Trains from London to Manchester from just £14.00*
One of the most exciting cities in the north of England, the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester boasts a population of over 2.6 million people. From music to sport to shopping and everything in between, Manchester is an ideal destination for a short break and is one of the most visited cities in the UK, second only to London.
In the 1st century it was home to the Roman settlement and fort known as Mamucium, from which the name 'Manchester' derives. With its more modern roots in shipping and the textile industry, the city has an established industrial background as well as a strong student population and many well-established ethnic communities, making Manchester a diverse and fascinating place to visit.
If you like shopping, the Trafford Centre can't be missed! Following twelve years of planning, it was finally opened to the public in 1998 and is now the sixth largest shopping centre in the UK, attracting 30 million visits per year. Home to the largest food court in Europe and the UK's busiest cinema, the Trafford Centre also contains bars, restaurants, hundreds of shops and hosts shows, performances and exhibitions. The centre has almost 1.5m square feet of retail space and cost approximately £600m; following the design style of Rococo / late Baroque it is decorated in white, pink and gold with accents of jade, ivory and caramel coloured marble - it's certainly striking and will make your shopping experience memorable for a number of different reasons!
The Lowry at Salford Quays is a stunning building, home to two theatres and galleries celebrating local and international performance and artworks. If you're interested in modern history, the Imperial War Museum North is situated just outside the city centre within a stunning waterfront building. Featuring realistic audio visual displays, a vast array of historic objects and an ever-changing events and exhibitions programme. Free of charge and open all year round, the museum makes a fascinating day out for all the family.
Another great museum is the MOSI - Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. What better way to celebrate Manchester's great contribution to science and industry than with an award-winning museum dedicated to inspiring people from all over the world to embrace it? The museum is free, although there may be charges for featured exhibitions and rides.
With two famous teams, the football scene in Manchester regularly draws capacity crowds. Manchester United is said to be the most popular football team in the world, with their home ground at Old Trafford open to the public every day of the week. Manchester City's City of Manchester Stadium is also open daily; what better way to find out about your favourite team than by taking a stadium tour or, even better - watch them play at a home game.
If you're more a fan of four-legged athletes, the Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium is great fun for a night out!
Manchester's social scene is mind-boggling. There are literally thousands of places to go including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, opera houses, sport venues, museums, galleries and concert halls. From the 1980s into the early 1990s, a music scene known as Madchester developed, through a mix of styles including acid house, dance, alternative and psychedelic rock. The Hacienda nightclub, around which the scene revolved, was at one stage cited as the most famous nightclub in the world. The popularity of the Manchester music scene has endured, with bands such as Oasis and Take That becoming stadium giants and the city is now home to a multitude of music venues in the Northern Quarter as well as major venues such as the Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester Central (formerly the GMEX), O2 Apollo Manchester and sites such as the cricket ground at Old Trafford and the City of Manchester Stadium offering open-air entertainment.
Fans of the theatre must keep an eye on the listings at Palace Theatre, Opera House and the Royal Exchange amongst others - with a host of fabulous shows and nearby restaurants and bars, you can enjoy planning a fantastic evening that's exactly to your taste!
Manchester has a vibrant social scene, with festivals and music events throughout the year. Eurocultured, now in its eigth year, is a series of street festivals and other projects that celebrate the diversity of European culture by bringing together art, performance, music, dance, food and drink. Held every May bank holiday weekend in Manchester city centre, streets are closed off for the event and thousands turn out to join in!
Continuing the music theme, the Manchester International Festival takes place every other July (next event - July 2013) and features world-class performances, musicians and popular culture. An exciting, eye-opening experience, the festival runs for more than two weeks and treats its audiences to many world premieres of original works.
Over the August bank holiday, Manchester hosts the culmination of one of the biggest Pride events in Europe. With a packed programme of events running for 11 days, showcasing the wide and diverse interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and spanning art, culture, performance and music, the final celebration is held on the city's streets. A dazzling parade of decorated floats and spectacular costumes wends its loud and lively way through the city centre to Manchester's Canal Street, where the party really gets going!
Manchester Mega Mela is a fabulous, colourful celebration of South Asian culture at Platt Fields Park. With dancers, poets, sports and a dizzying array of authentic cuisine, your senses will be in a spin! Held annually, in July.
For fans of street performance, the fourth platform of the national x.trax programme is held in Manchester city centre in August. Featuring innovative and inspirational performances as well as events designed for promoters and developers, this three-day event attracts visitors and performers from all over the world.
The crazy Urbanathlon comes to Manchester's Sportcity again in 2013, with a mixture of running, climbing, crawling, slipping and sliding across 5k of the maddest urban obstacles you'll have ever seen! Come along in July to enjoy this hugely entertaining event.
Thousands of jazz lovers head to Manchester every July for the Jazz Festival. Events and performances are held daily, both in and outdoor, in many different venues across the city.
However, if you fancy something really quirky, why not try the UK Backwards Running Championships, held in Heaton Park every August? It's certainly amusing, but it's also very demanding! All runners race for charity, and the event is rapidly gaining interest among athletes looking for something a bit different.
Manchester was the site of the UK's first passenger railway station, and today is one of the busiest cities for rail travel. It also recently topped a BBC customer satisfaction poll with 92% of customers satisfied with the station against a national average of just 60%.
Central Manchester/Salford has four main railway stations; Manchester Picadilly, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate. Manchester Picadilly is the busiest station in the North of England, used by 28.5m people annually according to Network Rail and serves many inter-city routes to places such as London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. For those travelling by train to Manchester, rail services are provided by First TransPennine Express, CrossCountry Trains, Northern Rail and Virgin Trains. You can buy train tickets online for all UK train operating companies on MyTrainTickets, or just check train times and train fares.
Trams are a familiar sight in Manchester. The Metrolink light rail system is currently undergoing expansion and upgrade to extend the reach and ease congestion in the city. On completion, the Metrolink is set to carry 190,000 passengers daily and have the largest tram network in the UK.
Manchester Airport is situated south of the city, built on the site of a Neolithic settlement, and is the busiest UK airport outside the London region.
More details can be found on the Transport for Greater Manchester website.
There is a wealth of real ale pubs in and around the city, and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has produced five 'Pub Staggers', each starting from one of the city centre's railways stations.
Manchester is home to thousands of students, around 40,000 of whom are educated at the University of Manchester - which receives more applications than any other university in the UK.
*Price based on cheapest available one way Standard Class Advance ticket, excluding £1.50 booking fee per transaction. Based on payment with a debit card and ticket collection from a self-service ticket machine at the station (free of charge).