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It is the place where the vegetarian movement was founded in the world back in 1809. And the Rolls Royce company, by uniting their interests (and fortunes) the wealthy Charles Stewart Royce and the engineer Frederick Henry Royce. The first submarine on the planet was also born here. And even the Nazi codes of the Enigma machine were revealed, which dealt a momentous blow to the German side in World War II thanks to scientist Alan Turing. If such a concatenation of achievements distracts you, don't worry, because here goes another one for total confusion: it was the first industrial city in the world and the maximum cotton power at the end of the eighteenth century.
We are talking about Manchester, that still unknown jewel of the north of England (that's what they call it: the capital of the north) of 525,000 souls that continues to endure the mistaken image of a grey, rainy, commercial and nondescript city. Nothing to see. The architectural, artistic, cultural and even gastronomic renovation that it has undergone in recent years places it among the European metropolises with the most tourist pull. In addition, it has a good air connection, with direct flights of less than 2.5 hours from key points such as Madrid with Iberia Express, the most punctual low-cost airline in the Old Continent and the eighth in the world. The airport is also 15 minutes away by car and 20 minutes by train.
A streetcar crosses Exchange Square.
Manchester also combines tradition and modernity. A walk through the centre is enough to come across impressive historic buildings (from the cathedral to the Central Library) next to skyscrapers such as the Beetham Tower, the tallest building, with 47 floors, Lowry Square or the National Football Museum. It should not be forgotten that here are two key teams in the European league, Manchester United and City, led by Spaniard Pep Guardiola. The latest invention to join the list of Manchester benefits is the newly opened Aviva Studios, the largest public investment in culture in the UK since the Tate Gallery in London in 2000.
Exterior of the new cultural center at Aviva Studios.SHUTTERSTOCK
In other words, nearly 110 million euros will be invested in a 13,350-square-metre multidisciplinary centre that will host all kinds of art, music and culture projects in the heart of St. Johns, the innovation district. "It's a place to explore new creative possibilities for artists, the citizens of Manchester and the world," says John McGraht, artistic director of Factory International, which manages the project. The space has been designed by Rem Koolhaas and will host concerts, exhibitions, shows, immersive experiences and risky performances. Like the one that took place a few weeks ago at the premiere, Free Your Mind, inspired by the universe of The Matrix and captained by Danny Boyle, responsible for films such as Trainspotting or Slumdog Millionaire and illustrious Manquinian (that's what the locals are called).
A visitor takes a photograph at the RHS Garden Bridgewater.
It's not the only novelty in the city. Also the RHS Garden Bridgewater, the largest gardening project in Europe, while the Castlefield Viaduct has resurfaced. Considered an icon of the 1969th century through which heavy cargoes entered and left, it had been abandoned since <>. Today, those old train tracks surrounded by storage workshops have become a green space where native plants have been grown again. "The aim is to transform it into an urban park for the enjoyment of its inhabitants.
The rehabilitated Castlefield Viaduct.
There was even a competition of ideas to find out what they wanted to use it for," explains Beatriz González, a young Asturian resident in the city who works as a guide for the National Trust, the public entity in charge of the viaduct. "The idea is that people don't just come for a walk, but that they take an active part," he adds, pointing to the auditorium where botany, yoga, theater and concert workshops are held.
This is also the origin of Manchester, since "the first Roman settlement was created here in 879 B.C.", says Jack Traynor, guide of Free Manchester Walking Tours, a company specialising in free routes through the historic centre that starts at the canals that surround the viaduct, populated today by walkers, runners and cyclists, as well as customers of the bars. pubs and restaurants that crowd the shores.
The city's classic canals.
The tour continues in the medieval quarter, full of emblematic buildings such as Victoria Station, built in 1844 in honour of the Queen, the Town Hall or the Chetam Library, the oldest in the country. It has been in existence since 1653 and was the meeting place where Engels and Marx met. Another must-see is The Royal Exchange, a complex that mixes classical and baroque style with theater, restaurants, and a craft gallery. Not surprisingly, this area (Central Retail District, the fashion district) is ideal for conventional shopping, as there are shopping centres such as Harvey Nichols or Selfridges.
Interior of The Royal Exchange Theatre.
Those looking for a more alternative environment have the Northern Quarter, the district to which artists, intellectuals and bohemians have fled in the wake of gentrification. Hence, its streets alternate antique shops with galleries, live music pubs (note Night & Day, a classic) and vinyl, vintage clothing or second-hand book shops. A good place to find all of this is Affleks Market, a grunge space that also includes trendy barbershops, tattoo parlors and, they say, the best ice cream in town. Reason at Ginger's, a curious retro-style bar.
Posters at the Affleks Market in the Northern Quarter.
There is also no shortage of cultural centres in the neighbourhood (from Crafts and Design to Chinese Contemporary Art or Buddhist) or protest graffiti flooding the façades, vegan or fair trade cafes and gastro markets full of Mexican, Indian, Spanish food stalls... Like Mackie Mayor's, built in 1858 on the site of a meat restaurant and a must on the Scranchester culinary tour, which mixes scranch (eating in colloquial language) with the latest Manchester letters. One of its founders is Rob Kelly, who has an impact on the new gourmet wave in the city, with references such as the eco restaurant Higher Ground, among the 100 best in the United Kingdom, or Diecast, a space for 5,000 people built in the largest metal factory in the country, with food trucks, beer garden and live music.
The Mackie Greater Market, built in 1858.
Other interesting examples are Erst, the best restaurant of the year, and Mana, with a Michelin star. Both are located in Ancoats, the epicenter of textile factories in the industrial age. "Eighty percent of the world's cotton came from here," Kelly said, pointing to the sculpture he remembers in Cutting Rooms Square, the square where cotton was cut. Around it, countless warehouses have been converted into exclusive homes, cafes or coworking offices such as Sedgwick Mills, Colony or Murray's Mill.
Two girls stroll through Cutting Rooms Square.
The same is true of Chinatown – with its entrance arch in the purest oriental style, dozens of Asian shops and the Manchester Art Gallery, made up of three buildings that communicate – and the gay district, ideal for nightlife. In its Sackville Gardens is located the statue of the aforementioned Alan Turing, Mancunan hero with whom we start this route.
Interior of the gastronomic and docial space Diecast.
HOW TO GET THERE
Iberia Express (www.iberiaexpress.com), the most punctual low-cost airline in Europe and the eighth in the world, has direct flights from Madrid to Manchester (the journey takes two and a half hours). It flies four days a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Price: from €27 each way as long as return tickets are purchased. This rate is available to Club Express customers, who can become members free of charge and thus ensure the best price guaranteed at any time of the year.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Forty Seven. New design hotel built in a former warehouse in St. Peter. A la carte breakfast and excellent Indian restaurant.
The Midland. A classic that Hitler fell in love with, so it wasn't bombed in World War II.
WHERE TO DINE
The gastronomic offer includes culinary markets (Machie Mayor or the street market of Picadilly), haute cuisine restaurants (from Higher Ground, with an organic menu, to Erst, the best of the year), fusion (Exhibition, Home, Diecast...), Michelin-starred (Mana), themed (vegan, ramen, kosher...).
In Visit Britain (www.visitbritain.com/es) and Visit Manchester (www.visitmanchester.com).
Dishes from the Indian restaurant of the new Forty Seven hotel.
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