Lockdown is weeks away from its long-awaited end and we’ve got a whole lot of catching up in beer gardens in Manchester to do – safely distanced, naturally. And what better place than the classic outside drinking spaces in the city and its near neighbour Salford? Outdoor drinking and dining is safer than indoor, so it makes sense that we’ll flock to the venues with the best beer gardens and outdoor drinking areas.
Reopening isn’t an option for every pub and bar, sadly, but certain venues either have a quality, spacious beer garden or have hit the location jackpot and discovered an outdoor space that can be repurposed for casual outdoor drinks. The Northern Quarter, in particular, has seen some forward-thinking relaxation of the rules, meaning roads closed off so we can drink outside, often underneath covering to protect us from the ever-present Manchester rain.
Many also come with heat lamps to combat the worst excesses of the unpredictable UK weather, but ideally, we want – nay, demand – the weather to be sunny and warm for as long as possible so we can make the most of outdoor drinking after over a year of social distancing and misery-inducing restrictions. If anyone knows the number of the Greek god in charge of weather, drop him a line.
The big day comes on June 21st, where if all goes well we’ll see an explosion of joy as we should have vaccinated the very worst of Covid away and most all hospitality businesses and venues open back up. If you’re looking for an outside drink this summer (and autumn too) then the pubs listed below come both with a top-quality beer garden and are highly recommended. Here are some of the very best beer gardens in Manchester, along with a few noteworthy entries from Salford.
Here are our picks
The Briton’s Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 5LE - Visit now
Ask anyone who knows anything about Manchester pubs and they’ll soon start waxing lyrical about The Briton’s Protection. It’s one of the oldest pubs in Manchester – if not the oldest pub – and it has a magnificent, sun-trapping outdoor space to sit and enjoy beers and whisky with friends. Highly, highly recommended for all you beer garden connoisseurs.
Common Bar, 39-47 Edge Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1HW - Visit now
Alan Partridge might not approve but we’re enormous fans of the pedestrianisation of the Northern Quarter, and Common’s area on Edge Street is one of the district’s very best. It’s quiet enough to avoid the Ibiza strip feel of nearby areas but full of trendsetting 20-30somethings, just like the early days of the NQ.
The New Oxford, 11 Bexley Square, Salford, Manchester, M3 6DB - Visit now
Bexley Square is at the heart of Salford’s most fast-growing and desirable area and it’s also home to The New Oxford. It’s a classic old-school pub with a vast range of drinks to enjoy on benches outside. Expect cheerful staff, friendly punters and enough open space to enjoy the sun when its out – plus protective umbrellas when it isn’t.
The Corner Boy, 21 Hilton St, Manchester, M1 1JJ - Visit now
One of our favourite finds after lockdown eased last summer, The Corner Boy is a superb place for outdoor drinks in the Northern Quarter. Based at the entrance to Stevenson Square, the cocktail menu is one of the best in the city (the rum cocktail is a must-try), the staff are the friendliest around and the outside seating area is a perfect sun trap.
Mr Thomas’s Chop House, 52 Cross St, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 7AR - Visit now
Mr Thomas’s Chop House first opened in 1870. Expect beautiful arches, Victorian-era fixtures and fittings, classic British cooking and an excellent wine list. Head around the back and you’ll find a splendid outdoor drinking area, right in the heart of the city centre.
The Pilcrow, The Pilcrow, Sadler’s Yard, Hanover Street, NOMA, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M60 0AB - Visit now
Now back in action, beer gardens don’t get much better than The Pilcrow Pub’s. Based in Sadler’s Yard in the fast-developing NOMA district of the city, around Victoria Station, this is an elegant space, with a relaxed Scandinavian feel.
The Bay Horse Tavern, 35-37 Thomas St, Manchester, M4 1NA - Visit now
The Bay Horse is another lucky beneficiary of the wise decision to close various Manchester streets to vehicles, meaning Thomas Street is now peppered with tables and benches, safe for socially-distanced drinking and a great way to catch up with friends.
Port Street Beer House, 39-41 Port Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 2EQ - Visit now
Port Street Beer House is open again for drinks, inside and out. But it’s the out that shines: a great sun-splashed beer garden, cosy enough to be friendly but spacious enough to feel safe and relaxed. And let’s not forget the beer. You’ll struggle to find a better choice of ales in Manchester.
Terrace NQ, 43 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1NA
High above Thomas Street, Terrace NQ offers a beautiful rooftop beer garden. When the sun is shining, this is easily one of the most pleasing places to sink a pint in the Northern Quarter.
The Beech, 72 Beech Rd, Manchester, M21 9EG
If you fancy moving out of town, jump on the Metrolink and head to Chorlton. While the residents are often lampooned as the “liberal urban elite”, you cannot argue with the choice of watering holes on offer. Post-lockdown, The Beech is a grand choice if you fancy switching seats to chase the late evening sun.
The Kings Arms, 11 Bloom street, Salford, Greater Manchester, M3 6AN - Visit now
One of Salford’s finest establishments, with a history that involves a reliably excellent series of live shows and ownership by Paul Heaton, one of the North’s greatest songwriters. They also have a small but perfectly-formed outside drinking area – get there early for a guaranteed seat.
The Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff St, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 2FF - Visit now
Tariff Street has been closed off to cars and now you can sit outside and enjoy a drink safely, with minimal exhaust fumes. The Whiskey Jar is a great intimate, darkly-lit bar but it’s not ideal during hot sunny days, so sit outside when the weather is balmy.
Flok, 5 Stevenson Square, Manchester, M1 1DN - Visit now
Starting life as a highbrow wine bar, Flok has become more of a catch-all destination lately, welcoming all kinds of drinkers to its space on Stevenson Square. Expect a great selection of drinks, likeable staff and a great outside atmosphere.
18 Castle Street
Castlefield, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 4LZ - Visit now
The Duke’s 92 beer garden is legendary across the city. This canalside bar is well worth a visit, assuming you can get in – its reputation can mean lengthy queues for a table. But it’s well worth it, the outdoor space is one of Manchester’s best and everything is executed safely, without sacrificing the simple pleasure of a summertime drink with friends.