Monument of Prince Albert, Albert Square (photo by
Tim Green aka atoach)
The Albert Square and the surrounding area compose the beating heart of Manchester. This beautiful square is bordered from east and south-east, respectively by the buildings of the Town Hall and the Central Library. South of here are located the impressive Midland Hotel, built a long time ago in the railway age to welcome the guests of the Great Britain’s most prominent industrial city, as well as the former central train station, today converted into the Manchester Central Convention Centre, which is also a home to the famous Halle Orchestra. The Bridgewater Hall is right across the Lower Mosley Street. A short stroll to the east of Albert Square you will find the Gay Village, Chinatown and the nice Piccadilly Gardens and Bus Station, providing easy access to the Northern Quarter. South-west of the above square, also within comfortable walking distance, you can reach the Castlefield quarter where is located the interesting Museum of Science and Industry. The vital transport artery in the central area is Deansgate, connecting Castlefield with the Cathedral to the north and the nearby Exchange Square, a symbol of the modern city.
The Albert Square is named after the canopied monument of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. It was erected in the middle of the square in honour of the prince who had always supported the industrial development. The monument dates back to 1867 and faces the splendid Town Hall, designed in the sumptuous neo-Gothic style by After Waterhouse. The building was finished in the last quarter of 19th century. It features an impressive clocktower, rising high into the sky. The tower boasts a rich architectural decoration of nice-looking gables and arcaded windows.
(photo by Bernt Rostad)
Right opposite the Town Hall, across the Lloyd Street and overlooking St. Peter's Square, is the imposing domed circular structure, housing the Central Library. It was completed in 1934 is today the biggest building of a municipal library worldwide. On the opposite side of the square stands the Free Trade Hall. It housed the Halle Orchestra before it was moved to the Bridgewater Hall in the late 1990s. The Free Trade Hall features a well preserved and very graceful Italianate façade. At present day it is a part of the luxury Radisson Edwardian Hotel, the other part of which is in the neighbouring modern tower block. Just meters north-east of the St Peter's Square is situated the Manchester Art Gallery. The heart of its exhibition is on the first floor showing a very rich collection of 18th- and 19th-century artists. The second floor houses temporary exhibitions and a constant display related to crafts and design. The ground floor of the gallery is very interesting too, showing impressive visualizations of Manchester's history. A few steps south-east and south of St. Peter’s Square are respectively the Manchester Central Convention Centre, housed in the building of the former railway station, and the Bridgewater Hall, which is the country's best concert hall, built on special shock-absorbing springs to ensure the highest clarity of sound.
From here along the Lower Mosley Street and then turning right along the Great Bridgewater Street you will reach the striking Beetham Tower, which is the tallest structure in the city housing the deluxe Hilton Hotel. The surrounding area along the Rochdale Canal is known as the Deansgate Locks and has a variety of restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs. On the opposite side of the canal is the Deansgate Station.
Free Trade Hall
(photo by Bernt Rostad)
A few minutes of walking to the north from here you will find yourself in front of the famous Museum of Science and Industry. Its different sections are lined along Liverpool Road. This is one of the most impressive museums of that kind, not only in Britain but in the world. It shows a unique combination of technological exhibitions, specially organized blockbuster displays, as well as trenchant and deep analysis of the industrialization and its social impact. The visitors' attention is usually most attracted by the Power Hall, housing a large display of old steam engines (some of them fired up to show how they work) which emphasize the major role Manchester played during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Just outside the hall is exhibited a working replica of the Planet, invented by Robert Stephenson in 1830. This is a steam locomotive which reached the scorching for the time speed of 30 miles per hour. On weekends the Planet is fired up for special tours to the nearby Station Building, which is claimed to be the oldest passenger train station in the world.
Another section of the Museum is housed in the 1830 Warehouse and shows a sound-and-light show related to the history of the warehouses in the city, whose enormous storage capacity was one of the main reasons for Manchester's economic prosperity. The Air and Space Hall shows a collection of vintage airplanes and exponents related to space exploration.
The Planet Locomotive
(photo by nyaa_birdies_perch)
From the Museum of Science and Industry, in a couple of steps along Liverpool Road, you will reach the main Deansgate Street and the Great Northern shopping and leisure complex. It is housed in the building of the former Great Northern Railway Company's Warehouse, a huge brick structure, erected at the end of the 19th century. If you continue your walk to the north along Deansgate, you will find yourself in front of the John Rylands Library in several minutes. This Victorian Gothic architectural monument is among the most exquisite examples of the style, not only in Manchester, but throughout England. Although a recent reconstruction has added an inappropriate entrance wing to the old library, it has perfectly preserved its original architectural features, such as the gracefully crafted stonework, the lovely stain-glass windows and the burnished wooden paneling. The building was designed by the talented architect of the time Basil Champneys. Even though the library is not in general use at present day, it still keeps a rich collection of valuable old books and ancient manuscripts.
