Greater Manchester is the buzzing economic centre of northwest England. Its 2.8 million residents make it the UK’s second most populous urban area. Indeed, Manchester is often thought to be the UK’s second city; it’s Britain’s third most popular city with foreign visitors. Industry leaders voted Manchester as Britain’s best place to locate a business. It’s also reportedly the "fastest-growing city" economically.
The county is landlocked and borders Cheshire, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside. Greater Manchester blends high-density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations – but the landscape is mostly urban. The county comprises ten boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan – and the cities of Manchester and Salford.
Modern Greater Manchester was created in 1974 – but its history goes back centuries. Much of the region’s wealth was generated by textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution; the world's first cotton mill was built in the town of Royton in the 19th century when the region flourished.
Since deindustrialisation, Greater Manchester has emerged as an exporter of media, music and football. It has five universities – and has been called ‘a creative powerhouse’.
Road: The Manchester Inner Ring Road, which combines several major roads, circulates the city centre. The county is the UK’s only place to have a fully orbital motorway: the M60, which passes every borough except Bolton and Wigan. It links to the M60 and M61 motorways plus the A580 primary road.
Rail: Metrolink is Greater Manchester's light rail system, mostly used for suburban commuting. There’s a heavy rail network of 98 stations forming a central hub to the North West rail system managed by Network Rail.
Air: Manchester Airport is the third busiest in the UK. It operates flights to more worldwide destinations than any other airport in the UK.
Bus: The largest providers are First Greater Manchester and Stagecoach Manchester. Public transport services are co-ordinated by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).
Water: An extensive canal network also remains from the Industrial Revolution. For barge/boat hire or sightseeing tours, contact City Centre Cruises, Manchester Ship Canal Cruises or Manchester Cruises.
Rows of Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses are common throughout Greater Manchester. The city centre has seen an explosion in the number of high-rise developments being built; the best-known is Beetham Tower. Similarly, Salford has some of Europe’s tallest and most densely populated tower blocks. Located at Exchange Court, what was once Europe’s tallest residential tower has become the high-profile face of a raft of new-build developments.
Manchester’s periphery has also experienced growth in areas such as the Green Quarter, NOMA, Ancoats, New Islington, Castlefield and St. Georges. The southern commuter towns and villages include Altrincham, which along with its neighbours Bowdon and Hale, forms an opulent stockbroker belt. Saddleworth has stone-built properties, including farmhouses and converted cottages. House prices around here have proved resilient.
The Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision gives Greater Manchester the potential to attract more investment and development than ever. Manchester City Council plans to deliver 17,000 new homes by 2025. One of the largest new developments should see 6,000 new homes built around the Etihad Stadium. With completions set for 2030–2040, the scheme could boost housebuilding by 40 percent. These homes are destined to shape Manchester’s future landscape and skyline.
To read more about our own extensive research regarding Greater Manchester, look through our in depth local market insight research here
Approximately five miles from Manchester city centre, The Intu Trafford Centre is the UK’s second largest shopping centre. Its vivid rococo architectural style pays homage to the area’s history and it contains The Orient, Europe's largest food court, which is themed as a steam ship after the Manchester Ship Canal. Britain’s busiest cinema is also based here.
Peel Avenue is home to high-street shops like Apple, H&M, Boots, and department stores like Marks and Spencer, Selfridges (the first outside London) and Debenhams. Meanwhile, Regent Crescent includes designer stores such as Karen Millen, Jane Norman, Gap and Mexx and also houses Waterstones and Debenhams.
Delicacies native to Greater Manchester include Eccles Cake, black pudding, Pasty barm, Rag pudding, Manchester tart, and Uncle Joe's Mint Balls. Vimto and Tizer soft drinks were invented here while Boddingtons is a bitter promoted as the ‘Cream of Manchester’. The Greater Manchester Campaign for Real Ale promotes the beverage industry, recognising outstanding venues with awards.
Sports: Manchester United are one of the world's richest football teams. The City of Manchester Stadium was the venue of the 2002 Commonwealth Games – and is home to soccer rivals Manchester City. Other local teams include Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Oldham Athletic, Bury, Rochdale and Stockport County. Lancashire County Cricket Club regularly hosts test matches. The Wigan Warriors and the Salford Red Devils compete in the rugby Super League. Rugby union has Stockport's Sale Sharks and Sedgley Park. Kirkmanshulme Lane stadium is home to greyhound racing and there’s horseracing at Haydock Park. Professional ice hockey is based at Altrincham Ice Dome. The Greater Manchester Athletics Association organises activities.
Family: The Trafford Centre’s leisure facilities include a Laser Quest arena, Paradise Island miniature golf, dodgems, bowling and arcade games. The adjacent Trafford Quays Leisure Village has a skydiving centre. There’s a Sea Life Centre aquarium in Barton Square.
Music: PioneeringManchester-based record label Factory Records featured acts like Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays — while The Haçienda nightclub was a catalyst for the ‘Madchester’ music scene. The area also spawned The Stone Roses and Oasis. Four professional orchestras play at the main classical venue, Bridgewater Hall. Manchester Arena is the largest indoor concert venue in Europe.
Culture: The Greater Manchester Museums Group showcases the county's industrial and social heritage in various locations. The Lowry is a theatre and exhibition centre at Salford Quays — and Greater Manchester's most visited tourist attraction. The Royal Exchange Theatre also stages plays while The Opera House hosts travelling productions alongside its sister venue, The Palace. The Oldham Playhouse helped launch the careers of Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin.
Nature: Greater Manchester has a greenbelt hoarding wildlife and natural habitats. The wooded valleys of Bolton, Bury and Stockport, the moorlands of Rochdale, Oldham and Stalybridge, and the reed beds between Wigan and Leigh, harbour flora and fauna of national importance.
Events: There’s a packed year-round calendar of festivals to attend. Pride has become one of Europe’s biggest LGBT celebrations each August bank holiday. Tatton Park hosts the annual RHS Flower Show. The 15-day Manchester Irish Festival is Europe's biggest outside of the Emerald Isle. Parklife is Manchester's biggest music festival. There’s also the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and smaller events like the Prestwich Food and Drink Festival; the annual World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan; and the annual Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival.