Visiting ManchesterThis is a quick guide for people visiting me (Mark Kambites) at the University of Manchester, synthesised from various emails I have sent to past visitors and designed to save me repeating myself to future ones. It is not designed to be useful to anyone else, but if it is, so much the better! Square brackets contain translations for Americans; please let me know if I have missed any, or if you find any errors, broken links, etc.
Getting to Manchester
The University is quite close to Manchester Piccadilly railway station, which has direct connections to most UK places you can think of and many you can't. Weekday and Saturday trains are quite reliable these days, but Sunday services can be a bit hit and miss due to line maintenance. Train information and tickets are available from the Trainline. The UK train ticketing system is very complicated and it can be hard to know if you have found the cheapest fare; when searching for prices bear in mind that a return [round trip] may be cheaper than a single [one way], or two singles may be cheaper than a return! Travelling before 9:30am often pushes the price up.
If flying, the best bet is usually to arrive at Manchester Airport, which has scheduled flights across Europe and to major hubs worldwide. From there you can either take a taxi direct to the University, or follow signs to the train station and take a train to Piccadilly (about every 15 minutes during the day and takes 15-20 minutes). Liverpool Airport has budget flights to many European cities; Birmingham Airport is further away but has direct trains. Rail or bus connections from other airports (including London Heathrow) are possible but time-consuming, and often more expensive than a connecting flight. From France or Belgium it is possible to use the Eurostar (channel tunnel train); you have to change stations in London but it is only a short walk or tube [subway] ride, and you can buy a through ticket from major European cities to Manchester.
If driving, you can park in the (expensive) aquatics centre car park, which is right next door to the Alan Turing Building. On weekdays a car is not much use in the city centre (which has congested roads, expensive parking and comprehensive public transport) so an alternative is to park at a railway station in the suburbs and use the train. If you want to drive from the continent, the overnight ferries from Rotterdam and Zeebrugge to Hull are very pleasant and quite convenient; channel crossings (e.g. Calais-Dover) are much cheaper but it is a long drive from the south coast to Manchester.
AccommodationA popular option, situated between the university, city centre and railway stations, is the Ibis Hotel Princess Street (typically around £65 per night including breakfast). The Travelodge Upper Brook Street is also handy for the university but further from the city centre and stations: prices vary a lot but can sometimes be very cheap if booked well in advance. If you are on a really tight budget there is a youth hostel about a mile from the University.
Your trip is likely to revolve around Piccadilly railway station, the Ibis Hotel or Travelodge, and the School of Mathematics. To get between them you can walk, take a taxi, or use a bus.
Bus. On weekdays only the 147 Oxford Road Link bus runs from Piccadilly station via Charles Street (past the Ibis Hotel) and then down Oxford Road through the middle of the University ending up near the Travelodge. It runs every ten minutes during the day (at time of writing, from 7:15 until 18:50). Tickets are available on the bus; you can buy a ticket for a single journey, or a "day saver" valid for any number of journeys on the same day (but only on the 147). The stop at Piccadilly is signposted through the Fairfield Street exit; once you get outside it is about 100m off to the left and on the other side of the road. For the School of Mathematics, get off just after you see the Royal Northern College of Music on your right, continue a little further down Oxford Road on foot, turn left down the walkway just before University Place (the giant tin can) and then the Turing Building is ahead of you on the other side of the square. For the Travelodge, stay on the bus until it leaves Oxford Road, goes through the hospitals and ends up on Upper Brook Street, and get off when you see the hotel on the right. Unfortunately on Saturdays and Sundays there is no direct bus service from Piccadilly to the campus.
Taxi. You may find taxi drivers don't know the Alan Turing Building by name, in which case try "the University buildings on Upper Brook Street just south of Booth Street". Also, there are two Ibis Hotels and numerous Travelodges in Manchester, so make sure you name the street as well as the hotel! See below for safety tips regarding taxis.
