Manchester  is in the north west of England. The city proper has a population of around half a million, while the larger conurbation, referred to as either Greater Manchester or Manchester City Region, has over 2.5 million inhabitants.
Manchester is known by some for its influence on the histories of industry and music, and for its sporting connections. It has a large number of students. It is seen by many as the "capital" of the north of England, the second city of the United Kingdom and is home to the UK's largest airport outside London, which is owned by the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester. Others view Birmingham as the 2nd city, however it is not an official sanction and opinion is very much divided.
Towns within the Greater Manchester Conurbation
The following towns are all within Greater Manchester but not covered by the scope of this article:
Manchester is in the northwest region of England, about equidistant between Liverpool and Leeds. Due to its proximity to the Pennines ( the range which forms England's spine, from just south of the Scottish border down into the region known as The East Midlands ), which force the prevailing Atlantic westerly clouds to rise, it receives more than its fair share of wet weather.
Manchester once had a negative reputation derived from its industrial past. Things have dramatically changed in the last decade and now the city has a vibrant, exciting air. Investment in the city's regeneration following the 1996 IRA bomb and 2002 Commonwealth Games has paid off and Manchester is well worth a visit, even if just for a couple of days, or for longer, if you plan to use it as a base to explore northern England and North Wales.
Manchester is becoming more and more a city where people are choosing to settle. It is seen by many as young, vibrant and cutting edge city, where there is always something happening. Many see their city as a rival to London, albeit on a more human scale; nevermind the ongoing battle with Birmingham for "The Second City" title. This feud seems to go on and on and hinges, at least in population size, on how you add up the numbers. If you compare Greater Manchester's population to Birmingham's and its neighbouring towns and districts, Birmingham pips Manchester to the post by a 100,000 or so. However if you look at the actual population of the city of Birmingham, which is more than 1 million, it is more than twice as big, in terms of population, as the actual city of Manchester which has a population of around 450,000 people. But the city argues that population is just one aspect and that history and contributions to the world should also be considered. The "Manchester brand" is seen to extend well beyond the city's boundaries (covering all of neighbouring Salford & 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.
Over the years, many have moved to Manchester from London. These people are by no means all returning to their northern roots. Some are from overseas, who stopped off down south on their way north in search of a more affordable urban existence. 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. Of late, 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," but it is very similar to that of Australians in their country. Positive comments and praise go down a treat with the locals, and with all that has happened in recent years, 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.
Manchester was the site of the Roman Fort Mamucium (breast-shaped) 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 Medieval town would build its fortune. The presence of an existing cloth trade, coupled with the mechanization of spinning in nearby Bolton, created a thriving cotton industry in Manchester. Though the high and frequent rainfall may lower the spirits of today's inhabitants, the availability of copious supplies of clean, soft, water was of great utility to the various cotton processes particularly in the bleaching, printing, and dyeing of cotton cloth. Water power rapidly gave way here to steam invented by Boulton and Watt and a steam-driven factory was built in the Ancoats Northern Quarter section of the city. By the end of the 19th Century, Manchester was one of the 10 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, with disastrous consequences in the 20th century. 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.
In more recent times, Manchester has 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, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, James, and Badly Drawn Boy.
At 11.20AM on Saturday 15th June 1996, Manchester's city centre was rocked by a huge IRA bomb blast. Although preliminary intelligence managed to clear people from the scene enough for there to be no fatalities, the very heart of the city was ripped to shreds. A huge amount of money and effort was put into regenerating this bomb damaged part of the centre, redubbed the Millennium Quarter. The area has renewed interest in the centre and contains the entertainment and shopping heart of the city.
Central Manchester is home to two of the largest universities in the UK. The University of Manchester (formerly Owens College and subsequently the Victoria University and its Institute of Science and Technology UMIST)  and Manchester Metropolitan University (aka '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 don't like hanging around students, there are many places that are not frequented by students, although you may have to be prepared to pay a little extra. Also, some places have a strictly 21-and-over only policy, so take identification with you. Although, the number of bars or clubs that are for 21-and-over is relatively low. When visiting 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.
Old Trafford is also home to the Lancashire County Cricket Club. despite no longer being a part of the county of Lancashire.
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 which is the new athletics and football stadium.
