We love Manchester. It is such a cool city with a very liberal and progressive vibe. This is where Emmeline Pankhurst started the movement for women's right to vote in the UK in the 1920s, and where The Vegetarian Society was born in the early 1800s. Manchester also has one of the largest student populations in Europe, and has historically maintained a very strong left-wing anti-aristocratic sentiment.
Manchester is located in Northwest England, just over 2 hours from London by train making it very easy to reach. Whenever we're in London, we always try to come here for a weekend to party on Canal Street. This is one of the few places in the world we feel very safe about walking the streets in public holding hands.
Here's our guide to gay Manchester, featuring the best bars, clubs, events and hotels to stay.
Manchester gay village: Canal Street
Manchester's gay village is compact, with loads of gay bars and clubs. The main focal point is the pedestrianised Canal Street which runs along the Rochdale Canal, minutes walking distance from the city's main train station: Manchester Piccadilly. You will recognise it from the original UK version of Queer as Folk where Stuart, Vince and Nathan prowled the streets on their nights out.
Most of the gay bars and clubs of Manchester are based in the few streets surrounding Canal Street. Saturday night is the best night to go partying, and Thursday another popular night because this is when the gay sports groups go out to socialise. On weekday evenings, particularly on Fridays, the crowds tend to come in two waves – the just-after-work crowd at around 5-7pm, then another wave at around 10/11pm.
The Gay Village is also the focal point of Manchester Gay Pride, which is one of our favourite Pride events. It is the largest annual gay event in Manchester, taking place on the last week of August. It is definitely worth planning your trip around if you're in the UK in August.
Gay hotels in Manchester
Manchester is a very open minded city, so there should never be any problems booking a double bed wherever you stay. These are the gay friendly hotels in Manchester we tried, or which were recommended to us by other travellers:
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DoubleTree by Hilton: amazing location and highly rated
DoubleTree is perfectly located right by the entrance of Canal Street. It is also minutes walking distance to Manchester Piccadilly train station. We love it because of how well located it is. Although it's a bit pricey, it's totally worth the expense and highly rated by other travellers as well, which is why we chose it. Rooms are spacious, they have a very cool modern gym, and the buffet breakfast is huge. The icing on the cake are the staff: everyone was really friendly and welcoming to us. There was never any issue about us being a gay couple.
Rooms at DoubleTree start from £161 a night.
Velvet Hotel: boutique hotel in the gay village
Velvet is a boutique hotel, located right in the heart of the gay village on Canal Street. It's a popular choice by fellow gay travellers and has many positive online reviews. Even though it's on Canal Street, it's surprisingly quiet here. We love it because it's smaller than the large chain hotels, so service is more personable, making it ideal for couples.
New Union: cheaper, good location but noisy
New Union is located right in the middle of the gay village on Princess Street. It's a great option if you want to be centrally located but not pay as much as a room at DoubleTree or Velvet. However, the compromise is that it's noisy, and the reviews for it online are more mixed.
Rooms at the New Union start from £100 a night.
Manchester gay bars and clubs
These are our some of our favourite bars to start the night:
- Via: Via is always a lot of fun with a mixed crowd and a drag show at some stage during the night. It's always busy, which is why we always like to start our evenings here. Via is located on 28 Canal Street and is open every day from noon till 2am, (3am on weekends).
- The Thompsons Arms: this is very popular with the under 25s crowd (and their fans!), mainly because of the many student drinks promotions. It's a fun place to start the night and becomes a dancing venue upstairs later in the night. One tip: bring ID as the bouncers check everyone. Thompsons is located at 23 Sackville and is open everyday from 2pm till late.
- GAY: also attracts a young crowd because of the student drinks promotions. We love all the cheesy pop hits they play on the many video screens, and we always have an awesome night out here. GAY is located at Richmond Street, just off Canal Street, and is open everyday from midday till 4am.
- The Molly House: we love Molly House for drinks and to get a bite to eat. They've got a pretty decent Spanish inspired menu here, which is worth trying out. The Molly House is located at 26 Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3NB, and is open everyday from midday until midnight, with later closing hours on weekends.
- The Richmond Tea Rooms: we love this place! It's based on an Alice in Wonderland theme, with the quirky decor to match. This is the place you need to come for brunch/afternoon British tea. It's particularly popular on weekends, so expect some waiting time. Otherwise, if you're 4 people or more, you can call ahead/contact them online to book a table. The Richmond Tea Rooms is located on Richmond Street, just behind Canal Street, and is open everyday from 11am to 8pm.
- New York New York: a small and quite exclusive bar. To get in, you usually have to find one of the flyer boys on Canal Street, otherwise the bouncers are likely to refuse you entry, especially on Fridays. We managed to get in on a Saturday evening without any problems and had a fun time. New York is located on 94 Bloom Street and is open everyday from 1pm till late.
Manchester gay clubs
These are the main gay clubs in Manchester where most will eventually end up at depending on what crowd you're into:
- Cruz 101: Cruz is the most popular gay club in Manchester. It's famous for being the place where the scenes of the “Babylon” nightclub were filmed in the British Queer As Folk series. Cruz has 2 dance floors – upstairs and downstairs, playing a mix of chart pop hits, RnB and house. Cruz is located at 101 Princess Street and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30pm till 5am, later on weekends.
- Eagle: the Eagle is a men only club with fun themed nights. It has a bar open during the day, but the dance room doesn't get busy until after 11pm. The Eagle is located at 15 Bloom Street in the gay village, and is open from 5pm till 3am, later on weekends.
- Void: this is the most famous gay after-hours club in Manchester on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Most go to Eagle or Cruz first, then head here when they close. On weekends it's open till 10am the next morning. Void is located at 4 Richmond Street, in the gay village.
Gay saunas in Manchester
There are two gay saunas in Manchester – Base and Basement. Base is located in the gay village, and Basement a little bit further out. If you're a student, or into twinks look out for the student days when under 25 nights can come for free.
- Base: Base is open everyday from 10am to 10pm and 24 hours on weekends until Sunday 10pm. Tuesday is their student day. Base is located at 38 Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3WA.
- Basement: Basement is open everyday 24 hours a day. Student day here is on Wednesdays. Basement is located at 18 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2FN.
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