A Gay Guide to Manchester
Discover the UK's northern powerhouse
Manchester has one of the best gay scenes in Europe. It’s a big, brash city with amazing nightlife and fascinating history. Manchester was the first city to industrialise, thereby kicking off the industrial revolution and laying the foundations for the world we live in today. Manchester was also the home of the Hacienda, Acid House and the legendary Mad For It party scene of the late 80s.
In the late 90s, Manchester was the setting for Queer As Folk, Britain’s first proper gay TV drama. Queer As Folk is legendary for presenting queer people as normal humans, as opposed to caricatures. Oh, and Manchester is also famed for Canal Street: a huge gay village right in the centre of town. All in all, Manchester is a pretty amazing place. It’s actually one of the most exciting cities in Europe, and it’s something of a hidden gem. If you’re looking for a gay city getaway, Manchester should be high on your list.
Do bring an umbrella though. As well as being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, Morrissey and Emily Pankhurst, Manchester invented rain! If Manchester had good weather, it’d be as popular as New York… but it wouldn’t be Manchester. Are you Mad For It? Of course you are.
Explore the gay scene on Canal Street
Canal Street is Manchester’s ever-popular gay district. It isn’t tucked away down some discrete back alley. It’s right in the heart of the city centre. Canal Street is packed with gay bars and gay clubs. It’s very much a party district.
All the gay venues are in the same spot. You’ll find them all along Canal Street itself and on the backstreets veering off Canal Street. Indulge in a spot of bar hopping. Find somewhere that catches your eye and investigate. You’re likely to see lots of drag queens, many of whom will be becoming you into the various bars with flyers.
If you’d like to begin your gay night out on Canal Street with a degree fo restraint, head to Richmond Tea Rooms. You can even head there in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a scone. It has an old school, very English charm. It also serves booze.
New York New York is a popular gay bar on Bloom Street. It’s fairly small but it’s loads of fun. There are drag performances most evenings. A good place to make a night of it and flirt with some locals.
G-A-Y Manchester is probably the most famous gay bar in Manchester, G-A-Y is open until 4am every day. The drinks are cheap and it gets packed in the evenings, especially on weekdays. Most gay nights out in Manchester wind up at G-A-Y.
Things to do in Manchester
Manchester is very gay-friendly. You’ll see gay people all over the city. Venturing off the gay scene, you should definitely check out the Northern Quarter. It’s the hipster, uber-cool, nightlife hub of the city. The Northern Quarter is packed with bars, restaurants, clubs, shops and trendy people. You could split your night out between the Northern Quarter and Canal street.
Head to the Northern Quarter on the afternoon and check out the shops. There are lots of independent boutiques to explore. You should also check out the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery - both are in the Northern Quarter.
Manchester is legendary for music. It’s produced many rock bands, from Oasis to the Stone Roses. It’s also been responsible for a lot of legendary club music. The Hacienda was the place to be back in the day, but it closed its doors many years ago in a haze of drug scandals and financial mismanagement - just like Studio 54. One of the founders of the Hacienda (and New Order and Joy Division) wrote a book about it. The book is called The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Nightclub. A good primer on Manchester’s cultural history.
Fittingly, you’ll find many independent record stores in Manchester. Music lovers will rejoice. You can also check out the live music scene in the evening. Bars like YES and Band On The Wall are great for live music.
Events in Manchester
Gay Pride in Manchester has become quite legendary. It’s now one of the biggest gay Pride events on the planet. Manchester Pride is a destination event. People flood into the city to join the party, so book your hotel in advance. Following the devastating attack at her concert in Manchester, Ariana Grande returned to the city to headline Manchester Pride in 2019. Adam Lambert was set to perform in 2021, but a global pandemic nixed that.
The Manchester International Festival is also a destination event. It’s catching up with the Edinburgh Festival. In some ways, the Manchester International Festival is better than Edinburgh’s. It showcases such a diverse array of acts, from big names like Janelle Monae and Bjork, to the most cutting edge theatre.
Is Manchester worth visiting?
Yes! In short, Manchester is a big city with loads of charm and friendly, not to mention cheeky inhabitants. The cost of living is significantly lower in Manchester, as compared to London. That means it can still have a buzzing independent nightlife and cultural scene. Much of the BBC was relocated to Manchester in recent years. There have even been calls to move the UK parliament to Manchester. In many ways, Manchester can feel like the real centre of gravity. People in London just haven't figured it out yet.
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