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 2008 Olympics is very much due this venue and most of the medal winners are based in and around the city. However the London-centric authorities, preparing for the 2012 London Olympics, plan to build a venue in the capital and are not seen as willing to share events around the country. Some still fear that Manchester may be sidelined furthermore in the future. The UK authorities have always been lukewarm to any Olympic bid that was not based on London, claiming that only a capital can host such a large event. Many cities who have hosted the games are not capitals, and this fact reinforces what a centralised country the UK is. Some reports in the press did suggest that the team wishes to keep their base in the city as they are also supported by a large administrative team.
In July 2009 it has been reported that the world's first purpose-built BMX Centre is also to be built on the site. Work on this addition to Sportcity is expected to start in January 2010 and is said to remove any lingering doubts that Manchester will be replaced by London as British Cycling's headquarters after the 2012 Olymipic Games. The centre will be used by athletes preparing for London 2012 and help bring major national and international events to the city. It will also be open to schools,clubs and the local community. In the Queen's New Year's Honours list, January 2009, some of the locally based cycling heroes were given awards, including a knighthood to Chris Hoy.
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, is 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. It is certainly the most gay friendly major city by far and has the most visible LGBT community of any major city outside London; aswell as the highest percentage. 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.
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 (within nine minutes 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!
Manchester International Airport (IATA: MAN) (ICAO: EGCC).  in the south of the city is the largest airport in the UK outside of London and is amongst the 50 largest airports in the world. Nearly 100 operators fly to and from hundreds of locations worldwide, including most major cities in Europe, along with services from North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. It is owned by the 10 Greater Manchester Councils with Manchester City council having the largest share (55%) and the other councils 5% each.
Notable services include:
Car parks serving Manchester Airport
Direct trains run from the airport station (reached by Skyway, between terminals 1 and 2) to Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations (and onwards to others in the region such as Wigan & Bolton) about every 20 minutes and cost no more than £3. Taxis are available from outside each terminal, costing about £15 and taking about 30-45 minutes. You can also catch a coach/bus to Manchester Central Coach station.
John Lennon Airport,  in Liverpool is a budget airline airport with Easyjet  and Ryanair  serving it and is also relatively conveniently located for access to Manchester. However, as of 1st of November, 2010 Easyjet will have connections to Manchester from various departure points. A coach service runs connecting the airport to Manchester's central coach station and takes about 45 minutes. There is now a direct train link between Liverpool Parkway (ie the station near John Lennon Airport) and Manchester Oxford Road Train Station (in the city centre). Services currently run once per hour, but are planned to increase to every half hour.
Manchester city centre is served by two major railway stations, Victoria in the north (the area around the station has recently undergone extensive redevelopment with much more to come) and Piccadilly (transformed in recent years and voted the UK's most popular station in 2007!) in the south. These stations are well-connected with the rest of the UK, although it is more likely that you will arrive at Piccadilly as it deals with the most services in and out of Manchester. Fares vary dramatically depending on time of day and rail operator.
Other stations in the city centre are Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road, and Salford Central, but generally only local services bound for through services passing Wigan and Bolton or Manchester and Rochdale will stop at these stations.
Connections from London Euston to Piccadilly are run by Virgin Trains. The journey on the West Coast Mainline takes just over 2hrs in Pendolino trains that do not need to slow down when going round bends. Online Virgin Value fares can dramaticaly reduce the cost of this trip  if you book well enough in advance (at least 14 days is advisable), purchase two single tickets (one for each leg of the journey) and/or travel outside of peak times (after 9AM and before 3PM during the day, after 6:30PM in the evening).
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 note this has a 50mph 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.
A tip worth noting is that on Saturday from 12.30PM to Monday morning, just over from the city centre into Salford, you can park on a single yellow line (remember in The UK 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 in doubt treat a holiday, on the Salford side, as a normal day of the week or ask a warden if you can find one!
Also check out Parkopedia.com , a website that allows users to search and compare parking rates and locations for commercial and private parking facilities in Manchester.
Chorlton Street Coach Station is the central coach station in Manchester, located 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.
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. GMPTE travel shops are located in both Shudehill and Piccadilly Gardens and timetables, maps and information can be found for all services here.
Transport in Greater Manchester is overseen and co-ordinated by the GMPTE (Information: 0871 200 22 33) . GMPTE 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. Metromax 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 9:30AM.
