Manchester is a large city in the North West, with a population of just under half a million people.
Notable for being the world’s first industrial city, Manchester is also historically important for its network of canals and train links, and has been recognised as such by UNESCO. A number of important, enlightenment period novels were set in the city, including Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’; and Friedrich Engels wrote his treaty on the working-class whilst living and working there.
The city’s industrial importance is only matched by its cultural relevance, and the numerous theatres, art galleries and museums in the city are evidence of this. The city is known, more recently, for its front line position in the showcasing of punk acts in the late 70s and house music in the 80s in many of its internationally renowned nightclubs and bars.
Manchester is home to some of the most popular and successful nightclubs and music venues outside of London, and with its range of up-market cocktail bars, traditional real ale pubs and rock’n’roll themed bars, the city is the weekend destination of many young people.
Manchester is also home to the largest city centre shopping centre, as well as the largest shopping mall in Europe, the Trafford Centre, which has been dubbed ‘The Temple of Consumerism’. The city centre itself boasts an incredible array of shopping streets and arcades, comprising designer boutiques, high street stores, specialist shops and all the major department stores.
Since the 1996 IRA bomb blast in the city, much of the city centre has been redeveloped and, also owing to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a dedication to regeneration remains. This is evidenced by the new Beetham Tower, officially the tallest residential building in the UK, and ‘B of the Bang’, a commemorative sculpture to the 2002 Commonwealth Games that is the tallest sculpture in Britain.
With four train stations, an airport and other extensive transport links, Manchester is very easy to get to from all major cities in the UK – and there are plenty of reasons to do so!
It is known that Manchester has existed since Roman times, and there is some evidence to suggest that a township existed in the area even prior to this. Manchester began its development into the industrial capital of Lancashire during the thirteenth-century, with the rise of the cotton industry, and was granted a Charter in 1301.
Construction of the Collegiate Church, now the city cathedral, began in 1422. Building of the Bridgewater Canal began in 1759, allowing coal and other industrial goods to be transported around the country with ease. The development of the railways in the nineteenth-century cemented Manchester’s place as the most important industrial centre in the world. Manchester was awarded city status in 1853.
As the first industrial society, Manchester became the focus of many concerns and fears about industrialisation, and nineteenth-century novelists such as Elizabeth Gaskell based novels exploring these themes in the town. Friedrich Engels also lived and worked in Manchester, and based his 1844 treaty ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ on his experience in the city.
During this period, Manchester’s cultural life also developed, and a number of theatres and important cultural buildings were built.
The city became the principle city in the metropolitan borough of Manchester in 1889, and one of the ten boroughs in the metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester in 1974. These boroughs effectively became unitary authorities in 1985.
The Manchester Museum can be found on the University of Manchester Oxford Road campus. It is home to permanent and temporary exhibitions exploring local and national history, including displays of photography, fossils and archaeological discoveries, and comprising almost six million objects. Displays are separated into Humanities and Natural Science themes, with subsections including anthropology, archaeology, archery, Egyptology and Numismatics for the former, and botany, mineralogy, palaeontology, petrology and zoology for the latter.
The museum is open seven days a week, closing at 5pm and an hour earlier on Sundays. Lectures and seminars are also hosted in the venue.
The Greater Manchester Police Museum is on Newton Street in the city centre, and provides an opportunity to explore police work in the Victorian era and visit cells and the charge office that retain much of their original fixtures and fittings. There are galleries displaying historical police equipment and uniforms.
Admission is free, but the museum is only open for non-pre-booked visits on Tuesdays between 10:30am and 3:30pm.
The Pankhurst Centre, located in Emmeline Pankhurst’s home on Nelson Street, is a heritage centre and women-only space, exploring the work of the suffragette who once lived on the premises.
Other museums in the city include the Imperial War Museum North, the Manchester Jewish Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the People’s History Museum, the Gallery of Costume and Urbis.
There are numerous art galleries, art centres and art exhibition venues around Manchester.
Manchester Art Gallery is the civic art gallery, located in a nineteenth-century Grade I listed building on Mosley Street in the city centre. The collection housed in the gallery has significance both internationally and locally; the latter, for example, owing to collections by artists such as Pierre Adolphe, a French impressionist who lived and worked in the city and much of whose art is inspired by the city. Other artists, like Cezanne, are also represented in the gallery.
