Beyond London, Head to Manchester for Character (and Savings)

by  Becky Lucas | Apr 7, 2014
Manchester, England
Manchester, England / trabantos/iStock

If quaint cobbled streets, green pastures, and historic buildings are the first things that come to mind when you think of the UK, then perhaps you ought to consider flying directly to Manchester, rather than London, on your next visit. Among Brits, word is that 8 million-strong, immense London is too packed with tourists, international brands and absent landlords – so much so that it is losing its quintessential "British-ness." Even Prince Charles recently noted the capital's focus was on “faceless, poorly conceived” developments over “mansion blocks” and “garden squares.”

So where to go if you want a city that better represents life in the UK?

Manchester. Why? Here's just a short list:

It's home to the Industrial Revolution that changed the world. It's known as the first truly modern city. It's the home-base of the world’s most famous football team. And, last but not least, it's the setting of the world’s longest running soap opera: Coronation Street. Here are just a few more reasons to make for Manchester rather than London:

Cheap drinks
While the average price of a pint of lager is $4.97 in Manchester, it’s exactly $1 more London. Not a fan of booze? There’s even a noteworthy difference on the average bottle of water: $1.59 in London, $1.29 in Manchester. In fact, consumer prices in general are 7.77% lower in Manchester than in London. Head to the Northern Quarter for the best selection of bars, pubs, and clubs in town – all closer together than in the capital. Odd Bar is a particular favorite.

Convenient travel
Unlike in London, traveling by bus in Manchester has no stigma at all, and the majority of residents zip into the center from the more suburban parts of town within 29 minutes for $3.32 (as a comparison – a 50-minute bus journey into central London is considered speedy). A metro service has also recently been launched and offers a more expensive ($8.29 for an adult, off-peak travelcard), though less-bumpy and faster way to get into town (23 minutes).

Better deals on accommodation
This is where Manchester really seals the deal: rent prices are 55.52% lower than in London on average, should you be looking to rent an apartment for a longer trip (check out deals on Airbnb). In London, a 3- or 4-star hotel averages around $450 a night; in Manchester, the average nightly rate for the same tier of hotel drops to just $185 – clearly, a pretty wide gap. And when you consider that the general cost of living and entertainment will be 8.38% more in London (a cinema ticket is $13.26 in Manchester, for example, but $20 down south), it adds up.

Memorable meals
Food, overall, is 11% less expensive in Manchester than in London. That extends to the wine: a good quality bottle of red wine will set you back $12 in the former, but $15 in the latter. Even a McDonalds combo meal is 7% cheaper. However, should you wish to eat something a little better for you than fast food, Greens restaurant in the leafy, gentrified Didsbury district offers an irresistible veggie menu. Meanwhile, The French by Simon Rogan – somewhat confusingly – serves modern British dishes created by the eponymous chef (whose other restaurant in Cumbria has a Michelin star).

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