A trip to Manchester will show you a city that hasn't rested on the glories of its industrial past. It has funnelled its rich spirit into urban renewal programs, multiple museums and galleries, a thriving student population, sporting ties and a substantial impact on the UK music industry. This modern city is culturally diverse, gay friendly and generally very open minded. It's the third-most visited city by foreign tourists after London and Edinburgh. So, if you haven't heard – or are thinking London is the only big player in the kingdom – there's much more to Manchester than Manchester United.
Though it's forward-looking, this city can't help a nod to the past. If you're a history buff looking for things to do in Manchester, 2 must-sees are: Ancoats, one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution; and the People's History Museum. A popular free attraction is performances by the students of the Royal Northern College of Music. No sporting aficionado would miss a trip to the National Football Museum or the home ground of Manchester United at Old Trafford. Gig-goers and jazz lovers should stop by Band on the Wall while in Manchester too.
Eat and Drink
You can taste most of the world from this city. Manchester restaurants will fix you a fine dining feast or fresh fish and chips. You can sit with a brew in a pub or a cocktail in a concept bar. The choice is yours and sometimes the choice, in the face of such and array, can be tricky. Here's a few highly-regarded establishments to try when you do make it to Manchester. You may blush to hear the strikingly popular Asian fusion bar/restaurant, Vermillion, cost GBP 4.5 million. One of the city's best views can be had from Aubaine, the French brasserie on the upper floor of Selfridge's department store. If you're in the Heaton Moor area, drop in to Damson for tasty, tasty fare.
Where to Stay
Whether you want to doss in a dorm on a budget, sample northern hospitality in a bed and breakfast, take a self-contained apartment or luxuriate at the top end of town – Manchester accommodation has you covered. Upscale properties include the Lowry Hotel, Radisson Blu Edwardian, the Light Boutique Aparthotel and Blue Rainbow Aparthotel. There's an ample supply of mid-range accommodation – the 3-star Britannia Hotel is in an impressive Grade II-listed building – and if you're really on a budget you can find cheap-as-chips rooms above the party people at the Walkabout.
Dame Vivienne Westwood was born in the nearby town of Tintwistle and her shopfront can be found in Manchester among those of other fashion names, including Emporio Armani, DKNY, and Joseph. The Triangle is an upmarket shopping centre based in the beautiful heritage-listed Old Corn Exchange. If you're in town at Christmas time, look out for the European-style Christmas markets in and around Albert Square. If you've an artistic bent, hunt up the Craft and Design Centre in the old Smithfield Market Building. But if the only thing you intend to buy Manchester United merchandise, make a beeline to the dedicated superstore in the stadium at Old Trafford.
Manchester like a Local
Manchester is an ideal base for exploring both the Lake District and the Peak District. Before you head out of town, make sure you've at least sampled the menu or drinks at Cloud 23, gotten down with the groovy sounds at Factory 251 and had a nibble at Little Yang Sing in Chinatown. A hop-on/hop-off tour will give you a great overview of the place if you're short on time. Once you've done all these, then you can leave town. The landscapes surrouding the region are worth a little extra wait anyway.