Dotted around the city centre on main streets including Deansgate, Oxford Road, Market Street etc, 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 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. Manchester walking directions can be planned online with the walkit.com  walking route planner.
Metroshuttle  is a FREE bus service run jointly by the local council, National Car Parks Manchester and Allied London Spinningfields. They are operated by First Manchester. It runs three routes which between them cover most of the major areas in the city centre. 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. Just note, that due to a high-level of pedestrian priority around areas such as Deansgate, traffic in the city centre is often slow at peak times. These buses are now also operated by green hybrid buses in a bid to cut pollution and emissions in the city centre. Each line is colour branded with 1 Orange, 2 Green and 3 Purple.
Most of the buses in North Manchester are operated by First  whilst Stagecoach operate in South Manchester  and serve most places 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 minutes to make the relatively short three mile journey from Piccadilly Gardens to Rusholme. Route number 42 (operated by various companies) is usually the most frequent service, operating through the night from Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Wilmslow Road, Rusholme and beyond.
It is well worth noting that 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).
Busses 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 20-30 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. In the evening, or on Sundays and public holidays, your better bet for the Trafford Centre, from the city centre, is the tram and buslink to and from Stretford, as buses are much less frequent at these times.
Bus Tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver. First and Stagecoach both offer day-savers for unlimited travel on their company's buses, which cannot be used on other busses. A FirstDay is currently £4.10. If transfer between different bus companies is required then you can ask the driver for an "any bus day-saver", emphasising the "any"! These '"System One"' tickets can be used on any bus and details of current prices are available at 
Metrolink , also known as the tram or met, is the name for Manchester's local mass-transit system. With a map of the system it is very easy to understand.
Currently, Metrolink runs two lines, Altrincham-Bury (every 6 minutes at peak times, every 12 minutes off-peak, and Piccadilly-Eccles via Media City (every 12 minutes at peak times, every 15 minutes off-peak). At peak times, trams run from either Bury or Altrincham to Piccadilly, via Piccadilly Gardens, where you can change, or direct Bury to Altrincham. Off peak there are no direct Bury-Altrincham trams and your only option is to change at Piccadilly Gardens. A small part of the city centre from Piccadilly to Cornbrook is shared between the two lines. Metrolink stops serve major areas of the city centre and Central Zone tickets are quite cheap.
Work is now underway to extend the system to five lines with new destinations: at Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Didsbury, Tameside, and Manchester Airport, which is already well served by trains and buses.
In part due to its financial difficulties, Metrolink is quite expensive to travel on and does not really provide good value for money. If you are going to be using it for more than one journey in a day, your best bet is to buy a Metromax ticket. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the automated vending machines at each station. Press the required destination followed by the required ticket type and then insert your money.
Most machines accept notes, but if your note is anything more than even slightly crumpled, it will more then likely be rejected by the machine. Change is not guaranteed over £7 at any machines, or at all, at some machines with the appropriate warning lamp.
The following Central Zone stations might be useful to you:
Other interesting destinations:
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 cross these as a matter of course, 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 ringroad (and a little further in places). If you are to travel further it is best to agree a price in advance. You may only flag down 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 back-up 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're 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.
There are a number of taxi ranks within the city centre, which are 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.
Street Cars Manchester Taxis 0161 228 78 78 based in the city centre conveniently located behind the Chorlton Street coach station
Local rail services run regularly and to most places in the surrounding area and beyond. Most trains will pass through Piccadilly or Victoria, but it will do to call National Rail Enquiries (08457 48 49 50)  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 2009, costs £4 per day. An "Evening Ranger" is also available for just £2. 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. These can be bought at ticket offices or on the train.
GMPTE  has a "London tube-style" map of the Greater Manchester rail network, including Metrolink.
It is worth remembering that train services from Piccadilly serve the airport all night.
Check out the restaurants in The Village too. The best and longest established has to be Velvet, on Canal Street. Friendly staff, good food, and a cosmopolitan environment make it a hip and popular restaurant, bar, and hotel. Art works are also on display.
There are many theatres and concert venues in Manchester, (The Opera House, Palace Theatre, Royal Exchange, Green Room, Dancehouse Theatre, Library 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 1930's Stockport Plaza with a wonderful 1930's 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 Madonna and Kylie at The MEN 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.
