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Travel / Tours / England / Manchester
A guide for visitors to Manchester, including Salford and Trafford
  Manchester Town Hall
  City centre landmarks & attractions
  Gay Village
  Imperial War Museum North
  The Lowry
  Food & drink
  Outside Manchester
  Further information


Manchester is England's third largest city (after London and Birmingham). It is located in North-west England, about 50km east of Liverpool. A person from the city is known as a Mancunian.

The city grew rapidly during the 19th century. The introduction of spinning machines led to the development of the cotton processing industry, and the building of the Manchester Ship Canal allowed ships to come here directly instead of unloading at Liverpool.

In recent years Manchester's manufacturing industry has declined and has been replaced largely by service industries. Manchester has a strong reputation for football and music and has a large student population.

Manchester's growth was driven by the cotton industry.
This loom is in the city's Museum of Science & Industry

Manchester has a good public transport network,
with frequent tram and bus services

"Time Out" Shortlist Manchester (guidebook)
Publisher: Time Out Group Ltd
Date: April 2007
Itchy Insiders' Guide - Manchester 2007 (guidebook)
Publisher: Itchy Group
Date: March 2007
Manchester Through The Ages (DVD)
Studio: Green Umbrella Productions
Date: May 2005
The Mancunian Way (photo book)
Publisher: Clinamen Press Ltd
Date: May 2002

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The Manchester Visitor Information Centre is located in an extension of the Town Hall, near Lloyd Street (tram stop: St Peter's Square).

Nearby, in Albert Square, is the main entrance to the Manchester Town Hall. This Gothic-style building was designed to be a symbol of the city's wealth, and was completed in 1877. The architect was Alfred Waterhouse, who also created the Natural History Museum in London. The building is open to visitors during weekdays and on some Saturdays, but rooms may be closed when there are meetings or weddings. One of the main attractions is the Great Hall, which contains twelve paintings showing important events in Manchester's history.

Inside the town hall there are many symbols of Manchester's industrial past. On top of spire is a golden ball in the shape of a cotton bud which is about to open. You can also see cotton plant designs in the windows, walls and floor. The mosaic at the top of the staircases contains a pattern of bees. The Manchester Bee is a symbol of hard work and is part of the city's coat of arms. The city's motto is "concilio et labore", which means "integrity and industry" in Latin.

Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Bee

The main monuments outside the Town Hall (in Albert Square) are connected with the Victorian period of British history. The square is named after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, who died in 1861. He was popular in Manchester because he was a keen supporter of industrial development. The Albert Memorial was completed in 1867 (a similar monument was later built in London's Hyde Park, opposite the Royal Albert Hall). There is a statue of William Gladstone, a merchant's son who grew up in Liverpool and was Prime Minister for much of the period between 1868 and 1894. The Jubilee Fountain was placed in Albert Square in 1897 to celebrate Victoria's 60th year as the queen.

Prince Albert
(Queen Victoria's husband)

Albert Memorial
(in Albert Square)

William Gladstone
(British Prime Minister)

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- The Central Library is the largest local library in Britain, created in 1934 as a circular building based on Rome's Pantheon. It includes a theatre in its basement.
- The Big Wheel is a large observation wheel which is currently located in Exchange Square. A commentary can be heard providing information about the views.

Central Library and Theatre (near St Peter's Square)

The Big Wheel (in Exchange Square)

- Manchester Central was once a railway station but is now used as an exhibition centre. Until recently it was known as G-Mex.
- The Hilton Tower (also known as the Beetham Tower) is the city's tallest building (171m high). The lower floors are used as a hotel and the upper floors are private apartments.
- Manchester Cathedral (in Victoria Street) is the city's main Anglican church. St John's Cathedral in Salford is the main Catholic church.

