Manchester is no stranger to the process of rebirth. What started out as small north-western market town, lying between the Cheshire plains and the Pennine hills, became the Victorian boom-metropolis that powered England's Industrial Revolution. The post-war loss of its big industries left the city casting around for new roles. But in recent times, it has been born again, with Manchester confident on the back of a new economy, and new cultural attractions.
Now visitors are flocking to Manchester to shop and to be entertained – and to lap up the electric atmosphere of a city steeped in Victorian splendour, while shot through with new millennium verve. Nowhere is that clash of identity more apparent than Piccadilly Gardens, where a new ideas jostle with previous visions for Manchester. Start your journey here, and you'll get a good feel for Manchester's contradictions.
The medieval spirit of Manchester is alive in the nearby Castlefield district, where you'll find the Roman fort and Manchester Cathedral – a Gothic church that has specialised in rising from the ashes. Head south and you'll hit a rich seam of Victorian and Edwardian visions for the city – the Gothic fancy of Manchester Town Hall, looking out over Albert Square, and the neoclassical elegance of the library 'built for the people', Manchester Central Library, on St. Peter's Square.
The Manchester Museum of Science and Technology sits in the once bustling canal-and-rail heartland, just to the west, in the world's first railway station. It is filled with all the dazzling displays a 21st century museum can muster, telling the story of Manchester's rise on the back of its scientific discoveries. In a city of culture, museums, libraries and art abound – the Whitworth Art Gallery sitting pretty in its park, John Rylands Library in its mock-cathedral and the neo-Gothic Manchester Museum thriving in the heart of the city's University.
But this isn't a city resting on old glories. Its skyline is being stretched by exciting new ventures, like the razor-sharp Beetham Tower, its warehouses morphing into trendy new loft-apartments. Manchester is on the up – and would like you along for the ride.