Manchester: England’s Secret City

Written by  Stillman Rogers

EUROPE Manchester
While Manchester may not be high on the radar yet for American travelers, it welcomes the UK’s third largest number of visitors, exceeded only by London and Edinburgh. They come to enjoy a vibrant city that’s England’s most ethnically diverse, a melting pot of Britain’s vast former empire.

From its beginning as a frontier Roman fort the first century until the early 1800, Manchester was a typical midlands rural community. But with the Industrial Revolution the city exploded with commercial activity related to cotton fabric manufacturing. By the end of that century Manchester was the largest manufacturing city in the world, extending into neighboring communities to make the wide metropolitan area that is Manchester today.
Your clients will find a city rich in Victorian and Edwardian architecture, reflecting the growing British prosperity and an expanding empire. The construction of fabric mills, massive warehouses, government and commercial buildings exploded and continued into the 20th century, leaving a rich legacy of architecture that extends through the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras. The city’s prosperity declined with the fabric manufacturing industry, but research, finance, biotech and other modern industries have more recently made it the second fastest growing economy in the UK. This new prosperity continues adding to Manchester’s architectural heritage, with such stunning new buildings as the glass-and-gold frame of One Angel Square.
Piccadilly Gardens forms Manchester’s center, both a transportation center and the largest public park in the city. Japanese architect Tadao Ando led a renovation and expansion of green spaces, and the highlight of this one is the spectacular fountain whose 180 jets shoot water 20 feet into the air, in a changing play of colored lights.


A popular gathering place, the park area is also lined with examples of Victorian architecture. The Thistle Hotel (www.thistle.com) is made from three converted 1850’s cotton warehouses and the nearby Britannia (www.britanniahotels.com) was once the city’s largest cotton warehouse. Not far from Picadilly, Shambles Square, also called Exchange Square, are buildings that do date from the 16th and 18th centuries.
  There’s plenty for tourists to do in Manchester, where a multitude of museums focus on different interests. By far the biggest and best known is the Manchester Museum, a golden sandstone Victorian-era building that’s part of the University of Manchester. Its broad collections cover everything from ancient artifacts to modern science. The Museum of Science and Industry, housed in a collection of repurposed industrial buildings, tells the story of the city’s role in industry and how its scientific developments changed manufacturing and technology.


Sports fans will know the famed football (soccer) team, Manchester United and its fanatically loyal following. It plays in Old Trafford Stadium in the borough of Trafford, easily reached by public transportation. You can reserve clients tickets to matches at www.eticketing.co.uk Fans will want to see more of the game at the National Football Museum with four stories of memorabilia, located in the Urbis Building on Todd Street at Cathedral Gardens.
Suggest a visit to the Imperial War Museum North, in the Trafford section of Manchester, one of the world’s most impressive military museums. Concentrating on the period World War I to World War II and beyond, it tells not only the story of the military but of the wars’ effects on the civilian population. The civilian story is also told in two other museums. The People’s History Museum develops the story of democracy in Britain over the centuries. The Greater Manchester Police Museum tells the other side of the story, the effort to maintain order and safety in a growing city.


Suggest that clients stretch their legs with a walk through the gardens in Fletcher Moss Park, in the Didsbury part of town, which they can reach by the city’s easy-to-use Metrolink trains. Gardens there include Fletcher Moss Park and Botanical Gardens, the Parsonage Gardens and the Stenner Nature Reserve Woods, part of which is along the River Mersey. Another in-town walking or cycling path is along the Aston Canal, a six-mile trail along the canal that starts near Dulcie Street. Canal Street, a pedestrian street along the west side of the Rochdale Canal, and several streets back of it, form the section of the city known as Gay Village. This is one of the liveliest nightlife neighborhoods, filled with pubs, bars
and clubs.
Manchester owes much of its early prosperity to the building of a canal from the city to the sea at Liverpool. A great way to enjoy that heritage is to cruise the city’s canals. Manchester Ship Canal Cruises are operated on a regular schedule by Mersey Ferries (www.merseyferries.co.uk). Two other companies, City Centre Cruises (www.citycentrecruises.com) and Manchester River Cruises (www.manchesterrivercruises.com) also offer regular waterway experiences.

Manchester Hotels
The Midland Hotel (www.qhotels.co.uk), well located for visiting museums, counts kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers among is past guests. Be sure to book clients a table in its stylish contemporary Tea Room, opened in April of this year and dedicated exclusively to the hotel’s afternoon teas. Opened in 2015, the ultra-polished and club-like Hotel Gotham (www.hotelgotham.co.uk) is inspired by the Art Deco era, and includes an up-market restaurant on the 6th floor with city views.
Also opened within the past two years, in an 1864 building in Manchester’s Upper King Street conservation area in the city center, King Street Townhouse (www.eclectichotels.co.uk) has 40 guest rooms, a tavern, restaurant and rooftop infinity spa pool. Score low introductory rates for clients at the Holiday Inn Express Trafford City (www.hietraffordcity.co.uk), Manchester’s newest hotel, opened in June 2017 next to EventCity and Sealife Manchester.
American Airlines, United, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct to Manchester from Orlando, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, Boston and Philadelphia.

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