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Manchester Neighborhoods

Here’s another reason why Manchester travel has a leg up on London: the city is fairly compact, meaning that getting around need not take all day. Urban regeneration is happening at lightning speed, particularly along the canal areas and in the former docklands. Manchester’s rough edges may have been buffed to perfection in places, but the city’s gritty spirit remains deliciously intact. The transport hub of the city centre is Piccadilly Gardens, from where bus, train and tram routes will take you all over Manchester. To the south of Piccadilly Gardens are Canal Street, a small Chinatown and the Gay Village, and the edgy Northern Quarter lies (of course) to the north. To the west is the shimmering Salford Quays, the jumping off point for Old Trafford and the Manchester United museum, The Lowry and The Imperial War Museum North. The up-and-coming canalside development of Castlefield and Deansgate Locks lies to the southeast. Urmston is only 10 km southwest (you can be there in 20 minutes by bus on a good day) of the city centre, but it has a slightly suburban vibe, while Stockport, famed for the Hat Works Museum, is technically a town in itself, 9.8 km southeast of the city centre.

Canal Street and Gay Village

Canal Street (Mancunians love to drop the ‘C’) is loved by all—straight, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual. Lined with brilliant bars, clubs, shops and caffs, it’s one of the friendliest parts of town, no matter where you sit on the Kinsey Scale. Overlooking Rochdale Canal with a view toward Sackville Park, Canal Street and the Gay Village around it has been featured in the British TV drama "Queer as Folk." In recent years Manchester’s Gay Village has become a popular destination for hen/bachelorette parties.

Northern Quarter

We love the Northern Quarter of Britain’s most quintessentially northern city. The playground of Manchester’s creative types, the area is brimming with quirky shops, healthy eateries (not a drop of northern grease in sight), fashion houses, art galleries and, best of all, surprises. There’s a flower market, design exhibitions and a whole host of independent bars like Matt and Phred’s Jazz Bar, Cord, and the Dry Bar (which isn’t dry). And it isn’t just Mancunians that are sweet for the Northern Quarter--what was once a muddy lane flanked by flowering hedgerows is now on UNESCO’s list of potential world heritage sites.

Castlefield and Deansgate Locks

The Locks, as they are known, were made for bar crawls. Or, rather, they were made for the industrial revolution and later converted into drinking den heaven. Hidden in the railway arches beneath the G-Mex Metrolink tram station, Deansgate Locks houses watering holes and a comedy club, plus a host of other bars within walking distance. If you’ve seen 24 Hour Party People, you’ll remember the famous New Order-owned Hacienda superclub that sat on the corner of Deansgate Locks before it was closed down. Lively Castlefield, strung out along the cobbled canalside, is a few minutes' walk from here, with a great outdoor eating and drinking scene. Nearby, the Museum of Science and Industry is a hit with kids. West of Deansgate, Spinning Gate is the site of an open-air ice rink every winter.

City Centre

The city centre straddles the River Irwell, spreading outward from the site of the original Roman Fort of Mamucium. For a glimpse of the glory of yesteryear, there’s the Town Hall on Albert Square and the Greek-esque Central Library, which claims to have more than 20 miles of shelf space. If you’re here to shop, this is High Street and designer store heaven, particularly along St. Ann’s Square, Market Street and King Street. Farther east, Piccadilly Gardens (the site of an excellent, thrice-weekly flower market) bleeds into the Northern Quarter.

Salford Quays

This waterfront district once overlooked the end of the Manchester Ship Canal before a large-scale urban regeneration program resulted in The Lowry arts centre, shimmering residential scrapers and the architecturally stunning Imperial War Museum North. There’s also a sailing and canoeing center, an outlet mall and Ordsall Hall, a 14th century manor house that is undergoing extensive renovation work. After a few days in Manchester city centre, the Quays feel breezy and clean, perfect for a day trip with a bit of an edge.