It doesn’t take long for the transformative power of Manchester International Festival (MIF) to sink in: every two years, a unique atmosphere takes hold of the city for 18 extraordinary days. Radiating out from the buzzing Festival Square in front of the Town Hall, the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events occupies spaces and places across Manchester: at previous Festivals commissions by the likes of Punchdrunk, Marina Abramović, Björk and Kenneth Branagh have unfolded in theatres, galleries, railway depots, churches and car parks around the city.

Spend a weekend exploring MIF17 and you’ll be among the first to see more than 20 world premieres from over 30 international artists – shows that will travel to cities as diverse as Hong Kong and Vienna. The first Festival under Artistic Director John McGrath, MIF17 positions itself as remarkably responsive to current world affairs: many of the events that make up this year’s programme have evolved in a reactionary way to the seismic, global changes that have occurred over the last 12 months. It’s a remarkable, ambitious programme, broken down here into an itinerary of highlights – a cultural trail through the second weekend of MIF17, if you will.

MIF is one of the best ways of discovering a city rich in international culture, with lively bars, acclaimed restaurants and vibrant, independent shops bringing new life to the industrial heritage that’s still evident in its buildings, canals and landmarks. Straightforward to navigate on foot, Manchester is connected up by trams and buses, including three, free Metroshuttle routes that begin at Piccadilly station and cover much of the city. With direct rail links to London and cities across the North, it’s an easy place to get to – and, with this MIF17 itinerary, simpler still to get to know.

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