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.
The Christmas Markets bring festive cheer and hot wine to the city centre this month. There's loads to take in but local secrets include the Dutch pancakes served in Cathedral Gardens and Savin Hill's vintage cheddar burgers in Albert Square. From 14 Nov, various locations, manchester.gov.uk/info/500241/christmas_markets.
Catch the end of the Lowry's ExtraORDINARY art show, which sees Turner Prize winners like Martin Creed turning every day objects into art. Highlights include a giant 'drawing' balloon that's covered in sticks of charcoal and Creed's pyramid of 5800 oranges which you are free eat at your leisure. (Until 18 October, http://www.thelowry.com/exhibitions/whats-on/)
Every September, Albert Square's cobbled plaza hosts the Food and Drink Festival. There are plenty of ticketed events to enjoy, including an award-winning wine festival in the iconic Town Hall, but a stroll through the square, spent sampling street food and regional beer, is a treat in itself (10-21 September, foodanddrinkfestival.com).
Celebrate the great game at the National Football Museum. Four floors are packed with shirts, balls, trophies, artworks and fun stuff, including the chance to try a penalty shoot-out (Cathedral Gardens, M4 3BG, nationalfootballmuseum.com).
Manchester's new arts centre and cinema, Home, is hosting a Mexican film season this month. If new films aren't your bag, check out the state-of-the-art theatre, cafe and contemporary art galleries (2 Tony Wilson Place, First Street, M15 4FN, homemcr.org).
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/)
Salford Quays waterside complex is packed with museums, restaurants and outdoor activities. A 20-minute tram ride from the city centre, options include open-water swimming, contemporary art at the Lowry as well as visits to Imperial War Museum North and BBC TV's fun-packed HQ. Refuel at the award-winning Dockyard pub. thequays.org.uk
Manchester International Festival is a two-week showcase of new, original art and there's plenty to see for free. Sample street food and live entertainment in Albert Square, paintings by Gerhard Richter at the Whitworth and an interactive show by Ed Atkin at Manchester Art Gallery (2-19 July, mif.co.uk).
The Victorian-era Whitworth art gallery is welcoming visitors after a £15m extension. Opening highlights include a playful Cornelia Parker retrospective and a glass-clad cafe among the trees. whitworth.manchester.ac.uk
One Side to the Other is a multimedia art show at The Lowry arts centre, curated by dancer and choreographer Akram Khan. Look out for pieces by Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. Until 1 February. thelowry.com
Central St Ann's Square is packed with Christmas markets and gourmet treats at this time of year. The world-class Royal Exchange Theatre is worth a closer look, too. royalexchange.co.uk
A former brewery HQ, the Art Deco Tetley art complex (Hunslet Road, Leeds, LS10 1JQ, thetetley.org)is an hour from Manchester by train or car. Check out installations by Tim Etchell before refuelling at Bundobust Indian street food and craft-beer bar (6 Mill Hill, Leeds, LS1 5DQ).
The hill town of Ramsbottom is less than a 40-minute drive or train journey from Manchester city centre. Enjoy a gourmet lunch at The Hearth of the Ram (13 Peel Brow, BL0 0AA), pudding at The Chocolate Cafe (2 Bolton Street, BL0 9HX) and craft beer at Irwell Works Brewery (Irwell Street, BL0 9YQ). Cobbled streets and some easy walks complete the picture.
Chatworth House has been the scene of many a period drama but it's equally well known for it's world-class outdoor sculpture shows and excellent cafes and restaurants. Get there in just under a 90-minute drive from Manchester. chatsworth.org
Walk among the bluebells and wild garlic of Hardcastle Crags. Take the train to Hebden Bridge and hike up to the forest park or, better yet, drive there in around 70 minutes (near Hebden Bridge, nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags).
Explore world-class art by the likes of Andy Goldsworthy amid the forests and fields of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There's also a cafe with stunning views. It's about an 80-minute drive from Manchester (West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG, ysp.co.uk).
Few places are as quintessentially English as the Bronte sisters' childhood home of Haworth in Yorkshire. Visit the house, explore the Bronte falls and enjoy afternoon tea. It's just over an hour's drive away. haworth-village.org.uk