A short walk to the north from John Rylands Library, again along Deansgate, you will reach the pretty small St Ann's Square, named after the Neoclassical church at its southern side. The St Ann's Church was completed in 1709. At the opposite side of the square is located the Royal Exchange, home of the renowned Royal Exchange Theatre. The building housed once the headquarters of the famous Manchester's Cotton Exchange where thousands of people worked, until it was closed in 1968. The old trading board still displays the prices for Egyptian and American cotton what they were in the last working day of the exchange.
John Rylands Library
(photo by jlcwalker)
Walking north of here, along the New Cathedral Street, you will reach the Exchange Square. It has been the focus of the ambitious city rebuilding plans since the IRA bomb. The square is a pleasant place to relax among water fountains, decorative sculpture works and modern architecture. At the south-east end of it lies the huge Arndale Centre - a modern and elegant shopping precinct.
At the northern end of the Exchange Square stands the 15th century Manchester Cathedral. Although it was seriously damaged during the wartime bombing, the Cathedral was skillfully restored after that and visitors can still admire its Gothic architecture.
Right opposite the northern side of the Cathedral lies the old Chetham's School of Music where the church choristers have been trained. The school is housed in a remarkable 15th-century manor house, which was later in 17th century turned into a school and public library, until becoming a music school in 1969. The school’s interiors are not open for regular visits but you can enter the old Library to enjoy the gracefully carved 18th-century bookcases and its Reading Room with the wooded table where Marx and Engels used to sit.
Across the street from the eastern side of the Chetham's you will see the Urbis exhibition centre and museum. It is a big modern building of six floors, made of glass and steel. Urbis was completed in 2002 and the idea was to put emphasize on the modern urban architecture and lifestyle. Visitors access is free except for the specially organized temporary displays.
Chetham's School of Music
(photo by terry6082Books)
Next to Urbis is the old and graceful Victoria Station. This is the most attractive of all three main railway stations in Manchester. Its exterior will impress you with the gently carved stone work and inside you can see interesting Art-Deco ticket boots and a tiled map of Lancashire and Yorkshire railways from the 20s of the 20th century.
A 10 minutes of slow walking to the south-east from Victoria Station are located the Piccadilly Gardens. This is a beautiful park with fountains, green trees and secluded alleys. It has been recently renovated by Japanese landscape architects and an additional pavilion was built to hide the gardens from the intense traffic. The Piccadilly Gardens and their bust station are also the major gateway to the Northern Quarter. This is the popular garment quarter of Manchester with a variety of outlet shops offering the most fashionable trade brands. Here is also placed the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. It is the perfect place to buy interesting ceramics, earthenware, fabrics and various decorative art works or just to relax and sip a drink in the pleasant café.
In a short stroll from Piccadilly you can get to Chinatown where is located the Dragon Arch - the place where the local Chinese people celebrate their New Year. A few steps from here is the prosperous Gay Village of Manchester with its attractive night clubs, bars and cafés along Canal Street.
Urbis Exhibition Centre
(photo by piccadillywilson)
When the Manchester Ship Canal was completed in 1894 and the city became one of the most important ports of the country, the Salford docks were the beating heart of Manchester. The economic decline in the 70s of the 20th century seriously hit the docks and they were eventually closed up in 1982. The area around them turned into unattractive post-industrial landscape near the city centre. But soon after that a very ambitious renovation and rebuilding plan was started and the Salford Quays are now an amazing leisure and residential complex, ideally positioned on the city's waterfront. The complex features modern new apartment blocks, a shopping mall and the impressive Lowry art centre. The latter boasts various leisure facilities, as well as several art galleries showing works by L.S. Lowry, whose name was given to the entire centre.
Another major attraction on the Salford Quays is the Imperial War Museum. Its exhibition comprises all aspects of war with emphasize on its negative effects on ordinary humans. To access the Salford Quays by public transportation you should use the Metrolink tram. Take its Eccles line from the city centre and get off on the Harbour City stop, which is just a few minutes on foot from both the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum.
A short walk form the War Museum is the Trafford borough with the Old Trafford Stadium, home of the famous Manchester United Football Club. Here you can take a specially organized guided tour of the stadium and its museums. Old Trafford is easily accessible via public transportation and more exactly the Metrolink tram.