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Northern England: Manchester and Leeds
The Economic Powerhouse of the North: Manchester
Whereas London dominates England’s south, the second-largest city in the UK is located up north — 260 km northwest of London, in the county of Lancashire, to be precise. Manchester forms the heart of a metropolitan area with more than 2.5 million residents. The city itself houses over half a million people — no wonder, as Manchester is the economic powerhouse of the North, now as much as ever.
In the 19th century, Manchester was the center of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The city became quickly famous for its large manufacturing sector, its population growth, and its rapid degree of urbanization. However, it was equally infamous for the social divide between newly rich factory owners and toiling workers, which Friedrich Engels described as “Manchester capitalism”.
Today, after the industrial decline of the 1960s to 1980s, Manchester prides itself on a revitalized urban economy. Business services, finance, commerce, the life sciences, media and communications attract a domestic and international workforce. The city’s three universities, its international airport, and its many consulates are further reasons why Manchester houses a large foreign community.
Breaking it Down: Residential Neighborhoods in Manchester
Although Manchester is much smaller than London, it is still too large for us to introduce all parts of town here. The following neighborhoods, however, could be of interest to expatriates looking for housing in Manchester:
- The Spinningfields Development in Manchester’s business district has a convenient central location, especially for busy employees and executives working in the “Canary Wharf of the North”.
- The area off Deansgate Street and the university quarter of Southern Gateway are home to affluent city-dwellers. They belong to Manchester’s most exclusive and vibrant neighborhoods.
- Those looking for nightlife, entertainment, and a vibrant atmosphere should have a look round The Village, with the gay and lesbian bars along Canal Street, or Castlefield, with its open-air events arena and outdoor cafés.
- Manchester’s Northern Quarter retains something of an alternative and bohemian feel, but it is definitely an up-and-coming neighborhood.
- Salford Quays — previously the Manchester Docks, which now house UK Media City — is a fairly new development, which caters to those working in the creative industries.
Avoiding the Inner Hub: Manchester’s Suburbs
The urban area of Greater Manchester includes 10 boroughs and over 60 settlements. The largest of these towns and villages, Bolton, has 280,000 residents of its own. Some of them commute to Manchester every working day.
However, if you don’t want to move quite as far away from the city center, here are some suburbs to take into consideration:
- Chorlton-cum-Hardy is one of Manchester’s biggest suburbs. It features the exclusive Chorltonville garden estate.
- Didsbury is a “swanky” and coveted residential neighborhood south of the city.
- If your budget doesn’t stretch as far, you should give the perennial student favorite Fallowfield or multi-ethnic Levenshulme a try. Whalley Range is also a good choice for those who’d like to cut down a little on living expenses. The former bedsit town and red light district has cleaned up pretty well, but it remains cheaper than some other parts of Manchester.
- Rusholme – another student favorite -- is one of the most multicultural suburbs, particularly due to its large Asian community. The Middle Eastern and South Asian restaurants along the Wilmslow Road thoroughfare have earned it the nickname “Manchester’s Curry Mile”.
- Families with kids may be interested in areas like Burnage. The latter provides lots of semi-detached houses and gardens, and there are plenty of schools within reach.
An Eye-opening Transformation: The City of Leeds
Slightly northeast of Manchester, between the economic growth engine in the west and the venerable cathedral city of York in the east, you will find Leeds, the center of West Yorkshire and the populous Leeds-Bradford Metropolitan Area (1.9 million residents).
Just like Manchester, Leeds looks back on a turbulent past as a northern mill town. Today, the city with roughly 780,000 inhabitants has gone through a similar transformation — from a decline in manufacturing to a booming service sector. Leeds is now best known for its finance and insurance industry, as well as related business services, retail, and luxury goods.
Again, like Manchester, Leeds has three universities and thus a large and lively student population. The city’s local arts and entertainment scene is not only dominated by students, though. Opera North in Leeds also makes a valuable contribution to UK theater.
The nearby Leeds-Bradford International Airport offers flight connections to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Islamabad, Paris, and Rome, in addition to domestic flights to Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, and London. These easy transport links for getting to the UK are a distinct advantage for expats living and working in the area.
Neighborhoods in Leeds: Picking Your Priorities
If you belong to the Leeds expat community and haven’t found your accommodation yet, start by looking round some of these residential areas:
- Students and young professionals who like partying and the local nightlife should feel right at home in Headingley or adjacent Hyde Park. There you’ll find boutiques and shopping facilities, cafés and bars, pubs and restaurants a-plenty.
- Chapel Allerton has kept much of a village or small town feel, though the community has long since been swallowed by the Leeds area. If you like this kind of unpretentious ambience, you have come to the right place.
- Families should check out the following neighborhoods: Far Headingley, Farsley, Horsforth, Moortown, Rodley, and West Park. Horsforth, for instance, has excellent sports and leisure facilities and is conveniently close to the airport, while Farsley and Moortown are popular among commuters to Leeds.
- If you prefer a fairly quiet suburb to the hustle and bustle of town, Kirkstall, Meanwood, Shadwell, or Weetwood are places to look into. Meanwood, for example, lies northwest of the city center, close to the Meanwood Valley Trail and Nature Reserve; yet it isn’t far from local amenities and private schools. Shadwell, situated to the northeast of Leeds, is a picturesque Yorkshire village. Despite its small size, the local housing market caters mainly to affluent residents.
- Affluence also prevails among many inhabitants of Roundhay. The neighborhood is not far from the village of Shadwell, but it forms a large suburb of its own. New residents might especially appreciate the Victorian Roundhay Park, the second largest city park in Europe. The beautiful woodland area features two lakes, glasshouses full of tropical plants, a sports arena/cricket pitch, and a 19th-century Greek-style mansion which now houses the visitor center and a restaurant.
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