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A city of art, entertainment and music. Manchester, in the north of the United Kingdom, is a tourist destination that offers many things to do and see. Read through this complete guide and discover the wonders of this English city
A tourist resort with a fascinating past and a modern look, Manchester is the second largest city in England by number of inhabitants. It rises on the banks of the Irwell River in Greater Manchester County in the north of the United Kingdom and is about 3 hours away by train from London.
Manchester is a dynamic and ever-changing city, the ideal tourist destination for a weekend out of town. Its Roman origins merge with the remains of a Victorian past, the Industrial Revolution and technology (Alan Turing invented the first computers in history here).
Manchester is also the English capital of entertainment, street art and music: this is where the myth of the boyband was born, along with groups like Oasis and the Chemical Brothers. The city is also home to two of the most important football teams in the world, Manchester United, which plays at Old Trafford, and Manchester City.
A center of cultural events, Manchester offers a range of interesting places to see. A young city with many monuments, proud of its history but that looks to the future. So, let’s grab a map and start our tour of Manchester from its historic center.
The historic center of Manchester is not lacking religious buildings, such as the Cathedral on Victoria Street in the Northern part of the city. The Cathedral is one of the most beautiful examples of neo-Gothic architecture. You’ll probably notice its imposing facade with the spires and the large bell tower with clocks, while inside are the typical inlaid wooden works of the late Middle Ages, including the pulpit, the choir and the central upper part of the nave, as well as the beautiful modern stained-glass windows.
If you visit Manchester Cathedral, the main place of worship of the Anglican Church in the city, do not miss the Angel Stone, a sandstone table depicting an angel holding a parchment in its hand, which would testify to the existence of a pre-existing church dating back to about 700 AD. Admission to the Cathedral is free on weekdays.
Just a few minutes from the Cathedral are St. Ann’s Church, consecrated in 1712, and the Royal Exchange, an oddly structured neoclassical theater, once the site of the cotton stock exchange office. The area is very lively, especially in summer, and attracts painters, musicians and the so-called buskers, creative street artists.
The libraries of Manchester and the Town Hall
Manchester also has a number of historic libraries. Right next to the Cathedral is Chetham’s Library, the oldest library in the United Kingdom, founded in 1653 and open daily from Monday to Friday.
The most famous is the John Rylands Library, in the Deansgate district of central Manchester, located in a historic late-Gothic castle-like building. The bookshop has one of the largest collections of books, papyri, ancient maps and manuscripts in England, for a total of about 1.5 million volumes.
Among the most valuable works are the oldest fragments of text from the New Testament, the St. John Fragment, and a 1476 edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We certainly would recommend spending some time in the beautiful "Reading room" to read a book or admire the historical shelves. Open weekdays, admission is free of charge.
A 5-minute walk from here, on Albert Square, is Manchester City Hall, the Town Hall, a neo-Gothic building from the Victorian period dating back to 1877. Surrounded by high decorated columns, the building is characterized by large windows and a majestic clock tower (similar to the Big Ben). The 85-meter high tower houses a bell known as the Great Abel. The Town Hall, Manchester's landmark monument, is open every day except weekends.
Manchester's neighborhoods: Northern Quarter and Castlefield
Every neighborhood in Manchester has its own distinctive identity. In this cosmopolitan city, we find the second largest Chinatown in the United Kingdom, whose entrance is marked by the immense Chinese arc. Nestled between Mosley and Portland Street, the Chinese Quarter is a collection of shops and markets. A short walk from here, around Canal Street, is the Gay Village, a meeting place for the LGBT community in the city and the focal point of the Gay Pride.
Manchester’s creative hub is the Northern Quarter, full of vintage shops, cafes, graffiti and murals. This district represents the bohemian soul of Manchester, where street art, independent music and art galleries are everywhere. In this area, to the northeast of the city, the first textile factories were born in the late 1800s. The Northern Quarter is also home to the "Band on the Wall", a famous live music venue in the city. The name comes from the fact that in this pub, musicians perform on a small raised stage, placed against a wall.
The Northern Quarter is also an ideal destination for shopping in places like the Manchester Fashion Market, dedicated to fashion, and Affleck's Palace, a collection of independent boutiques. Other places in the city that are ideal for shopping are the Arndale Centre, King Street and the typical Levenshulme market to the south, open every Saturday morning.
In the area south-west of Manchester lies an oasis of peace, the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. Castlefield Park has plenty of footpaths and green areas where you can rest or jog. The Park is also the site of the remains of a fort dating back to 79 AD, the "Mamucium", the first Roman settlement from which the city was formed. Castlefield was also the birthplace of Manchester's industrial tradition: a series of artificial canals, once used to transport goods and coal, are still visible today, including the "Bridgewater canal", dating back to 1761. Between red-brick buildings and steel bridges, immersed in the sound of flowing water, you can hear the true soul of Manchester, as industrious as the bees that represent it and are its symbol.
