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Cheap flights to Manchester

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. 



Feburary's Queer Contact season is a highlight of Manchester's theatrical calendar. Choose from performance artist David Hoyle's tall tales, operatic drag by Le Gateau Chocolate, a Prince tribute and much more. The lively bar is ideal for meeting the locals over a craft beer or two. (10-18 Feb, Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, http://contactmcr.com/projects/festivals/queer-contact-festival-2017/)

Manchester's ornate fire station, London Road, could have only been built in the Victorian era - and this previously abandoned landmark is the atmospheric location of an ice rink and indoor festival called The Winter Gathering. Enjoy food from stalls curated by the British Street Food Awards team, mulled wine, cocktails and a craft market featuring work by local makers. (Until 8 Jan 2017, http://elementalevents.com/thewintergathering/)

'Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond' is a new exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry which investigates future uses of the world's first truly 2D material. So strong that a thin layer could support an elephant, the carbon allotrope was isolated by Nobel prize winning scientists Professors Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim at Manchester University in 2004. For more information visit http://www.msimanchester.org.uk/en/whats-on/exhibition/wonder-materials.


The Whitworth's Andy Warhol retrospective explores the artistic reverberations of an assassination attempt in 1968. Works on display include electric chair prints and self portraits wearing a noose. Subject matter aside, the results are strangely life affirming. The cafe, nestled among the trees, is one of Manchester's finest. Until 16 April, http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/currentexhibitions/

Martin Parr's iconic photographs of British housewives and sunbathers have had a lasting impact on photography as we know it. However in this exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery called Strange and Familiar, he turns curator, putting together a collection of insightful images by international photographers which depict the British as others see them. Until 29 May 2017, http://manchesterartgallery.org/exhibitions-and-events/exhibition/strange-and-familiar/

John Rylands Library's latest exhibition focuses on an under appreciated icon of Mancunian counterculture, Jeff Nuttall. Called Off Beat, the exhibition showcases the work and life of this key figure in underground publishing who wrote extensively about the connections between the cold war and the art of the period. Includes original work by William S. Burroughs. (Until March 2017, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate)

Manchester's Christmas Markets take over every inch of the city centre during November. Albert and Exchange Square are always packed but the stalls around the National Football Museum usually offer a little more space to enjoy hot mulled wine and pick up a festive gift or two. (Nov 10 - Dec 21, various locations in and around Manchester city centre, http://www.manchester.gov.uk/christmasmarkets)

Design Manchester is a celebration of local and international talent. The programme takes in everything from a Women In Print exhibition at The Co-op building to screenings of influential films at Home arts centre. Be sure to pick up a memento or two from the design fair at London Road Fire Station, just opposite Piccadilly Station. (12 - 22 Oct, http://designmcr.com/)

The world's largest circus company, Cirque du Soleil, presents a watery new spectacle, Amaluna, in a tented arena beside the Trafford Centre this month. Enjoy Olympic-standard twists and turns and costumes worthy of Elton John as the goddesses of the island tell their tale both on stage and in giant fish bowls. From 7 September until 9 October, https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna.

Key Areas

The beating heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter is Oldham Street. The city's cultural playground takes in shops and bars including Affleck's Palace of alternative goods, Piccadilly Records and Night and Day bar, where bands like Elbow and Everything Everything cut their teeth. Take a stroll through Mancunian history, and pop into lifestyle cafe bar Fig and Sparrow or Magma magazine and book shop on your way.

The Whitworth Art Gallery reopened in 2015 after a dazzling, £12m transformation. Highlights include the textiles collection and a new exhibition by British artist, Idris Khan. Khan's work references religious ritual through densely layered paintings and photographs. The gift shop sells local ales as well as art books and designer homewares and there's a excellent cafe too. (Oxford Road, http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/)

Manchester Literature Festival attracts huge names to the city's theatres and bookshops. This year Anne Enright, Margaret Atwood and Vivienne Westwood are hosting readings alongside the usual array of workshops, family events and more. 7-23 Oct, http://www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk/

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/)

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

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