One of Manchester’s emblems—etched into its coat of arms, its street furniture and designed on the mosaic floors of the Manchester Town Hall—is the bumblebee. It symbolizes the city and its people as a hive of activity during its industrial growth in the 19th century—a prosperous time for Manchester’s booming cotton and engineering trades.
The echo of Manchester’s thriving past is present in its most impressive structures: The Royal Exchange, where businessmen and merchants talked shop and traded goods; the Manchester Cathedral, a centuries-old structure now hosting live performances from big-name artists; and the Manchester Town Hall, a Gothic, towering building, and the city’s greatest monument.
While visiting Manchester on an individual FAM this past July, I encountered a city that had shed its industrial skin and is now boasting an impressive cultural side, which I experienced first-hand thanks to the perfect planning of my hosts, the Marketing Manchester press office, making sure I arrived in time for the Manchester International Festival.
The festival is a biennial 2-week event featuring cutting-edge performances in dance, contemporary ballet, theatrical plays, music and visual art exhibits. Attending a few festival performances was only half the fun while touring this lively city. Here’s a tailored-down list of some of my most memorable moments in this city:
• The Whitworth Art Gallery: This stunning building was first erected in 1889, but recently remodeled into an art gallery showcasing 55,000 pieces of contemporary and modern art, watercolors, historic textiles, engravings and photography. I walked to The Whitworth, about a 20-minute stroll from the hotel; a taxi can do the job in about five minutes.
• Manchester Central Library: Another structure that underwent an extensive refurbishment is the Manchester Central Library, a grand and public building that first opened in 1934. Reopened in 2014, the Library is worth a tour—especially of the Wolfson Reading Room where anything above a whisper can be heard in the rotunda-shaped space.
• Afternoon Tea: Across from the Manchester Cathedral is a quaint teahouse, Proper Tea. The tea menu includes delicate loose-leaf floral varieties, black teas and standard English blends, and there are also homemade cakes, pastries and hand-sized scones.
• The IWM North: Even from a distance, the IWM North is striking—the building’s aluminum design pairs well with its tense angles and sharp, towering architecture. The museum tells the story of war through the people affected by it and how war continues to shape our lives even today.
• John Rylands Library: Opened in 1900 and designed in Victorian Gothic architecture, this library features a historical reading room that left me in awe with its stained glass windows, arches, and collections going back hundreds of years.
• Manchester Museum: When I was told a visit to Manchester is not complete without meeting Stan, the T-Rex, my next question was, “Where do I find him?” The answer is at the Manchester Museum, featuring galleries on ancient Egypt, medicinal findings throughout the centuries, zoology, geology and archaeology. Stan, the T-Rex skeleton (really, a cast) towers above the spectators; the original bones were excavated in 1992.
getting there/staying there
Thomas Cook Airlines offers a direct flight from Miami to Manchester Airport. Additional direct routes include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Boston and Orlando.
Recommend the 263-room Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel, located walking distance from a dozen of Manchester’s must-visits. The five-star property is situated in the historic Free Trade Hall, which for 150 years served as a public space for Manchester’s residents to attend political speeches, theater performances and other public events. The hotel features the Sienna Spa, and the Opus One bar and restaurant, serving excellent afternoon tea.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel: radissonblu-edwardian.com
Thomas Cook Airlines: thomascookairlines.com
Visit Manchester: visitmanchester.com or visitmanchester.com/travel-trade
TOUR OPERATOR INTEL
According to Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, v.p. of product development at Collette, “There is so much to do and see in Great Britain! As the tag line for the [VisitBritain] campaign indicates, Britain really is GREAT with a gorgeous countryside, music, sport, heritage, culture, nature and people!
“While these things can certainly be found in London, they can also be found outside London—in greater abundance and diversity. From Cornwall to Yorkshire to Liverpool, the diversity of England’s heritage and culture offers endless travel adventures to travelers.”
Collette’s 11- to 13-day England’s Treasures itinerary visits Cornwall, the Cotswolds, and the Lake District, and clients who want to spend some time in Manchester can opt for pre-tour time in the city. Rates start at $2,649 pp dbl land-only. gocollette.com