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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 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/)


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/

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)

Key Areas

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

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.

Day Trips

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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