Walking Piccadilly to the Alan Turing Building (20 mins). Leave the station by the Fairfield Street exit (down the escalators or lift [elevator] from the main concourse) which brings you out at a big road junction [intersection]. Cross both main roads, and go along a smaller road (Granby Row) to the left of the Bull's Head pub. Keep straight on, as the road becomes a pedestrian walk and then a road again, and at the phoneboxes turn left onto Sackville Street. Go under the railway bridge and continue until the road begins to bend right; follow the left-hand pavement [sidewalk] which becomes a footpath and goes through an underpass. Afterwards, keep left under the motorway [freeway] flyover (avoiding a deeper underpass ahead) before bearing right (avoiding yet another underpass to the left). After very carefully crossing the motorway sliproad [freeway ramp], you find yourself on Brook Street. Walk down this (away from the flyover) crossing several side-roads and passing car showrooms and a ruined church, until you reach a Citroen car showroom on the left. Cross (now Upper) Brook Street at the pedestrian crossing and the Alan Turing Building is directly in front of you.
Walking Piccadilly to the Ibis Hotel (10 mins). Proceed as above until you turn left onto Sackville Street, but just after the railway bridge turn right into Charles Street (opposite more phoneboxes). The hotel is on the left, just before Princess Street.
Walking Ibis Hotel to the Alan Turing Building (10 mins). Go left out of the main door onto Charles Street and immediately left onto Princess Street. Princess Street becomes Brook Street, which at the big motorway junction [freeway intersection] becomes Upper Brook Street, so your aim is to go straight on. The pavement [sidewalk] will attempt to thwart you by following strange machinations to get you under the motorway [freeway], but once you manage it, carry on down Upper Brook Street past the junctions [intersections] with Grosvenor Street and Booth Street East. The Alan Turing Building is on the right, immediately after the aquatics centre car park [parking lot].
Walking Piccadilly to the Travelodge Upper Brook Street (30 mins). Proceed as if walking to the Alan Turing Building, but continue past the Citroen dealer (without crossing the road) for another 10 minutes, avoiding the left-fork onto Plymouth Grove. The Travelodge is on the left.
EatingThere is a small cafe on the ground floor of the Alan Turing Building, which does a limited selection of soup and sandwiches. The main University cafeteria is in University Place, on the other side of the square, but is sometimes closed in the holidays. Oxford Road has the usual range of student-orientated pubs, cafes and takeaways. A popular vegetarian/vegan/wholefood option is the Eighth Day Cafe at 111 Oxford Road, just south of the motorway flyover. A wider range of restaurants can be found further north towards the city centre (around the Palace Theatre and in China Town), while a mile to the south, Oxford Road becomes the Curry Mile of Rusholme. If staying in the Ibis, the Indian restaurant East Z East comes highly recommended; it is actually in the basement of the hotel, but the entrance is around the corner on Princess Street.
Facilities for Visitors to the School of Mathematics
My office is room 2.137, on the second [third] floor. Long-to-medium term academic visitors to the school are usually assigned an office; short term visitors can use the Brian Hartley Room (1.211). The main communal area is the Atrium Bridge on the first [second] floor; coffee and biscuits [cookies] are served every morning from about 10:30 (just help yourself) and feel free to use the kitchen (but please clean up after yourself). Next to the coffee area is a general purpose discussion area, with tables and blackboards.The entire building (and most of the campus) has wireless coverage, which you can connect to using Eduroam credentials (ask your home university's IT people in advance if you don't know what these are). If you don't have your own laptop I can arrange an account for use on the computers in the Brian Hartley Room; this takes a few days so please let me know in advance.
The School's own limited library is in the Brian Hartley Room. You can get reference access to the main University library (number 55 on the campus map); just go to the front desk and explain that you are an academic visitor.
Manchester's reputation for crime is exaggerated but not completely unfounded, so please take care. Try to avoid wearing or carrying anything ostensibly valuable, especially if on your own. At night it may be best to avoid sidestreets and to use Oxford Road (which is busier) rather than Brook Street for walking to/from the University. The districts of Hulme, Moss Side and Longsight, around the southern end of the University, are probably best avoided.
There is a problem with unlicensed taxis, which are at best uninsured and at worst dangerous. If you need a taxi, either go to a big official taxi rank like the one at Piccadilly railway station, or call a number obtained from somebody you trust. If you do phone for a taxi, give your name (or any name!) on the phone and then check that the driver can repeat it back to you before getting in. There are two types of licensed taxi in the UK. Black cabs, which in Manchester usually look like the archetypal London taxi, are allowed to wait at official taxi ranks and to pick up passengers who flag them down in the street; they are quite expensive but very reliable. Minicabs are usually regular saloon [sedan] cars with a taxi sign on top; they are only allowed to pick up passengers who have prebooked by phone. Both types should have a taxi number plate on the back next to the normal registration plate, and clearly display photographic driver ID inside. If in doubt, don't get in.