Manchester Central
(formerly known as G-Mex)

The Hilton Tower:
the tallest building

Manchester Cathedral
(damaged by bombs in World War Two)

- Manchester Art Gallery (in Mosley Street, near the tram stop at St Peter's Square) is a building created by Charles Barry, who was also the architect of the Houses of Parliament in London. It contains one of the most important UK art collections outside London.
- The Midland Hotel was built by the Midland Railway Company in 1903. In the following year this is where Charles Rolls met a Manchester factory owner called Frederick Royce, afterwards creating the Rolls-Royce Motor Company

Manchester Art Gallery (includes works by Turner,
Gainsborough, Stubbs, Rodin, Gaughin and Pisarro)

Midland Hotel (Mr Rolls first met Mr Royce here,
before creating the Rolls-Royce car company)

- Urbis is a museum about living in cities, both in the UK and other parts of the world. Manchester is an appropriate location because it was one of the first modern cities in the industrial age. There are a range of exhibitions on the different floors. Entry is free. It is located in Cathedral Gardens, near the Victoria or Shudehill tram stops.

Urbis: a museum about city life

A temporary exhibition about urban play

Side view of the museum building

Other attractions in Manchester's city centre include:
- John Rylands Library (Deansgate): Victorian Gothic library containing an impressive collection of old books and manuscripts
- Museum of Science and Industry (Liverpool Road): a large science museum on the site of the world's first railway station
- Bridgewater Hall (Lower Mosley Street): a concert hall opened in 1996. The home of the Hallé Orchestra.
- Whitworth Art Gallery (Oxford Road): art gallery owned by the University of Manchester
- Manchester Museum (Oxford Road): museum covering a wide range of topics, administered by the University of Manchester
- Pankhurst Centre (Nelson Street, off Oxford Road): the home of Emmeline Pankhurst, the campaigner for women's votes who founded the Suffragette movement.

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There is a large gay community in Manchester. The entertainment area around Canal Street, known as the Gay Village, contains many places which welcome both gay and straight visitors (nearest tram stops: Piccadilly Station, Piccadilly Gardens or St Peter's Square).

One of Manchester's most famous gay residents was the mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954). During World War Two he helped to break the secret codes produced by the Enigma Machine used by the Germans. In 1949 he worked at Manchester University, developing theories about artificial intelligence. In 1952 he was arrested for homosexuality, which was a criminal offence at that time. He committed suicide two years later by eating a poisoned apple.

Statue of Alan Turing in Sackville Park
(he is holding the apple which killed him)

The rainbow flag is often used
to identify gay pubs and bars

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Manchester has a lively nightlife, with plenty of restaurants, cinemas, bars and clubs. One of the popular venues is an entertainment centre called The Printworks, (nearest tram stop: Victoria Station or Shudehill). This includes a branch of the Hard Rock Café, inside which there is a wide range of rock memorabilia, including a guitar and suit previously used by Noel Gallagher from the band Oasis.

The Printworks

Hard Rock Café
(c) Hard Rock Cafe Manchester
Oasis display in the Hard Rock Café

Manchester has produced many popular musicians, including the following bands (one of each band's most popular songs is shown in brackets):
10cc ("I'm not in love"), Bee Gees ("Staying alive"), New Order ("Blue Monday"), The Smiths / Morrissey ("Heaven knows I'm miserable now"), Oasis ("Wonderwall"), The Stone Roses ("Fools gold"), Joy Division ("Love will tear us apart"), The Hollies ("The air that I breathe"), Take That ("Rule the world")

Stop the Clocks (music CDs + DVD)
Artist: Oasis
Label: Big Brother
Date: November 2006
The Very Best of the Smiths (music CD)
Artist: Smiths
Label: Warner
Date: June 2001
The Stone Roses (music CD)
Artist: The Stone Roses
Label: Jive
Date: June 2004
The Very Best of 10cc (music CD)
Artist: 10cc
Label: Mercury
Date: March 1997

Just behind Victoria Station is the MEN Arena, a location for major concerts and other events (MEN is an abbreviation for the Manchester Evening News, which is the main local newspaper).

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Manchester has a wide variety of shops. The most popular retail area in the city centre is based around Market Street, including the Arndale shopping complex (nearest tram stop: Market Street). On the edge of the city is the Trafford Centre (opened in 1998): one of the largest indoor shopping centres in the UK (to reach this by public transport, take the tram towards Altrincham and get off at Stretford - there is a shuttle bus link from here to the centre).

