchester City respectively.
Day trips with children
Given its status as one of the UK's most popular cities, you can rest assured that there's always something to explore in Manchester.