Manchester lies at the heart of Greater Manchester in the north west of England.It Is within The Historic County Boundaries of Lancashire,and part of The County Palatine of Lancashire,and The Duchy of Lancaster. The city proper has a population of around half a million, while the larger conurbation, referred to as either Greater Manchester or Manchester City Region, has over 2.6 million inhabitants. The ten component parts of the conurbation are working much more closely together, of late. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority was created on April 1st 2011.
Manchester is known by some for its influence on the histories of industry and music, and for its sporting connections. It has a large number of students. It is seen by many as the "capital" of the north of England, the second city of the United Kingdom and is home to the UK's largest airport outside London, which is owned by the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester. Others view Birmingham as the second city, but it is not an official sanction and opinion is very much divided, whilst Leeds also lays claim to capital of the north.
Manchester is in the northwest region of England, about equidistant between Liverpool and Leeds. Although it has the image of being very wet the rainfall and number of rainy days in Manchester are less than the UK average.
Manchester once had a negative reputation derived from its industrial past. Things have dramatically changed in the last decade and now the city has a vibrant, exciting air. Investment in the city's regeneration following the 1996 IRA bomb and 2002 Commonwealth Games has paid off and Manchester is well worth a visit, even if just for a couple of days, or for longer, if you plan to use it as a base to explore northern England and North Wales.
Manchester is becoming more and more a city where people are choosing to settle. It is seen by many as young, vibrant and cutting edge city, where there is always something happening. Many see their city as a rival to London, albeit on a more human scale; nevermind the ongoing battle with Birmingham for "The Second City" title. This feud seems to go on and on and hinges, at least in population size, on how you add up the numbers. If you compare Greater Manchester's population to Birmingham's and its neighbouring towns and districts, Birmingham pips Manchester to the post by a 100,000 or so. However if you look at the actual population of the city of Birmingham, which is more than 1 million, it is more than twice as big, in terms of population, as the actual city of Manchester which has a population of around 450,000 people. But the city argues that population is just one aspect and that history and contributions to the world should also be considered. The "Manchester brand" is seen to extend well beyond the city's boundaries (covering all of neighbouring Salford & Trafford, as well as districts of other boroughs) and even beyond those of Greater Manchester. This serves to reflect the influence it has on the wider region as a whole.
Over the years, many have moved to Manchester from London. These people are by no means all returning to their northern roots. Some are from overseas, who stopped off down south on their way north in search of a more affordable urban existence. Manchester is a friendly city as well. Northerners do talk to each other and to strangers. Just compare asking for directions in London and Manchester and the difference is often clear. Of late, locals seem more proud than ever of Manchester and all it offers. Some outsiders may find this fierce pride in their city somewhat "un-British," but it is very similar to that of Australians in their country. Positive comments and praise go down a treat with the locals, and with all that has happened in recent years, such is often due.
Manchester was the site of the Roman Fort Mamucium (breast-shaped) in AD 79 but a town was not built until the 13th Century. The old Roman road that ran to the nearby fort of Coccium (Wigan) is mirrored today by the route through Atherton & Tyldesley. A priests' college and church ( now Chetham's School and Library and the Cathedral ) were established in Manchester in 1421. Early evidence of its tendency towards political radicalism was its support for Parliament during the Civil War and in 1745 for the Jacobite forces of the Young Pretender.
It was not until the start of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries that this small Medieval town would build its fortune. The presence of an existing cloth trade, coupled with the mechanization of spinning in nearby Bolton, created a thriving cotton industry in Manchester. The damp, humid atmosphere was good for cotton spinning since it meant less broken threads and cut down on the risk of explosions from cotton dust. Water power rapidly gave way here to steam invented by Boulton and Watt and a steam-driven factory was built in the Ancoats Northern Quarter section of the city. By the end of the 19th Century, Manchester was one of the 10 biggest urban centres on earth (even before counting the wider population, within 50 miles of the Northern England region, such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, and Central Lancashire ).
Whitworth, inventor of the eponymous mass-cut screw thread, also manufactured his equally revolutionary rifled guns in huge quantities at his factory on Sackville Street. After their initial meeting at the Midland Hotel, still one of the city's most luxurious, Rolls and Royce began manufacture of their luxury motor cars in Hulme.
Trafford Park, in Trafford, was to become the first industrial estate in the world, housing the Ford Motor Company and much of the pre-wartime aircraft industry, notably the 'Lancaster' Bombers of the AVRO Co.
Manchester's success during the Victorian era and before is evident everywhere you look. Great Ancoats Street was a source of wonder to Schinkel, the neo-classical architect from Berlin. Equally grandiose neo-Gothic buildings line the old Financial District around King Street, and public institutions such as the University and the many libraries are dotted around everywhere. There is even a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Square (Brazennose Street, straight across Albert Square from the Town Hall main entrance) commemorating his personal thanks for Manchester's support during a cotton famine created by Britain's refusal to run the Federal blockade of the slave-owning Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Continuing its radical political tradition, Manchester was the home of opposition to the Corn Laws and espoused Free Trade, as well as Chartism and the Great Reform Act. It was instrumental in the establishment of socialism in the UK. Both Engels and Marx frequented the city; the former conducted his famous inquiry into the condition of the working class, and the latter sought to draw universal rules from the particular circumstances of the early industrial revolution, with disastrous consequences in the 20th century. Cleaving to a more gently pragmatic English tradition it was the birthplace of the Trades Union Congress which led to the creation of the Labour Party. It was also home to a number of philanthropists of the industrial age, such as John Owens and John Dalton, who bequeathed large parts of their fortunes to improving the city.
