Buzzy cultural openings and two chic hotels are helping Manchester revamp its international image.
Credit: Courtesy of Hotel Gotham; Courtesy of Zhang Huan

Manchester has come a long way since its 1990s heyday, when indie music and football culture put it very visibly on the map. Now this northwestern city is moving beyond its party years and asserting itself as a sophisticated destination.

The spring reopening of the Whitworth art gallery helped kick-start the cultural renaissance with wide-ranging exhibitions—from J.M.W. Turner watercolors to gunpowder art by Cai Guo Qiang—and a striking modern extension linking the 19th-century building to the leafy park outside. Home, an ambitious new mixed-arts space, showcases the city’s diverse artistic tastes and talents with five independent-film screens, a theater, a gallery, and two places to eat. Its conversationstarting launch program included talks from director Danny Boyle and an Arabic-cinema series including Abderrahmane Sissako’s politically charged film Timbuktu. The city’s hotel scene is also smartening up its act. Hotel Gotham (doubles from $236) inhabits an imposing, Edwin Lutyens–designed building.

Credit: David Levene/Courtesy of Whitworth Gallery

The city’s first five-star in a decade should please both style fanatics and footballers’ wives with its grand Art Deco architecture and glamorous private bar. For a discreet and stylish stay, the 40-room King Street Townhouse (doubles from $317), scheduled to open in September, is the one to book—not least for its top-floor infinity pool overlooking the Town Hall, where swimmers can be protected from the city’s famously inclement weather by a retractable roof.