Home to a cutting edge music scene, burgeoning restaurant industry and a welcoming, salt-of-the-earth attitude, Manchester has flourished in recent years into a vibrant beacon of cultural cool, as our man on the ground David Harfield discovers...
Split into various unique and diverse regions, the 'capital of the North' exudes a gentler buzz of activity than its southern counterpart but still matches London in its passion for nightlife and entertainment.
Piccadilly Gardens are just a short walk from Manchester’s main train station, Piccadilly, and it is on these lawns that sun-seekers bathe during the city’s summer months.
Canal Street, the city’s official gay area, is a stone’s throw from here and it boasts some truly outlandish bars and cafés. (Note to newcomers: some spray can toting wag has crossed out the ‘C’ and the ‘S’ from the words on the street sign...)
Shopaholics can hit the High Street by crossing over the gardens on to Market Street where the likes of TopShop, HMV and H&M sell their wares. The Arndale Centre is a local mecca for mainstream fashion, jewellery and electronics shops.
For those who want to try somewhere a little more leftfield, the Northern Quarter can be found just ten minutes walk from the high street. With funky independent bars and cafés such as Kosmonaut and Soup Kitchen, this is definitely the best place to be seen in the city.
Insider tip: Anyone in town on the first Tuesday of every month simply has to try Noel’s Horse Party at The Bayhorse – quite possibly the weirdest and most wonderful pub quiz in the country.
On the other side of the cultural and financial spectrum, one can detect a notable change in the financial climate when strolling through Spinningfields. The area is houses many legal and financial offices and the besuited workers spill out every night for post-work drinks at such top end cocktail bars as The Alchemist.
Manchester’s very own Chinatown is a bustling mini-metropolis of pan-Asian restaurants, supermarkets and street vendors and is definitely worth a visit. Fans of Chinese food should gorge themselves senseless at the internationally renowned Yang Sing, where the revolving tables are piled high with sumptuous and authentic Cantonese cuisine.
A relatively new addition to Manchester’s landscape, MediaCity UK was built to accommodate the recent shift of media workers from London to Manchester. Set out like a smaller, less populated Canary Wharf, this concrete village is where the bright young things of the media congregate to do whatever it is that they do. Part of what they do seems to be attending business lunches and dinners, so there are a few decent restaurants such as Damson within the complex that are facilitating these requirements, with no doubt many more to follow.
Manchester’s tram system runs with an enviable level of proficiency, linking all of the major points in the city and integrating with the buses so that getting around really isn’t very challenging at all. The train stations have great links with other cities and the local airport is just a fifteen minute train journey away.
If you can stomach the horrifically tacky name then the new ‘Get Me There’ travel cards are advisable for anyone staying longer than a day or two as they will ‘get you’ around on all of the relevant inner-city transport.
Despite certain commentators positing the city as the ‘new London’, Manchester hasn’t quite caught up with The Big Smoke in terms of price and probably never will do; the stereotypical no-nonsense Northern attitude has helped to keep the average prices of eating out from sky-rocketing during this state of recession induced financial flux. However, you can still expect to pay £3.50 to £4.50 for a pint, depending on where you are and the more expensive restaurants will take over a tenner from your pocket for a main course. For decent yet affordable food, it’s best to stick to the independent cafés and pubs around the Northern Quarter and be prepared to have to splash out when you venture towards Spinningfields.
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