Difference between revisions of "Manchester"
Revision as of 17:34, 8 January 2008
Manchester  is one of the major cities in the UK. It is the main city in the North West of England. For most of the last two hundred years it was the largest city in Lancashire, but is now the centre of its own metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, which has a population of over 2.5 million.
Manchester is world-renowned for its influence on the histories of industry and music, and for its sporting connections. It is one of the most gay-friendly and multicultural cities in Europe, and boasts the largest university in Britain.
Although not actually a district (it is a city in its own right) the city centre of Salford is immediately adjacent to Manchester's city centre, separated only by the river Irwell.
Manchester is located in the centre of the Northwest of England, about equidistant between Liverpool and Leeds. Due to its proximity to the Pennines, 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 have paid off. Manchester is well worth a visit, even if just for a day.
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 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. A priests' college and church (now Chetham's school & 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 mechanisation of spinning being invented 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, and indeed the world's first 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 ten biggest urban centres on earth (even before counting the wider population, within 50 miles, of the North of England region at large 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 in Sackville Street. And 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-and 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 of 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, where the former conducted his famous enquiry into the condition of the working class; the latter seeking to draw 'universal' rules from the particular circumstances of the early industrial evolution with disastrous consequences for the history of 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 world 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 the blasted region 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.
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 a university in Salford (within 1 mile of the city centre which is renowned as a European Centre of excellence in Media) as well as a university in Bolton in the North West of Greater Manchester. Together they create a body of over 86 thousand students living full-time in the city.
Manchester is often compared with Sheffield when competing for 'best student city' titles. 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 with students, there are many places which are not frequented by students, although you may have to be prepared to pay a little extra. Also, because of the high numbers of students, some places have a strictly over-21s only policy, so it would do to take identification with you when you go out if you look like you might be under 21, although the number of bars or clubs that are for over-21s 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.
In 2002 Manchester was the host to the Commonwealth Games, and a large area of East Manchester was converted into a new Sportcity, the centrepiece of which is the new athletics and football stadium.
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. Bear in mind, however, that it's not very used to tourists so you might get the occasional funny look if you're dressed in a backpack and trying to read this guide in a loud voice.
Manchester is also very gay-friendly. 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 Pride festival and Mardi Gras. Thanks to its high homosexual population, most Mancunians have grown up with gay people and homophobia is rare but not unheard-of in the centre.
Manchester has a temperate maritime climate and rarely gets too warm or too cold. It receives less precipitation than most major cities (less than 900mm per year) but has unfairly developed a reputation for poor weather mainly due to the predominance of the London based media. It has an almost identical climate to London with an statistcally identical average number of hours sunlight per day as the capital (within 9 minutes per day, based on the last 100 years data from Met office). As a result of the mild winter conditions there is never a period where one should avoid visiting due to extreme weather conditions.
Manchester International Airport (IATA: MAN) (ICAO: EGCC).  in the South of the city is the largest airport in the UK outside of London. 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.
Direct trains run from the airport station (reached by Skyway, between terminals 1 and 2) to Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations about every 20 minutes and cost about £3. Taxis are available from outside each terminal, costing about £15 and taking about 30-45 minutes.
John Lennon Airport,  in Liverpool is served by budget carriers Easyjet  and Ryanair  and is also relatively conveniently located for access to Manchester. A coach service runs connecting the airport to Manchester's central coach station and takes about 45 minutes. Some airlines will provide this service for free. There is now a direct train link between Liverpool Parkway (ie the station at 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 in late 2008.
Manchester city centre is served by two major railway stations, Victoria in the north and Piccadilly 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 close to the centre are Deansgate/G-Mex, Oxford Road and Salford Central but generally only local services will stop at these stations.
Connections from London Euston to Piccadilly are run by Virgin Trains. The journey on the West Coast Mainline takes about 2hrs 15 in Pendolino trains that do not need to slow down when going round bends. Online Virgin Value fares can dramatically 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 9.00am and before 3.00pm 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 (followed by M61 and M56 from the North or South respectively).
Bear in mind that parking in the city centre of Manchester can be very expensive (£10-20 per day). Avoid the multi-storey car parks if you can and look for some open-air car parks just outside the centre, such as in Castlefield or on Bridge Street in Salford. 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 centre and Stretford tram station.
