Manchester originated as a Roman town as early as the 1st Century AD. At that time, it was called Mancunium, located on the famous Roman tract Watling Street, connecting London with the northern part of Great Britain. In the Middle Ages, long before it became an inspiration for Dickens, Manchester was an important trading post. Flemish wool and linen merchants settled there in the 14th Century, giving the city an early industrial aura that would flourish centuries later.
Steadily growing throughout the centuries, Manchester was finally ready for the big bang of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. Its favorable location, large nearby coal deposits and most of all, the genius of an inventor named Richard Arkwright, who came up with the steam-powered spinning frame, all combined to produce an unprecedented outburst of industrial development. Arkwright's invention was one of those few singular outbursts of creativity that quite literally changed the face of the world.
It could be said that Manchester’s entrepreneurs alone were responsible for initiating the avalanche of the Industrial Revolution, the trend that determined the direction of the world’s further development and made civilisation truly ‘take off.’ Not that it all came without trouble and unrest. In the 19th Century, the city’s population increased more than twenty-fold in just 80 years, the majority of newcomers finding jobs at factories in appalling conditions.
This situation directly led to the creation of the Workers’ Movement, eventuating in the mid-19th Century's Chartist Movement. As it seems, Manchester also had its share in the birth of Marxism, as young Friedrich Engels visited the city and incorporated his Manchester experiences into the Communist Manifesto he co-authored with Karl Marx. The legacy of this often-turbulent period can still be seen in some districts today. Rows of terraced houses are the quintessential look of old industrial England. What now evokes a certain antiquated charm certainly didn’t seem so to its one-time residents.
The city’s buildings display features of a variety of architectural styles, from Victorian to the most modern trends. One clearly visible characteristic is the very widespread use of red brick. Just outside of the city centre, visitors can see a number of former cotton mills. While many of them have been virtually untouched since their closure, others have been creatively redeveloped into office and apartment buildings.
Top attractions in Manchester include the city’s Town Hall, situated on Albert Square. Built in the Neo-Gothic style, it’s considered one of the most prominent Victorian buildings in the country. It often serves as a substitute for many royal residences inaccessible to filmmakers, such as the Palace of Westminster. Another popular spot is charming Heaton Park in the northern part of the city. With more than 610 acres of parkland, it’s one of the largest municipal parks in Europe. In total, Manchester boasts 135 green areas.
While in the city during the football season, sports fans won’t want to miss the chance to see one of the city’s two Premiership clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City.