If you could look back a couple of centuries at Manchester, you would've viewed a Dickensian city blackened with coal as it churned out cotton. That was then.
Sure, Manchester pays homage to its industrial roots with a handful of really good museums and the preservation of some interesting buildings, but Manchester hardly dwells in the past. Rather than cotton, these days, Manchester is cranking out a contagious energy. Today, the Capital of the North is defined by music — bands like The Smiths, The Verve and Oasis all got their starts here. The city is also fervent about its soccer (or football, in the U.K.): In fact, Manchester United might well be one of the world's most revered teams. And when it comes to food, you'll find that Manchester's restaurant scene is experiencing new energy. There's even a yearly Food and Drink Festival to celebrate the city's culinary expertise.
The best time to visit Manchester is between June and August when the weather is warm and the city's events calendar is packed. The months between September and December act as a sweet spot before the rather dreary low season of January and February. March through May is another shoulder season, when temperatures begin to rise.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Don't even think about criticizing the beloved Manchester United or Manchester City football teams. Even though Mancunians (Manchester locals) are known for their hospitality, they are also very loyal to their football teams.
Although the official language in the United Kingdom is English, you might be surprised that some locals are hard to understand. Don't be afraid to politely ask Mancunians to repeat themselves — a Manchester accent can be pretty thick. They also use a number of words in different contexts. For example, to say "I'm very tired," a Manc might say, "I'm dead tired." Or to say, "That's great," a Manc might say, "That's mint."
When it comes to currency, you'll be using the British pound sterling (GBP), which is colloquially known as "quid." Since the pound to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.And in case you're wondering about tipping, here are the rules: In sit-down restaurants, it has become customary to tip anywhere from 10 to 15 percent. In a taxi, rounding the fare to the nearest £1 should be sufficient. You can do the same in bars and pubs.
Manchester is a pretty safe city, but as with all cities you should keep your valuables out of sight. If you're taking taxis, make sure that they are the licensed black cabs from a taxi rank. And pay attention to your surroundings: You shouldn't linger in areas that look seedy. In the unlikely event that you do run into trouble, call 999 to get help.
Manchester has a vibrant restaurant scene. If you want to dine at the city's best, you should look at the most recent winners from the city's Manchester Food and Drink Festival — The French at The Midland took the 2013 prize as the city's best restaurant. You'll find it located conveniently in the city center. When it comes to pubs, you should grab a pint or two at the award-winning Station Buffet Bar in the Stalybridge neighborhood or the Hearth of the Ram in the Ramsbottom neighborhood. We also recommend trying some Indian food on Curry Mile in the Rusholme section of Manchester. And this city is especially known for its beer, boasting more than 30 breweries within striking distance. You can even tour some like Prospect Brewery and All Gates Brewery, among others.
The best way to get around Manchester is on foot. Most of the best things to do are clustered in the city center and are easily reached on foot (just be sure to pack a comfortable pair of shoes). If you get tired, hop on a Metrolink tram. These trams can reach most places in the city quickly and efficiently. There's also a free bus network called Metroshuttle, but it only runs routes throughout the city center during limited hours. Still, it's a better option than driving in Manchester, which presents the twin difficulties of parking and traffic. If you need to get somewhere quickly, you can always rely on the city's council-regulated taxis, though they're pretty pricey.
Manchester International Airport (MAN) is the city's closest airport (located 11 miles south of the city center), and direct flights are available from many eastern U.S. cities. You can take a taxi from the airport to the city center for around £22 GBP (roughly $37 USD). You can also opt to take a train to Manchester's Piccadilly Station; trains run between the airport and the city center roughly every 10 minutes with one-way trips costing between £4 and £5 GBP ($6 to $8.50 USD). If you're traveling from London, a train might be the best way to go. Trains to Manchester leave from London's Euston station; the 200-mile trip takes around three hours. You can also get from London to Manchester by bus; a number of different coach companies offer the service, including Megabus, GoEuro and National Express.See details for Getting Around
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United States citizens will need a valid passport in order to visit the United Kingdom. Upon your arrival, customs officials might ask for proof of sufficient funds for your stay, as well as written proof that you will be returning to the U.S. Note that U.S. citizens do not need a visa unless they plan on staying in the U.K. longer than six months. Visit the U.S. State Department's website for more information.
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