Marks & Spencer's in the city's retail area

The Trafford Centre

Entrance of the shopping centre

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Manchester has a strong tradition of football: the original teams were the workers from different factories in the city. Manchester United (known locally as "United" or "Man U", or "the reds") is one of the strongest soccer teams in the UK. The team plays at a stadium known as Old Trafford (a 15 minute walk from the nearest tram stop at Old Trafford). Visitors can go to the souvenir shop, or book a place to see the museum and go on a stadium tour.

Old Trafford: Manchester United's stadium

Wayne Rooney's number 8 shirt
(he now wears number 10)

Sir Matt Busby

The other major team in Manchester is Manchester City (known locally as "Man City", or the "blues") - there is always great rivalry between supporters of the two clubs. The City of Manchester stadium (located to the east of the city centre) can be visited by taking a bus from Piccadilly Gardens.

Next to the tram stop at Old Trafford is the home ground of the Lancashire Cricket Club, which is also sometimes used for international cricket matches.

Manchester has been the host city to several major international sporting events, including the 2002 Commonwealth Games (athletics) and the 2003 European Cup Final (football).

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The Imperial War Museum North opened in 2002. It is about a 10 minute walk to here from the tram stop at Harbour City, a 10 minute walk from The Lowry, or a 20 minute walk from Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium.

The building was created by Daniel Libeskind, a Berlin-based architect who also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the replacement to the World Trade Centre in New York. The three parts are sections of a smashed globe, symbolising the destructive power of wars on the world. The largest piece represents the land, the wave-shaped piece on the side is the sea, and the upright piece is the air. A fourth piece was in the original design (representing fire) but has not yet been added - this is planned to contain a Jewish Museum about the Holocaust. Much of the area on which the museum stands was destroyed by German bombs during the Manchester Blitz in December 1940.

Inside the museum you can learn about wars since the start of the 20th century and how these have affected the lives of local people.

This old Russian tank is displayed outside the museum

You can take a lift to the top of the tallest section, from which there are fine views of Salford, Trafford and the Manchester Ship Canal.

Lift to the top

View of Manchester Ship Canal and The Quays

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Manchester's most famous artist was a man called L S Lowry, born in 1887. In the 1920's he moved with his family to Pendlebury (north-west Manchester, in Salford) - at that time this was a centre for cotton production, although the industry was already declining. Many of Lowry's early paintings showed the ordinary people who lived in the area, their pets, houses and the mills where many of them worked. The characters he drew were straight and thin, with very simple faces - this led some people to say that he painted "matchstick men". The sadness and loneliness which he experienced in his own life is reflected in his paintings of poor or disabled people, and in his empty landscapes and sea drawings. Lowry died in 1976. Soon after his death there was an exhibition of his works at the Royal Academy of Arts in London - this attracted huge numbers of visitors. His popularity among the public became clear again in 1978, when a song about his life reached the top of the UK charts ("Matchstick Men" by Brian and Michael; to see the lyrics, click here). More recently Lowry's paintings were used as the inspiration for the video to a song by the Manchester band Oasis ("The Masterplan" - to watch the video click here). To read more about Lowry's life story, click here.

You can see many of Lowry's most famous paintings if you visit The Lowry in Salford Quays (a 10 minute walk from the tram stop at Harbour City). This arts centre was opened in 2000, and includes a theatre as well as space for exhibitions. You can also watch a short video about Lowry's life and works. Opposite this building is a modern shopping centre.

The Lowry

"Coming home from the mill" by L S Lowry

Lowry: A Visionary Artist
Author: Michael Howard
Publisher: Lowry Press
Date: April 2000
L.S.Lowry: A Life
Author: Shelley Rohde
Publisher: Haus Publishing Limited
Date: April 2007

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Some local products which you may wish to try include a beer called Boddingtons, mushy peas, or Eccles cakes (made from pastry and currants, and originally from the town of Eccles which is now part of Greater Manchester).