Museums of Manchester
The cultural offer of this city is visible from its museums, most of which with free admission. A must-see attraction for history lovers is the Manchester Museum, with an extensive collection of fossils, dinosaurs, mummies and reptiles. Managed directly by the university, the museum, which is easily accessible by bus, is open every day.
The Whitword Gallery, built at the end of the 19th century, is also part of Manchester University. The gallery contains an exhibition of modern art in a futuristic structure surrounded by a beautiful public park.
With a collection of around 25,000 works of art, the Manchester Art Gallery is a public museum spanning six centuries of history, from classical to contemporary art. The gallery is famous for its collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art, along with some Impressionist and Romantic masterpieces. The museum, located in the center on Mosley Street, is open every day except Christmas and New Year's Eve.
The story of the city of Manchester is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry, dedicated to the city’s industrial and technological development. MOSI is located near the Deansgate tram stop and every October is home to the Manchester Science Festival, an event that attracts scientists from all over the world every year. The museum, housed in the former Liverpool Road railway station, takes visitors on a discovery of the city's industrial history, with themed areas dedicated to communications, textiles and electricity.
About 2 km from Manchester is the Imperial War Museum, which tells stories of the locals and their towns and cities shaped by the global wars. Unique in its kind and of fundamental importance, it is one of the five locations of a circuit of museums (of which three are located in London). Manchester offers original documents from the two great wars of the past century, such as photographs, voice recordings and period films.
Particularly interesting is the National Football Museum, which not only explores the history of the local football teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, but that of football around the world. The museum is located in the Urbis building, in the center of Manchester. From the original seats of the Wembley Stadium to the ball used in the final of the 1966 World Cup, the National Football Museum is a real treasure chest. Also worth a visit is the Hall of Fame, a room dedicated to the best players in the Premier League.
Football: Manchester United or Manchester City?
Football is a major pass-time for locals here, with the two home teams being among the biggest in the world. Manchester United boasts dozens of trophies and is a historic glory of the city. The club was founded in 1878 and was the team of the railway workers. In 1910, the club moved to Old Trafford, the legendary stadium where the team still plays today.
Nicknamed the "Theater of Dreams", the Old Trafford is an experience not to be missed by anyone visiting Manchester. During the tour you can visit the Sir Alex Ferguson grandstand, from where you can admire the stadium, the changing rooms and the tunnel crossed by the football stars before stepping onto the pitch. The visit includes the entrance to the museum, with the display of a few relics, in addition to the trophies won by the team. The stadium, with a capacity of about 80,000 people, can be reached in about 20 minutes by car. The museum is always open except on days when matches are played and at Christmas.
Manchester City is the rival team, founded in 1880: watching a Premier League game or a derby at home is a truly unique spectacle. The team plays at the City of Manchester Stadium, called Etihad Stadium, which can be visited by purchasing a guided tour to discover the behind-the-scenes and admire some objects kept in the museum. The stadium, located in the north-western part of the city, on the opposite side of the "enemy camp", can be visited every day except Christmas, Easter and New Year.
What to eat when in Manchester
The city offers several delicacies to taste. "Manchester Egg" is the typical, brine egg dish covered with sausage. Also worth tasting is the "Cheshire gammon steak", made with ham, apples and cheese.
The undisputed protagonist of Manchester's tables is the "black pudding", a sort of black sausage made from different pork meat cuts (and the blood of the animal), while a real ritual is the "brunch", a mix of sweet and savory usually consisting of toast, eggs and fruit, served with English coffee or a cup of tea.
Second courses include the "Lancashire hotpot", a type of stew seasoned with onions and potatoes, and the "pie", a cake stuffed with meat, vegetables and cheese. If you prefer fish, you can't miss the "fish & chips", perhaps pairing the dish with some "Manchester caviar", the famous "caviar" of Manchester, which is actually a puree of peas.
To finish off your meal with something sweet, we suggest the "eccles cakes", delicious cakes of butter, sugar, puff pastry and currant, or the "Manchester tart", a short-crust pastry enriched with raspberry jam and custard.
To enter Great Britain, citizens of EU member states, Norward, Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and the British Overseas Territories do not need to apply for a visa. An identity card valid for border crossing or a passport is all you’ll need. Citizens of another ten countries don’t need a visa for visits of less than six months: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Before you leave, it’s best to check that your identification document isn’t damaged. Even minimal damage could lead to delays and even result in you being turned back at the border.
We also advise that anybody in possession of an identity card renewed with an extension stamp checks that the UK recognises its validity before travelling. Children under the age of 15 must carry their own individual document (identity card or passport). For more information, please head to the British Government’s website: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
Temperate and humid, the climate in Manchester is pretty much stable throughout the year, although cloudy and rainy at times. The best time of the year to visit Manchester is in spring, which is slightly less rainy, and in summer with sunny days that are never too hot. During the summer, the city also hosts the Manchester Jazz Festival and the Gay Pride.