The gallery’s café was shortlisted for three awards, including Café of the Year, at the recent Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards. The café boasts an impressive menu, including a range of foods and portions for younger visitors.
The venue is available to hire for private functions. The gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10am until 5pm. Call 0161 235 8888 for more information.
The Whitworth Gallery is just south of the University of Manchester campus on Oxford Road, and has been a part of the university since the 50s. The gallery has received international recognition for its collection of 31,000 watercolours, prints, drawings, modern art, sculpture, textiles and wallpapers.
Exhibitions are changed regularly, and different works are displayed, or current works are displayed in different combinations to highlight different themes. Temporary exhibitions are also displayed in the gallery from time to time. Previous works displayed in the gallery include those of artists such as Constable, Van Gogh and Picasso.
The gallery has a commitment to scholarship, and as such, provides access to reserve materials for study purposes and hosts a selection of lectures and practical workshops in the building. The venue can also be hired for these purposes or for private functions. Call 0161 275 7450 for more information.
The Castlefield Gallery is on Knott Hill, outside the city centre, and home to new different art exhibitions every two months. The gallery has a range of exhibition spaces, including a mezzanine level and lower ground level, as well as full disabled access and a lift. The gallery primarily deals with contemporary art, and seeks to promote the works of new artists. Current exhibitions explore place, time and history through a range of approaches to the artistic medium.
Cornerhouse is a centre for cinema and contemporary visual arts, on Oxford Road beside the Oxford Road Station. Home to a bookshop, café, bar and three independent cinemas, the centre also has displays contemporary art in its galleries.
The Centre for the Urban Built Environment on Portland Street was opened in 1998, and presents exhibitions of outstanding or innovative architectural design, exploring the relationship between this and other visual arts.
Manchester has a large selection of theatre and performing arts venues, including three large dedicated theatres in the city centre and dozens of small, independent theatre groups. The city also boasts two respected drama schools: The Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre, and The Arden School of Theatre. The Royal Northern College of Music, and smaller venues such as The Dancehouse, specialise in dance and musical productions.
The Manchester Opera House, on Quay Street in the city centre, was built in 1912 and has a capacity of just less than two thousand people. The theatre usually hosts large-scale, touring productions of musicals and dance performances, including West End shows. Planned productions for 2007 include ‘Riverdance’, ‘Cats’ and ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. The box office can be contacted on 0161 828 1700.
The Palace Theatre is a sister venue to the Opera House. The theatre is in a Grade II listed, nineteenth-century building on Oxford Street, further into the centre of the city. Built on three levels, with two balconies and stalls, the auditorium seats around two thousand people. Performances coming up in 2007 include Peter Kay in ‘The Producers’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.
The third of Manchester’s major theatres is the Royal Exchange, in St Ann’s Square, the prestigious shopping district. The Grade II listed building was built as a Cotton Exchange in 1874 and did not become a theatre until 1968. The theatre now stages a variety of classic theatre, contemporary drama and new writing in what the Theatres Trust Guide referred to as: “best and most innovative theatre space created in Britain in the twentieth century”.
In 1996, a lottery grant was obtained and a new Studio Theatre – with a bar and capacity of a hundred-and-twenty – was added to the complex.
The Library Theatre is an intimate venue, located in the basement of the central library. Originally intended as a lecture theatre, the theatre has a capacity of just over three hundred and a small ‘apron’ stage.
Other theatre and performing arts venues include The Lowry in Salford Quays; The Dancehouse, specialising in dance; The Contact Theatre for youth productions, and The Greenroom for fringe productions.
Manchester is the most important retail centre in the North of England. With two large malls, twenty-one local shopping centres, fifteen district shopping centres and the largest ASDA-WalMart in the UK, there are shops to suit everyone within handy reach of the city centre.
Much of Manchester city centre is now pedestrianised, making shopping a more enjoyable and convenient enterprise for those on foot. The centre of the retail area is Market Street and this is entirely inaccessible by car. Market Street is dominated by the Arndale Centre, a vast mall comprising two hundred shops and numerous restaurants and cafés. Amongst most other major department stores and high street shops, The Arndale Centre is home to Dixons, Littlewoods and Bhs. The centre’s car park has spaces for nearly two thousand cars.
