Standing proud in England's north west is Manchester, undoubtedly the unofficial capital of the north and, despite other claimants to the crown, the country's second city. The North West's capital was the powerhouse behind the northern industrial revolution, and although it's been through some ups and downs, it is very much still the powerhouse of the north today, whether it's pumping out music, football, culture or sheer northern pride.
This bustling city has the largest student population outside of London, and boasts a native population so proud to call home that they regularly claim to be living in the greatest city in the world. And maybe they are. Whether you're wandering the cool Northern Quarter, with its boutiques, bars and restaurants or taking a tour of the legendary Old Trafford, there's something about Manchester that gets under the skin and stays there.
Manchester has more arts and cultural venues than you could possibly hope to visit in just one trip, but if you're an art aficionado, you'd be best starting off with the Art Gallery. This is where the city's best collection of British and European art can be seen, from pre-Raphaelites to Turner watercolours, as well as Hockney, Henry Moore and Lucien Freud. Away from the city centre, in the regenerated Salford Quays, the Lowry Arts Centre plays host to two theatres and galleries where you can see an excellent collection of LS Lowry's finest paintings of Salford and the surrounding area.
Also in Salford Quays is the BBC's MediaCity UK, a massive media complex that is home to some of the BBC's most famous TV and radio programmes, as well as the studio home of Coronation Street, the world's longest running soap opera. You can take tours of the studio complex, which includes visits to some of the sets, as well as a chance for children to make their own TV show. For more immersive and interactive museums and tours that the whole family can enjoy, the Museum of Science and Industry is a great bet. As the centre of the industrial revolution, Manchester has done a great job of memorialising its role in the rise of science and industry, and this museum offers a great way to learn about Manchester's historical influence and the role of technology in the modern world.
Manchester is of course, something of a football lover's mecca. Even if you dislike Man United (or Man City), there is no denying the strong sway the city holds over the sport - you could go anywhere in the world, and the chances are you'd find someone who had heard of Man United. So, a tour of Old Trafford is something of a must then, whether it's your first time in a football stadium or you're on a football pilgrimage. You might be really lucky and snag tickets to a match, but if not then the stadium hold regular tours on which you can wander through the trophy room and even out onto the pitch through the players' tunnel.