Hidden Bars in Manchester

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor

Hidden bars? What, don’t they want your money? Yes they do, they’re just doing it differently. And with a city as big as Manchester, sometimes it’s nice to find somewhere that hasn’t been well and truly Magaluffed (hello Northern Quarter). These are the bars for those who want their nights out to be a bit special, a bit secretive, a bit – dare we say – elitist?

Some are simply low-profile and don’t buy into sky-high marketing budgets, some take the notion of ‘hidden away’ full circle, becoming a topsy-turvy PR campaign all of its own. Try them all, for the bragging rights if nothing else.


Our top picks


Corbieres, 2 Half Moon Street, Manchester, M2 7PS

Serving Manchester’s music lovers for nigh on 35 years, Corbieres has a place in the heart of many a Mancunian. Including no less than Oasis and Mick Hucknall, all of whom used to drink down there back in the dark, pre-boom days before every spare building boasted its very own fly-by-night “pop-up” bar. Stick to the tried and tested and check out this dark little hideaway, famed for its unshowy atmosphere and laidback staff. Go for the drinks, stay for the legendary jukebox.


The Washhouse

The Washhouse, 19 Shudehill, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 2AF - Visit now

There’s nothing more secretive than The Washhouse. Nothing about it, from the frontage to the website, suggests it’s a bar. But it is. It’s not a laundrette, it’s a bar. Sorry guys. Your only chance of entry comes from tracking down the phone number to book a machine (aka, a table). Bit too much hassle? Maybe, but you’ll be missing out on some wonderful cocktails in this cosy enigmatic space.


Dusk Til Pawn

Dusk Til Pawn, Stevenson Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1FB

One of the few exceptions to the rowdy Northern Quarter bar scene, Dusk Til Pawn masquerades as a – how did you guess? – pawn shop, complete with deceptive items in the window. Don’t be fooled by those crafty decoys, it’s actually a fairly genteel cocktail bar, with a vintage feel. Think mahogany and well-worn leather, with a classic drinks menu.

© Dusk Til Pawn

Cane & Grain

Cane & Grain, 49-51 Thomas Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1NA - Visit now

From the makers of Black Dog Ballroom and Liars Club, we have Cane & Grain. And they don’t do things by halves. Behind the unassuming entrance, there are no less than three bars, each with their own unique drinks menus. The ground floor bar has a youthful skater feel, but the true secret-seekers will want to check out the first-floor speakeasy. Ask the barstaff if there’s a free table (tell them Creative Tourist sent you).

Creative Tourist

The Temple

The Temple, Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 5JW

Probably the most well-known secret bar in the city (due, in no small part, to their mention on the 2008 Elbow single Grounds For Divorce).  You haven’t experienced true Manchester unless you’ve squeezed your way down here and recoiled in horror at the appalling state of the toilets. And indeed, this fantastic little bar – spread your arms out and you might be able to touch both sides at once – used to be public toilets once upon a time. Don’t be put off, just see it as an example of the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Manchester (complete with a soupçon of grottiness).

Where to go in Manchester

Bar or Pub
Finders Keepers

Welcoming waterside bar in New Islington Marina, serving a wide array of carefully-curated cocktails.

City Centre

Highly-regarded wine-led, French-leaning wine bar and rooftop restaurant in the city centre.

Manchester Wine Tours

Manchester Wine Tours is a relaxed, fun wine tour, full of the city’s best food and drink, led by an effortlessly engaging host.

Bar or Pub
Henry C

Henry C is an intimate neighbourhood bar in Chorlton, serving up superb quality drinks.

11 Central

11 Central is a new bar and microbrewery launched by local brewing legends SEVEN BRO7HERS BREWING CO at the Central Bay site in Salford.

Bar or Pub
Kennedy’s Irish Bar

A fan favourite in Altrincham, Kennedy’s Irish Bar offers live music, a vibrant atmosphere and undoubtable Irish charm and hospitality.

Axe & Cleaver

This is the perfect pub for an indulgent weekend, following up a long countryside walk with a hearty and high quality meal.

Bar or Pub
On Bar

This multifaceted venue is primarily an award winning gay bar in Manchester’s Canal Street area – but that is not all…

Bar or Pub

This award winning bar is open six nights a week due to popular demand. Described as the ‘mecca of the north’ for the lesbian community, it is no wonder why.

Bar or Pub
Cruz 101

Everything you want in a Canal Street club can be found here. Cruz 101 – better known as Cruz – is an institution, and a must-visit in Manchester.

Old Pint Pot

This lively spot could be considered a jack of all trades – pub, restaurant, events space and live music venue.

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