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Manchester has successfully overcome its former reputation as a dull industrial city to become one of Great Britain's leading arts, sporting and scholastic centres. The city may constantly battle with Birmingham for bragging rights as England's second most populous city, but Manchester Airport is undoubtedly the country's largest outside of London. Much of Manchester can be explored by walking or public transit, but car hire is the easiest way to make day trips to the nearby Peak and Lake districts, the seaside resorts of Southport and Blackpool, or the cities of Liverpool and Leeds.
Who to Book With
Europcar is Manchester Airport's leading car rental provider, but many more options are available both within the airport and elsewhere in Manchester. Sixt, Budget, and Hertz are all represented at the airport as well as the Piccadilly and Victoria rail stations. Elliotts is among the city's leading independent vehicle rental companies.
Best Time to go
Despite Manchester's gloomy reputation, the city actually receives less rain than many other parts of the United Kingdom and enjoys nearly as much sunshine as London. The summer months of June and July along with the December holiday season are the busiest – and most expensive – times of year to visit Manchester. Vehicle and hotel rates can also rise during Manchester United matches at Old Trafford or any of the numerous music and arts festivals the city hosts throughout the year.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting car hire, the following documents must be shown:
- An International Driving Permit or United Kingdom drivers license
- A passport or other valid photo identification
- The same credit card used for the reservation
- A printed copy of the confirmed reservation
Manchester's biggest driving challenge may be the city centre's notoriously confusing one way street system. The M60 outer ring road is the easiest way to enter and exit the city. The best places to find seemingly scarce free parking places are Bond Street, Reilly Street near Manchester Metropolitan University, and Old Mill Street near Piccadilly Station. Free parking is also available at Hanworth Close and Wadeson Road after 18:00. Open-air car parks are cheaper than their multi-level counterparts. Parking on double yellow lines is strictly prohibited.
There is no shortage of ways to travel around Manchester, but walking remains the easiest way to explore the city centre, especially for those who plan their routes in advance with walkit.com. Visitors can also use the local council's free bus service or splurge to use the city's efficient light rail network. Taxis cost far less than both their London counterparts and the light rail network.
More than 22 million people use Manchester's Metrolink light rail network to travel across the city each year. Five new lines are expected to be added to the network's three existing lines soon. Metromax tickets offer the best bargains aboard this fairly costly network. Victoria and Piccadilly, which offers 24-hour Manchester Airport journeys, are Manchester's two major rail stations. Many of the shorter rail journeys across North West England use Victoria Station, while Piccadilly handles longer rail excursions across the country. The most up-to-date schedules are posted at the National Rail Enquiries website.
The free Metroshuttle bus service operates three routes covering most of Manchester's city centre. Passengers can board these buses from many large city car parks and all major rail stations. Each line has different coloured hybrid buses. First is North Manchester's main bus provider, while Stagecoach primarily serves South Manchester. Stagecoach Megabus and National Express buses travel to London and many other United Kingdom destinations from Manchester's central Chorlton Street Coach Station.
Taxis must use meters during journeys within Manchester's M60 ring road, but fares are usually no more than between £5 to £10 within the city core. Fares for longer journeys should be negotiated in advance, but visitors should avoid unofficial minicabs and stick to black cabs from reputable companies like Manchester Cars. Official cabs are harder to find after pubs close on weekend nights.
Situated halfway between Leeds and Liverpool, Manchester is an ideal base for driving excursions throughout North West England. The beaches of Blackpool and Southport are less than an hour's drive away, as are the bustling city of Leeds and the picturesque Lake District described in so many poems. The hilly Peak District lies an even closer 32kms east of Manchester.
The Woodhead Pass - Officially named the A628, it travels through the Pennines and Peak District National Park between Manchester and South Yorkshire. The relaxing hilly scenery along this 30km road is sometimes interrupted by hidden speed traps, sheep crossings and frequent winter closures because of high winds and snow.
Lake District National Park - England's highest peak, deepest and longest lakes, and biggest national park all lie under an hour's drive from Manchester within the Lake District National Park. William Wordsworth is among the most famous of the 19th-century Lake Poets who believed this part of England contains some of the country's most beautiful countryside. Over 23 million visitors come to the Lake District each year to admire Scafell Pike, the lakes of Windermere and Wastwater, and many more scenic surprises.
Chester - The ancient Roman city of Chester is among the most underrated destinations within a 60-minute drive from Manchester. Roman walls still stand alongside the many medieval and Victorian buildings in this River Dee city close to North Wales. The Chester Zoo on the city's outskirts ranks among the finest in both Great Britain and all of Europe, while the Rows is the world's only two-tiered shopping gallery.