The People’s History Museum
Visit Manchester and you’re visiting one of the most important cities in the history of social conscience...The People’s History Museum
Cosmopolitan, fun-loving Manchester is the perfect city. Its bars and clubs are quirky, trendy and legendarily hedonistic. Its portly buildings and leafy canalside walks are reminders of a history that spans the key moments in the British past. Its football teams share reputations as the biggest, most successful and infuriating in Europe. And to top it all, you can walk through the city centre without ever needing to catch a bus.
Mancunians are fiercely proud of their home town, and rightly so. In many ways an alternative version of London, a metropolis without the clutter, a creative hub without the attitude, Manchester’s where you go when you don’t want to have to out-brag city boys or show that you know the absolute latest must-be-seen-in bar. It’s more relaxed, it’s friendlier, and it’s confident that its own historic contributions – to social theory, to industry and to art – speak for themselves.Read more
Manchester is widely known for its rival football sides, its creation of The Smiths and for bringing Coronation Street to our screens; but we think the cities food scene deserves a lot more attention.
Canal Street, Manchester
by Ian Roberts
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Manchester’s claim to be the UK’s second city (or, if you speak to a real Mancunian, its first) is backed up by the statistics, if not by its size. In population terms, Manchester is only the fourth largest city in the UK – London’s at the top, and Glasgow and Birmingham are both more populous than the Lancashire metropolis. But more foreign visitors spend time on its streets than in any other town in the UK after the capital.
Manchester’s history is proudly preserved, in structures and museums that rival those of any other city. But its real heart lies elsewhere: in the pubs, clubs and bars of the city’s many nightlife districts; on the terraces of Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium; and in the fresh, funky galleries and theatres that spring up in central locations like arty mushrooms. The town that gave the world The Hacienda, Creation Records and The Happy Mondays knows more about music, the arts and having a good time than anywhere else in Britain.
Partly, the fame and popularity of Manchester is due to the long history of football success enjoyed by the city. From Busby’s Babes to the 27 year reign of Alex Ferguson, from the Bert Trautmann era at Manchester City to today’s all-conquering squad, the two grounds have long rung to the cheers of home fans – and in recent years they’ve attracted the attention of football-lovers from all over the world. Add the city’s hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which left a legacy of fine sports stadia and facilities, and the continual improvement to the centre that started in the aftermath of 1996’s IRA bombing, and you’ve got a town that brings in new residents every year. Young people, creative and media types and families who want a city life without the hassle are all setting up in Manchester.
Manchester put itself on the map during the Industrial Revolution, when its factories and warehouse became the envy of the world. Now, it’s redefining itself. No longer an emblem of the soot-stained Victorian era, it’s become a clean, friendly and happening place with a distinctive personality.
Manchester is served by Manchester International Airport, which is the biggest in the UK outside of London. It is connected to nearly all major worldwide destinations and cities.
Train services from all over the country stop at Manchester Piccadilly, one of the main hub stations for services coming from the south, north, east and west. Piccadilly also takes care f some local services, though in the main these run through Manchester Victoria (at the north end of the city centre).
Visit Manchester by road on the M60 and the M56, which connect with Manchester and the M6. There are also plenty of major A roads going into the city, including the locally famous East Lancs.
By bus or coach
National bus and coach networks come into the coach station on Chorlton Street (central Manchester).
In the city centre, you can get free bus rides on the Metroshuttle service. Further afield, buses operated by Stagecoach and First run frequent and reasonably priced services. They will be crowded at all times, particularly at night.
In the city, walking is the ideal mode of transport for the tourist. There’s plenty to see, the city is compact enough to transverse on foot in an hour, and you’ll be right in the buzz that make Manchester so famous.
If you don’t fancy wearing out your soles, there are plenty of other ways to travel. Take a tram to get through the centre and out to Manchester’s outlying districts. The Metrolink service runs six lines, which serve Altrincham, Victoria, Piccadilly, Aston under Lyme, Eccles, East Didsbury and the brand new Media City. They are expensive, though, and most of the destinations they serve are as easy to access by bus.
Taxis in Manchester are cheap and plentiful. Follow the rules and you’ll get where you’re going with the minimum of fuss (though at slow traffic times, your journey is likely to be quicker on foot in the centre of town). Always book in advance, and never get into an unmarked or unlicensed cab.
Manchester and the Industrial Revolution go hand in hand.
Richard Arkwright built the first cotton mill in Manchester at the end of the 18th century: by the middle of the 19th century, the town was known the world over as the premier cotton producer on the planet. Its mills and factories created the bones of the city as it stands today: in the northern half of the centre, for example, going up from Piccadilly through the Northern Quarter and the Gay Village, you’ll find a network of canals embanked with the familiar square red-brick-and-glass edifices. Canals remain a major feature of Manchester both in the city centre, where Deansgate Lock has been turned into a thumping party venue, and in the suburbs.
Manchester was quickly linked to the railway network – in fact, the city was the other end of the world’s first line to run between cities. The Liverpool to Manchester Railway connected two of the greatest industrial and trade cities in the world, and secured the town’s place in the headlines when William Huskisson, MP, fell under a train at the opening ceremony.
Economics and Socialism
Manchester occupies a unique place in the history of politics, economics and socialism. The Peterloo Massacre in 1819, in which workers were killed by armed guards after protesting against social inequality, became emblematic of the town’s willingness to stand up for the rights of the worker. Friedrich Engels lived in the city for most of his life, and Karl Marx came to discuss communism and the conditions of workers with him in the Library at Chetham. The crucible of cotton capitalism had become the birth place of left wing political thought: and liberal socialist thinking remains a strong element of the Manchester makeup to this day.
After the decline of the cotton industry, the city declined too. A programme of regeneration began the 1980s and 1990s, and was stepped up after the IRA bombing of the city centre in 1996. Modern Manchester is full of light, airy glass and steel structures, reclaimed and repurposed warehouses and media developments.
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