The Shambles is home to a number of designer boutiques, including Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. King Street is another affluent shopping area, and location of more designer boutiques and exclusive brand stores.
Barton Arcade is a nineteenth-century, Grade II listed building, and the first property to be built on Deansgate after its redevelopment. The Arcade is cast-iron and glass building, comprising a number of up-market stores, with office units in its upper floors.
More up-market stores can be found in St Ann’s Arcade in St Ann’s Square. The Arcade is a small collection of expensive, prestigious stores, trading in jewellery, shoes and clothes, and there is also a tailor’s.
The Trafford Centre is a vast, controversial and unique shopping mall, located about fifteen minutes from the city centre, and dubbed a ‘Temple to Consumerism’. Covering an area equal to thirty football pitches, the Trafford Centre is separated into four shopping areas: Peel Avenue, Regent Crescent, The Dome and The Orient; and is the largest of its kind in Europe. The centre has 10,000 parking spaces, a range of leisure facilities and a children’s play area suitable for up to a hundred children.
All the major high street and department stores are represented in the Trafford Centre, including Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins and Bhs, as well as a vast selection of specialist and independent retailers. Free maps are distributed around the centre to aid shoppers in find their way around.
The Orient is a multi-kiosk food hall, with a mini-Chinatown, and a dome ceiling decorated and lit to represent the changes in light throughout the day. There is also a performance stage for family entertainment, in front of a large plasma screen. The Orient is also home to a twenty-screen cinema.
The Trafford Centre has been praised for its disabled- and child-friendly facilities, and also its unique layout that prevents access and congestion problems suffered by many other shopping centres. Providing entries on all floors, for example, has meant that shoppers are spread out around the centre and there are no ‘quiet’ areas in which retailers would not want to lease units.
The centre is open seven days a week, closing at 8pm Monday to Wednesday, 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 7pm on Saturdays and 5pm on Sundays. The food court is open until midnight seven days a week.
Pubs and Bars
Manchester city centre is home to more than five hundred pubs and bars, contributing to its reputation as home to some of the best nights out in the country. Along with the selection of chain pubs and franchises that one might expect, the city centre also boasts real ale pubs, chic modern bars and relaxed rock pubs.
For real ale fans, and lovers of unusual venues, The Temple is a popular choice. Located in a converted public toilet, the bar is incredibly small and the toilet is unisex. The jukebox mainly comprises music by Manchester bands – some members of which have previously been sighted in the bar! The Temple offers a wide selection of bottled international real ales. The Temple is located on Great Bridgewater Street in the city centre.
Odd Bar, on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, offers a wide range of import beers and an impressive, bohemian décor. Briton’s Protection serves a range of real ales and whiskies, and occasionally hosts live music events on its upper floor. Mr Thomas’s Chop House, on Cross Street, is one of the oldest pubs in the city and boasts a selection of real ales and an award-winning chef serving food throughout the day. Rain Bar, on Great Bridgewater Street, is a traditional real ale pub downstairs and a chic, modern venue upstairs.
Panacea is one of Manchester’s most successful bars. A cocktail bar and restaurant, the club is located in a basement venue and prides itself on a selective door policy. As a result, it is increasingly popular with celebrities.
Pure Space is a café, bar and restaurant, based on New Wakefield Street, just off Oxford Road. The café is on the ground floor and serves tapas and cocktails, the basement is home to a Northern Soul and funk club, and the bar is located on the roof terrace along with BBQ facilities. Music tends to be pop, Northern Soul and funk, and the bar boasts a wide selection of cocktails.
Opus One, in the 5* Radisson Edwardian Hotel, is an incredibly expensive but high quality cocktail bar located in the city centre. Fine wines and contemporary British cuisine are also available.
Mojo, on Back Bridge Street, is a cocktail bar specialising in classic rock from the 50s through to the 90s.
Canal Street, known as ‘the gay village’, is home to a variety of gay bars and nightclubs. Amongst these is Tribeca & Bed, a ‘New York Attic’ style bar, with large sofas, seating booths and full-size beds to recline on. Food and cocktails are served, and music includes R’n’B, Motown, funk, pop, 80s and jazz. The bar hosts live acoustic rock events and holds a Karaoke night on Tuesdays.
