Roughly 510,000 "Mancunians" live within the city of Manchester, but nearly three million people live in the Greater Manchester City Sub-Region as a whole, over 40 percent of whom are ages 24 or under. Manchester has a proud history as an industrial and commercial powerhouse, and it was once a world leader in textile manufacturing, which brought great wealth to the city during the Victorian era. Changes in the world economy resulted in waning fortunes during the second half of the 20th century, resulting in a serious economic and social decline. But then, something remarkable happened.
In 1996, a huge Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb, one of the largest ever detonated on British soil, devastated Manchester's downtown, destroying much of its economic and business infrastructure. Instead of breaking the spirit of the city, this incident galvanized the whole community and launched a phenomenal period of transformation, modernization, and growth that is still going on today.
Daring contemporary buildings now dominate the city center, especially the 47-story Beetham Tower—the tallest residential property in Europe and home to the 279-bed Manchester Hilton Hotel. But the heritage of the city is announced everywhere by a range of imposing historic buildings, such as the marbled Manchester Town Hall and the John Rylands Library, which more resembles a Victorian Gothic castle than a public library.
Manchester is justly proud of its many museums, notably the award-winning Museum of Science and History and the Imperial War Museum North, which is located on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in a spectacular Daniel Libeskind-designed building. The Manchester Art Gallery is also a great family attraction, while the Lowry Gallery displays the work of the city's most famous artist, L.S. Lowry. Other important cultural venues include the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Salford Art Gallery, and the Centre for the Urban Built Environment (CUBE).
As the sixth-largest city in the UK, Manchester is also one of the most important shopping venues in the whole of Britain. Top European fashion houses such as Harvey Nichols, Vivienne Westwood, Zara, and Emporio Armani can be found in the high-energy city center alongside bohemian outlets such as Rags to Bitches, Retro Rehab. Many of the principal streets have been made pedestrian-friendly, making it easy to explore traditional shopping areas such as St Ann's Square and the Victorian Barton Arcade. For big, busy indoor shopping malls, try either the huge Arndale Centre —the UK's largest inner-city shopping venue—or the Trafford Centre, which boasts the first Selfridges outside London.
This cosmopolitan, radical, and fun-loving city also contains a huge variety of restaurants, gastro pubs, bars, and eateries. Sample European specialties at Michael Caines Restaurant at the ABode Manchester hotel; the Asian fusion at Vermilion; or the Japanese canteen-style dishes at Walrus Canteen and Bar, located in the bohemian North Quarter of the city.
Visitors looking for a casual drink rather than a full meal should try the distinctly eccentric Odd Bar and its big sister the Odder Bar, the very cool Apotheca, the traditional English Lounge, or Taps, where beer taps on every table allow guests to pour their own servings. The bars and clubs of Canal Street and Northern Quarter are also heating up Manchester's legendary nightlife scene. Try some salsa and soul at the Cuba Cafe, enjoy the beer menu at Simple, or just kick back in the uber-cool atmosphere of the Malmaison Bar.