ParkatmyHouse.com is a free service 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. 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 4 hours, but it depends on the time of day and number of stops.
Transport in Greater Manchester is overseen and co-ordinated by the GMPTE (Information: 0870 608 2 608) . GMPTE sells a number of tickets which are valid for multiple operators, such as the any bus day ticket or the Wayfarer. If you are planning to do a lot of travelling in one day, these might be your cheapest option.
Dotted around the city centre in all the places you wouldn't look for them are the pedestrian-level street maps. They are usually placed in normal advertising hoardings, which makes them all the more difficult to spot. From a distance the map looks like a light-brown horse's head on a blue background.
Once found, the elusive maps are very handy for navigating all regions of the centre, even as far south as the universities. Your position is marked by a blue circle.
Most of the buses in Greater Manchester are operated by First  or Stagecoach  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.
Metroshuttle  is a free minibus run jointly by the local council and First. It runs three lines that between them cover most of the major areas in the city centre as well as all the stations and many of the larger car parks.
The number 250 bus  goes from Piccadilly Gardens to the Trafford Centre and is much more reasonably-priced and convenient than the tram.
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 1 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, that during peak hours it can take as long as 30 minutes to make the relatively short 3-mile journey from Piccadilly Gardens to Rusholme.
Metrolink , also known as the tram, is the name for Manchester's troubled local mass-transit system.
Currently, Metrolink runs two lines, Altrincham-Bury (every 6 minutes at peak times, every 12 off-peak, at peak times trams either terminate at Piccadilly or do not stop at Piccadilly Gardens or Piccadilly at all) and Piccadilly-Eccles (every 12 minutes at peak times, every 15 off-peak). A small part of the city centre from Piccadilly to Cornbrook is shared between the two lines. There are plans to extend the system to 5 lines, with the three new destinations at Oldham/Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne/Tameside and Manchester Airport. This expansion will be carried out in two phases, with work on the first phase expected to commence once the current round of track renewals on the Bury/Altrincham lines is completed.
In part due to its financial difficulties, Metrolink is quite expensive to travel on. 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 stations might be useful to you:
Taxis are considerably cheaper than in London. As a general rule, you should be able to get anywhere you need to go within the city for £5-10. 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.
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. 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, that are staffed by security/logistical staff during busy periods. These ranks are serviced only by 'black cabs', but there are also 'private hire' taxi companies that you can walk to, and then wait (inside, or usually outside) until a taxi becomes available.
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.
National Rail have a map of the Greater Manchester rail network, including trams and overground.
There are many museums and art galleries in Manchester, these are the pick of the bunch.
Manchester's shopping district is not as diverse as London's, but it is less spread out, and the vast majority of town centre shops are within walking distance of each other. The recently redeveloped Arndale Centre is the largest city-centre shopping centre in Europe, with 280 stores, including the largest Next store in the UK.
The Millennium Quarter (at the back of the Arndale Centre is now very 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: Selfridges, with its large Louis Vuitton concession and Harvey Nichols opposite the Triangle offer luxury fashions and produce to Manchester's rich and famous, with the old Kendals department store nearby. The centre of Manchester's shopping area has traditionally been St Anne's Square, and there are many shops nearby. King Street city centre possesses Vivienne Westwood (a local girl), Joseph and DKNY, as well as both Collezione and Emporio Armani, the former presumably catering for the city's Premiership footballers.
The Trafford Centre is a huge out-of-town shopping centre only accessible by car, taxi or a bus journey. It has been designated the Temple to Consumerism, and is the largest centre of its kind to date in Europe. The centre is spectacular, luxurious and 'posh' inside and out, perhaps over the top and tacky.
Of particular interest
Revolution on Oxford Road has a policy where your food is either ready within 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: .
Velvet in Canal Street in The Village has good standard cafe/restaurant food and is particularly popular with women. Sadly the opening of a separate upstairs bar has recently turned this into more of a conventional restaurant at the expense of some of its atmosphere. though not price.
There are plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets in Chinatown for less than £10.00 (€ 14.00). Prices tend to change with the time of day and likely demand.