On Canal Street proper is Queer, a bar run by the Essential owners. The bar boasts a men-only area, known as The Main Area, its own in-toilet radio station, and an extensive list of cheap and interesting cocktails. A menu of quality Italian and American food is also on offer.
Churchill’s is a traditional pub, albeit a gay bar, with a traditional pub menu and the usual cask ale. The pub is incredibly popular and usually very busy over the weekend, attracting clientele with its array of entertainment, including karaoke and talent contests.
Manchester city centre boasts a selection of more than two hundred restaurants. Amongst these are those found on the famous ‘Curry Mile’, in Chinatown and in the ‘gay village’. There are the usual choices of fast food outlets and chain restaurants, as well as family-run establishments, fine dining restaurants, coffee shops and cafés.
For fine dining, there is 110 Restaurant on Portland Street in the city centre. Unusually located within a casino, the restaurant serves contemporary British and European dishes, complemented by an extensive wine list. The bar and gaming area are open until 6am, and the restaurant closes at 1am. Due to its location within a casino, children are not allowed in the restaurant. Customer reviews have praised the quality of the food and variety of the menu, along with the polite and attentive staff. Call 0161 228 0077 to make a reservation.
The French, in the Midland Hotel on Peter Street, specialises in French cuisine and currently holds 2AA Rosettes. Contact the hotel on 0161 236 3333.
There are said to be more than seventy takeaways and restaurants in Manchester’s Curry Mile, and with most of the establishments open until the early hours of the morning, the stretch is unsurprisingly very popular with students and clubbers.
Saki Turkish Bar and Grill is one of these restaurants, and is known for the quality of its food and service. Shaandaar serves Indian dishes, to eat in or takeaway, and has been praised for its friendly staff and reasonable prices. Hanaan and Lal Haweli are other popular Indian restaurants on the Curry Mile.
Manchester claims one of the largest ‘Far Eastern’ populations in Europe, and as a result, is home to a wide selection of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Nepalese restaurants. Most of these establishments can be found in the Chinatown area, but there are others located around the city centre.
Wong Chu is a traditional Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. Meals are prepared in an open kitchen and the restaurant has a café-like atmosphere. Despite its low prices and minimal decor, the restaurant has built a reputation as a quality establishment.
Pan Asia is a more up-market restaurant in Chinatown. A variety of dishes are served, including Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese food, and the menu is altered regularly. The restaurant has quirky, modern décor and visitors are greeted at the entrance by an unusual water feature. To make a reservation, call 0161 236 6868.
Chaophraya in Manchester is one of two branches (the other in Leeds) of a gourmet Thai restaurant. There is a bar downstairs, with seating for two hundred people and a range of cocktails on offer, and a hundred-and-twenty-seater restaurant upstairs. The restaurant prides itself on offering an authentic Thai experience, so staff wear traditional Thai clothing, and there is even a Tuk Tuk that can be hired to ferry diners to and from the restaurant. Call 0161 832 8342 to book a table or hire the Tuk Tuk.
Manchester city centre, including ‘Little Italy’, is home to more than 120 Italian restaurants and pizzerias, including chains like Pizza Express and smaller family-run establishments. Cocotoo Restaurant, on Whitworth Street West, features a replica of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and is highly regarded, primarily for its service. Villagio Restaurant, on Canal Street, is a stylish Italian restaurant that scores highly with diners for the quality of its food and its welcoming staff.
Sport has been an important element of Manchester culture for many years. With two football teams, three rugby teams and a cricket club, Manchester has much to offer sports spectators; and with the first class sporting and leisure facilities that were built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the city also has plenty to offer more active sports fans!
Manchester has twice missed out on the chance of hosting the Olympic Games; but, much to the delight of residents and the Council, it has since been announced that Manchester’s training facilities will be used for the 2012 Olympics.
There are more than twenty fitness, sports and leisure centres in and around the city. Manchester Aquatics Centre is on Booth Street East in the city centre and was built for the Commonwealth Games. The centre comprises two fifty-metre swimming pools, a fitness studio, a workout studio, a health suite and sunbeds. There is also an on-site café. Numerous classes are run at the centre, including ‘women only’ sessions.
