Manchester
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Manchester

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Our Editorial team's advice

The world's first industrialised city, the site where Rutherford first split the atom, the homeland of rock legends The Smiths, Oasis and Joy Division and the birthplace of architectural pioneer and the mastermind behind London's Gherkin, Norman Foster. Manchester has consistently been a city to entertain, to please and to shock. Even mass regeneration in recent years and the appearance of flashy, state of the art shopping complexes does not distract from the crumbling Victorian red brick warehouses that give the city its signature rustic identity. Manchester is a truly diverse city with many faces and personalities.

The music scene in Manchester is an integral part of its cultural flair, both historically and in the present day. In terms of music you could say Manchester is a Jack of all trades, but this Jack is top of his game; the city has produced world famous talent in sounds ranging from gothic and punk rock to classical symphony orchestras, from indie music to the acid house rave scene. In true Manc style, derelict warehouses and factories have been converted into underground music venues; in 1994 the Beehive Mill soap factory was transformed, Manchester's very own Cinderella, into Sankeys, a site that after numerous revamps has become a world famous Ibiza style clubbing venue. Abandoned industrial centres have become havens for ravers who share nostalgia for the acid house legacy that took off in the Hacienda, an old yacht builder's shop that was also turned into a nightclub. Being the UK's largest student city thanks to four universities, Manchester emits youthfulness and style. Whether it is Friday night, Monday or Thursday the city's streets are never empty of groups going out to drink and dance until sunrise.

What is intriguing is the devotion of the residents to the city. Immediately following the riots of summer 2011, the council and residents came together in a campaign pasting billboards with the slogan I Love MCR. It is unfortunate no one pre-empted that some people would think 'MCR' stands for the slightly laughable American alternative rock band My Chemical Romance. Still, the intention was there. A visitor to Manchester cannot help but notice how vibrant and diverse it is, and what is has to offer to families, students and undergraduates in search of career options.

To see

A must see is Afflecks Palace, an alternative department store of several floors in the fashionable Northern Quarter that has been described as an 'emporium of eclecticism.' Acutely named, the 'Palace' is enormous. Products include vintage clothes, piercing and tattoo accessories (you can also get a tattoo or a piercing while you're there, or if that's not your style the tattoo artists' bodies are something to see in themselves), Japanese and anime goodies, costumes and stage wear, 'out-there' shoes, silver jewellery, smoking paraphernalia, sunglasses, crystal balls and hip flasks. It is not just a shop but, like a museum, has photography displays and artwork.

If this sounds too off the wall and you are after something more sophisticated, don your suit or heels and go for a drink in Cloud 23, a bar on the twenty-third floor above the Hilton Hotel in the recently gentrified slick Castlefield area. Take a deep breath when you look at prices, as the cheapest cocktail will set you out 9. However it is worth it when you see the view over the city and the Pennines beyond, (and the rather good looking Australian waiter who will serve you.)

To do

If you want a party check out Warehouse Project, the seasonal club night held in an abandoned warehouse that books world famous drum and bass, house, techno and indie acts. In April 2012 it moved to a new venue that has a capacity of a small festival and a light show and sound system that are truly overwhelming. Alternatively, if you're after something more on the level of high culture how about the ballet, a museum, a musical at the Palace Theatre the Royal Exchange or an art-house movie at the Cornerhouse cinema.

Shopaholics will have a field day in Manchester. The great conundrum is choosing where to shop. From Harvey Nicholls, Selfridges and King Street for those with a bulging wallet, to more high street priced ranges in the Arndale and the Trafford Centre, which is just a bus ride away from Piccadilly Gardens.

pros

  • +  Cheap
  • +  Manchester's music scene and nightlife
  • +  The shopping (especially vintage)
  • +  Friendly
  • +  There is something for everyone, regardless of interests or budget

cons

  • -  The rain; invest in an umbrella and a coat with a hood!
  • -  Manchester was badly damaged during the Second World War, damaging many of the city's ancient sites
  • -  Drunk students tend to occupy most of the city past 8:00pm

To think about

Think about being a true Mancunian and spend rainy days in a traditional English pub, and sunny days round a barbecue in Platt Fields Park just off the Wilmslow Road in Fallowfield. Get a bike and go for a cycle by the canals in Castlefield, but avoid the Oxford Road as unfortunately buses aren't very sparing to cyclists.

To avoid

Only die-hard footie fans should brave Old Trafford on match day - otherwise to be avoided at all costs. Due to the 75 thousand capacity of the stadium, congestion around the Manchester United football ground will bring you to a standstill for up to two hours after a match, by which point you will probably have got tinnitus from all the car horns. The tram is an advisable alternative. Similarly, avoid shady areas such as Moss Side, Longsight, Salford and Fallowfield after dark, unless in a big group.

To try

You have not experienced Manchester until you have had a curry on the famous 'Curry mile' located on Wilmslow Road, which is a continuation of the Oxford Road and coincidentally the longest bus route in Europe. The chefs show off their Asian roots with pride, ruffling up some of the most authentic curry you'll find outside Asia. Another must is a night in the gay village, Canal Street. Don't be afraid if you're straight; the novelty is the sheer fun and relaxed feel of the night, as long as you don't mind seeing a man or two in outrageous drag outfits.

Christmas has not begun before you've spoilt yourself at the Christmas markets in Albert Square and its surrounding streets. Wander through the array of stalls selling handicrafts and European gastronomic delights. The cold Manchester winter feels far away when you are cupping a glass of mulled wine and gobbling down waffles and hot roast rolls. Parklife festival, which is held annually in the second week of June, sees thousands of avid music fans descend upon Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield and gives any British music festival a run for its money, with its line-ups of world class electro and indie acts.

To bring back

Take away a vintage clothing item from Afflecks Palace. If you're into music, rummage through the racks of vinyl records in the Northern Quarter, which has astounding range of choice. Or why not buy an 'I love MCR' T-shirt, the perfect souvenir after a good old-fashioned hangover.