Although now best known for its football team, Manchester was once one of England's greatest Victorian cities, and the birthplace of both rail travel and Rolls Royce cars. It is situated on the east bank of the Irwell River in the northwest of the country, and is the centre of a huge metropolitan area which now encompasses the surrounding towns of Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport and Oldham. Liverpool is just 30 miles (48km) down river. The area long had a reputation as a drab, industrialised sprawl, but Manchester has succeeded in reinventing itself, becoming a vibrant metropolis with a nightlife second only to London. The city boasts more than 50 free museums and galleries, a world-class sports centre, and plenty of parks, gardens and other attractions.
The city's architecture is largely a reminder of its central role in the cotton trade, and many of the original warehouses can still be seen, although modern-day Manchester is now very different from its heyday as an industrial hub. When the city centre was badly damaged in an IRA bombing in 1996, much of the central area was beautifully renovated. Now renamed the Millennium Quarter, it is a marvellous contrast of splendid Victorian architecture and towering glass edifices, including the eye-catching Urbis exhibition centre.
Manchester is home to two of the United Kingdom's largest universities: the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University. The Royal Northern College of Music is located here as well, bringing the total to more than 86,000 students living in the city. This large student population ensures that there is always a buzz of activity and a party atmosphere in Manchester.
The Peak District was England's first national park. This beautiful region sits in the central and northern parts of England, largely within the picturesque county of Derbyshire. Diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife and a rich historic heritage combine with busy market towns and thriving cities such as Sheffield and Manchester. With over 22 million visitors annually, the Peak District is a major UK tourist destination, and the Peak District National Park is one of the most visited parks in the world.
The district is generally divided into three main areas, each with its own distinctive topography. White Peak in the south is characterised by its limestone landscapes with a blend of flat plateaus and gentle valleys, while the South West Peak is a mix of hay meadows and moorland. The most sparsely populated area is Dark Peak in the north, where dramatic gritstone plateaus, craggy edges and ridges contrast with deep valleys. The whole region is rife with quaint towns, majestic historic homes, old mills and museums, as well as plenty to please the outdoor enthusiast, including top-class rock climbing, caving and fly fishing. Visitors can enjoy an authentic Bakewell pudding in the eponymous village, take a leisurely hot air balloon ride for a bird's eye view, mountain bike in the Hope Valley near Charleston, or travel back in time in an impressive country manor.
It is not hard to see why the Peak District is so immensely popular, and it is well worth spending some time exploring its many treasures. An excellent choice for visitors who plan to rent their own car while on holiday in the UK.
Nicknamed the 'Theatre of Dreams', Old Trafford has since 1878 been home to Manchester United, England's premier football club. More than 200,000 visitors come each year to marvel at the home of the likes of Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, and to share in some of the famous 'Man U magic'. Guided tours of the stadium run every 10 minutes, and the award-winning on-site museum is chock-full of fascinating trivia, memorabilia and interactive exhibits, guaranteed to delight fans and perhaps even win over a few new ones. The Red Café, in the North Stand of the stadium, is open daily and serves up delicious food for those needing replenishment, while the Megastore in the East Stand sells every conceivable type of Manchester United merchandise, from replica kits to posters and key chains.
It may not seem like everybody's cup of tea, but the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry is a truly fascinating and varied collection of exhibits, displays and more, that will appeal to visitors of all ages. Fifteen different galleries crammed full of interesting items are housed in the key historic site of one of the world's oldest railway stations, Liverpool Road Station. Some of the permanent exhibits include the Revolution Manchester interactive technology gallery; the captivating Collections Centre with anything from antique microscopes to memorabilia; a 4D cinema; and the Air and Space Hall. The Special Exhibitions gallery plays host to several touring exhibitions annually. The museum also houses a shop, café and restaurant, as well as several picnic areas. A highly recommended outing for the entire family, budget at least half a day to take in all the sights at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (better known as MOSI).
