Dont Miss mad Manchester

By: Elisha Burberry

Rightly famous for its fantastic sport, music and nightclubbing, it's a vibrant, historic yet forward-thinking city - but for many of us, the image conjured up when we think of Manchester is still one of soot-covered cotton mills, viewed through sheets of rain.

However, in a recent BBC survey, 48% of respondents chose Manchester as the UK's Second City (ahead of Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture) and it's an ideal destination for an energetic, unique weekend or short break on the cutting edge of culture and cool.

One of the first things to strike you on arrival in Manchester is the amazing mix of stately, Victorian red-brick and breathtakingly futuristic modern architecture. The award-winning Imperial War Museum North, designed by Deconstructivist superstar Daniel Libeskind, is a great place to start - and from the observation platform atop the Air Shard tower you can view the canal, Salford Quays and The Lowry gallery, theatre and opera house complex.

Take in the historical sights of the Victorian Gothic Town Hall and neo-Classical, circular Central Library at Albert Square. From there, the sheer, sparkling Beetham Tower is immediately attention-grabbing as it's the UK's tallest building outside London. Also don't miss nearby Exchange Square with its giant ferris wheel and the stunning, triangular glass exhibition centre Urbis, which is home to fascinating art and cultural exhibitions throughout the year. Among others, there's currently a free show on celebrating the 25th anniversary of the late, great HaÃ?ienda - unmissable for all the 24-hour party people.

After all that culture, you'll then be ready to unwind and thankfully there's brilliant nightlife wherever you turn. There's the stylish, extravagant Gay Village around Canal Street; Manchester has been called the Gay Capital of the UK and there's plenty here to back up that claim - bars, restaurants, shops, clubs and naturally, the gay football team. Alternatively head over to Deansgate for comedy, upmarket drinking and haute cuisine or down Oxford Road into the happening student quarter with its countless pubs and clubs. There really is every conceivable venue for that cosy pint here, including the Temple of Convenience, a tiny, underground bar housed in a decommissioned public toilet!

With the city located right in the middle of the country, there's just no excuse to miss out on Manchester. There's a huge international airport, while its also easily accessible by train or road if you'd rather cut down on the carbon emissions. Several fine bars, restaurants and hotels are situated around Piccadilly station in the centre of town. Try the Malmaison Manchester, a gorgeous building which was once a cotton warehouse, then a dolls' hospital, but is now a sumptuously slinky, stylish place to chill out in the funky red bar, be pampered in the basement spa and finally crash out in one of the indulgent rooms or dramatic suites.

There's so much to do and see that it'd be mad not to stay a night or two in the city that coined the term 'Madchester', after all.

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