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Manchester, England’s ‘Capital of the North’

As city break destinations go, England’s ‘capital of the North’ can give many of its UK rivals a good run for their money.

This sprawling metropolis is famous for its sporting, industrial and musical heritage, and boasts a wealth of museums and galleries, a well-established clubbing scene, and more shops than you could possibly visit in a weekend break. Home to two of the largest universities in the UK, the city also has a strong student contingency, giving it an energetic atmosphere.

During a weekend break here, you could find yourself appreciating fine art in the morning, exploring the city’s gritty industrial heritage in the afternoon, catching a film at the outdoor cinema in the evening, then polishing off your day sipping a few cocktails at a luxurious bar or clubbing in The Village.

You won’t struggle to find accommodation in Manchester for all budgets, either, with cheap hostels catering for backpackers right through to luxury five star hotels for those who want to indulge – and plenty of mid-range establishments in between.

Once you’ve found a bed for the night, there are some stand-out attractions that most visitors don’t want to miss. First off, Manchester’s museums show off the city’s leading role in the pioneering developments of the Industrial Age, while out on the streets you’ll find many of Manchester’s former industrial areas transformed into contemporary public spaces that are looking firmly to the future.

Pic: Man Alive!/Flickr

The Castlefield Conservation Area, the UK’s first Urban Heritage Park, boasts the world’s oldest passenger railway station, housing the Museum of Science and Industry. This does a brilliant job of bringing the past alive, allowing visitors to explore a replica walk-through sewer, meet an eclectic range of characters from history, and take a train ride behind a steam locomotive.

Of Manchester’s galleries, the best include the award-winning Manchester Art Gallery, famous for its Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and the Gallery of Costume in South Manchester’s Platt Hall, which showcases some 20,000 items of clothing and accessories from the 17th century onwards, including Victorian tennis and cycling gear and a Givenchy dress once worn by Audrey Hepburn!

To explore some of Manchester’s trendiest cafés, boutique shops and independent art galleries head over to the bohemian Northern Quarter, or for lively night life try the busy bars around Canal Street, an area known as The Village or Gay Village.

Then there are also some less obvious things to enjoy in Manchester – such as strolling through the grand 45ft-tall Chinese archway into Chinatown to find the city’s best Cantonese and Pekingese restaurants, and small Chinese shops selling food, gifts and traditional herbal remedies.

If you visit during a warm weekend in the summer, you can head over to Spinningfields to enjoy film screenings at Manchester’s only outdoor cinema – all from the comfort of a deckchair under the city’s starry skies. On colder nights, the Cornerhouse art house cinema on Oxford Road shows a good range of independent films.

To get some really good views of the urban landscape, arm yourself with a camera and take a ride on the Manchester Wheel in Exchange Square in the Millennium Quarter.

And, finally, you could join the locals on Curry Mile in Rusholme to enjoy some of the city’s best Indian cuisine.

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