As anywhere, the biggest danger is road traffic. Foreign visitors should look both ways before stepping into the road, or the first time you congratulate yourself on looking right will be on a one-way street with traffic from the left. Americans please note: turning cars do NOT routinely yield to pedestrians, so don't assume you can step out into a sideroad just because the lights for the main road are green. Also beware of trams, which operate both on the roads with cars and on otherwise pedestrianized streets; they creep up on you surprisingly quietly and don't stop as easily as cars!
For drivers, the speed limit is usually 30mph in town, 60mph in the countryside and 70mph on non-urban dual carriageways and motorways [divided highways and freeways] unless signs say otherwise. An amber [yellow] traffic light means roughly "stop if you can safely", flashing amber means "yield to crossing pedestrians", while red and amber showing together means "get ready to go"; there is no left (or right!) turn on red (unless there is a green filter arrow) and no requirement to stop for school buses (even the cute new American-style yellow ones). On highways you must not overtake [pass] on the left, and must always drive in the leftmost available lane (so that other people can overtake you on the right) unless you are overtaking or signs tell you otherwise. If hiring [renting] a car, note that manual [standard] transmission is the default: if you need an automatic then pre-book to make sure one is available.
History and Sightseeing
Manchester was the world's first major industrial city, and has arguable claims to be the birthplace of socialism, communism, free trade and globalisation, trades unionism [organized labor], the cooperative movement, passenger rail transport, nuclear physics and the computer. But it doesn't wear its history on its sleeve, and the casual visitor could be forgiven for realising none of this! The city has always looked forward, treating heritage as subservient to economics, and two centuries of non-stop redevelopment have created a rather American feel. But there are traces of the past everywhere if you look hard enough (upwards is usually a good direction!).
- Town Hall: Spectacular architectural monument to Victorian municipal self-importance. Also look out for the nearby City Library and Midland Hotel.
- Statue of Alan Turing: A poignantly modest affair in the small park on the corner of Sackville Street and Whitworth Street.
- St Peter's Field: Site of the 1819 Peterloo massacre, in which a peaceful demonstration (for parliamentary reform and the abolition of import tariffs on corn [wheat]) was charged by armed troops. The area has been redeveloped and the only memorial is a small plaque (find it if you can!), but there is an ongoing campaign for a proper monument.
- The Museum of Science and Industry: All kinds of fascinating stuff, and especially good for train and computer enthusiasts.
- The Lowry Galleries: Big collection of works by L.S.Lowry (painter of industrial landscapes with "matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs") and a range of other temporary exhibitions.
The city is one of the best in the world for spectator sport: Greater Manchester has top flight teams in every major sport, including football [soccer] (Manchester United, Manchester City), cricket (Lancashire), rugby league (Wigan Warriors, Salford City Reds) and rugby union (Sale Sharks). If you prefer to play, there are world-class facilities for almost every sport, either in the University area or at SportCity.
The Peak District, immediately east of the city, has some of the country's best walking, cycling and climbing terrain and is easily accessible by train. There are numerous good walks from stations (circular or from one to another). For a very gentle introduction, try walking a stretch of the Peak Forest Canal towpath; it passes near stations at Romiley, Marple, Disley, New Mills Newtown, Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge, all of which have regular direct trains to Piccadilly. If feeling more energetic, take the train to Disley and follow the (signposted) Gritstone Trail as far as Lyme Park. Even in summer, the weather can change rapidly and paths are sometimes muddy, so a rainproof coat and sturdy footwear are prudent regardless of the forecast. A map is also handy: the most useful is OS Explorer OL1. If you intend to venture off the waymarked trails the map becomes essential, as do good hiking boots and possibly (in the wilder regions) a compass and the ability to use it!
Other places within easy day-trip range by train include Buxton (pleasant former spa town in the hills), Chester (well-preserved historic city), York (ditto), Liverpool (big port city with musical heritage), Blackpool (lively seaside resort), Southport (seaside resort with no sea, but lots of shops!) and Llandudno (more refined seaside resort in Wales, pronounced something like "kthlan-DID-no"). A day-trip to London is feasible, but may mean travelling on very expensive peak-time trains. With a weekend to spare to you can go almost anywhere on the British mainland, although for Cornwall or Northern Scotland you would spend most of the time travelling.