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Manchester is looking up. Gone are the Dickensian days of grinding poverty. Gone too the gloom'n'doom of the 1980s indie punk scene and its Joy Division pessimism: over the last 15 years the city has developed a champagne-for-breakfast insouciance and an almost giddy attitude toward fun.

The town that started the industrial revolution is stepping out of the steam-and-sweat age and into a swanky, partying juvenilia. But 'Madchester' is more than just froth-at-the-mouth football and high-class party jinks - there's also museums, fine dining and excellent shopping.

Hang for long enough among the trendy bars and boutiques of the bohemian Northern Quarter, the chic, self-possessed stylings of the Castlefield area and the loud-and-proud attitude of the Gay Village, and you too will be infected with the palpable confidence of this reborn city.

The city built on cotton has always survived through a willingness to embrace change and encourage the spirit of enterprise and innovation. Bouncing back from the 1996 bombing which destroyed its inner heart, the city seized the opportunity to revamp the town centre with new public spaces and some imaginative modern architecture that actually works.

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