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, which many think is not the case in the capital. The recently redeveloped Arndale Centre is a large 1970's city-centre shopping mall, with 280 stores across just under 2 million sqft of retail space making it the largest city centre shopping mall in Europe, including the largest Next store in the world. The place retains some of its 1970's concrete charms and STILL some of the infamous yellow tiles that are a testament to bad urban planning of that era. It is connected via link bridge to the Marks and Spencer and Selfridges department stores adjacent in Exchange Square. Part awaits an update to the exterior, but the section modernised after the 1996 bomb is a great improvement, although different to that of The Trafford Centre with a more modern simplistic feel compared with the grand exterior of the Trafford Centre. The inside has had a total revamp. It does get very busy at weekends and, unlike at The Trafford Centre, there are far too few places to sit down. If you do need to sit down there are a few benches on the lower floor around the staircase near the market.
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 US cabin crew when in town, 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 Triangle, 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 city centre offer a Vivienne Westwood store (a local girl, from the nearby Peak District), Joseph and DKNY, as well as 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 sixties!), 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 set to open in Autumn 2010 in the Spinningfields district of the city centre. It will be the home to stores such as Flannels, Mulberry, Emporio Armani and Armani Collezioni, Brooks Brothers, Ermenegildo Zegna, Oliver Sweeney and Joseph. Combined with some of the new cafe's and restaurants this is set to become a top retail and leisure venue.
There is also an outlet mall at The Lowry, in Salford, near the future site (2011) of Media City: UK housing the BBC North project to relocate almost 3000 posts and 5 departments from London as well as BBC Manchester 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, or a bus/tram journey. It does not yet have a tram station of its own. It has been designated the Temple to Consumerism, and is one 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! If confused how to get there by bus and not too worried about the cost, opt for a through ticket on the tram and catch the link bus from Stretford station on the Altrincham line, (turn right out of station and take the first right for the bus stop). If you already have a Metromax day ticket for the tram, just pay extra on the link bus. You can catch the same bus back to the station from a couple of stops around the centre or from the centre's own bus station. The cinema is also one of the best in the area and has even hosted some UK premieres in the past. The centre is now also linked to an annex 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
From summer 2010 the City Council is working with retailers who are to display a sticker in their window offering free use of their toilet facilities.
Most museums and galleries include free toilets. There is nothing stopping you popping into any busy pub to use their conveniences! At busy times you would hardly be noticed.
There is no doubt that Greater Manchester's universities continue to be a big draw. The University of Manchester is the most over subscribed university in Europe. More and more language schools are also now opening and offer a more reasonable option than the likes of London and other southern venues.
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.
If you are qualified to work in Britain, work can be found. Many thousands of East Europeans have been drawn to the city in recent years, 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. In some areas of employment, you could find yourself competing with the many students who need to finance their studies.
Manchester is an important financial centre and the media are also well represented, as can be seen in the BBC's forthcoming partial move to The Media City at Salford Quays and the ITV-Granada (makers of Coronation Street) presence on Quay Street. The BBC already has a strong foothold at Broadcasting House on Oxford Road. This is home to BBC Radio Manchester, BBC North West Tonight (regional TV news) and The Religious Affairs Department of The BBC.
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.
Revolution on Oxford Road has a policy where your food is either ready within a 15 minutes wait or it's free. Worth going at busy times of the day!
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 cafes, though, are still to be found in the back streets of the Northern Quarter. The Little Aladdin cafe at 72 High St (on the corner of Turner St, near Arndale centre) is a tiny little curry house with real charm. They serve a range of delicious curries and kebabs for £3-£4. Here's the menu: .
On John Dalton Street, on the left, just up from Deansgate, going to Albert Square, is a gem of a cafe,Essy's, (imagine a cross between an American diner and an old style British "cafe"). It is run by a group of Iranians, for whom nothing is too much trouble. You can be satisfied there for under £5 with clean, welcoming table service. There are a couple of other similar places around town; in the Northern Quarter and one just behind Kendals, on King Street West.
On the opposite of Manchester Metropolitan University at 121 Oxford Road, there is a small fast food restaurant called "Pizza Co". Try their spicy chicken wings with fries, which are a hit among students in Manchester, for under £3. The spicy wings are very flavourful and are really not very spicy.
