With a major new Egyptian exhibition on Tutankhamun on in Manchester until February 2011, now's the best time to head to England's second city for a weekend break.
There's the quirky shops and bars of the Northern Quarter to explore, as well as the Christmas markets during November and December, and special guided tours to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street. And did we mention there's also enough musical history to get you wishing for a dance floor?
Just because you're staying in a city that's proud of its gritty industrial past doesn't mean there's no luxury to be had. Velvet Hotel on Canal Street is as indulgent as its name suggests, with just 19 sumptuously decorated rooms. Plus you're right among the centre of some of the city's main bars and shopping. Rooms start from £99.
Or Great John Street, on Quay Street, near Granada Studios and the Opera House, is in a converted Victorian school house, with 30 individually designed rooms, so you'll always get something a bit different when you check in. Rates start from around £115, but check for Sunday night specials and late availability rates at around £85-£90 at greatjohnstreet.co.uk.
Since archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings back in 1922, people have been fascinated with the young pharaoh. But if you can't make it all the way to Cairo to see the artefacts, you can get a taste of what it would have been like at the new Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures exhibition in the Museum of Museums.
As the genuine treasures from the tomb are too fragile to travel the world, everything you see is a recreation but with 1,000 burial artefacts along with replicas of the tomb itself and each of the rooms, you're certainly not missing out.
Even if you've visited the originals in Egypt, seeing the proportions of the multiple gold tombs is jaw-dropping, and as they aren't preserved behind glass, as the real exhibits have to be, you can get right up close to see the detail. There's a quick background of the Egyptian dynasties and audioguides talk you through the years leading up to the dig, so you're almost walking in Howard Carter's footsteps at the moment of discover – and although the films are slightly kitschy, with a few odd pronunciations creeping in, you can easily spend hours wandering around entranced by everything on show.
Tickets cost from £14 for adults, and the exhibition runs to February 27, 2011.
It's strange to think that a couple of hundred years ago, Manchester was a shadow of the city it's become, until the Industrial revolution caused it to expand almost overnight. So you shouldn't leave without discovering more about some of Britain's greatest scientists and engineers who helped transform it with innovation after innovation, at the Museum of Science and Industry. As well as learning more about the people behind it all, you can stand on the platform of the world's first passenger railway station and look up to Beetham Tower, the tallest residential skyscraper in Europe. Entry to the museum is free.
Or pop to the nearby People's History Museum which tells the story of the ordinary people of Manchester, from the Peterloo Massacre through woman's fight to get the vote and gay rights, in a collection of banners, postures and badges. There are temporary exhibitions as well as the main galleries. Entry is free.
If you fancy a behind the scenes look at Weatherfield, you're in luck. Sadly Granada Studios stopped their regular tours of Coronation Street several years ago, but with the 50th anniversary of the soap this year, there are several special guided walks which you can sign up to.
The 50 Years of Coronation Street guided walk looks at some of the city centre locations used, including the canal where Tony pushed Roy in, as well as some of the actors' homes during filming, plus a wander past the entrance to the outdoor Street set so you can get a glimpse inside. The walk takes place on December 11 at 11am and 2pm, priced £6 for adults. Booking is essential, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Or there's another Coronation Street themed walk which explores the haunts of the soap's character and actors, with the next tour taking place on December 9. The walk costs £6, or visit newmanchesterwalks.com for more information and to book.
With so much history, there's a walk to suit pretty much anybody. So if you only pick one, check out the Urban Culture Trails and the Sound of Manchester – Music walk. Free to download. It takes in everything from Charles Halle who established the UK's first symphony orchestra to the birth of Northern Soul and the start of punk rock and the New Wave movement with the legendary Sex Pistols concert, plus Madchester, Factory Records and the Hacienda.
Or you can download a free tour to your MP3 player and MP3 enabled mobiles from Walk Talk Tour taking you on a two and a half mile wander of the city. Starting at the Town Hall, you'll also find out more about Manchester's Roman past, pass the first passenger railway station in the world as well as the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Cathedral and the Old Shambles. There's also a downloadable map, so you can check where you're going.
Manchester's certainly not short of great places to eat, although it's worth booking at weekends, so for something a bit different, head to the independent restaurants of the Northern Quarter. The Market Restaurant looks like you've just stepped into someone's front room – if that someone offered award-winning British food, of course. The menu changes every six weeks to stay seasonal, with options including confit of duck leg cassoulet or loin of venison. Main courses cost from around £15 or three courses cost £24.95 on Tuesday to Thursday.
Or The Northern Quarter restaurant has some fantastically unusual combinations, from monkfish, kale and foie gras to braised ham hock with Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese terrine. Main courses cost from around £12, or the Happy Mondays special gives you three courses plus unlimited wine for £25.
If you're looking for something simpler, award-winning pizza restaurant Dough gives you a string of more unusual toppings, from West Indies lamb to Lombok spicy tiger prawns, as well as several ways to have your dough. Price start from around £5.75 for a pizza.
You could bar crawl around Manchester all weekend without running out of new watering holes to try – if you felt like it. So make the most of the ice cool North Pole pop-up bar, with hot cocktails, including the fabulous vodka and cinnamon Winter Crumble in Cathedral Gardens. This year's bar is three times the size of 2009's, and there's a cosy snug with chesterfield sofas and vintage rugs to keep you toasty warm. It's open until December 19, from 12pm to 11pm and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Or back in the Northern Quarter, stop off at Walrus decorated in 60s canteen style with one of the city's hottest cocktail bars – try the signature Ice Pop. During the day, have a break from exploring and chill out with a cuppa at Nexus Art Cafe or North Tea Power.