In more recent times, Manchester has been famous for its influence on the UK music scene. The Madchester movement of the early 1980s, started by Factory Records and Joy Division, led to the creation of the Haçienda nightclub (now unfortunately demolished after standing empty for many years) and the birth of modern club culture. Manchester has given life to many hugely successful musicians, among them The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Fall, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, James, and Badly Drawn Boy.
At 11L20 a.m., on Saturday, 15 June 1996, Manchester's city centre was rocked by a huge IRA bomb blast. Although preliminary intelligence managed to clear people from the scene enough for there to be no fatalities, the very heart of the city was ripped to shreds. A huge amount of money and effort was put into regenerating this bomb damaged part of the centre, redubbed the Millennium Quarter. The area has renewed interest in the centre and contains the entertainment and shopping heart of the city.
Central Manchester is home to two of the largest universities in the UK. The University of Manchester (formed from a merger of Manchester University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST))  and Manchester Metropolitan University (aka 'Man Met', formerly the Polytechnic, itself a conglomeration of municipal colleges), as well as the Royal Northern College of Music. There is also a university in Salford, within one mile of the city centre, which is renowned as a European Centre of excellence in Media. Together they create a body of over 86,000 students living full-time in the city.
Manchester is often named 'best student city'. It is very welcoming to the student lifestyle and many establishments in the centre and South Manchester are geared towards students; eating and drinking in Manchester can be very inexpensive due to the high competition that goes on between these establishments.
However, if you want to be far from students, there are many places that are not frequented by students although you may have to be prepared to pay a little extra. Also, a few places have a strictly 21+ policy so take identification with you. But those places are quite rare. In the student areas of Fallowfield and Withington, some venues operate a student-only policy so production of a student card (or something resembling a student card) is necessary.
Manchester is famous all over the world thanks to its football clubs, including Manchester United (Old Trafford) and Manchester City (City of Manchester Stadium, Sportcity).
Old Trafford is also home to the Lancashire County Cricket Club. despite no longer being a part of the county of Lancashire.
In 2002, Manchester was the host to the Commonwealth Games and a large area of East Manchester was converted into a new Sportcity, the centre-piece of which is the new athletics and football stadium.
The Manchester Velodrome started off the whole regeneration of East Manchester and formed part of the bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games (and for Manchester's failed bid for the 2000 Olympics). Britain's great success in the cycling events in the 2008 Olympics is very much due this venue and most of the medal winners are based in and around the city. However the London-centric authorities, preparing for the 2012 London Olympics, plan to build a venue in the capital and are not willing to share events around the country. Some still fear that Manchester may be sidelined furthermore in the future. The UK authorities have always been lukewarm to any Olympic bid that was not based on London, claiming that only a capital can host such a large event. Many cities who have hosted the games are not capitals, and this fact reinforces what a centralised country the UK is. Some reports in the press did suggest that the team wishes to keep their base in the city as they are also supported by a large administrative team.
In July 2009, it has been reported that the world's first purpose-built BMX Centre is also to be built on the site. Work on this addition to Sportcity is expected to start in January 2010 and is said to remove any lingering doubts that Manchester will be replaced by London as British Cycling's headquarters after the 2012 Olymipic Games. The centre will be used by athletes preparing for London 2012 and help bring major national and international events to the city. It will also be open to schools,clubs and the local community.
In the Queen's New Year's Honours list in January 2009, some of the locally based cycling heroes were given awards, including a knighthood to Chris Hoy.
Manchester is a very mixed city. Many races and religions have communities in the city and it has a long history of being more tolerant than most cities to people of any background. The very large number of British Citizenship ceremonies, held in Heron House by the Town Hall each year, are testament to this.
Manchester is also extremely gay-friendly and very liberal-minded. It is very well known as being one of "The Big 3" in terms of sexual diversity along with Brighton and London.The Village is an area concentrated around Canal Street and is very popular with people of all sexualities. It is also home to an annual 12 day Pride festival with the involvement of people of all types; attracting all kinds of people: not just from Manchester but from the entire country and abroad ;further reflecting Manchester's unique approach to tolerance and acceptance. Expect to see amongst others the likes of gay police officers, fire fighters and health workers in the good natured parade.
The atmosphere of the village area is very friendly and welcoming; as is Manchester's very large LGBT community; known to be one of the most accepting in the country. It is certainly the most gay friendly major city by far and has the most visible LGBT community of any major city outside London; as well as the highest percentage. Most Mancunians have grown up with a tolerant attitude towards sexuality and it is extremely rare to come across homophobia making Manchester a very welcoming city for LGBT people.