Traveling in Manchester
Few of Manchester’s buildings are notable postcards mostly portray the fronts of trams but an exception is the neo-Gothic Manchester Town Hall, at Albert St. Behind the Town Hall Extension, the Central Library is the city’s jewel. One of the largest municipal libraries in Europe, the domed building has a music and theater library, a language and literature library, and the UK’s second-largest Judaica collection. The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, keeps rare books; its most famous holding is the St. John Fragment, a piece of New Testament writing from the 2nd-century. (834 5343. Open M-F 10am-5pm, Sa lOam-lpm. Free. Tours W at noon.)
The Royal Exchange Theater (833 9333) has returned to St. Ann’s Sq. a few years after an IRA bomb destroyed the original building. The theater stages Shakespearean productions, as well as premieres of original works. (Box office open M-Sa 9:30am-7:30pm. Tickets £7.25, concessions £6.50 when booked 3 days in advance.) Also recently reopened after a three-year, £35 million renovation, the Manchester Art Gallery, on Nicholas St. holds Rossetti’s stunning As tarte Syriaca among its gigantic collection. (235 8888. Open Su and Tu-Sa and bank holidays 10am-5pm. Admission free. Free audio tours.) In the Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Rd. in Castlefield, working steam engines and looms provide a dramatic, illustration of Britain’s industrialization that is interesting for adults and children alike. (832 2244. Open daily 10am-5pm. Museum free. Special exhibits £3-5.) The Spanish and Portuguese synagogue-turned-Jewish Museum, 190 Cheetham Hill Rd. traces the history of the city’s sizeable Jewish community and offers city tours. (834 9879. Open M-Th 10:30am-4pm, Su 10:30am-5pm. £3.65, families £8.95, concessions £2.75.) Loved and reviled, Manchester United is England’s reigning football team. The Manchester United Museum and Tour Centre, Sir Matt Busby Way, at the Old Traf-ford football stadium, displays memorabilia from the club’s inception in 1878 to its recent trophy-hogging success. The museum’s fervor may just convert you. (From the Old Trafford Metrolink stop, follow signs up Warwick Rd. s 0870 442 1994. Open daily 9:30am-5pm. Tours every lOmin. 9:40am-4:30pm. Museum £5.50, families £15.50, concessions £3.75; with tour £8.5023.505.80.)
Many of Manchester’s excellent lunchtime spots morph into pre-club drinking venues or even become clubs themselves.
The Temple (278 1610), on Bridgewater St. literally. An entrance in the middle of the street leads downstairs to a small, smoky bar, once home to a toilet. Locals squeeze in for drinks before clubbing. Try the Belgian Gay Boy (£3.50), a mysterious concoction served in a pint. Open M-Sa noon-llpm, Su 5-10:30pm.
The Lass O’Gowrie, 36 Charles St. (273 6932). Traditional pubs aren’t at all passe when the evening crowd is this lively. BBC personalities trickle in from the neighboring studio. Good food at amazing prices (£2-5). Open M-Sa llam-llpm, Su noon-10:30pm. Kitchen open M-F noon-5pm and Sa-Su noon-3pm.
Manchester’s clubbing and live music scene remains a national trendsetter. Centered around Oldham Street, the Northern Quarter is the city’s youthful outlet for live music; its alternative vibe and underground shops attracting a hip crowd. Partiers flock to Oxford Street for late-night clubbing and reveling. Don’t forget to collect flyers they’ll often score you a discount. At night, streets in the Northern Quarter are dimly lit. If you’re crossing from Piccadilly to Swan St. or Great Ancoats St. use Oldham St. where the neon-lit clubs (and their bouncers) provide reassurance. There’s no shame in short taxi trips at night in this town.
Music Box, Oxford Rd. ( 273 3435). A small, underground venue that hosts live bands and enormously popular parties. Check posters outside for details; monthly Electric Chair and events by Mr. Scruff receive rave reviews from local partiers. Cover £5-8. Open Th-Sa at 10pm, closes between 3am and 6am, depending on the event. Revolution, Arch 7, Whitworth St. West (839 7569). Revolution leads an army of upstart bars and clubs on Deansgate. Baron the ground floor leads downstairs to small dance floor below. Red decor (look for the bust of Lenin) is a tasteful backdrop to funk, house, old school, and R&B tunes. 150 vodkas. No cover unless special promotion. Open daily noon-2am.
THE GAY VILLAGE
Gay and lesbian clubbers will want to check out the Gay Village, northeast of Princess St. Evening crowds fill the bars lining Canal St. in the heart of the area, which is also lively and lovely during the day.