Manchester, North West England
Manchester - England's 'Second City' - is the fastest growing metropolis in the United Kingdom and a cultural mecca for sport, music, art and the creative industries. Manchester is situated in the North West of England and is an excellent location for getting around the country. It has one of the busiest rail networks and airports in the UK. London is about 2 hours away by train and the rest of the world is practically on your doorstep with a huge range of flights from Manchester International Airport. You are less than an hours drive away from the beautiful hills and dales of the Peak District and major Northern cities like Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, the 2008 Capital of Culture. Drive a little further and you can explore the historical city of York, experience the breathtaking scenery around the Lake District or perhaps take a trek around the mountainous terrain of Snowdonia before strolling along the hills, valleys and sandy coastline of North Wales.
One of the great features of Manchester City Centre is just how easy it is to get around. Packed within a diameter of about a mile, you can just about shop until you drop without getting lost. The centrepiece to this shopping experience is the Big Wheel which is situated in Exchange Square between The Triangle, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols and provides wonderful panoramic views across the city. Opposite the Big Wheel you will find the newly refurbished Arndale Centre where you can find all your high street favourites. A little further along and you can take a walk up Market Street where you will find more familiar retail names as you head toward Piccadilly. However, if your tastes are more 'high fashion' than 'high street' then head back toward St. Annes Square where you will find the Royal Exchange Shopping Precinct and Barton Arcade with its trendy boutiques and coffee shops. Deansgate has more exclusive shopping on offer including the fashionable Kendals department store, and of course there is the prestigious King Street where you will find designer names like Armani, Diesel and Vivienne Westwood.
If you head toward the Northern Quarter you will find Tib Street and Afflecks Palace and a whole new world of independent boutiques, bars, cafes and record shops, mainly owned by the kind of young, trendy, entrepreneurs that put Manchester on the map. And if you're still not satisfied (or you just want free parking) then head toward Trafford Park a few miles away where you will find The Trafford Centre, one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe.
Music, Bars and Nightlife
Manchester has an enviable reputation for its music scene, clubs, bars and nightlife. The birthplace of Factory Records and the iconic Haçienda nightclub, Manchester has inspired generations of hedonistic ravers and music makers in the last few decades. This is no surprise when you consider the rich vein of musical talent that has come out of the city, including global superstars like Simply Red, Oasis and Cold Play, to indie icons like The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and New Order. Live venues such as the MEN Arena, Manchester Apollo and Manchester Academy continue to attract some of the biggest names in the music industry, whilst smaller venues like the Night and Day Cafe and the legendary Band On The Wall will throw up some welcome surprises for those connoisseurs who's musical tastes go beyond the pop charts. And for classical music lovers, few venues can compete with the amazing acoustics in the beautifully designed, custom built Bridgewater Hall venue.
Apart from its world-renowned University, one of the features of Manchester that attracts a massive student population every year is its nightlife. There is quite simply something for everyone. From indie venues like Trof, with its unique mix of food, drink, live music and downbeat styling, exclusive celebrity haunts like Panacea, Ithaca and The Circle Club, to full on club events at The Warehouse Project, Sankey's and The Music Box or the flamboyant hedonism of the Gay Village, there's not a night of the week when there isn't something going on. There are literally hundreds of bars stretching across the city centre from The Printworks and The Northern Quarter all the way up to Deansgate and Castlefield, serving up everything from R'n'B, hip hop and house music, to indie, dubstep, drum and bass, old school, new school, 70's, 80's or 90's - you name it, Manchester has it.
Restaurants and Eating Out
Before you go out drinking and dancing it's always a good idea to fill your stomach with a good meal, and with it's wide range of top quality restaurants serving up dishes from all over the world, Manchester does not disappoint. Just like it's multi-cultured community, Manchester can boast a wide variety of flavours from just about everywhere in the world. Manchester's world famous 'Curry Mile' just south of the city centre in Rusholme rivals London's 'Brick Lane' for Asian and Middle Eastern varieties, whilst the brand new Spinningfields development just off Deansgate offers a range of restaurants and cafés in a beautiful setting where you can eat and drink into the night. And of course there is the oriental charm of the Chinatown district where you can choose from the wide variety of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean restaurants. A look through any guide and you will find a list of venues serving fine cuisine. From tapas to teppanyaki, whatever your taste in food you are guaranteed to be satisfied.
Manchester is now the location of the National Football Museum, and rightly so. Manchester boasts two massive Premier League football clubs; Manchester United - the most famous club in the world - and Manchester City - the richest club in the world. The North West region is also home to almost half the teams in the Premier League, including Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn and Bolton. The Lancashire Cricket Club is also based in the city and hosts regular big name concerts during the summer months. In 2002 the city hosted one the most successful Commonwealth Games to date. The legacy of the games remains with the state of the art sporting facilities at the Manchester Velodrome, Sportcity and Manchester Aquatics Centre where some of the worlds best athletes put in record breaking performances. And although the city has no winter skiing, the snowy slopes (yes, that's real snow) at The Chill Factore are the next best thing.
Theatre, Dance & Comedy
Manchester lays the stage for actors, comedians and artists from far and wide all year round with some of the finest performers and creative talent entertaining across the city. The Opera House and Palace Theatre are noted for their big musicals and ?West End Smash Hits?, whilst the world-renowned Contact Theatre is setting the trend for the future with it?s innovative and ground-breaking theatre aimed at younger audiences. The Royal Exchange Theatre is the largest in the round performance venue in England and is renowned for hosting world-class productions of the modern classics. But if you just want a laugh then head over to The Comedy Store or Manchester?s very own Frog and Bucket where you will be sure to find a giggle or two. With fringe venues up and down a city with a reputation for putting on a show, you don?t have to look too far to find dancers, jokers and players putting on a performance.
Like all great cities, Manchester plays host to a range of annual festivals and celebratory events. Although not blessed with the best weather in the world, the festival calendar runs throughout the year and includes the Manchester Comedy Festival, Literature Festival, Food and Drink Festival and Jazz Festival. The Eurocultured street festival takes place during late spring and the Gay Village hosts its Pride Festival every August Bank Holiday during the summer. The bi-annual Manchester International Festival is the latest addition to the festival calendar whilst the 24/7 Theatre Festival and FutureEverything (formerly Futuresonic) festival of digital music are proving more and more popular each year.
For a more complete list of information, venues and events, go to the LINKS page.