City Guide



Introduction to Manchester

Many people would imagine Manchester to be a mere industrial city. But this image has long been outdated. Often described as ‘capital of the North’ or ‘second city of the UK’, Manchester is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city offering a range of multicultural attractions. With a population of about 500,000 inhabitants, Manchester is one of the biggest cities within the UK.

The development of the city dates back to the Romans, who set up a fort called ‘Mamucium’ (possibly meaning ‘breast-like hill town’) in the 70s AD. A reconstruction of this fort can still be seen in the area of Castlefield. The city then became well-known at the end of the 18th century, which was the vertex of its importance as an industrial metropolis.

Manchester was especially known for textile manufacture and cotton spinning and therefore also acquired the nickname ‘Cottonopolis’. Reminders of Manchester’s industrial time can still be seen today in the network of canals and mills constructed during that time. The city’s architecture is mainly characterised by the use of red brick and by buildings dating back to the industrial period. However, the city has undergone a substantial development during the past centuries. Driven by the IRA bomb of 1996 and the staging of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, there has been a remarkable process of rebuilding especially in the city centre area.

The city centre

The city centre is diverse, but compact. Let’s take Piccadilly Gardens, a recently-renovated landscape garden, as a starting point. If you are standing in front of the Victoria Statue and go north into Oldham Street, you will directly walk into the Northern Quarter, which is the alternative-innovative quarter in town and which has a lively and unique character. It is considered the cultural and musical heart of the city. There are lots of small shops and also the Affleck’s palace, an alternative shopping centre. Going West from Piccadilly Gardens, you will reach the main shopping area in town: Market Street. Here you can find lots of large shops and the Arndale shopping centre – Manchester is like a paradise for shopaholics. Turning right at the end of Market Street takes you to Exchange Square, where you can find another shopping centre called The Triangle and the Printworks entertaining complex with many clubs. Two of the city’s oldest public houses as well as the big wheel are located nearby. The 600-year-old cathedral is also just next door. Further south from here is Albert Square with the Town Hall, which like most of the public buildings in town dates from the 19th century. Not far from here, a Chinese Arch marks the start of Chinatown, where you can find a substantial number of oriental restaurants and Chinese supermarkets. The arch was a gift to the city by the people of China. Manchester is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe. The area of Chinatown is always lively, but particularly vigorous during the Chinese New Year Parade, celebrated with fireworks, good food and a dancing dragon.

Oxford Road and around

The most important road in the city is Oxford Road, situated south of the city centre. Oxford Street starts at St Peter’s Square in the City Centre. Going south it turns into Oxford Road. The University campus is allocated along this road, starting with the campus of the Metropolitan University of Manchester and ending in the University of Manchester campus. If you go further south from there, you will arrive in the Curry Mile, which belongs to the area of Rusholme. Further down the road, you will find the student area Fallowfield. If you want to relax or go jogging, there is one of Manchester’s biggest parks – Plattfield’s Park.

Castlefield and Deansgate Locks

Going west from Oxford Road, takes you to the area of Castlefield. With its railway arches, canals and locks the area offers a more sedate atmosphere and is probably the loveliest part in town. In 2006, the Hilton or Beetham Tower, currently Manchester’s highest building, was added to the mainly industrial architecture of this area. Go on top of it and you will have a nice view over the city. The set of the famous TV series ‘Coronation Street’ is located in this area. Closer to town, Deansgate Locks hosts a few bars and pubs placed into a railway arch facing onto the canal.


One of the first things that come to mind when you hear the name of the city is the football club Manchester United, which is certainly one of the most famous in the world. The stadium of Manchester United, called Old Trafford, is situated in Trafford. If you – for whichever reason – have the feeling that there are not enough shopping facilities in the city centre, you can find another huge shopping centre situated in Trafford: the Trafford Centre with its neo-classical decor.

The east of Manchester

The east of Manchester is dedicated to sporting facilities. Sportcity, which is located two miles from the city centre, is part of the legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The City of Manchester Stadium houses the city’s other Premier League football club, Manchester City. Close by is the ‘B of the Bang’, a sculpture in the shape of an exploding firework. It was named after a quote saying that you should set off in a sprint not just at the bang of the pistol, but at the ‘b’ of the bang.

Salford and Salford Quays

The River Irwell divides the cities of Manchester and Salford. Be aware that they are two separate cities because there is not much that can annoy locals on both sides more than mistaking the two. The Imperial War Museum North, constructed by Daniel Libeskind deals with the topic of war with a concentration on the Second World War. Just next to it is The Lowry, a cultural centre comprising two galleries, two theatres, restaurants and bars. It was named after the artist LS Lowry, who was famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of Northern England during the early 20th century.

Museums and Art Galleries

There are many museums and art galleries in the city which are worth visiting. Moreover, the entrance to most of them is free.


Urbis opened in 2002, and shows exhibitions about different aspects of urban life, featuring dynamic changing exhibitions.

Museum of Science and Industry

If you want to explore Manchester’s history of being an industrial metropolis, this is the right place for you. The museum was built in the oldest train station in the world, which was shut down in 1975. Probably the most impressive part of the museum is the Power Hall with its steam engines.

Manchester Art Gallery

The museum houses a civic art collection with historic as well as modern galleries. Including 17th- 18th- and early 19th-century art as well as the Pre-Raphaelites, Victorian and Modern art.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Whitworth Art Gallery is part of the University of Manchester and is home to some of the UK's finest collections of art and design, including modern and historic fine art, prints, textiles and a rare collection of wallpapers.

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester and shows an exhibition about the world of nature. Featuring mammals, birds and life animals as well as fossils and minerals.