Some years ago, if you mentioned you were moving to Manchester, you’d say it in a whisper, and then titter nervously since the response would be predictable: “You’re moving … where?” And they’d look at you as if you’d lost your mind.
Not any longer. Manchester has had a face lift. It walks with a swagger. And the newcomers just keep pouring in.
For long the city’s red brick buildings, historical landmarks and Victorian-era dwellings were covered in grime dating back to the Industrial Era. That was until they began to sandblast the buildings, and with it a century of grime, and from this cleaning a certain gleaming industrial charm emerged that surprised everyone. I am thinking of the old Town Hall, and the Barton Arcade.
It’s a little bit like a Rip van Winkle who woke up after a long sleep to find the world around him had changed. The city rolled up its sleeves and got to work and the results are spectacular.
Take the quayside, for instance. Up until then they had been known simply as ‘docks’, which reflects the rather stolid atmosphere that had laid siege to the city. But in the mid-1990s the city planners, who had witnessed the success of Canary Wharf in east London and, further afield, the tremendous success of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, embarked on an ambitious redevelopment project. The Lowry Centre, a glorious project situated on the waterside, went on to win Britain’s Building of the Year Award.
The city, too, was revamped. Although quite a number of buildings were demolished, what emerged is known as Victorian-era Gothic revival architecture. Red brick factories and warehouses, cotton exchanges and mills – all of which could have come from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel – were given a facelift. In sharp contrast, tall, modern buildings of concrete, glass and steel began to dominate the skyline, and a new urban chic was born – unashamedly modern and industrial and with its own peculiar charm.
Commercial life began to thrive and the city came to life, teeming with crowds that flocked to the Printworks and The Triangle to shop, to play, and to amuse themselves.
If retail sales can serve as an economic barometer, then the fact that Manchester Arndale is the UK’s largest city centre shopping mall gives you an idea of the economic punch that Manchester packs.
One has the notion of people trying things in Manchester, of experimenting, of being innovators in this city they have helped to redefine.
The Green Building, opposite Oxford Road station, is a pioneering eco-friendly housing project, one of very few in the UK. Heaton Park in the north of the city borough is one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, covering 610 acres (250 ha) of parkland. It received due recognition by winning an award.
Some great restaurants to try
- Akbar’s (Curry)
- The Northern Quarter
- Cafe Istanbul
What to see
- Manchester Art Gallery
- The Lowry Museum
- Manchester Cathedral
- Mosley St Library
- The Museum of Science and Industry
- The Lowry, Pier 8; Salford Quays
- Simply amble down Oxford St. on a spring day
Manchester has a symphony orchestra, a chamber orchestra, a wonderful opera house and through the years, Wikipedia tells us, it has produced a substantial number of the UKs top rock bands, The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division and its successor group New Order, Oasis, Doves and Ten, to name a few.
Pro’s and Cons of living in Manchester
There are often some undesirable elements in the cheaper areas so you will need to be able to afford to live somewhere decent. One blogger thought the city centre is far too small for the multitudes crammed into it (worse than London, he wrote).
It’s not quite a sundrenched city.Kind of drizzly, although it has fewer rainy days than the UK average. Certain areas suffer from a relatively high crime rate.
According to Wikipedia, a poll among British business leaders, published in 2006, revealed that Manchester was regarded as:
- The best place in the UK to locate a business
- It was also the “fastest-growing city” economically
- Ranked as a gamma- world city
More pro’s, this time on a micro-level, are
- Buzzing nightlife
- Great shopping areas
- Live music venues
- Excellent takeaway places
- Large gay community
- Buses run all night
- Excellent rail system
- A tram system
Live here if you love
- The buzz of the Big City …
- A cosmopolitan mix of people
- A dynamic corporate environment
- Being with people with a strong work ethic
- The imaginative revival Victorian-era neo-Gothic architecture
- Chinese take-aways
- The smell of Indian curry wafting towards you through an open window
- The sound of Indian music on a summer’s evening
Don’t live here if you hate…
- Crowds – there are a LOT of people living in Manchester
- Coronation Street “Coronation Street”, the long-runnning TV soap, depicts the lives of working class Mancunians
- Big City Life
- Lots of construction
- Lack of green areas
Where to live
Heaton Park/Prestwich is a really great area to live, very quiet, low crime rate, close to everything with great amenities.
New apartment blocks have gone up around Castlefield, in the city centre. It’s actually relatively quiet there.
Who doesn’t want to live in Didsbury? Only trouble is, not everyone can afford it. But it’s a fabulous place to stay. Then there’s Chorlton, Withington, Trafford and Prestwich. They are not in the city centre but – importantly – experience low crime rates. The city centre is easily accessed from all of them. Fallowfield is nice too. But DON’T let anybody talk you into buying or renting in Salford, Moss side, or Levenshume.
I’ve heard people complain that there are some dodgy estate agents and landlords around (aren’t there everywhere?), so make sure you appoint a trustworthy estate agent. If you are renting, take photographs of every room when you move in, make an inventory and send the agent or owner copies to sign.