CITIES WITH MUCH TO OFFER
Cities with rich histories, large-scale conference venues, luxury hotels, world-class universities and football clubs as well as innovative incentive experiences. You'll find them all - and more - in this northern region of mainland England.
From Leeds, York and Newcastle in the North East to Manchester and Liverpool in the North West, each city we visit on this trip offers a range of world-class facilities for meetings and events, but also boasts their own unique culture to set them apart.
If you're seeking venues for large-scale events this region has plenty to offer.
Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle is the largest exhibition venue in North East England with a floor area of 3,960m² and a capacity of 10,000 theatre-style, while the North West offers two venues with similar capacities.
Manchester Central in Petersfield - otherwise known as the city's Conference district due to its high concentration of conference venues - offers 23,000m2 of flexible space for anything from 10 to over 10,000 delegates and has hosted political conferences, trade shows and even live TV shows in the past.
It is trumped marginally in size by the 10-year-old, award-winning, ACC Liverpool, which houses the BT Convention Centre, Echo Arena and Exhibition Centre Liverpool and hosts a range of events such as national and international conferences; consumer and trade exhibitions; entertainment events and banqueting.
Facilities at ACC Liverpool include a 1,350-seat tiered auditorium with two rotating drums that can be subdivided into separate, self-contained meeting spaces; an 11,000 seat arena with tiered seating for 4,000 delegates; 29 breakout rooms and banquet space.
The North of England also boasts a plethora of unique venues designed to cater for any size and style of event.
Looking for a cultural backdrop? Head to the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, this international centre for music is also a fully-equipped conference venue which can seat 1,640. In York, the York Minster Conference & Banqueting Centre sits in the shadow of the famous cathedral and offers eight meeting spaces while the Town Hall in Leeds, one of the city's most iconic buildings, provides a range of flexible spaces.
Prefer something sporty or academic? Try Newcastle United Football Club’s iconic home ground, St James’ Park, offering 11 events suites and 72 executive boxes, or Leeds Trinity University which recently added a new learning centre to its portfolio.
WHERE TO STAY
Like its wide choice of meetings and events venues, the North of England also offers a range of accommodation designed for all needs and budgets.
In Leeds over 9,000 hotel rooms are available, with recent and forthcoming additions including the 90-bedroom luxury hotel Dakota Deluxe, which opened in Greek Street last year, and a new Hampton by Hilton which will open in 2019. ConferenceLeeds' free delegate accommodation booking service can also help guide your choice
Nearby 'compact and pedestrianised' York offers 16,000 beds in guest houses, budget hotels and luxury hotels within easy access of conference venues.
"York is the ideal setting for a multi-venue conference," says Jennie Lowthian of Make it York. "Most of the venues, hotels and accommodation providers are accessible on foot from York railway station and you’ll find attractions, shops and restaurants dotted around in-between. It’s actually possible to walk across the walled centre in just 20 minutes, meaning your delegates will see and experience more of the city during their visit."
Those looking to find out more about York's hotels can do so at The Meetings Show where Grand Hotel & Spa, Principal York and Park Inn by Radisson York City Centre are partners on the York and Leeds stand.
Like York and Leeds, most of the hotel accommodation in NewcastleGateshead is within a 20-minute walk of all major venues with all tastes and budgets catered for.
Affordable options include Newcastle and Northumbria Universities' on-campus accommodation and budget hotel brand Motel One, while those seeking more luxury should book the four-star Crowne Plaza – Stephenson Quarter, with its deluxe spa facilities and gin bar.
Liverpool, with its 'compact' city centre has a similar offering, with global hotel brands like Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and Novotel popular choices alongside independent boutique hotels like Hope Street Hotel and themed hotels, such as the Beatles-inspired Hard Day’s Night.
Manchester offers the greatest number of hotel rooms of all the cities within the North of England. "There's a fantastic choice for delegates with over 23,000 bedrooms across the region," says Daniel Norton of Marketing Manchester, who finds the five-star Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel and the Midland Hotel are popular choices with international conference guests.
"Popular districts include Manchester's alternative and creative heart, the Northern Quarter, which offers an eclectic mix of boutique hotels, record shops, galleries, cafés, bars and restaurants. It’s also home to some of the UK’s best street art spots, most of which are hidden in plain sight down the cobbled alleys and side streets."
Manchester is also home to the famous Lowry hotel, which, besides providing accommodation, offers a dedicated floor for conferences and events, catering for anything from 10-delegate meetings through to a 600-guest reception. Organisers can even have exclusive use of the entire hotel if they wish. Each of the rooms provide a contemporary modern space for meetings, training events or private dining. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows allowing lots of natural light, but also have automatic window blinds to provide shade and intimacy.
The meeting or conference is done for the day and you need refreshments, but you haven't had time to check out the city you're in yet – so where do you head to fuel-up fast?
Fortunately, finding an eatery in all five cities is a relatively easy task. Choosing which one to go to from the vast choice may not be however!
Leeds' thriving food and drink scene includes well-known chains and independent restaurants and bars – from a cocktail at Angelica to Japanese fine-dining at newcomer Issho or a Michelin-starred meal at the Man Behind the Curtain, there are options for all dining occasions situated centrally.
"Whether it's a luxury dining experience, a bite of street food at Trinity Kitchen or a simple coffee stop you're never too far away from a flavoursome meal in Leeds," enthuses Jennifer Young, Head of ConferenceLeeds.
In York, 'traditional meets contemporary', allowing you to tuck into a Sunday roast at one of the city's many gastropubs, or sample modern British cuisine in one of its high-end restaurants.
If you can, take time to sample an afternoon tea in one of the city's famous tea rooms or a pint of real ale in one of York's pubs. Rumour has it that there are more than 365 pubs within the city walls, so you'll have no trouble finding one.