Wing's Dai Pai Dong in the Arndale Market city centre is set around a sushi counter. It serves a variety of mainstream Cantonese (Hong Kong), Thai and Japanese dishes. Particularly good value and well made are Hong Kong style roasting dishes where typically any or a mixture of Char Sui, Duck, Belly Pork, Jelly Fish and Cold Cuts etc can be paired with Rice, Soup Noodle or other fried noodles, typically for (autumn 2007) £4.50 for a very large and filling bowl/plate. Teamed with a bottle of, say, Asahi Beer the bill per person will be well under £10.00. It is difficult to think of anywhere in the city that offers better value.
Amongst the enormous range of Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown Wong Chou on 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 decor is rather authentic too and the service charge ups the bill.
Red Chilli on Portland Street is of a very good standard indeed and is unusual in Manchester in specialising in Beijing and the very spicy Szechuan cooking. It has a large Chinese following.
Outside of Chinatown there is also Moso Moso on Oxford Road and also the increasingly esteemed Tai Pan on Upper Brook Street and Brunswick Street. Sunday dim sum pack this place out with chinese families finishing off their shopping trip to the ground floor supermarket.
Fusion Noodle Bar in Fallowfield does very good noodles.
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.
Wagamama's (located in the Printworks) is one of the chain of Japanese restaurants popping up all over the country. Wagamama's serve the best ramen, ebi gyoza and many other different Japanese cooked dishes... perfect with a hot flask of sake!
Samsi - Whitworth Street, city centre. A great sushi restaurant that also cater well for those that don't like raw fish. With a well stocked but small Japanese supermarket below (accessed from inside the restaurant)
Yang Sing on Princess Street at the south-western edge of Chinatown has long been considered the best Cantonese restaurant in the country, and perhaps in Europe. It is essential to eat in the downstairs dining room and its kitchen's quality shows most clearly away from day-to-day dishes and into chef Harry Yeung's deployment of western ingredients into Chinese (not 'fusion') cuisine.
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.
Famed for its musical past, the University of Manchester Student's Union on Oxford Road hosts almost nightly gigs in it's 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 appearences 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, off Oxford Road.
The club scene in Manchester is varied with the dance-orientated clubs you'd expect from a city sitting comfortably alonside indie, rock and gay clubs. For the commercial dance music fan, the 'place to be' would be Deansgate Locks 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, whilst Fridays see them open until 6 or 7 am. It has three rooms incorporating punk, ska, metal, goth and everything in between. Also check out Rock Kitchen on a Saturday night at the Manchester Metropolitan University Student's Union, again on Oxford Road. More rock can be found at the weekly Caged Asylum night, at Club OHM. 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!
For fans of indie and alternative music there are a whole host of new exciting clubs opening, so a listings magazine is helpful. Unfortunately City Life listings guide has closed, but Time Out are supposedly coming to Manchester at some point. Any late evening walk up Oxford Road should enable you to collect a variety of flyers for club nights.
Successful nights that were championed by City Life include Killing Fantasy on the last Thursday of the month at the Retro Bar on Sackville Street, with a playlist that includes Blondie, The Ramones and Le Tigre. Invest in Property at Joshua Brooks on Charles Street is also another of these nights, falling on the last Friday of the month. Again, expect a mix of indie, electro, punk and rock. Weekly, Smile at the Star and Garter  in East Manchester is something of a local indie institution with a great playlist but be warned, it sells out very early and can often be unbearably busy as a result of this. Saturday's also play host to Tiger Lounge at the 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! However, the best city 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 & soul.
To enjoy Gay Manchester it is probably best just 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 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 so-hip-it-hasn't-got-a-sign cocktail lounge Socio Rehab in the Northern Quarter (ask a taxi driver where it is) and Gaia or Tribeca, both 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.
Although you will find a whole bunch of available wifi hotspots in central Manchester, they can be very expensive. Until the free municipal wifi network comes live in a few years, make best use of the free Wifi available at
Manchester has or had a colourful reputation for gun crime: however, this is mostly gang-related and a problem for people involved in the drug trade, and as a visitor you will not face any greater danger than for any other large British city. Everyday common sense is the order of the day: groups of youths are generally to be avoided; keep your valuables safe; keep to well-lit areas etc.
If you're uncomfortable around thousands of very drunk 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.
Despite there being no real reason for visitors to enter, the following areas should be avoided by those who may wish to explore outside of Manchester City Centre:
Many countries have consulates and commissions in Manchester, for others, you may have to travel to London.