There are plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets in [Manchester/East Central|Chinatown]] for less than £10.00 (€ 13.00). 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 desert for around £5. Really cheap Chinese buffets include Number 1's at 48 Whitworth Street (between Oxford Road Station and the Gay Village) Tai Wu at 44 Oxford Street next to McDonalds.
Wing's Dai Pai Dong in the Arndale Market and Food court city centre is set around a sushi counter. It serves a variety of mainstream Cantonese (Hong Kong), Thai, and Japanese dishes. The Hong Kong style roasting dishes are particularly good value and well-made. Typically any mixture of Char Sui, Duck, Pork Belly, Jelly Fish, and Cold Cuts can be paired with Rice, Soup Noodle, or other fried noodles, typically for around £4.50 for a very large and filling bowl/plate. Teamed with a bottle of Asahi Beer, the bill per person will be well under £10.
Amongst the enormous range of Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown, the Great Wall at 52 Faulkner Street 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.
Outside Chinatown, the increasingly esteemed Tai Pan on Upper Brook Street and Brunswick Street. Visit the huge, Hong Kong style restaurant from Mon-Fri after 12PM for half price dim sum.
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.
In the centre Shimla Pinks is upmarket but has closed, as of March 2010, since the building it is in faces demolition. Rumour has it they are looking for a new home in or around Spinningfields. 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 BBC building, 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 a new 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. This is in the top 10 restaurants in Manchester. Contact them at http://www.zoukteabar.co.uk
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.
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.
Harvey Nichols is 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 recently pumped a load of money into Rosso an upmarket "Italian", which has so far had good, if not excellent, revues in the local press which praised the decor 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 Rincon de Rafa, hidden away behind Deansgate, near St. John's Gardens. This is an authentic Spanish restaurant, established for many years, and popular with Spanish and South American people, based in the city. It is a stones throw from The Cervantes Centre.
On Deansgate, opposite The Cervantes Centre at number 279, is Evuna another Spanish tapas establishment. This newish venture has had very good reviews.
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 SAS Radisson and The Aurora Hotel are also upmarket. For other upmarket venues (there are some very discrete 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 querky 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 three 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 Music Box and The Phoenix, both on Oxford Road.
For fans of rock music, Jillys on Oxford Road is something of an institution. On a Thursday, it costs just £1 to get in, while Fridays see them open until 6 or 7AM. It has three rooms incorporating punk, ska, metal, goth, and everything in between. Next door to Jilly's is Music Box, home to the very good (and increasingly famous) Mr. Scruff. Come here once a month to have a good dance and a cup of tea! Also check out Rock Kitchen on a Saturday night for cheap drinks at the Manchester Metropolitan University Student's Union, again on Oxford Road. 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.
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 Mon-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. Be warned, 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, 60's pop, and 70's 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, has recently opened a second venture, Trof North, on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter.
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 341-343 Wilmslow Road in Fallowfield is cheap but good.
There are thousands of hotel beds in the city ranging from 5 star establishments to bed and breakfast. If in doubt consult the tourist office, behind the Town Hall on St Peter's Square. See City Information section for contact details and address.
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! Light in The Northern Quarter seems to be THE place to stay, of this kind, of late. Do also 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.
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:
Beware of the scam at the airport: the Raphaels Bank operates an ATM and claims that withdrawals are free of charge. This is a huge lie: their conversion rate is "diluted" so that you pay exorbitant charges without noticing it.
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 etc. 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 over the past two or three years. What starts out as "banter" quite commonly gets out of hand.
Persistent begging is an irritation in Piccadilly. Sellers of "The Big Issue" however are not begging.These are homeless people. Vendors can be found around the city and visitors may want to take a copy off their hands.
Manchester is generally quite a safe place, especially in commercialised and tourist orientated areas. If you should 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 don't behave in a way that they may perceive as disrespectful or confrontational. This can include eye contact or accidently brushing past them with your shoulder.
Caution would be advised in the following areas:
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.
"Liverpool One", the new city centre shopping centre, might not yet boast a Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser or Selfridges, but all other big names are there including an excellent John Lewis and great eating places too, overlooking Liverpool's own wheel and a fantastic urban park leading through to Albert Dock.
Suburban and beyond
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.