Boddingtons Beer

Mushy peas

Eccles cakes

There is a large Chinatown in the centre of the city (near Portland Street). Asian food can be enjoyed in the area known as the Curry Mile in Rusholme (about 2 miles south of the city centre): this area has a large Pakistani community.

Welcome to Manchester's Chinatown

Chinese Arch

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There has been a rise in the number of students in Manchester in recent years: there are now about 90,000 full-time or part-time students. The University of Manchester, which merged with UMIST, is the UK's largest university. There are two other universities in Greater Manchester: Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Salford. There are several language schools in the city teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language).

University of Manchester

Manchester Metropolitan University

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Not far outside of Manchester you can enjoy walking in the countryside. If you climb up to see the Peel Tower you can enjoy excellent views over Manchester and North Wales. The tower was built in 1852 to honour Sir Robert Peel (from Bury), the man who founded the British police force and who was Prime Minister between 1841 and 1846. A British policeman is still sometimes called a "Bobby": this is a casual version of the name Robert.

The walk up to the top of the hill ...

... to see the Peel Tower

Other places to visit which can be reached easily from Manchester include Liverpool (the home of the Beatles), Blackpool (a seaside town with a large funfair), North Wales (a beautiful coastal area whose attractions include Conwy Castle), Chester (popular for its zoo and medieval town centre), the Peak District (a National Park), and Alton Towers (the UK's biggest theme park).

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* Visitor information

Tourist offices
Manchester tourism:
Manchester City Council Visitor Centre:

Museum of Science & Industry:
Wheel of Manchester:
Manchester Cathedral:
Manchester Art Gallery:
Manchester Museum:
Hard Rock Café Manchester:
Manchester United Football Club:
Manchester City Football Club:
Imperial War Museum North:
The Lowry:

Local area information
Manchester Evening News entertainment guide:
BBC Manchester:
Gay guide to Manchester:
City guide:

* Tours
- During the main tourist season in the summer months City Sightseeing operate open-topped bus tours of Manchester
- A range of different guided walking tours of Manchester can be booked at the Visitor Information Centre or at Urbis.
- Private group tours can be organised through Manchester Tour Guides:

City tour by a Blue Badge guide

Open-topped bus tour by City Sightseeing

* Transportation
- The main train stations in the city are called Manchester Piccadilly (in the south of the city centre) and Manchester Victoria (in the north). For train timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/TheTrainline.
- The coach station is in Chorlton Street (a 5-minute walk from Piccadilly Station). For coach timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/NationalExpress.
- The nearest airport is Manchester Airport (you can use coach, bus or taxi services to reach central Manchester). For details of how to book flights, see: Travel/Transport/Air
- For local transport information within Manchester, see:

* Student links
- University of Manchester:
- Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU):
- University of Salford:
- Manchester College of Arts & Technology:
- City College Manchester:
- International Society:

* Weather forecast for Manchester

Lonely Planet verdict: Manchester
"The uncrowned capital of the north and the world's first industrial city, Manchester has reinvented itself as one of the most exciting cities in Britain. To many, the city is best known for its successful football team and the top-class nightlife ... but Manchester is also where you'll find a wealth of fascinating museums, rich and varied dining and some of the best shopping outside of London ... There is a terrific buzz about Manchester"
(extracts from "Lonely Planet Great Britain - 2003 edition", used with permission)
Lonely Planet Great Britain
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: May 2009
Lonely Planet England
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: March 2009
Other Lonely Planet publications

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Blackpool: Travel/Tours/England/Blackpool
Liverpool: Travel/Tours/England/Liverpool
Peak District: Travel/Tours/England/PeakDistrict
Chester: Travel/Tours/England/Chester
North Wales: Travel/Tours/Wales/North

Football: Life/Sport/Football
British pop music: Britain/Music/Pop
Never Forget (musical based on the songs of Take That): Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Never-Forget
University / language school courses: Course
Victorian / modern history: Britain/History
Information for gay/lesbian people in the UK: Personal/Relationships

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