You'll also find plenty of places to eat and drink in Newcastle, with many restaurants, like Dobson and Parnell, House of Tides and Blackfriars – the oldest dining hall in the UK – serving up seasonal and locally-sourced dishes.
"Newcastle was once voted the 7th best city in the world for nightlife, so rest assured that we have a very exciting and vibrant restaurant scene," says Paul Szomoru, Head of Business Events at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau.
A 'flourishing' dining scene can be found in Manchester which also has some of the best nightlife in the North, if not the whole of the UK says Norton of Marketing Manchester.
And if you want to get in on a growing independent food scene, Liverpool is where it's at. Here you can find quick eats at street food market Baltic or high-end dining at Art School, 60 Hope Street and Panoramic 34, the city's highest dining experience.
"Albert Dock, just over the road from ACC Liverpool, also has many restaurants and offer a beautiful atmosphere too," adds Jennifer Jensen, head of business tourism at Marketing Liverpool.
If you are looking to add incentive travel to your next package, then the North of England ticks every conceivable box with sporting, action, cultural and gourmet experiences well-covered.
Sports-themed experiences include a tour of Newcastle United's home ground St James' Park, a corporate box at Leeds United, or dinner with a former Liverpool FC player, while more action-led experiences range from Junkyard Golf in Manchester to the wilder Jaguar Land Rover experience in Liverpool.
To reward delegates and give them an insight into life in the region they are visiting, head to Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, where they can find out about the region’s history and eat a fish and chips supper at a coal-fired fish and chip shop, which is part of the recreated Edwardian pit village in the open-air museum.
If you're looking for team building events, head to Manchester for the ultimate team challenge, The Crystal Maze Experience, where groups are tested on their skill, mental and physical abilities across four adventure time zones to earn more time in the famous Crystal Dome!
DID YOU KNOW?
The most expensive piece of furniture ever sold in Britain was made in Leeds, by the renowned Thomas Chippendale. The Harrington Commode was sold for over £3 million in 2010.
Liverpool holds the Guinness Book of Records title for being the Capital of Pop. More artists with a Liverpool origin have had a number one hit than from any other location. And of course, Liverpudlian legends The Beatles changed the face of popular music.
York is home to the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe – York Minster – which took 250 years to build and the largest Railway Museum in the world, where visitors can book rail trips on the iconic Flying Scotsman and view the only Japanese Bullet train outside of Japan.
"Leeds is the third largest city in England and was voted the second most popular conferencing destination in the North of England in the recent 2017 BMEIS report, offering an inspiring alternative to London. What makes Leeds so unique is its ability to offer the flexibility to tailor any conference experience – the city is at your disposable and not one size fits all. From its knowledge hubs, to its exceptional venues and accommodation, through to the accessibility from all parts of the UK and abroad, alongside a series of unique and outstanding delegate experiences – it is anything but ordinary." - Jennifer Young, ConferenceLeeds.
"York’s knowledge-driven economy has a solid reputation for research, development, innovation and academic excellence. Industries which are particularly well represented include biosciences, food and drink, creative, IT and digital, as well as rail, financial and professional services. Events that have links to these business areas are well placed in York. York is a city that doesn’t stand still either. It continues to evolve and flourish by having one of the strongest economies in the North of England and the fastest internet speeds in Britain, as Britain’s first Gigabit City." - Jennie Lowthian, Make it York
"NewcastleGateshead is a booming hub of business and culture. Home to exceptional talent, world-renowned research and supportive business communities. We have world-leading expertise in sustainability, medical sciences, tech and digital, offshore and marine, professional business services and logistics. The people of Newcastle are called Geordies, and we’re renowned for being warm and friendly, as well as being great innovators and hard workers. We love to welcome people here from all over the world." Paul Szomoru, NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau.
"Manchester is the city where great minds meet. From the industrial revolution to splitting the atom, the first test tube baby to the isolation of graphene, Manchester is proud of its incredible heritage of cultivating revolutionary ideas. Thanks to this rich history, and the vibrant modern culture it’s contributed to, the city is consistently attracting some of the most exciting and forward-thinking events. If you’re looking to exchange ideas with the potential to change the world, this is the place to do it." - Daniel Norton, Marketing Manchester.
"The Liverpool welcome is one of the key reasons organisers love it so much and return again and again. Conference delegates are made to feel extremely welcome in the city from start to finish, and all of ‘Team Liverpool’ adapt to what organisers want and make sure they get something special. Combined with the variety on offer in the city – mixing the historic with uber-contemporary – it gives a lasting impression to those who hold events here." Jennifer Jensen, Marketing Liverpool.
GETTING THERE: BY AIR
Airports are located in Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds.
Manchester offers direct flights from over 200 destinations worldwide, including China, Hong Kong, the Middle East and North America.
Newcastle connects to 80 destinations around the world with daily flights from London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Dubai.
Leeds Bradford Airport offers scheduled flights from over 75 destinations across 25 countries, including Paris, Berlin and Rome. British Airways fly from London Heathrow to Leeds three times daily.
GETTING THERE: BY RAIL
Each city is accessible by train from London and connect to other cities around the UK.
York is under two hours from London and two hours and 20 minutes from Edinburgh.
Leeds is just over two hours from London with an arrival from London Kings Cross every 30 minutes during peak time.
Newcastle is 2 hours 45 minutes from London and 90 minutes from Edinburgh and Leeds.
Manchester is just over two hours from London with trains departing every 20 minutes from London Euston every 20 minutes at peak time.
Liverpool is 2 hours 12 minutes from London, has a direct line to Manchester and soon to Scotland.