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Reviewed on 9 Mar 2020
Manchester is one of England's grand old cities, with a history dating back to the Roman era and making repeated important impacts on the national economy, especially during the Industrial Revolution. Agricola created a fort here in 79AD, Manchester has never looked back, and in the 18th Century cotton processing burst onto the scene, with Arkwright's steam-powered machines transforming regional fortunes and patterns of work. Manchester and Liverpool became linked by rail, and great canals such as the Manchester Ship Canal were opened, allowing cargo vessels to penetrate far inland. The legacy of all this frenetic activity can still be seen today, and there are many B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels in Manchester to choose from when you visit this proud historic city.
Much of the money made from the burgeoning cotton industry in Manchester went to fund the creation of civic building projects, which served to bring attention to the poor working conditions of the people actually manning the machines. As a result, newspapers like the famous Manchester Guardian (1821) sprang up to espouse what were for the time radical causes, though actual slum clearances didn't begin until the 1950s, when smokeless zones were also introduced to reduce pollution. When you stay at a Manchester hotel or guesthouse today you'll find yourself in the middle of a thoroughly modern, compact city, which has also hung on lovingly to much of its incredibly rich and evocative industrial heritage.
Manchester makes a great destination for a family break, with a great many attractions, especially in the central parts of the city. The old tram system has been restored, for instance, and is hugely popular with visitors as well as useful for easing pressure on the public transport systems. The best of the architectural industrial heritage is to be seen in the old docks and mills that have been restored and opened to the public. There are also many fine 19th-century buildings in Manchester such as the city's magnificent Neo-Gothic cathedral, and the Town Hall and Royal Exchange also date from that time.
The kids will love the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, with its fun interactive displays and working steam engines. The Granada TV Studios is also based here, and interested visitors can take a tour of the Coronation Street set. At the other extreme, the City Art Galleries is a huge porticoed building designed in 1824 which has a splendid collection of British art, most notably Pre-Raphaelites like Holman Hunt and Rossetti. The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Ship Canal and many other famous attractions are all there for you to enjoy from your Manchester hotel or B&B, and most are within easy walking distance of each other.
Manchester is a perfect destination for either a long or short break. You can see much of it over one weekend, but there's enough to keep you occupied for many weeks, especially if you stay at a Manchester hotel in the city centre.