Northern England is an area of Britain like none other with ancient towns, beautiful countryside and sweeping coasts. The cities of Northern England reflect the area’s character with a unique blend of culture, history and charm.
Manchester – The Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution
Did you know Manchester was the first industrialized city in the world? In fact Manchester has laid claim to many firsts including the first passenger railway station, the first programmable computer and the world’s first professional football team – English football that is. Mr. Rolls met Mr. Royce in Manchester and this is where the first atom was split – but not to build a Rolls Royce, of course.
Manchester is a city that has seen the rise and fall of many industries – from cotton, to heavy engineering, then into media, music, arts and sports. This is a city that truly knows the meaning of reinvention.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the creative heart of the city filled with independent bars, trendy restaurants, galleries, boutiques and record stores located in repurposed warehouses. There’s also a thriving street art scene along the cobbled streets.
Other city highlights include the National Football Museum, the very impressive Imperial War Museum North, and The Lowry where you will find the best in drama, ballet, opera, comedy, music and family shows.
There are plenty of ways to get to know this thriving city in Northern England but one of the best is a "Discover Manchester Walking Tour." Choose a history and culture tour or one led by former pop musicians to delve into the city’s musical history. And if you want something really bizarre, there’s a tour of Manchester’s most interesting toilets.
Liverpool – Home of the Fab Four
Liverpool is most widely known as the home of the fab four – the legendary Beatles. But there is much more to the city than Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. It is a city of growth and grit – a rare combination that somehow works. But first let’s talk about John, Paul, George and Ringo because you are already humming a Beatles tune in your head, aren’t you?
The boys crossed paths as young teens and ultimately formed what became one of the most famous bands in pop culture history. Today their story is told through a Magical Mystery Tour aboard a psychedelic bus. I can be a bit cynical about tourist bus tours, but I must admit it was fun having my picture taken on Penny Lane. Finish off your Beatles experience with a Beatles concert (well sort of) at the legendary Cavern Club.
The real story of Liverpool came alive for me on a walking tour with Secret Tours as we entered the Ropewalks. Named from the craft of rope-making for the ships that dominated the city until the 19th century, Ropewalks is characterized by long parallel streets built to allow rope manufacturers to lay the ropes out lengthways. Remnants of bombed buildings from World War II still stand as a poignant reminder of the city’s difficult past.
Thought provoking graffiti masterpieces by numerous artists, including Brazil’s Cranio, color the walls of businesses. There’s even a street designated for amateurs to try street art – one side for those with talent and another side for people like me.
No visit to Liverpool is complete without a stop at Maggie May’s on Bold Street for homemade Scouse – a beef or lamb based stew with carrots, onions and potatoes served with crusty bread. Scouse is also the nickname for the people of Liverpool who really do have their own version of the English language.
York – A Gem Inside Medieval Walls
Anchored by the vast gothic Minster and encircled by medieval walls, York is a fascinating blend of old and new. This is a city where ancient architecture meets quirky cosmopolitan culture – and it’s a marriage that works.
Some of the best experiences in York are the simplest. Walk along the city’s ancient medieval walls. Wander along the cobblestones beneath overhanging timber-framed buildings of The Shambles – one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in England. Pop into one of the historic (and haunted) pubs or take a break for afternoon tea at Betty’s. As you wander along, be sure to look up at the many architectural details and symbols. You’ll find little surprises like the "printer devil" that give clues to the original occupants of each building.
Along York’s most stylish shopping streets, Stonegate and Petergate, the clothes have changed but the streets still run along the same routes as they did 2,000 years ago. They lead to the magnificent York Minster where you’ll find England’s greatest concentration of medieval stained glass, including the Great East Window which is thought to be the largest example of stained glass in the world.
York is also home to the National Railway Museum which is filled with a wide range of railway icons and millions of artifacts. From the only Shinkansen Bullet train to be displayed outside Japan, to the Flying Scotsman, the museum will make a railway enthusiast out of almost anyone.
Have you been to the cities of Northern England? What were your favorite experiences?
Fun is part of any travel experience, but so is staying protected. Learn more about our policies here!