Known for its trophy-winning football teams and vibrant music scene, and the fact the BBC recently relocated there, Manchester is also one of the UK’s leading business destinations. So what can the business traveller do between meetings or to fill in a long lunch hour? Swindon Business News travel editor ANNE GORRINGE headed North to find out …
CITY FACTS: The third largest city in the UK, the Greater Manchester metropolitan area has a population of around 2.6m people. It is a hotbed of sport, art and culture – from a legendary music scene that produced The Smiths, Stone Roses, Oasis, Take That and, more recently, Elbow to its galleries, concert halls and sports venues. It is also home to the longest-established symphony orchestra in Britain, the Hallé founded in 1858.
Right: Manchester skyline
GETTING THERE: Manchester has the largest and busiest UK regional airport outside of London, handling more than 22m passengers a year. But most business travellers from the West will arrive by train into Piccadilly Station or by car via the M5 and M6. Direct trains run regularly from Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway. Travellers from Swindon and other local stations need to change at Bristol. See Cross Country Trains for full details of train times and prices. www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/ For those arriving at the airport, up to nine trains an hour link to Piccadilly, taking around between 15-20 minutes.
WHERE TO STAY: One of the most convenient, and comfortable, hotels for business travellers is the 4-star Doubletree by Hilton, directly in front of Piccadilly Station. Drop your bags and head off to your city centre meeting. Free wi-fi, iMac TVs and daily newspaper is standard. It has a gym and excellent restaurant offering one of the best breakfasts in the city. doubletree3.hilton.com/en/index.html If money is no object, then The Great John Street, a former Victorian school house transformed into a chic 5-star townhouse hotel, has unique, individually-designed bedrooms and suites alongside stylish lounges and an oyster bar. http://www.eclectichotels.co.uk/great-john-street/
SHOPPING: Manchester is renowned for its shopping – mainly because it has so many of the retail brands that you can get in London, including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. But, because it is smaller, it’s more accessible and easier to navigate around when you’ve only got a short time. Try King Street or The Avenue in Spinningfields for top luxury brands – www.spinningfieldsonline.com/ The Northern Quarter, and Afflecks in particular, is a highlight for independent and vintage shopping www.afflecks.com/
CULTURE: If you’ve got a spare hour, pop into Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street www.manchestergalleries.org. The city also has three very special ‘ancient’ libraries. Built in 1890, John Rylands Library on Deansgate is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. Entrance is free and it’s open until 5pm every day www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/ To discover Manchester’s industrial heritage or the city’s history of science and innovation visit MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) www.mosi.org.uk/ The Lowry in Salford Quays is technically just ‘across the border’ into neighbouring Salford, but it takes just 10 minutes on the supertram from the city centre www.metrolink.co.uk The Lowry is a spectacular waterside building housing theatres and galleries. It’s also close to the BBC’s new headquarters in Quay House www.thelowry.com
POST-MEETING DRINK OR FOOD: Head to Spinningfields for cocktails at The Alchemist or beers at The Oast House. But, to impress clients with the best views of the city as well as fabulous cocktails and champagnes with a stylish soundtrack, try Cloud 23 bar on the 23rd floor of Beetham Tower on Deansgate – the city’s tallest building. www.cloud23bar.com/ Some of the best places to eat and drink are along the canal area of The Village – where you’ll find Manchester’s gay bars. http://www.visitmanchester.com/what-to-do/lgbt/the-village-venues/
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: Manchester’s newest tourist attraction, the National Football Museum, has quickly established itself as one of the best tourism attractions in the region since opening in the city centre in July 2012 – www.nationalfootballmuseum.com. Overseas delegates and diehard Man Utd fans, however, will still love the stadium and museum tour at Old Trafford – www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford/Museum-And-Stadium-Tour/Stadium-Tour.aspx
If there’s time to kill, fit in an indoor sky dive at at Airkix in the Trafford Quays Leisure Village (next to The Trafford Centre) www.airkix.com/our-tunnels/airkix-manchester.aspx or learn to ski at Chill Factore www.chillfactore.com/
DON’T MISS: A city walking tour with Manchester Guided Walks, New Manchester Walks or local journalist Jonathan Schofield – there really is no better way to get a feel for the city. All three stage whistle-stop tours in an hour which are suitable for a lunch break.
STAYING AN EXTRA DAY: For a full day out of the city, try the East Lancashire Railway. You can hop on and off the steam train as much as you like to explore some beautifully quaint Lancashire villages. Its Rail Ale Trail is a particularly good incentive trip for staff – a guide stays with the group all day, taking them to a real ale pub or micro brewery at each stop on the line. The train usually leaves from Bolton Street Station, which is in nearby Bury. www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/things-to-see-do/
Left: Manchester's handy – and free – Metroshuttles
TOP TIP: Manchester has a network of free buses called Metroshuttles which run on three routes connecting main areas of the city centre. They are really handy for getting about as they are very frequent and, coming soon, will have free wi-fi on board. Look out too for the handy Supertrams around the city centre.
MORE INFO: www.visitmanchester.com