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The most cosmopolitan city after London, Manchester is also one of Britain’s most modern cities, with a youthful and infectious vibe and cultural activities that are a class apart.  If you’re looking for a true slice of Britain then look no further than Manchester, often described as England’s second city.

Known the world over for its famous football teams and for being the first industrialised city in the world, today Manchester is a hub of all things cool. Its modern city centre boasts some pretty cutting edge architecture, a cultural scene that is right up there with London and, of course, a nightlife that is renowned as one of the best in the world. 

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Breaking with the trend for formal gardens, Alexandra Park's wild landscaping caused a stir in 1870 and recent investment has recovered much of its charm. Bring a picnic or tuck in at the cricket clubhouse café. Flowing, tree-lined avenues and ponds are a draw, or join the crowds at Manchester's annual Caribbean Carnival. (13/14 August, themanchestercarnival.com, alexandraparkmanchester.com)


Manchester hosts the European Festival of Science from 23 - 27 July. Leading galleries and exhibitions spaces including the National Football Museum and Museum of Science and Industry are taking part and there are many other free events to sample too. Look out for a Science Fest in St Ann's Square, the Science of Me roadshow in the Arndale shopping centre and Central Library plus drop-in talks and more, at 70 Oxford Street. http://www.esof.eu/


Manchester Histories Festival (1-12 June) takes in everything from LGBT stories to clock tower tours. Highlights include talks and exhibitions about details hidden in plain sight, such as Manchester Cathedral's newly discovered Medieval carvings of mythic beasts and green men. (www.manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk)


Three, huge trampoline parks have opening in Manchester in the last 12 months. The newest is Go Air, near to Manchester City Football Club's Etihad Stadium. Go Air's 200 interconnected trampolines are joined by dodgeball pitches, parkour and fitness classes. The park is a short tram ride to the east of the city centre and booking is recommended. (www.goairtrampolinepark.co.uk/locations/manchester)


Dating back to 1900, the John Rylands Library is Manchester's most flamboyant neo-Gothic Victorian building. Entry is free, and the corridors, reading rooms and exhibition spaces are thrilling creepy. Don't forget the café and gift shop. http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/


Hold your own winter Olympics at the Chill Factore, the UK's longest indoor ski slope. Snowboarding, sledging and skiing are available in the snow park while a climbing wall and themed bars cater to guests that feel the cold. Trafford Quays Leisure Village, www.chillfactore.com

Sightseeing


Marking the centenary of World War I, Fashion & Freedom is a large-scale new exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. Taking a sideways look at the legacy of war, the exhibition looks at lasting changes in British fashion triggered by women's engagement in the workplace between 1914 and 1918. Highlights include new work by British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and vintage pieces from the Gallery's collection. Until 27 November, http://www.fashionandfreedom.org


Manchester Jewish Museum is housed in the city's oldest former synagogue, dating back to 1874. Around ten minutes walk from the city centre, the museum offers an insight into North Manchester's cultural history as well as comedy nights, film screenings, feminist debates and more. Visit the website for full listings. http://www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com/


Inspired by Alan Turing's test for artificial intelligence, Manchester Art Gallery's group show, The Imitation Game, poses the question: can machines think? Highlights include a robotic piece by Sweden's Tove Kjellmark and Ed Atkins's 'Performance Capture' film, created during Manchester International Festival in 2015 (Until 5 June 2016, http://manchesterartgallery.org/exhibitions-and-events/exhibition/the-imitation-game/).


The Lowry arts centre's new show, Right Here, Right Now, sets out to challenge perceptions about art made by and about emerging technology. Look out for work by music software guru and sound artist, Robert Henke. Until 28 February, thelowry.com.


The Grade I listed Manchester Cathedral is a heavy-set building with roots dating back to the 13th century. Both the visitor centre and cafe (co-owned by TV ghost hunter, Yvette Fielding) are worth a visit, while live shows by acts like Alicia Keys or Belle and Sebastian are a draw. Victoria Street, manchestercathedral.org.


Manchester Literature Festival is a city-wide celebration of the written word. Look out for headline slots from Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, as well as a host of fringe fun at venues like International Anthony Burgess Foundation and the Working Class Movement Library. (12-25 October, http://www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk/)

Key Areas


Liverpool Biennial is a huge, free showcase of contemporary art from around the world. Highlights include a newly completed glow in the dark skate park by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and contemporary work inspired by (and displayed alongside) Ancient Greek artefacts at Tate Liverpool. Until 16 October, http://www.biennial.com, 45 minutes by car or train from Manchester.



Islington Mill, a fireproof Victorian cotton mill, is now an award-winning arts centre and live venue with a vegan cafe. The leafy courtyard, surrounded by red brick and greenery, is a particular delight, and there's an onsite B&B too. Recent shows include Peaches, Lydia Lunch and Pumarosa. (www.islingtonmill.com/)


Manchester's People's History Museum brings to life Britain's fight for democracy over the last 200 years in exhibitions such as Grafters, on now, which explores the industrial revolution in images and words. Inside, old and new features are combined in one of the city's finest museum extensions which includes a glass-clad cafe overlooking the River Irwell. (www.phm.org.uk)


The Trafford Centre is the region's largest indoor shopping mall and takes in everything from John Lewis, Selfridges and Hamleys stores to a Sealife Centre and Legoland theme park. Look out for cinemas, a bowling alley, rock climbing and more than 50 places to eat. The noodles at Tampopo are a local favourite. http://intu.co.uk/traffordcentre


Heaton Park is Greater Manchester's largest public park, taking up over 600 acres north of the city centre. A treetop adventure is planned alongside the existing animal farm, boasting lakes, golf course and hills dotted with cafes. Heaton Park has its own Metrolink tram stop, which makes getting there a doddle. http://www.manchester.gov.uk/heatonpark

Day Trips


Only 50 minutes from Manchester, the Peak District village of Edale is perfect for walks from the train station. Outings include the peaks of Mam Tor and Kinder Scout around the start of the Pennine Way. Pick up a map from the visitor centre and tuck in at the National Trust's Penny Pot cafe. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/visitor-centres/edale


January is a special time at Yorkshire Sculpture Park where wide-screen vistas come as standard. Current exhibitions include work by video artist, Bill Viola, and a cascade of poppies by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. The park is just over an hour's drive from Manchester and stretches over many miles of countryside. For more information head to ysp.co.uk.


Chatsworth House stately home and gardens has enjoyed a starring role in films including Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess. For the festive seasons, the house is transformed into winter wonderland based around children's classic, the Wind in the Willows. Until 3 January, chatsworth.org.

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