THE city was named in October by the respected travel guide Lonely Planet as one of the ten best cities to visit next year.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but with new eyes,” once wrote French novelist Marcel Proust.
For many people across the world, there’s a travel destination right on their doorstep – but some have a laissez-fair attitude and overlook the touristic aspects of their own town or city.
However, Mancunians may want to get their walking boots on and cameras out, after Manchester was recently included on the list of Lonely Planet’s top ten cities for 2016.
‘Cottonopolis,’ as it has been come to be affectionately known by, has plenty to offer to both foreign tourists as well as its inhabitants.
“If you’re interested in a varied amount of things you’ve got museums, you’ve got the football, you’ve got the music, and you’ve got the art. Just the vibe around the city is fairly cosmopolitan.
“You get people from all over the world, and usually they mix quite well. Just from being in Manchester I’ve made loads of friends from all over the world and still keep in touch with most of them.”
And commenting on Manchester’s inclusion by Lonely Planet, a spokesman for Manchester Airport said that it could only be ‘good news’ for the city’s tourism industry.
“Whatever their reason for coming here, Manchester has a lot to offer, ranging from two world class football clubs to award-winning museums, theatres and galleries and a vibrant entertainment scene.
“Manchester Airport currently handles more passengers than it ever has done before, with numbers breaking the 23 million mark in November 2015.
“We have flights to and from more than 210 destinations with more than 70 different airlines and are proud of the role we play in supporting tourism, not just in Manchester but the whole of the north.
“Anything that raises awareness of Manchester being a great place to visit can only be good news.”
The listing tops off a complete overhaul of Manchester, almost 20 years on from an IRA bomb which left parts of the city centre in tatters back in June 1996.
Somewhat ironically, the devastating events have actually resulted in a positive income, and the aftermath, which has led to mass regeneration, has been referred to as a ‘snowball effect.’
“Before the IRA bomb, the city centre was a hole – absolutely terrible,” Barrett recalls, as he thinks back to how the city centre once was.
“But it’s much better now. Now the regeneration is coming in, it’s much better to get around with the tram network. Before that it was just busses.”
With all the talk of regeneration, and the country’s should-be second city ever-improving, now is a better time than any to immerse yourself and take a tourist’s perspective.
But, as a local, how can you spend a day’s staycation in Manchester? We detail the itinerary.
Ditch the home-made meals and get out early for a, traditional, full English breakfast. Let the fresh, and more-than-likely wet, air fill your lungs before indulging in a full English breakfast. There are plenty of places that open early in Manchester, although Wetherspoons (A) do it cheap – and what says ‘Great Britain’ more than wolfing down bacon and eggs in the company of early morning drinkers?
Or if you can wait until the half 10 opening time, then Black Milk Cereal Drive (B) – the first cereal café in the city – located in Affleck’s Palace will not only allow you to sample plenty of cereals from around the world, but will also give you a taste of the trendy Northern Quarter.
The first stop on the tour of attractions has to be Saint Mary’s Church (C), also referred to as the Hidden Gem Church. It opens its doors early, and although it’s not the easiest place to find, hence the name, it is peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city. It rarely gets busy, so if you can avoid mass times, then chances are it will be all yours.
The Hidden Gem Church is conveniently located just a stone’s throw away from the Abraham Lincoln Statue (D). Perhaps one of the more obscure things you’ll find in Manchester, the statue was gifted to the city in 1919 to mark the part that Lancashire played in the cotton famine and the abolition of slavery, and now stands in Lincoln Square after being moved from Platt Fields Park in 1986.
This route will end up leading onto Deansgate, and just across the road is the stunning John Rylands Library (E), named after the deceased husband of Enriqueta who built it in his memory. The library was opened in 1900 as her gift to the city, and its retention of the original layout, well preserved books and gothic interior will leave you in awe. It could be described as Manchester’s answer to Hogwarts.
If there’s time you could try Wrights Fish & Chip Shop (F). Located on Cross Street, it looks quite posh and upmarket, yet its prices don’t have a pretentious nature about them, and it’s popular with both locals and tourists, according to owner Marcus Wright.
“We get quite a few foreign tourists. I think the biggest attraction to Manchester is the two football teams. It brings the most tourists in, to be quite honest with you,” he explained.
“We get busy with foreign tourists especially if there’s a big European game with tourists and visiting fans and everything, who want to try some [English food]. It’s like when you go to Spain, you try paella.”
If the English breakfast still has you full, head off to Salford Quays. There are two main transport links from the city centre, and you can catch either the 50 bus from outside Salford Central train station, or catch a tram there from Deansgate.
Salford Quays is the home of MediaCityUK (G), which houses the BBC, ITV and the University of Salford, with bars, coffee shops restaurants and eateries making up the rest of its interior. But don’t hang around for too long, because just across the Mancheser Ship Canal is the fantastic Imperial War Museum North (H).
Barrett and fellow volunteer and ex-military serviceman Paul McBride explained just what IWM offer.
“We try to give you an understanding of conflict from all points of view. Not just combatants’ point of view, but civilian life as well.
“If you look around you’ll notice a lot of personal letters to people from either people on the front line, or people who were experiencing warfare.
“The difference between us and other places like Leeds’ Royal Armouries is we’re looking at people’s experiences. We’re not trying to glamorise anything, we just want to give as many views of warfare and conflict as we can.”
They also have a viewing deck, which requires an inexpensive ticket, providing interesting views of Salford Quays and the Manchester skyline.
Located just down the road is Old Trafford (I) – home to one of the world’s biggest sports teams, Manchester United. Their megastore is located there, and you may as well kill two birds with one stone.
Once you return to the city centre, make a beeline for the National Football Museum (J), which is home to over 150 years’ worth of footballing history. They have plenty of interesting artefacts, information and interactive exhibits to keep people of all ages occupied. Plus, the current Pitch To Pixel exhibition allows you to look at the past, present and future of football and video games, and play on some retro consoles like the SEGA Mega Drive, Dreamcast and PlayStation 2.
Almost next door is Manchester Cathedral (K). Although it is currently undergoing an organ transplant – literally, the organ is being replaced and a new one installed in 2016 – it is still one of the oldest establishments in Manchester, and holds great historical significance to the city.
Why not try Hard Rock Café (L) for an evening meal? The restaurant chain has 191 locations across some of the globe’s biggest cities, but only four in the UK (the other three are in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh). Here you’ll be able to find memorabilia from some of the most famed names from Manchester’s music scene, including Oasis and The Smiths, as well as indulge in some good eats in a relaxed setting. Though don’t forget to book a table to avoid disappointment.
Then head down to Exchange Square (M) where you can wind down and draw the day to a close with a couple of drinks in a usually lively setting – especially on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
Honourable mentions go to Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and the 600-plus acre Heaton Park, but not everything can be done properly and crammed into 24 hours.
That’s just a testament to how much Manchester has to offer. If you indulge in it and change perspective, in essence get ‘new eyes’ as Proust once said, then the voyage of discovery is all yours.
By Tom Woods