Arts and culture
Manchester's cultural offering has never been stronger since the opening of the £25m HOME arts centre in First Street and the £15m revamp of The Whitworth art gallery in recent years.
The future for Manchester’s arts scene looks bright too. A £111m new arts centre The Factory - dubbed 'the Guggenheim of the north' - is due to open in late 2020, bringing a world class theatre, performance and exhibition space to the Old Granada Studios site on Quay Street.
The venue will be a permanent base for the biennial Manchester International Festival, which has turned the city into a world stage for the arts over the past decade with its diverse programme of theatre, dance, music and more.
The festival also showcases many of the city's other arts venues, with last year's shows including Joy Division and New Order exhibition True Faith at Manchester Art Gallery; Simon Stephens' play Fatherland at the Royal Exchange Theatre ; and Arcade Fire at Castlefield Bowl.
The next festival takes place from July 4 to 21 next year.
Manchester is also home to one of the UK's biggest public art events this summer as the Bee in the City trail fills the city with giant bee sculptures for visitors to discover from July 23 to September 23.
Museums and galleries
From natural history to science and industry, Manchester is full of fun and fascinating museums - and most of them are free to visit.
Visitors can take a walk through the history of the world and its inhabitants, from prehistoric times right up to the present day, at Manchester Museum .
By far the most famous resident is Stan the T Rex, the skeleton cast of a fearsome dinosaur thought to be around 65-70 million years old. Visitors can hang out with him and his pal Percy the Plesiosaur in the Fossils gallery, meet Maude the Tigon from Belle Vue Zoo and discover artefacts from Ancient Egypt and other ancient civilisations.
Based on the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, the Museum of Science and Industry is perfectly placed to tell the story of the discoveries and innovations that began in Manchester and went on to change the world.
Its collection includes the models used by John Dalton to demonstrate his atomic theory, laying the foundations of modern chemistry; parts from the world’s first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1; and one of the world’s largest collections of working steam mill engines.
Football fans can discover the history of the beautiful game at the National Football Museum in Cathedral Gardens. Housed inside the striking Urbis building, the popular attraction tells the story of how football became the people’s game, with exhibits including the first-ever rule book from 1863 and LS Lowry’s painting Going To The Match.
In Spinningfields, The People’s History Museum takes visitors on a march through time, charting the centuries-long struggle for equality and democracy through the largest collection of political material in Britain. As the cradle of the industrial revolution, and the incubator of movements from communism to women’s suffrage, Manchester has a rich history of progressive and radical thinking - and it's all documented here.
As for galleries, The Whitworth is home to an internationally important collection of art, including significant work by William Blake and J.M.W. Turner, as well as hosting an exciting roster of visiting exhibitions and events.
Manchester Art Gallery also boasts some truly world-class work, most notably its outstanding collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings. As well as historic fine art and international contemporary work, the Mosley Street building is also home to a treasure trove of craft and design, from ceramics and silver to glass and furniture.
It also has an extensive costume collection, spanning six centuries of fashion, housed in a separate Gallery of Costume in Platt Fields Park, Rusholme.
Salford Quays is also home to The Lowry , home to the world's largest public collection of paintings and drawings by LS Lowry.
Food and drink
The French at the Midland. We don’t need a Michelin star to prove our food and drink scene has never been better.
From fine dining at The French, Manchester House, The Rabbit in the Moon and 20 Stories to the indie cafe-bars of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter, the city’s dining scene offers something to suit every occasion and budget - and the options span almost every cuisine conceivable.
Exciting new openings include Catalan restaurant Tast on King Street, a collaboration between Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez and Manchester City bosses Pep Guardiola, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain; Canto, the forthcoming Portuguese joint being opened by El Gato Negro chef-patron Simon Shaw in Ancoats in September; and Kala, a new city centre bistro from acclaimed chef Gary Usher.
Read more: Best restaurants in Manchester: Our guide to eating out
Beer tourism is also a growing trend, and Manchester has seen an influx of visitors in recent years thanks to its world class microbreweries.
Cloudwater was recently named the second best brewery in the world and attracts visitors from as far as the USA, while beer-lovers flock from all over Europe to visit the respected Indy Man Beer Con festival at Victoria Baths every year.
The city's beer scene is so popular that an app was launched last year , mapping out the city’s best brewtaps, bars and pubs for visitors - and residents - to discover.
Manchester Food and Drink Festival also pulls in thousands of visitors every year to showcase the very best eating and drinking the city has to offer.
The Hacienda may be long gone but its indomitable spirit lives on at clubbing institutions like The Warehouse Project,which regularly brings some of the biggest names in dance music to the city.
Whatever beat you dance to, Manchester’s eclectic nightlife offers something for everyone, from the hipster bars of the Northern Quarter to the glitz and glamour of Spinningfields, while Canal Street is home to one of the liveliest gay villages in Europe.
The music scene
Few cities can claim the musical pedigree that Manchester can, as the birthplace of The Smiths, Joy Division, Oasis and many more bands besides.
The city’s still-thriving music scene is a major stop-off on the UK gig circuit and its venues regularly host global superstars as well as up-and-coming acts.
Manchester Arena is one of the largest indoor music venues in Europe and has set the stage for shows by everyone from Madonna and Prince to Take That and Kylie Minogue over the last 20 years.
The Apollo and the Academies also command plenty of heavyweight acts, while more intimate venues like Night and Day have helped to launch the careers of countless bands and offer audiences the chance to say ‘I saw them first’.
The city is also home to Parklife , the largest metropolitan music festival in the country, which has brought names including Liam Gallagher, N*E*R*D, Lorde, Frank Ocean, The 1975 and The Chemical Brothers to Heaton Park in recent years.
City or United? We’ll let you decide. But it’s not all about football here.
The legacy of the Commonwealth Games has left us with world-class facilities including the Manchester Aquatics Centre, Regional Athletics Arena, National Squash Centre and Manchester Velodrome.
We’re also home to one of England’s most renowned test venues at the Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground. And don’t forget the National Football Museum.
Whether you’re rummaging through the treasures of the Northern Quarter’s vintage boutiques and record stores, hunting for bargains in the high street brands of the Arndale Centre or splashing the cash in the luxury designer shops and department stores of New Cathedral Street and Exchange Square, Manchester truly is the shopping capital of the north west.
We’ve also got one of the largest shopping centres in Europe on our doorstep at the intu Trafford Centre.
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Manchester, with forecasts predicting there’ll be nearly 20,000 hotel rooms by 2020 - more than any other city outside London.
From the historic grandeur of the Midland Hotel and the five-star luxury of Hotel Gotham to boutique boltholes like the Great John Street Hotel and King Street Townhouse, visitors are spoilt for choice for booking options.
The recently revamped and rebranded Principal Hotel with its beautiful lobby bar and restaurant The Refuge, and the newly-opened Cow Hollow Hotel are another couple of the coolest places to stay.
And take a look at the soon-to-open Whitworth Locke, which will feature its own espresso martini bar, coffee shop and yoga studio.
The Christmas Markets
Among the biggest, busiest and best in Europe, Manchester's Christmas Markets are a reason to visit the city in themselves.
The festive shopping extravaganza returns from November 9 to December 22 this year, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to visit them in the run-up to Christmas.
The transport links
Manchester is home to the third busiest airport in the UK after Heathrow and Gatwick, with direct flights from everywhere from Dubai to Hong Kong.
It’s also well connected by train, Metrolink and motorway, making coming to visit a breeze, where ever you’re travelling from.