The M56 leads to the joys of the M6, and London in about four hours, if you're lucky with the traffic around Birmingham. Be warned when parking in town: wardens hover like vultures.
Manchester Airport (+44 (0)161 489 3000) is a 15-20-minute train trip from Piccadilly station; a cab from the city centre should cost £20.
Trains to and from London Euston run as frequently as every half hour, with the journey on the Virgin Pendolinos taking just two hours and 20 minutes.
The code for the UK: 44. Manchester: 0161.
Dave Haslam's fantastic overview of Manchester pop culture Manchester, England (Fourth Estate).
Do go / Don't Go
Summer means long, laidback evenings on bar terraces. There's fun to be had all year round, though.
From trad (try a Lancashire hotpot washed down with Boddingtons) to world-class.
Black hackney cabs can be hailed from the street; for a dependable private firm, try Radio Cars (+44 (0)161 236 8033).
A discretionary 12.5 per cent is usual in UK restaurants.
A red scarf to wave from your seat in the Stretford End at Old Trafford; an umbrella, perhaps. The soundtrack to 24-Hour Party People.
Take a tram (Metrolink: +44 (0)161 205 2000) from Piccadilly Gardens to Harbour City, where you'll find the Lowry gallery (full of matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs…) and the Daniel Libeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North. In town is the Manchester City Art Gallery on Mosely Street (+44 (0)161 234 1456) and the elegant Urbis building, Museum of the Modern City. For a lighter dose of Manc culture, head for the Comedy Store at Deansgate Locks (+44 (0)8705 932932), where stand-ups (good and bad) grace the stage from Wednesday to Sunday.
Creative energy crackles through the studios and galleries of the Northern Quarter. Based around Oldham Street and Tib Street, it's full of fiercely independent boutiques and bars. Well-loved drinkeries include Cord on Dorsey Street, and Bluu, on Smithfield Market, off Thomas Street.
A shopper's Shangri-la. Everything lies within easy walking distance - from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and the boutiques of the Triangle (all based around Exchange Square); to stores such as Collezioni Armani and DKNY on King Street.
The Beetham skyscraper on Deansgate is the tallest residential building in the UK , with a 24th-floor Sky Bar in which to sup bubbly and lord it over Lancashire.
The Museum of Science & Industry (msim.org.uk) lies by the site of the original Roman settlement of Mancunium, detailing Manchester's industrial heritage. It also houses something that looks like the world's first-ever train station and is, in fact, the world's first-ever train station (does beg the question: where were the trains going to?).
Early March There'll be music, comedy and Guinness at the Irish Festival (www.manchesteririshfestival.com). 22-30 July The Manchester Jazz Festival (www.manchesterjazz.com), with the Tord Gustafson Trio a star turn in 2006. 18-28 August The utterly fabulous Gay Pride. September Manchester Food and Drink Festival (www.foodanddrinkfestival.com), hailed as one of the best urban events of its kind. Mega music-industry schmooze-fest In The City (www.inthecity.co.uk) at the Midland Hotel. December Christmas markets in Albert Square and St Ann Square are perfect for giving you that festive-shopping tingle.