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.

Our top picks

The White Hotel, Salford

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

This self-proclaimed sin slide will be one of the most exciting clubs/gig venues you’ll visit during your time here. Located in an unhipstered industrial zone in the shadows of Strangeways prison, it’s sort of in the middle of no-where, and it makes the most of that fact by throwing some of the wildest parties around, club nights regularly running until the time you should be thinking about heading to that morning lecture. A former mechanics workshop, it’s a total dive. It’s also one of the most creatively alive venues in the city, with a unique ability to be the perfect venue for both a string quartet and a heavy techno night.

Creative Tourist

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.


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

There’s not a chance you won’t be hitting up YES at some point. The apple in local promoter Now Wave’s eye, this is a music venue and bar located in a former auctioneers house on Charles Street, just off Oxford Road. It boasts four floors for live music and DJ’s, two food outlets (Two words. Döner Summer) plus an outdoor roof terrace — a great spot for happy hour cocktails. It also has a gravitational pull for excellent smaller bands, The Pink Room accommodating 250 people and the basement, 60. Many great reasons to give this place a try.



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

Affleck’s 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 11 vintage sweaters). 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, posters, piercings and some of the best ice cream to be found in the city centre.

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

This & That Café

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 their spread of curries and dhal.

Creative Tourist


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 eight years ago and has since been curating a varied programme of electronic music nights that consistently bring the fire. With one of the cities best sound systems and signature graffiti you can easily loose yourself in this playful wonderland.

Courtesy of Hidden

Contact Theatre

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.

exterior of Contact Theatre building


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

As you’ll be spending lots 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.



Soup, 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 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.

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

Rudy’s Pizza

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.

Image of Rudy's Neapolitian Pizza, Ancoats
Ben Williams

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.

Image courtesy Big Hands.
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