By Linnie Rawlinson for CNN
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Slouched against the Pennines, this Northern wideboy, once 19th century Cottonopolis, is now the swaggering, rollicking, cultural second city of Britain. The home of global brands from Manchester United to the Hacienda, its damp environment has seen the city grow from the T-Rex of the textile industry to bold, brash global player.
When an IRA bomb ripped out its heart in 1996, the city center was opened up and the subsequent rejuvenation has created the prime British shopping paradise outside London. In keeping with the arrival of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, the city is fighting off its 1990's shackles of drugs, guns and gang crime to present a far more glossy and groomed exterior.
From Northern Soul through Joy Division to Madchester, Britpop and Oasis, Manchester has been at the forefront of the British music scene. Though its industrial warehouses are now more likely to house luxury apartments than illegal raves, Manchester's grip on alternative culture is firm and its attraction magnetic, boosted by its large and exuberant student population. From the gay mecca of Canal Street, the glittering Curry Mile and over to Chinatown, the city's 24-hour party people, dolled up in designer labels for a big night out, all wear a badge of pride that Manchester is undoubtedly the fighting fit king of the North.
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