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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. 



Famous for his opulent paintings, so richly embossed that they feel almost sculptural, Raqib Shaw enjoys a solo show at the Whitworth this June. The theme is the real and imagined spaces between the East and West, and Shaw's paintings are displayed alongside textiles, furniture and drawings from the Whitworth's world-class archives. A chance to see this unique talent in Manchester's most ambitious art space. (From 24 June, Oxford Road, www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk)

The state of the art People's History Museum lies on the banks of the River Irwell which divides the cities of Manchester and Salford. The cafe offers watery views while interactive exhibitions consider British citizens' experience of the past, offering up surprising new perspectives. http://www.phm.org.uk/

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 Museum of Science and Industry is great for families and there's even more going on than usual during October. As well as showcasing Manchester's leading role in scientific innovation (such as the invention of the computer and graphene), there's a new robot exhibition that includes key models from the last 500 years. Be amazed by dancing wine goblets, realistic babies, household helps and much more. (Museum of Science and Industry Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP, https://www.msimanchester.org.uk/)

Manchester's annual Food and Drink Festival returns in September, showcasing the best of the city's vibrant scene. The Festival hub is Albert Square which is packed with street food and craft beer for the duration while special events include banquets curated by the likes of Wahaca's Thomasina Miers at Mayfield, a former railway depot beside Piccadilly train station. (From 28 Sep, various locations, http://foodanddrinkfestival.com/)

Built in 1823, Manchester Art Gallery continues to change with the times. Explore iconic art works, local collections and temporary exhibitions such as Shirley Baker's post war street photography and an exhibition devoted to the artistic legacy of Manchester band, Joy Division. The cafe serves cakes, seasonal soups and toasted sandwiches made using local invention, the Breville sandwich maker. (Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL, http://manchesterartgallery.org/)

Manchester's bi-annual celebration of the contemporary arts returns in 2017, with newly commissioned music, theatre and art from the likes of Tilda Swinton and New Order. Tickets can be hard to come by but returns are sold in Albert Square each day. The site is converted into Festival Square for the duration and it's a great place to soak up the vibes, with a side order of street food and free music. (Until 16 July, various venues, http://mif.co.uk/)

Filled with an array of books, letters and leaflets devoted to the history of the labour movement, Salford's Working Class Movement Library also hosts public readings and specials events with support from actors such as Maxine Peake and Christopher Eccleston. Whether you attend an event, see an exhibition or just pop in for a browse, a mind opening experience is guaranteed. http://www.wcml.org.uk

Deanna Petherbridge's architectural line drawings leave a lasting impression at this Whitworth Art Gallery retrospective. The show includes 2016 tripych, The Destruction of the City of Homs and rarely seen works from the artist's Manchester residency in the 1980s. An insight into drawing as a form of critical thinking. Until 4 June, Oxford Road, http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/upcomingexhibitions/deannapetherbridge/

Key Areas

Every September, the best DJs and live acts in the world descend on Manchester for the Warehouse Project (Store Street, https://www.thewarehouseproject.com/home). Located underneath Piccadilly train station, the labyrinthine venue plays host to headline sets from LCD Soundsystem, Annie Mac, Bicep, Solardo, The Chemical Brothers, Jamie xx and many more.

Salford's former ship canals are now part of MediaCityUK, a development that includes a number of BBC TV studios and the 'Coronation Street' soap opera set. The area is home to the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry Arts Centre, while the Lowry Designer Outlet is perfect for picking up a bargain. Restaurant, bars and watersports facilities, with opportunities for open water swimming options, complete the picture. Trams to Media City run every 12 minutes from the city centre and take around 15 minutes. (http://www.mediacityuk.co.uk/)

Head north of the city centre to explore Ancoats' converted mills and canals. The area is gentrifying, albeit at a gentle pace, and highlights include Ancoats Coffee Company, sourdough pizza at Rudy's, and an authentic Japanese tea at Cha-ology. A visit to Halle St Peters is another must; the converted church, dating back to 1859, is now the principal recording and rehearsal space of Halle orchestra and a deeply atmospheric live venue (Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester, http://www.hallestpetersevents.co.uk)

Built in the early 1930s, Manchester's Central Library is packed with books, cylindrical reading rooms, artist led exhibitions and contemporary research spaces. The building reopened after a complete overhaul in 2014 and it's one of the city's focal points, both inside and out. (www.manchester.gov.uk/centrallibrary)

Manchester Cathedral has been a site of worship for over 800 years. It's heavy-set, regal structure towers over the western end of Deansgate and have been modified many times over the years. The cafe, Proper Tea, is a local secret, and there's an excellent visitor's centre which includes a remnant of an earlier church from Saxon times, thought to have been built on the site that dates back to 700AD. http://www.manchestercathedral.org

Day Trips

Chilean born Alfredo Jaar was a magician and architect before turning his hand to art and a new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park showcases the artist's emotive works indoors and across 5000 acres between the counties of west and south Yorkshire. Explore the impressive grounds, which take in leading works by the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Andy Goldsworthy too. There's also an excellent cafe and gift shop. (From 14 Oct, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4LG, http://www.ysp.co.uk)

May sees the start of the Peak District's tradition of well dressing, during which wells in the towns and villages around Manchester are decorated with images made from flowers and leaves. Music, dancing and drinking are part of the day long celebrations which hail from Roman times. Visitors can take part in the festivities in Swanwick and Etwall during May, with celebrations in Buxton and Derby following later in the summer.

As spring blossoms start to appear, a visit to Fletcher Moss Park and Parsonage Gardens in Didsbury is a treat. Home to a historic rock and botanical garden, tree lined avenues and playing fields, it's a 30 minute bus or tram ride from the city centre. The bars and cafes of Burton Road offer myriad options for a restorative treat. (Millgate Lane, Didsbury, M20 2SW http://www.fletchermossgardens.org.uk/)

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