The swimming pools and health suite are open until 10pm Sunday to Friday, and close at 6pm on Saturdays. The gym closes at 10pm every day. Contact the centre on 0161 275 9450.
The Ten Acres Astro Centre is home to a full-size, outdoor Astroturf pitch, sports hall and badminton facilities. The centre is open until 10pm during the week, and closes at 5pm over the weekend. For more details, call 0161 205 0241.
The Manchester Velodrome is the UK’s main Olympic cycle track, located on Stuart Street. There are one-hour taster sessions for beginners, costing £6 for students and children and £8 for others. The centre also hosts twelve netball courts, including ten outdoors and floodlit, ten badminton courts and a basketball court. All equipment can be bought or hired from the centre. Call 0161 223 2244 for more information or to book a court.
There are about fifteen golf courses around Manchester, of which Manchester Golf Club is the largest. The course comprises 18 holes over a 6454-yard course, and has two bars and a restaurant. Golf prices start at £30 p/round during the week. Call 0161 643 3202 to make a booking or to arrange catering for your visit.
The New North Manchester Golf Club is situated off Junction 19 on the M60. The course is 6527-yards and eighteen holes, set against picturesque parkland. Bar snacks and a full menu are available in the clubhouse. Prices of games start at £30 p/day during the week. Call 0161 643 7094 for more information
Manchester has been home to a thriving and innovative club culture for many years. Jimmy Savile, and Tony Prince (a member of Savile’s staff at his Manchester club) have both variously been credited with being the first club DJs. Manchester led the way with Northern Soul and house music in the 60s and 80s, respectively, and continues to boast an exciting nightlife.
One Central Street is a funky house and disco club on Central Street in the city centre. Located in the basement of Grade II listed building, the club is an exclusive venue with no dress code but a selective door policy. Various aftershow parties have been held in the venue. The bar serves a range of cocktails, wines and beers. Amongst club nights held at the club are Bugged Out and Ace of Clubs. The club is open from Thursdays to Sundays, closing at 3am. For more information, call 0161 211 9000.
Sankeys is a club on Jersey Street, offering deep house, tribal and break beats on Fridays, and funky house on Saturdays. The club also hosts Club NME, Octopussy and Rejeckt. A recent refurbishment of the venue has seen the club reopen with sleek décor and state of the art sound system. Sankeys has won a number of awards, despite being such a small club, and is rapidly building a reputation as one of the better clubs in Manchester.
Essential is a ‘gay superclub’, based Minshull Street and owned by Take That manager Nigel Martin-Smith. Renowned for its strict door policy, the club claims to admit gay-friendly straight people, but gay clubbers are preferred. The décor is grand-kitsch, with spiral staircases, neon lighting and poles for pole-dancing. The venue hosts live music events on Monday nights. Current club nights include Chav Bender, House Party and Sabbath Blue, presenting commercial pop and funky house. Call 0161 236 0077 for more information.
The Birdcage is a cabaret club on Withy Grove, presenting cheesy pop and disco from the 60s to the 80s and live cabaret. Full table service is offered.
5th Avenue is an indie club on Princess Street in the city centre. Club nights present a combination of indie and classical rock with dance and hip-hop. Cheap entry and drinks offers make the club very popular amongst the student population, and there are usually very long queues on student-only nights. The club is open six nights a week, closed on Sundays, licensed until 3am.
Jilly’s Rockworld is based on Oxford Road. The club offers rock, metal and goth music in its four rooms from Thursdays to Sundays, and live music on Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays. Thursday night is Cheapskates, with cheap entry and drinks offers, and on Friday night the club is open until 7am. The club has an enviable reputation among the alternative crowd, and came third in Kerrang!’s list of the top hundred UK nightclubs. Call 0161 236 9971 for more information.
South is another popular rock and indie club, this one based on South King Street in the city centre. The club has been open since 1995, and presents rock, indie and dance classics.
Band on the Wall is perhaps one of Manchester’s most famous venues. The premises were built in 1862, and became home to Band on the Wall in 1975. The club takes its name from the performance area, once a room in the next-door property, high up on one of the walls, where the bands performed. The venue is currently closed for refurbishment and due to reopen towards the end of 2007 as REBIRTH.