By Plane -- More and more North Americans are flying directly to Manchester International Airport (tel. 08712/710-711; www.manchesterairport.co.uk), located 24km (15 miles) south of the town center, to begin their explorations of the United Kingdom. British Airways (BA; tel. 800/247-9297 in the U.S. and Canada, or 0844/493-0787; www.britishairways.com) has daily flights departing New York's JFK airport for Manchester at 6pm, arriving after 7 hours in the air. You can also fly from BA's many North American gateways nonstop to London, and from here take the almost shuttlelike service from either Gatwick or Heathrow airport to Manchester, a 50-minute flight.
American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300 in the U.S. and Canada; www.aa.com) offers a daily nonstop flight to Manchester from Chicago's O'Hare Airport that departs at 5:35pm, arriving the following morning. American also flies from London's Heathrow back to Chicago.
BMI/British Midland (tel. 020/8745-7321 in London, or 800/788-0555 in the U.S.; www.flybmi.com) flies from London's Heathrow to Manchester, and also flies to Manchester from Chicago; Las Vegas; and some major cities in Canada, including Toronto.
Delta Airlines (tel. 800/241-4141; www.delta.com) flies daily from New York's JFK and from Atlanta; US Airways (tel. 800/622-1015; www.usairways.com) flies once a day from Philadelphia; and Virgin Atlantic (tel. 800/862-8621; www.virgin-atlantic.com) flies once a day from Orlando.
Manchester is also served by flights from the Continent. For example, Lufthansa (tel. 800/645-3880; www.lufthansa.com) has frequent nonstop flights each week between Frankfurt and Manchester, depending on the season. Flight time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Trains connect the airport terminal to the Piccadilly Railway Station in the center of Manchester. These trains depart from the airport every 5 to 10 minutes for the 15- to 20-minute ride to the center. Direct rail lines link the airport to surrounding northern destinations such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Windermere.
Buses nos. 43 and 105 run between the airport and Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station every 15 minutes (hourly, during the evenings and on Sun); the ride takes 55 minutes.
By Train, Bus & Car -- Trains from London's Euston Station travel directly to Manchester (tel. 0845/748-4950; www.nationalrail.co.uk); the trip takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
National Express (tel. 0870/580-8080; www.nationalexpress.com) buses serve the Manchester region from London's Victoria Coach Station.
If you're driving from London to Manchester, go north on the M1 and the M6. At Junction 21A, go east on the M62, which becomes the M602 as you enter Manchester. The trip from London to Manchester usually takes from 3 to 3 1/2 hours, but it could be longer because of traffic and construction.
It's not a good idea to try to hoof it in Manchester. It's better to take the bus and Metrolink. Timetables, routes, fare information, and a copy of a helpful leaflet, the Passenger's Guide, are available from Travelshop, a general information booth within the Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station, Portland Street, open Monday to Saturday 7am to 6pm, and Sunday 10am to 6pm. For information, call tel. 0161/2052000 Monday to Friday 7am to 11pm, and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm.
Buses begin running within Manchester at 6am, operate in full force until 11pm, and then continue with limited routes until 3am. Tickets are sold at a kiosk at Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station. A day pass, the Wayfarer (tel. 0161/2052000), costs £9.20 and is valid for a complete day of public bus travel.
Metrolink (tel. 0161/2052000; www.metrolink.co.uk) streetcars connect the bus stations and provide a useful north-south conduit. Self-service ticket machines dispense zone-based fares. The wheelchair-accessible streetcars operate Monday to Thursday from 6am to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 6am to 1am, and Sunday from 7am to 11pm.
The Manchester Visitor Centre, Town Hall Extension, Lloyd Street (tel. 0871/2228223; www.visitmanchester.com), is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5:30pm, and Sunday and bank holidays 10:30am to 4:30pm. To get there, take the Metrolink tram to St. Peter's Square. Especially useful is a series of four free pamphlets with information on accommodations, dining, city attractions, and cultural/entertainment options.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.