Manchester, England

Working our way down from York, Manchester was the next stop on our meandering trip through England.

What was once the world’s largest marketplace for cotton goods during the British Industrial Revolution, Manchester has gone through an extensive transformation over the past few decades. Large sections of the city have been modernized and old cotton mills have been converted into student apartments, but the “worker bee” emblem of the city, still sits emblazoned on everything from lampposts to trash bins.

The University of Manchester has produced a whopping 25 Noble Prize winners, mostly in the realms of Physics and Chemistry, and the Manchester Liverpool Road railway station was the first intercity passenger railway station in the world.

For more information about Manchester’s incredibly influential scientific discoveries, I highly recommend a visit to Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum. It’s family friendly, with interactive exhibits and an emphasis on Manchester’s roll in these developments. Leaning into its roots, the museum also has a huge exhibition of a textile plant, showing all the steps from the beginning to end of making fabric. It’s a good idea to check the current displays before heading out to the museum as there is a rotating selection of galleries to keep things fresh and interesting for repeat visitors. Entry is free, but the museum recommends booking tickets on their website in advance to guarantee space.

Since it was cold and rainy, we spent quite a lot of time in museums in this city. My absolute favorite museum was the Manchester Art Gallery. Although it was originally built for the scholarly society, the Royal Manchester Institution, the museum is now publicly owned and free to enter six days a week. What I liked about this museum in particular was that they would post commentary about the pieces on a plaque next to the work. This commentary would range from a staff member explaining what they liked about the piece, to historical context about the time period and the artist. I’ve never seen anything like it in the many museums I’ve visited and I really enjoyed how it helped me to feel more connected and engaged with the work. Rather than skimming through the gallery, I found myself lingering on every single piece.

Although the Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs are both based in this city, I don’t follow the sport closely enough for either stadium to have featured in my travel plans. This meant that I was tragically skipping a visit to the National Football Museum, but there was a fee for admission and I didn’t think I’d get much out of it. Still, this is a huge draw for football fans.

Of course, since my trip was taking place during the FIFA World Cup, I got a rapid introduction to the sport and quickly began to enjoy the ritual of sitting down in a rowdy club for a drink and a match every few nights. We were in Manchester for 2022’s England vs. France match- I think the person in front of me started crying.

For those who are less interested in museums, Manchester has plenty of pubs to check out, and one of the largest concentrations of South Asian restaurants outside of Asia. Definitely pick up a bite to eat from the Curry Mile!

We were lucky enough to be visiting during Manchester’s Winter Markets, the the festive stalls really took over a significant portion of the city centre. We made sure to schedule a few hours to wander the market and sip on some glühwein while enjoying the cheerful atmosphere. There was even a cute little parade- which we actually got caught up in a few times as they were circling the market place while we were taking a more direct route through the streets. Christmas parade traffic is definitely an improvement over regular traffic.

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