students guide to manchester
Photo by Stefan Lorentz

Student guide to Manchester

Creative Tourist

You’re leaving home for the first time, flying the coop, making your way in the world, and you’ve chosen Manchester as the destination for this new phase of life to begin. What an excellent choice. Manchester is a city with endless personality, bountiful libraries and has a nightlife fizzing with variety. Over the course of three years, surely the city that inspired Marx and Engels to write the communist manifesto can also motivate you into writing a dissertation.

While your settling in, meeting the people who could end up being your best mates for the next few years, and finding your feet, it’s useful to know where to look to find fun in the city. We’ve got you covered, with a guide of ‘student essentials’, (your Uni will tell you the boring actual essentials). We’ve rounded up some of the best music venues, shops, cheap eats and night clubs this city has to offer.

Dive into the urban maze of DIY club nights, lo fi fashion and cross cultural cuisine that this city has to offer, and you’ll soon get over the mancunian climate.

Here are our picks

  • 1. The White Hotel, Salford

    Creative Tourist

    The White Hotel, Salford, Unit 3
    Dickinson Street, Manchester, M3 7LW - Visit now

    White Hotel’s rustic charm is unavoidable. As a late night venue it draws in groundbreaking electronic artists from across Europe, earlier in the evening you can find all manner of artistic ‘happenings’ taking place. It is an old mechanics garage with a unique ability to be the perfect venue for both a string quartet and a heavy techno night. This diversity in programming lets you see a whole range of artists working at the top of their game.

  • 2. COW Vintage Manchester

    COW Vintage Manchester, 61 Church Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1PD - Visit now

    So you’ve just arrived in Manchester and want to get involved in the self expression, creativity and plain fun seen in how Mancunians present themselves. COW vintage is the place to head. With a selection of hand picked vintage as well as remade clothing, you’re sure to find one or two signature pieces that’ll help you start building an independent wardrobe.

  • 3. YES


    YES, 38 Charles Street, Manchester, M1 7DB - Visit now

    One of the newer additions to Manchester, YES has made its name for serving good pizza and great music. With a basement for late nights as well as a roof terrace for a breath of fresh air mid gig, you will find yourself gravitating towards this musical hub during your time here.

  • 4. Afflecks

    Image of Afflecks Palace in Manchester's Northern Quarter
    Ben Williams

    Afflecks, 52 Church Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1PW - Visit now

    Affleck’s palace is a long standing institution, and the perfect place to buy your Manchester student starter kit (a.k.a. a couple of wall hangings, some incense and obviously wavy garms). No other retail unit embodies so wholeheartedly the indie DIY attitude that Manchester is so well known for. This emporium of independent sellers is easy to get lost in, as you search through priceless vinyls, artisanal beads, posters, piercings and some of the best ice cream to be found in the city centre.

  • 5. This & That Café

    Creative Tourist

    This & That Café, 3, Soap St, The Northern Quarter, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1EW - Visit now

    For students who want to eat out in the Northern Quarter without haemorrhaging student loan This and That is a must. As one of the cities worst kept secrets, their hearty portions and heartfelt pricing keeps the cafe buzzing with custom.

    Whether you’re vegan or can’t imaging the thought of a meal without meat, you’ll find something delicious in This and That’s spread of curries and dhal.

  • 6. Hidden

    Courtesy of Hidden

    Hidden, Downtex Mill, 16-18 Mary St, Manchester, M3 1NH - Visit now

    Manchester is renowned for its ability to facilitate a banging party, and the younger venues are carrying on that legacy of giants like the Haçienda. Hidden first appeared on the scene about seven years ago and has since been curating a varied programme of electronic music nights. With one of the cities best sound systems and signature graffiti you can easily loose yourself in this playful wonderland.

  • 7. Contact Theatre

    exterior of Contact Theatre building

    Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6JA - Visit now

    Contact puts on stimulating theatre shows, hosts impassioned spoken word poetry sessions and also gives you – yes, you – the chance to star in its productions. If you’re an aspiring DJ, actor or dancer you’d better get yourself down there and sign up for something straight away.

  • 8. Hatch


    Hatch, Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 7ED - Visit now

    As you’ll be spending most of your time around Oxford road, it’s worth getting familiar with HATCH. This container crate haven, filled with independents selling everything from coffee to clothes, some top notch street food eateries, and various booze traders and bars. Although the outside may look like an enlarged version of someone’s lego construction, the sleek interior manages to give off a real community vibe. You can often find live music and events happening in the courtyard on an evening, should you need to suggest a place to make the best of what summer we have left.

  • 9. Soup Kitchen

    Image of Soup Kitchen in Manchester's Northern Quarter
    Ben Williams

    Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Manchester, M1 1DF - Visit now

    Looking for the best Manchester clubs? Go underground, to the basement of a Soup Kitchen. Though the bar has been around for a while, and during the day Soup Kitchen is a decent place to go to for a Northern Quarter, communal-style lunch, Soup Kitchen’s basement space is home to some of the city’s best gigs and club nights, and drinks are more reasonably priced than you’ll find elsewhere in the area.

  • 10. Rudy’s Pizza

    Image of Rudy's Neapolitian Pizza, Ancoats
    Ben Williams

    Rudy’s Pizza, 9 Cotton Street, Ancoats, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5BF - Visit now

    Everyone in Manchester who loves food knows about Rudy’s, and many will claim they do the best pizza in the city. But it’s also pretty cheap, especially as far as restaurants in the trendy Ancoats neighbourhood go – prices start at about a tenner for 12 slices of authentic Neapolitan joy. And while you’re in Cutting Room Square (Ancoat’s hospitality hub), there are plenty of great bars to check out, as well as the much-loved Ancoats marina, should you fancy a few tins by the canal in the last of the summer sun.

  • 11. Big Hands

    Image courtesy Big Hands.

    Big Hands, 296 Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M13 9NS

    Just over the road from The University of Manchester’s student union on Oxford Road,  you’ll see a red neon sign announcing the entrance to this dimly-lit drinking hole, which is squeezed between a tiny florist and a kebab shop. Get past the smokers around the tall tables out front and, once inside, you’ll escape the incessant screeching of car tires upon tarmac. Instead, you could be half the world away in an American rock ‘n’ roll saloon.