Manchester, about 200 miles northwest of London, traces its origins to AD 79, when Roman general Agricola built a wooden fort named Mamucium on the bank of the River Irwell. From those humble beginnings, it grew into the quintessential working-class city. In the late 1700s, its cotton and textile production earned it the title "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution." In the Northern Quarter area, that big industrial approach has given way to an emphasis on handmade crafts, individual artistry and creativity.
Must-see: The trendy Northern Quarter — and its galleries, boutiques, cafes, tea shops and bars — is the focus of the art, music and fashion scene. Afflecks (www.afflecks.com), a collection of shops, calls itself "an emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce" and the "place to shop for anything from top hats to tattoos." At the studios of the Craft & Design Centre (www.craftanddesign.com), you can buy jewelry, glass, ceramics, pewter and more. While traveling companions shop, die-hard soccer fans can watch matches at the nearby Tib Street Tavern (74 Tib St.; 011-44-161-834-1600, www.tibstreettavern.co.uk).
The soccer scene: Locals split their allegiances between Manchester City, which plays at Etihad Stadium, and Manchester United, which plays at Old Trafford. Congenial football pubs with big-screen TVs and lots of beer include the White Lion (43 Liverpool Road; 011-44-161-832-7373), the Courtyard (2 Chester St.; 011-44-7980-593132, www.courtyardmanchester.co.uk) and both the Sawyers Arms and Moon Under Water (138 and 68-74 Deansgate, respectively) on the city's main road. To enjoy soccer nostalgia and see highlights of famous matches, visit the National Football Museum (Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens; 011-44-161-870-9275, www.nationalfootballmuseum.com).
Beware: Manchester is cloudy about 70% of the time and has no dry season; rain can fall at any time.
Best time to go: May to August is probably the climatological high point. The Food & Drink Festival is in September (www.foodanddrinkfestival.com); the Science (www.manchestersciencefestival.com) and Literature (www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk) festivals take place in October. The Manchester International Festival (www.mif.co.uk), an extravaganza of art, theater, music and dance, takes place in July of odd-numbered years; the next one is July 2-19, 2015.