"…And on the sixth day, God created Man(chester).."
'…And on the sixth day, God created Man(chester)'.
So reads a mosaic adorning the outer wall of one of the city's old department stores, Afflecks Palace, giving you some idea of how locals feel about this place. Manchester is famous the world over for a plethora of reasons: its sporting heritage and fiercely rival football clubs, its iconic musical exports (from the Stone Roses to Oasis) and its effortlessly cool demeanor. But there's more. One of the key locations responsible for kick-starting the industrial revolution, Manchester has a long and fascinating history often overlooked in favour of its more modern cultural offerings. But there's more than enough room for both the old and the new on a weekend exploring Manchester and its neighbouring city of Salford.
Though helpfully divided up into cultural quarters and districts, Manchester isn't a sprawling city, so it's very easy to walk around. Market Street hosts high-street favourites galore including a huge Primark and the Arndale Centre, which houses every brand you could ever desire - and probably several more after that.
King Street is takes things more upmarket with the likes of Hilfiger, Aubin & Wills and Whistles, while Exchange Square brings the big boys such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton. If you've spare money to spend, Manchester will happily help you splash the cash - whatever your personal style.
After a culture shot? Take your pick. The National Football Museum opens in 2012, having moved from its previous home in nearby Preston, and houses many pivotal footie artefacts, including the very ball used during the 1966 World Cup final - a must for any sporting devotee. MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry on Liverpool Road, reveals the city's industrial heritage, including the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station, while the People's History Museum on Left Bank enjoyed a £12.5 million development in 2010 and tells the story of Britain's political heritage.
A local hero
If art is your thing, the Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street hosts touring exhibitions as well as its own collections, including works by Turner, Modigliani and Valette, Lowry's early art teacher. The local hero himself is well represented, although fans of the iconic painter will also want to jump on the tram and go to The Lowry at Salford Quays to see the world's largest collection of his art as well as contemporary exhibitions and performance spaces. The nearby Imperial War Museum North is also fascinating, examining human conflicts through history. Both are housed in stunning modern buildings worth a look in their own right.
In a city boasting the legacy of the Haçienda, it will come as no surprise that nightlife is still a key draw for visitors and locals alike. Countless pubs and bars spoil you for choice - from real ales to cocktails. Head to the Northern Quarter for the best overall scene, where bars like Socio Rehab on High Street and Common on Edge Street mix quirky bohemian atmospheres with divine cocktails. Closer to the city centre, the Black Dog Ballroom on the corner of Tib Street styles itself on a New York speakeasy and has pool tables and a dance floor, as well as a tasty bar menu available until late. The quirky name is a tribute to the owner's beloved Patterdale Terrier, Bruce, which wanders around the bar during the day.
Looking for something with a bit of glamour? Head to Spinningfields, the city's newest quarter, where you'll find Australasia, an über-cool restaurant and bar perfect for a touch of celeb-spotting - just look for the glass triangle entrance emerging from the pavement by the Armani store on Deansgate. Be warned, if you want to eat here, you'll need to book ahead.
No mention of Manchester nightlife would be complete without paying homage to Canal Street, the focal point of the city's gay village. From G-A-Y to a multitude of other bars and clubs, it's the place to go for a vibrant night of dancing. During the week when the clubs are less busy the bars host popular karaoke nights. The best is Trannyoke Tuesdays at Queer. Expect cabaret, pop singalongs and lots of mascara.
All that dancing making you sleepy? There are numerous hotels to choose from. There are high-end types (Malmaison, Radisson and Hilton) and more affordable options (Oxford Road's Holiday Inn Express is newly built and well located), but it's worth booking ahead, especially if there's a home City or United game.
Get the flavour
Restaurant options are plentiful, from casual spots for quick bites (Dough in the Northern Quarter does perfect pizza) to fancier fare (Smoak Grill at Malmaison is a carnivore's dream). Even Jamie Oliver is grabbing a piece of the action, with his newest branch of Jamie's Italian opening this spring on King Street. However, for something with a bit of history and atmosphere, head to Mr Thomas's Chop House where you'll find traditional hearty meals in a pub dating back to 1867. And if the city itself was created on the sixth day? It seems likely the seventh would be spent with aching feet, a lighter wallet and some fantastic memories of a culture-rich, music-mad city. So, when are you coming?