A guide to living in Manchester
With a population of almost 460,000, Manchester is the UK's third largest city yet widely regarded as Britain 's second city and arguably the most exciting, cultural and forward-thinking. The decline of manufacturing and heavy industry in the 1980s and the subsequent dramatic rise in unemployment, provided a powerful catalyst for the city to regenerate itself and seek a new direction. And the main engine for this came in the wake of the IRA bomb attack in 1996.
The attack was the largest bomb ever to be detonated on British soil and it devastated much of the city centre's key retail sector. But, instead of simply patching things up, Manchester City Council embarked on an ambitious and costly redevelopment scheme that has transformed the city's physical appearance and rejuvenated its economy.
Getting around Manchester
With around 25,000 cars forming the morning rush hour into the city every day, Manchester's peak-time traffic moves at a slower pace than the UK national average, despite investment of roughly half a billion pounds spent on the road network, including the completion of the M60 and the inner relief road.
However, Greater Manchester has developed a plan to deal with the problem. The Council is investing £3 billion in the city's transport network that is aimed at transforming the existing bus network, expanding the tram network by over three times its current size, and provide longer trains running through refurbished stations. And £1.2 billion of this money has been earmarked for a new congestion charge along London lines.
With that in mind, it is not surprising that an increasing number of commuters opt to take advantage of the city's highly organised and efficient public transport network.
If driving by car is still a consideration, Manchester operates a high volume of Park and Ride schemes. Most rail and Metrolink stations en route from Altrincham in the south of the city, Eccles on the north west outskirts, and Prestwich on the northern city limits operate schemes.
And t he city is well served by two main rail stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, with key stop-off stations at Deansgate and Oxford Road . Being the busiest English train station outside London , all mainline routes from across the region and the rest of the UK go through Piccadilly. Whereas Victoria is the main station serving routes from the neighbouring suburbs of Bury, Bolton, Ashton, Oldham and Salford .
But for something a little different, the Metrolink tram system operates routes through Manchester city centre, Salford Quays, Eccles and through to the suburbs to Altrincham in the south Bury in the north. This provides a link in and out of the City and a convenient way to travel around the centre.
Chorlton Street bus station is the main terminal in the centre although some services will stop in Piccadilly Gardens . Stagecoach Manchester and First Manchester operate the majority of buses in and out of the city, with the latter also operating a zero-fare service called MetroShuttle which transports commuters around the city's major business districts.
Eating, drinking and shopping in Manchester
Without sounding too bold, Manchester's thriving music scene and nightlife owes much of its success to The Hacienda. Spearheading the ‘Madchester' phenomena of the 1980s with bands such as New Order, the Happy Mondays, James and the Stone Roses was the Hacienda which became the cultural icon that placed Manchester on the musical map.
Although the Hacienda closed in 1997, its influence on the city is inescapable. Today, the mantle of top live music venue is shared by a number of other places, principally Band on the Wall with its eclectic mix of jazz and reggae, the Roadhouse with its penchant for gigs by local bands, and Sankey's Soap which is famed for its club nights. Whereas Manchester Evening news Arena, Manchester Central and the Apollo play host to large scale concerts and events.
Food wise, few places in the UK can match Manchester . From Michelin-starred restaurants to traditional home cooked pub food, Manchester has it all. Restaurants at the top end of the scale remain rooted in the city centre, predominantly centralised around the St Ann 's Square, Deansgate and King Street area.
Elsewhere, Manchester has its own Chinatown which has a clutter of oriental restaurants. Close-by is the city's infamous Canal Street – the heart of Manchester 's thriving Gay Village complete with a number of excellent café bars, restaurants and clubs.
Or for something less formal yet cultural, the city's newly dubbed Northern Quarter is home to a number of cool bars and cafes.
What Manchester lacks in identifiable landmarks, it more than makes up for in its diverse and rich arts and cultural scene. The Manchester Art Gallery , Museum of Science and Industry and the Whitworth Art Gallery are as equally scintillating as they are relaxing.
But few places outside of London can beat Manchester for shopping.
From the designer boutiques of King Street or the high street chains around the Arndale Centre and St Ann 's Square, to the Bohemian and vintage offering of Affleck's Palace, Manchester 's shopping options are countless. Harvey Nichol's, Armani, Zara and French Connection are just some of the stores based in the city centre.
Lest we forget the city's sporting pedigree. The city boast two Premier League football clubs – Manchester City and Manchester United, although the latter technically comes under Salford . The City of Manchester Stadium hosted the 2002 Commonwealth games and is currently the home of Manchester City.
Old Trafford cricket ground is the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club and elsewhere there is the Velodrome and a number of public leisure centres, sporting clubs and five-a-side pitches including The Pitz.
And as you might expect, Manchester has a number of leading health and fitness clubs, such as David Lloyd Leisure, Living Well, Fitness Forst and Bannatyne's.
Main residential areas
If city living is what you are after then Deansgate Locks, Castlefield and The Ropeworks are your best bet. Comprised of one and two bedroom modern penthouse apartments, these three areas are the property hotspots in the centre of town.
Elsewhere, there are a number of popular areas dotted along the arterial routes out of the city. Just a few miles south of the city centre are Chorlton and Didsbury which are traditionally the pick of the bunch thanks to their cosmopolitan, café culture-like environments and mix of modern apartments and traditional housing styles.
To the north, Whitefield and Prestwich offer a good choice of accommodation along with a good restaurant and bar scene.
And if you fancy mingling with the rich and famous, Alderley Edge and Wilmslow are just 15 miles south of the city and home to a number of Manchester United and Manchester City footballers, whilst the Beckhams still own a home there.
Take a closer look
A picture is worth a thousand words. You can see some images from in and around Manchester below.