Life In A Northern Town: Manchester

1 November 2016

Visit Manchester? Why would you? Well this city of three million souls in Britain’s northwest has undergone something of a modern-day Renaissance. And all the guidebooks say the same thing. They talk about how the city's entertainment, key attractions, sports facilities and city centre have received significant investment, making it now a real hub for major attractions, upmarket shopping, restaurants and bars – and a must to include on any UK itinerary.

Many of the city’s 19th-century, red-brick warehouse and factory buildings now provide an historic shell for groovy shops, boutique hotels and nightclubs. The major shopping areas include the Arndale Centre, King Street and St Ann’s Square, and the large covered market halls of the Bolton Arcade.

Chinese New Year balloons brighten St Anne's Square in Manchester. Chinese New Year balloons brighten St Anne's Square. Picture: Getty Images

This is a long way from the Manchester of several decades ago, where the decline of heavy industry (that continued well into the Thatcher years) made Manchester just another ageing northern town – it didn’t help that between 1961 and 1983, Manchester lost 150,000 jobs in manufacturing.

So it was hardly the place to visit for the locals, let alone international tourists but 30 years on, Manchester has a legitimate claim as one of Britain’s most enticing cities. Not surprising when you consider its impressive array of upmarket hotels, bars and restaurants, and large number of attractions – many of them free.

Manchester architecture gets an urban edge. Picture: Getty Images Manchester architecture gets an urban edge. Picture: Getty Images

Investment in the mid-nineties has been made in key infrastructure such as the Metrolink (now with six lines and 65 stations) and the introduction of the Manchester Arena, which has hosted acts including Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both these big additions have brought more of an urban edge to the city.

The Manchester Town Hall at the city's crossroads. Picture: Getty Images The Manchester Town Hall at the city's crossroads. Picture: Getty Images

Also the overhaul of the port, and its own rebirth as Salford Quays, has helped in the transformation of the city. Roads, bridges, housing and offices were built, as well as a waterfront promenade full of restaurants and shops, which has made this area its own bustling microcosm. It is also now home to two of the city’s best attractions: The Lowry – home to a large collection of works by Manchester’s most famous artist, and The Imperial War Museum.

Salford Quays is home to Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium. Picture: Getty Images Salford Quays is home to Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium. Picture: Getty Images

The Commonwealth Games in 2002 also encouraged significant amounts of money to be injected into the city centre. Since then other improvements include the £12m refurbishment of the People's History Museum, an overhaul of the Museum of Science and Industry, and the big kid’s favourite, the Legoland Discovery Centre. And although it sometimes snows in Manchester, there is the Chill Factore, a £31m indoor ski centre which opened in 2007.

A pedestrian bridge at Manchester's Salford Quays waterfront precinct. Picture: Getty Images A pedestrian bridge at the Salford Quays waterfront precinct. Picture: Getty Images

Manchester’s reputation also had some assistance towards its cool northern town status, by the emergence of its music scene. 'Madchester' developed in the late eighties, with bands like New Order, The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. Then the nineties saw international cult band Oasis emerge to once again reinforce Manchester’s place on the international music stage.


More Northern England inspiration:

The 9 Best Hotels In Manchester

City Scoop: Manchester


To complement the music scene, funky cocktail bars have now replaced some of the more grungy venues. In fact, the CBD is full of modern, cool bars, some that have made it on to the World’s Best Bars Top 100 list.

Also, every August Manchester has its very own exotic snifter celebration, with the Manchester Loves Cocktails festival. Organisers say the standard of cocktails in Manchester is now on par with the top bars of London and New York. From reinvented classics to molecular madness, there will be something sure to become everyone’s favourite tipple.

Manchester's Northern Quarter - old meets new with plenty of bars and restaurants. Picture: Getty Images Manchester's Northern Quarter has plenty of bars and restaurants. Picture: Getty Images

Food is also a strong player in Manchester’s move to cool-dom, with world-class restaurants like Ning serving 5-star Malaysian cuisine – and Michael Caines at the luxurious ABode, run by the Michelin-starred chef, which opened in 2008.

So on your next trip to the UK – break beyond the confines of London and head to Manchester – the city that blends northern culture with contemporary cool.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Manchester.


Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.