The Industrial Revolution transformed the unremarkable village of Manchester (pop. 2.5 million) into Britain’s second-largest urban area A center of manufacturing in the 19th century, the city became a hotbed of liberal politics, its deplorable working-class conditions arousing the indignation of everyone from Frederic Engels (who called it “Hell on Earth”) to John Ruskin (who called it a “devil’s darkness”). Now teeming with electronic beats and post-industrial glitz, Manchester has risen from factory soot to savor its reputation as one of the hippest spots in England. Though dodgy in parts, the city is undergoing a gradual gentrification and is accessible to the street smart. Thousands are drawn to its vibrant arts and nightlife scenes, proving that it’s not just the pretty who are popular.
The north’s innovative music and arts scenes are world-famous: Liverpool and Manchester alone produced four of Q Magazine’s ten biggest rock stars of the century. Its principal urban areas may have grown out of the wool and coal industries, bearing 19th-century scars to prove it, but their newly refurbished city centers have redirected their energies toward accommodating visitors. Find respite from city life in the Peak District to the east or the Lake District to the north.
Flights: Manchester International Airport (MAN; 489 3000). Trains (15-20min. 6-7 per hr. £2.35) and buses #44 and 105 run to Piccadilly Station.
Trains: Manchester Piccadilly, London Rd. and Manchester Victoria, Victoria St. have trains (08457 484 950) that leave from: Birmingham (l34hr. 2 per hr. £17); Chester (lhr. every hr. £9); Edinburgh (4hr„ every hr. £46); Liverpool (50min. 2 per hr. £7.80); London Euston (2V2-3hr. every hr. £49); York (40min. 2 per hr. £18). Connections are made via Metrolink. Travel center open M-Sa 8am-8:30pm, Su llam-7pm. Additional service to local areas available at the Deansgate and Oxford Road stations.
Buses: National Express (08705 808 080) buses go from Chorlton St. to Liverpool (50min. every hr. £5) and London (4-5hr. 7 per day, £19).
Public Transportation: Piccadilly Gardens, is home to about 50 bus routes. Pick up a free route map from the TIC. Buses run until 11:30pm, some lines until 2:30am on weekends. Office open M-Sa 7am-6pm, Su 10am-6pm. All-day ticket £3.30.
Taxis: Mantax (s230 333) or Radio Cars (236 8033).