Looking for live music, a spot of culture, superb shopping or fantastic food? You’ll find it all on a Manchester city break
Why visit Manchester?
With its cool mix of industrial history, cutting-edge design and thriving music, sporting and restaurant scenes, Manchester is one of the most exciting and vibrant urban centres in the UK. The City is a hive of activity and whether it’s a literary festival, a shopping spree, a live concert, an art exhibition or a major sporting event, there are always new and interesting things to enjoy.
Manchester’s compact city centre is made up of eight districts, each with its own distinctive character: the central shopping area around Market Street and Exchange Square; the bohemian Northern Quarter; industrial Castlefield; the business district of Spinningfields; the civic quarter around St Peter’s Square; Chinatown; Canal Street, also known as the Gay Village; and the transport hub Piccadilly.
Manchester is home to multiple museums, legendary sports venues, splendid architecture both old and new, and eclectic and extensive shopping with great shopping venues such as Intu Trafford Centre which even boasts a Sealife Centre and a tree-top experience. With so much to see and do, the City is the perfect place to spend a long weekend. Take a group of friends and make the most of all the fun things the City has to offer, or go with your partner for a Manchester weekend break of sightseeing and culture, taking in the museums and art galleries by day, followed by dinner and a show at night.
A brief history of Manchester
Manchester dates right back to the Roman occupation of Britain. The Roman General Julius Agricola built the City’s first settlement, a fort known as Mamucium, in what is now the Castlefield district, in 78AD. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution, though, that Manchester grew to prominence. The City made its fortune via its cotton mills and, by the 19th century, was one of the biggest cotton manufacturing hubs in the world, earning it the nickname ‘Cottonopolis’. With the rise of those great mills came the overcrowded slums in which were housed the ever-increasing numbers of workers.
Manchester has a long history of social, political and democratic reform. The poor conditions of its working classes influenced both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Emmeline Pankhurst and her family founded the Suffragette movement in the City in 1903, while the Trades Union Congress held its first meeting in Manchester in 1868. One of the most poignant chapters in the City’s history occurred on 16 August 1819, when 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Field to peacefully call for parliamentary reform, only for government troops to charge on the crowds. With 11 killed and some 400 wounded, the incident became known as the Peterloo Massacre.
During the Second World War, the City was bombed heavily and the Manchester Blitz, just before Christmas 1940, devastated parts of the city – killing 684, injuring some 2,000 and damaging around 30,000 homes. The 1996 IRA bombing of the City centre and the 2002 Commonwealth Games sparked a large-scale regeneration of the City, which has seen the redevelopment of the central shopping area but also areas such as Piccadilly and Salford Quays – now home to The Lowry cultural centre, the Imperial War Museum North and MediaCityUK.
When should I visit?
The summer months between June and August are a great time for a Manchester city break – the sun is (often) shining and there’s usually a lot going on. The biennial Manchester International Festival, which takes place in July, is the city’s most prominent cultural event and has in the past showcased works by the likes of Steve McQueen, Björk, Kenneth Branagh and Damon Albarn, to name but a few. Love jazz? Don’t miss the Manchester Jazz Festival, a 10-day celebration of the musical genre each July, in which hundreds of musicians perform at venues all over the City – often for free. Keen gardeners, meanwhile, should make a beeline for the RHS Flower Show that visits Tatton Park, in the south of Manchester, in July and boasts an array of interesting and innovative gardens, as well as food and craft stalls.
During the autumn months, Manchester’s streets welcome a wide variety of festivals so you’ll find plenty of interesting things to do. The Manchester Literature Festival, the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and the Manchester Science Festival, organised by the Museum of Science and Industry, all take place in October.
If giant Santas light up your world, plan a pre-Christmas trip to Manchester and add the city’s Christmas Market to your itinerary – it’s the largest Christmas market in the North of England. Get into the festive spirit with a steaming hot mug of glühwein, then browse the many arts and crafts for sale at the sprawling complex of market stalls.
How do I get around?
The City centre is fairly small, with most of the major sights, shops and restaurants within walking distance of each other. As far as public transport goes, Manchester’s trams are a great way to navigate the city. Simply buy tickets on the platform.
This evolving city has something for everyone, so take a look at our hotels in Manchester for the perfect weekend getaway.