Back in 2015, I travelled to Manchester, England, to visit my sister for a few days. I’d never been there before and in typical fashion, my expectations were almost entirely based upon the historical BBC miniseries North & South (a GREAT series, I highly recommend). In N&S, the Manchester-inspired Milton is a smoky, dirty, industrial town that horrifies the ladylike protagonist. So I wasn’t really expecting much…not that I’m particularly ladylike.
Boy, was I wrong. Manchester is a beautiful city. Though definitely a more industrial town than its southern counterparts, this red-brick-covered city is full of gorgeous architecture, beautiful churches and plenty of shopping. While the areas immediately outside the city centre retain their Victorian charm, especially those areas around the canals and railway lines, the city centre is much more modern, with glass-walled structures competing for attention with the centuries-old buildings next door. It’s this mix of old and new that I found so fascinating.
And it’s not just the exteriors that are worth seeing. If you’re in Manchester, DO NOT leave this city without going to see the John Rylands Library and the library at the Chetham’s School of Music. For any one who felt the pain of not receiving a letter to Hogwarts on their 11th birthday (admit it, we’ve all been there), this might just make up for it (maybe). Walking through the dark aisles, you could almost imagine Hermione pulling a dusty book from a shelf. On a side note, for history buffs, Chetham’s library is where Karl Marx and Engels began to write The Communist Manifesto.
The University of Manchester contains yet MORE beautiful buildings, as well as the interesting Manchester Museum, worth a look if you need to kill a couple of hours. And best of all, like the majority of sites in the city, it’s free! In the Northern Quarter, vintage shops abound, whereas the more high street names are concentrated around Deansgate and Piccadilly Gardens (NOT Circus, as I kept calling it). The Manchester Cathedral is also lovely to stroll around and houses The Angel Stone, with carvings dating to 700 A.D. from an early Saxon church built on the site.
I simply adored the old industrial side of town too. The canals, the train station with the old tracks, the museum hangars full of disused planes…I really felt transported back to the 1800s when Manchester would have been at the height of its industrial revolution. Back then, this city would have felt like the centre of the world.
For me, the interest in Manchester was not in shopping or fine dining, but in discovering and photographing a new place. And, I guess, seeing my sister again for the first time in a year and a half. But, you know, whatever.
Have you ever been to Manchester? Tell me all about your stay, or if you want to go!
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.