Manchester is a large, vibrant and compelling city. Two things above all have placed this city of over 2.6 million in the international spotlight time and again. The first would have to be the mania that surrounds football. To see the riotous, mouth-foaming (probably just from the beer) zealotry that follows this national sport is to see England at its most genuine and unrestrained. There are over sixty teams representing different professional levels throughout the Greater Manchester area, but it's Manchester City and, above all, Manchester United that not only rule the Premiere League roost, but count amongst the most famous football clubs in the world. The second would be the city's music scene. Exporting home-grown talent since the 1960's, Manchester lays claim to famous acts like Joy Division, Oasis, The Smiths, and even the Bee Gees. Today, the high level of talent is still palpable along Oxford Road and on larger stages like the O2 Apollo, Manchester Academy, Albert Hall, and the unappealingly named Phones 4U Arena; if you're one to catch bands before they're famous, there are few better places to do so.
If this were all there was to Manchester, you could be in and out in two days and consider it a success. Luckily, there's much more available to the Embark traveler and two days won't cut it if you want to do it right.
Oxford Road may very well be the one place you can't miss. Home to the gorgeous architecture and numerous museums of Oxford University, this is also where you'll encounter the hippest food, music, and theater in the city. The Castlefield district gives a glimpse back in time to when the city consisted of a Roman fort. In recent years, money has been pumped in to pedestrianize and beautify this area around the River Medlock. The Quays are the most attractive, modern part of Manchester (despite technically being in adjacent Salford) and are notable for their galleries and museums, particularly the Imperial War Museum North. Try Rusholme's "curry mile" for a taste of India and Pakistan, the Chinatown centered around Faulkner Street for classic Chinese architectural flourishes and quality restaurants, and the "gay village" around Canal Street for one of the biggest (and most exclusive) scenes of its kind in the UK. There are a wide range of communities that coexist in Manchester and its a good a place as any to see how people of different preferences, ethnicities, interest, and more eat, drink, and entertain themselves. We've got more on Manchester's culture here.
And don't think we've forgotten the most important facet of travel. If you're like us, being confined to the concrete and glass makes you start to hyperventilate. Mercifully, Manchester is your portal to the adventures of northern England and Wales. One of the most popular bungee jumps in the country can be had from a transporter bridge over the River Tees, while rock climbers and spelunkers will be in awe of the options available to them at Peak District National Park. Then again, the Yorkshire Dales have a number of lengthy hikes through the moorlands, while the multitudinous lakes and hills of the Lake District can be an itinerary in themselves and are widely considered one of England's most beautiful natural areas. Finally, you should cross the border with Wales for the many climbs and hikes in the incredible Snowdonia National Park, as well as some of the most spectacular whitewater rafting in the United Kingdom. You'll also be a short drive from other popular cities like Liverpool, Leeds, and Sheffield, which also may add some cultural variety to your latest adventure.
As you can tell, Manchester is a great alternative to the mega-hype that is London. There are plenty of varied, often cheaper restaurants, instant access to northern England's many attractions, and a city more easily learned and navigated than the intimidatingly massive London. Oh yes, and then there's the obligatory football game and live music; if you want a genuine Manchester experience, then you need to start there. What are you waiting for? Get browsing our activity listings and build your Manchester itinerary!