Manchester’s most characterful, independent district is a jumbled network of streets to one side of Piccadilly Gardens – once home to busy textiles warehouses and even the occasional umbrella factory. Now, the red brick buildings with their New York-style fire escapes are regularly used in film sets, and the streets are bursting with independent cafés, shops, bars, and cultural hotspots.
The Northern Quarter has become a destination in its own right, with the laid-back, bohemian vibe during the day transforming at night into teeming pavements of people in search of good food, craft beer, pop-up events and live music.
When walking around, keep your eyes peeled for public art. The regularly updated artwork at Stevenson Square (currently featuring a mural of David Bowie) and the Tib Street substation are particular must sees, both curated by Out House MCR and funded by Fred Aldous. But look up and you’ll find other little surprises, from the sculptures of exotic birds high on a wall on John Street (a nod, apparently, to the area being known for its pet shops in Victorian times) to a colourful ceramic pineapple on top of the Binks Buildings.
Band on the Wall, 25 Swan Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5JZ - Visit now
On the very tip of the Northern Quarter is one of Manchester’s most cherished venues, which, with its 200 year history, underwent a major renovation and expansion recently. Band on the Wall now has a slicker bar (which doubles us a second gig space), extended capacity in the main room (without losing any of its soul), and a whole floor dedicated to the venue’s innovative World of Music learning programme.
Mackie Mayor, 1 Eagle Street, Manchester, M4 5BU
The Grade II listed Mackie Mayor used to be one of Manchester’s most beautiful but neglected buildings. But a few years back this grand space reopened after a huge refurbishment and is now one of the key fixtures in the ever-growing Northern Quarter food and drink scene.
Manchester Craft & Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5JD - Visit now
One of our favourite places in Manchester, Manchester Craft & Design Centre is hands down the most reliable one-stop-shop for unique, but not over-priced, gifts in the city. Welcome to the mecca of all things beautiful, handmade and one-of-a-kind.
Fred Aldous, 37 Lever Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1LW - Visit now
The worker bee has long been synonymous with Manchester’s industrious ethos, and for good reason: the textiles industry was born in this former “Cottonopolis.” Established in 1886, arts and crafts store Fred Aldous is very much a slice of that history, proving that our worker bee nature and penchant for crafting is still thriving.
Night & Day Cafe, 26 Oldham Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1JN - Visit now
Forever on the precipice of closure due to mystifying noise complaints from locals who have knowingly moved into a flat metres away from a music venue, Night & Day Cafe must be protected at all costs. This characterful and timelessly cool Oldham Street venue is a vital one for emerging bands and music lovers alike.
Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1LE - Visit now
Is there a more well-liked Manchester boozer than this? The 200 year-old Castle has, like so many of the city’s drinking dens, a musical past. It was here, for example, that John Peel interviewed Ian Curtis for the Northern Lights ‘zine, and where for over 30 years local bands have played live gigs to 80-cap crowds.
Soup, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Manchester, M1 1DF - Visit now
Formerly Soup Kitchen. Now just Soup. Nestled in the corner of Stevenson Square, this place finds the right balance in everything. It’s cool but unpretentious, the food and drink menu is great but also pretty cheap, and the industrial-style basement earnestly nurtures Mancunian talent while also attracting international names.
Queer Lit, 39 Tib Street, Manchester, M41LX - Visit now
Finding shops that have dedicated areas for Queer literature or knowing the places to look for excellent new Queer Authors can be hard. With a lack of shops stocking specifically Queer writing and websites not bothering to create areas for it, Queer Lit have stepped up to fill that gap.
The Smithfield Social, 53-55 Thomas St, Manchester , M4 1NA - Visit now
Right at the heart of the Northern Quarter lies Smithfield social, not far from the historic Smithfield market. The Smithfield Social is a friendly, relaxing place to enjoy a wealth of well-executed dishes on a thoughtful, exciting menu. Catering to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike, it’s a must-try brunch stop -especially if you plan on bringing a furry friend.
UNITOM, 1A Stevenson Square, Manchester, M1 1DN - Visit now
From household names like Taschen and Phaidon to locally made publications and small press titles, UNITOM is home to an extensive range of titles on contemporary art, design, fashion, photography and counterculture, alongside a vast number of independent magazines.
Matt and Phred’s, 64 Tib Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1LW - Visit now
Tucked discreetly into the brickwork of Tib Street, next to a handful of excellent bars like Common, Matt and Phred’s hosts live jazz music every day of the week. It also wins happy hour: you literally get a free pizza when you buy two pints. Good God…
Common Bar, 39-47 Edge Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1HW - Visit now
Tucked away on the aptly named Edge Street, Common does innovation well, with a rotating art exhibition and an array of cultural happenings. The craft beer selection is excellent and if you head in at the right time an incredibly moreish 14″ Nell’s Pizza can be yours for just £7.77.
Yoga Soul, Yoga Soul, 49a Newton Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1FT - Visit now
Yoga Soul is a people-driven hub of good vibes, which you can find on Newton Street in the Northern Quarter, providing a platform and a home for you to take part in Manchester’s yogi community, to help you grow your yoga practice in a way that is significant to you.
Manchester Psych Fest, the UK’s leading psychedelic music and arts festival, returns in September 2023. We explore the line-up.
Jonathan Schofield Is well known for his expertly informed, charismatic and intriguing guided tours, join him on one to find out why.
Experience a food tour that will show you the remnants of Manchester’s industrial past in Canals and Canapés with Manchester Bites.
Directed by renowned saxophonist Munch Manship, Band on The Wall’s well established jazz workshop provides hands on experience in performing jazz.
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