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Like most of the UK’s bigger cities, Manchester is readily accessible from London. A direct Virgin train departing from Euston Station will get you there in two hours.
Resolutely northern, Manchester offers a very different English experience to London. A little colder and a little rougher around the edges perhaps, it’s a mixed bag of diversity. As the second largest city in the UK, get ready for a non-stop agenda of must-sees. Here are just a few:
1. Pace yourself. Here come the shops!
In a country where the weather’s never dependable, the Brits like to go shopping. And boy do they facilitate the need to shop well.
In the very heart of Manchester, on central Market Street, you’ll find the UK’s largest city-centre shopping mall, the Arndale Centre. Boasting more than 200 retailers, including the UK’s longest-reigning department stores, the Arndale is easy to locate and all indoors.
If you have the shopping stamina of a spending warlord, the slightly garish and Athena-themed Trafford Centre is 8km out of Manchester and features 5km of indoor marble boulevards. With 200 stores, 60 restaurants and a 20-screen cinema, you’ll want to spend a full day here, stopping regularly to re-fuel; weary legs are a guarantee.
2. I only wear designer, darling
Not a fan of stuffy malls? Take the motorway M56 direct to McArthur Glen, Cheshire Oaks; the UK’s largest designer outlet. Just a 45-minute drive out of Manchester (and it’s one motorway all the way) this outdoor shopping complex is home to 145 designer boutiques, from Burberry to YSL, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry and 140 more! Still paying $200 for your Nikes? Wake up and smell the $70 kicks, people.
3. Get quirky in the Northern Quarter
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is so unbelievably alternative, it practically gave birth to the hipster. We’re talking galleries featuring pizza-inspired art installations and charity shops that only sell boutique vintage. With plenty of dining and drinking options to boot, this little nugget of bohemian sub-culture is somewhat a haven for aspiring DJs, with more vinyls on sale than organic coffee beans – just about!
4. Sooo, Manchester – is it a pillow case or a city?
There’s a reason we Kiwis call our household linen, sheets and pillow cases ‘Manchester’. The city was the world's largest producer of cotton goods during the Industrial Revolution. Take a trip to MOSI - the Museum of Science and Industry and you’ll also take a trip down memory lane. A unique insight into the city’s industrial past, the focus of MOSI is always on fun – with a huge variety of interactive exhibits and hands-on learning. Better still, it’s free.
5. Smell the dumplings, here’s Chinatown
Chinatown’s impressive archway will sneak up on you quicker than the delicious scent of pork buns wafting down its streets. Nestled between decidedly English architecture – and buildings that have framed Manchester for centuries – the polar-opposite aesthetics between stone masonry and an elaborate mix of brightly coloured dragons, lanterns and lattice work is a sight for sore eyes.
And then there’s your taste buds, which will be treated just as kindly as your eyes. As the third largest Chinatown in Europe, it’s a bustling hub of business and commerce, but it’s the Chinese restaurants and cheerfully cheap bakeries that are the biggest highlight.
6. It's religion. AKA Football
They live it, breathe it and for nine months of the year, their lives are dominated by it. The Mancunians love their football.
There are two world-famous clubs in Manchester. The more obvious being Manchester United, and the lesser known – but a team which frequently finishes above United – Manchester City (of which Liam Gallagher is a HUGE fan). You can visit both their grounds and if you’re lucky enough to be in town for the derby, descend on a local pub and revel in the somewhat heated atmosphere. NB. When in Manc-land, never admit you’re a Liverpool fan. That’s a one-way ticket to trouble. We all know Liverpool are far, far better, but best to keep that one to yourself.
Manchester slang – your quick-fire glossary:
Gaggin' - In need of something: "I'm gaggin' for a drink"
Dead - Extremely: "I've heard it's dead good"
Class - Awesome: "Last night was class"
Mint - Excellent: "His beemer is mint"
Mingin - Disgusting: "The portaloos are mingin"
Sound - Great: "How was last night?"..."Sound"
Well – Extremely: "This tastes well good"
Geggin' - Interrupting/to get involved: "I'm geggin' in on your shopping trip"
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