Here’s why this trendy city needs to be on every culture vulture’s must-visit list says Riaan Jacob George
As my train pulls into Manchester Piccadilly station, following a quick two-hour hop from London, I find myself immediately transported into another world. Everything looks so dramatically different. For starters, I notice just how urbanised downtown Manchester is. Age-old heritage buildings and warehouse-style structures coexist peacefully next to gleaming glass skyscrapers.The city centre of Manchester wears a visibly gentrified look and exudes a charming, artsy vibe. A case in point is the boho-chic Northern Quarter. Walk down Oldham Street and you will see a string of trendy bars, upscale restaurants and local neighbourhood taverns, brimming with hipsters and tourists.
Or perhaps the buzzing Exchange Square, where locals sit at sidewalk cafes and pubs, in the shadow of heritage buildings, and stare at the ultra-modern Arndale Shopping Centre.
Visitors to Manchester can and must spend time discovering the jewels of the city — step into the gothic portals of the Manchester Cathedral or John Rylands Library. Alternatively, to truly put your finger on the pulse of the city, take a leisurely stroll down Portland Street, all the way up to Piccadilly Gardens, one of the city’s main public squares, lined with leading international fashion stores. It is here that you will realise just how diverse and international the city of Manchester is. While it does retain its identity as an old industrial town, it is now inhabited by people from around the world. And this explains its amazing food scene, with some of the best ethnic cuisines in the UK. At every corner, you will see eateries advertising everything under the sun from dim sum and phos, to curry and sashimi.
The city centre of Manchester is best enjoyed on foot, where you can amble through the many neighbourhoods, go pub hopping, shop for trinkets, walk along the river or just sit lazily at a park.
ClOCKWISE FROMLEFT: Exterior view of Manchester Town Hall, completed in 1877 and dominated by the clock tower; graffiti artwork in the Northern Quarter in Manchester; and The Old Wellington Inn and Sinclairs Oyster Bar