Manchester evolved from the civilian vicus associated with the Roman fort of Mamucium, which was established c. AD 79 on a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell, in a position defensible from the Brigantes. Once the Romans had abandoned Britain, the focus of settlement shifted to the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Irk. During the Dark Ages which followed – and persisted until the Norman Conquest – the settlement was in the territory of several different petty kingdoms. In the Middle Ages, what is now the city centre was the township of Manchester.
Manchester Castle – a medieval fortification, probably taking the form of a ringwork – was located on a bluff where the rivers Irk and Irwell meet. The castle was first mentioned in 1184 and recorded in 1215 as belonging to the barons of Manchester, the Grelley family. It has been described as "of no political or military importance". The Grelleys replaced the castle with a fortified manor house, which in turn was replaced by a college of priests (founded in 1421). In 1547 the college was dissolved and the property acquired by the Earl of Derby and early in the reign of King Charles II it was sold to the governors who had been appointed in the will of Humphrey Chetham. By royal charter in 1665 Chetham's Hospital was established and this became Chetham's School of Music.
Manchester city centre is the commercial and cultural hub for 2.7 million people in the Greater Manchester region and new developments are forthcoming.
- St Peters Square regeneration – St Peter's Square, home of Manchester Central Library, is set to undergo massive multimillion-pound redevelopment which will include pedestrianising the square, redeveloping Elizabeth House (the current empty building opposite the Central Library), creation of a contemporary memorial to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and refurbishing the Library. A competition has been held to decide upon the new design of the square. It has recently been suggested that the Cenotaph should be moved to make room for a further tram line.
- One St Peter's Square – a new high-rise office building in St Peter's Square. The building will offer 14 floors of Grade A office space in a prime city centre location opposite the Midland Hotel, Central Library and 1930s Manchester Town Hall Extension.
- Manchester Victoria station – Manchester's second station after Piccadilly – it had been rated as one of the worst stations in the United Kingdom and was known for its damaged roof since 1996. The station has been undergoing a modernisation program since 2013. A new ETFE roof covering the whole station was constructed at a cost of £20 million while historical elements of the interior such as the tiled wall were cleaned and preserved.
- NOMA – The Co-op has embarked on one of its most challenging projects to date, as it aims to transform a 20-acre (81,000 m2) section of Manchester into a new retail, office and residential quarter, where its own new headquarters will be housed. The site will be branded "NOMA 53" in reference to "NOrth MAnchester" and the locations co-ordinates. The City Building will become the luxurious Hotel Indigo, which will include a Marco Pierre White restaurant and is set to open in autumn 2012. Two buildings on the corner of Corporation Street and Balloon Street to be converted into 106,000 sq ft (9,800 m2) of grade A office accommodation. Completion by second half of 2013.
- River Street Tower – a new 125 metre skyscraper, approved in October 2012 and designed by Ian Simpson. Construction is expected to start in 2013 and will become the second tallest building outside London after the Beetham Tower – also in Manchester.
As of 2013, there are proposals to develop and extend the city centre northwards in an arc between Victoria and Piccadilly stations.