Situated on an arm of the Bridgewater Canal, the world-class, £42-million concert venue of Bridgewater Hall holds over 250 performances a year and is home to one of Britain's longest-running orchestras, the Hallé Orchestra. This architecturally striking building can house just under 2,500 audience members and the main auditorium is centred around a remarkable 5,500-pipe organ. The Hall plays host not only to classical music, but has also seen a range of popular music artists such as the legendary James Brown, indie artist Badly Drawn Boy and guitarist John Williams. Bridgewater Hall is also home to the award-winning Charles Hallé restaurant, as well as the Stalls Café Bar.
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth House is one of Europe's greatest private houses. It is set on the River Derwent in the Peak District National Park. The estate comprises the 16th-century house, a 1,000-acre park, a farmyard, miles of free walking trails and spectacular gardens. Dubbed the 'Palace of the Peak', the house contains a treasure trove of antiques and impressive art works, some dating back 4,000 years. Thirty of the magnificently preserved rooms are open to the public. Wardens are on hand to provide information and answer questions, while an audio guide is also available.
The manicured gardens boast a yew maze, sculptures and several impressive fountains including the Cascade, a 24-step waterfall that drops 600ft (183m) down the hill towards the house. There is a well-stocked farm shop selling locally produced and home-grown items, as well as the Farmyard Children's Shop, the Carriage House Shop, Orangery Shop and Garden Shop. There are several restaurant options to choose from, and picnicking in the grounds is encouraged. Chatsworth House has appeared in the recent film adaptation of Jane Austen's and the house plays host to several exciting events throughout the year. It is well worth allocating several hours to explore this fine historic estate and its gardens, while those on a tighter budget can enjoy the dramatic surrounds of the park for free.
As with the rest of the United Kingdom, Manchester's temperate oceanic climate is highly changeable and unpredictable. In general, however, the weather in Manchester is mild, with sunny summers (June to August) and cold, wet winters (December to February). Snowfall is infrequent, but winter days can be frosty and clear. High-pressure systems can sometimes cause very hot summer temperatures or very cold winter temperatures, but these tend to pass quickly. Average summer temperatures range from 50°F (10°C) to 69°F (21°C), while average winter temperatures range from 36°F (2°) to 45°F (7°C). The average temperature in January is around 39°F (4°C), while the average temperature in July is about 59°F (15°C).
Manchester is an easy city to negotiate with a substantial public transport system. The Metrolink Rapid Transit system trams are fast and efficient, while the Metroshuttle City Centre buses are free and run on two circular routes, including all major rail stations, bus stops and Metrolink stops. System One Travelcards offer a variety of options for discounted, unlimited use of public transport.
There are plenty of car hire companies and taxis available and the Manchester Airport is only 15 minutes away from the city centre. Manchester also has a system of cycling paths, although these can be a bit risky and intimidating during heavy traffic. Mobile app based taxi services like Uber are also commonly used.
The city's facelift and subsequent urban revival have invigorated it, ensuring there are always plenty of things to see and do in Manchester. Manchester City and Manchester United are two of the biggest football clubs in England, and Old Trafford (home to Manchester United) has become a huge tourist destination. Apart from epic football matches, the city also plays host to countless events, concerts, festivals and parades, is home to world-class bars and restaurants, and has plenty of shops and markets.
Manchester is also home to the United Kingdom's largest Chinatown, and a vibrant and friendly Gay Village, concentrated around Canal and Chorlton Streets. Chinatown, centred around George and Faulkner streets, provides a heady array of sights, sounds, and smells, as does the 'Curry Mile' concentration of sari shops, jewellery stores and Indian restaurants in Rusholme. For a truly modern experience, check out the slick Urbis shopping centre.
For those more interested in arts and culture, the Lowry complex in Salford Quays boasts a fantastic selection of art galleries and theatres. There are many historical attractions in Manchester as well: Manchester Cathedral and the town hall are both examples of beautiful Gothic architecture, and the ruins at Castlefield date back to the medieval period.
For the best view of the whole city, take a spin on the Manchester Wheel, located in the Millennium Quarter.