Manchester is a popular destination for any LGBT traveller – and I’m kinda biased, being split equally between Leeds and Manchester.
There’s a reason why I love Manchester, though, and why I chose to leave Leeds to come here (despite going back twice a week for work). Simply put: Manchester’s got character.
From the Cottonopolis of the late Industrial Revolution to the clubbing capital of Madchester, this city is one of many faces. That’s the strength of the city – its diversity.
With some 251 languages spoken in Manchester, it’s overtaken London as the most ethnically diverse city in the country. And unlike London, you can go clubbing all night without having to get a taxi halfway across the city because the bars all close at 11.30pm (ahem, Soho!) – and you’ll still have change to get home afterwards.
A holiday … sort of
A journo I know from America was visiting sunny (ha!) Manchester, and so it happened that I was invited to review my own hometown alongside her. Which is nice.
Naturally, I jumped at the task. How could I resist spending a long weekend with my American colleague, Kelsy, and revelling in all the reasons why I love this city.
Manchester’s Metroshuttle is a free and pleasant bus service running through the city centre. The brightly-coloured buses (orange, purple and green) are well kept. They’re nothing like the super-cheap, student-oriented Magic Buses with their £1 tickets along the Oxford Road Corridor, but they’re almost as popular, so sometimes you may have to queue!
The Metroshuttle buses circulate on three different routes throughout the daytime, helping you get around quickly and easily – if you need to.
It’s probably not advisable to get a taxi around the city centre, because the one-way systems mean it doesn’t end up cost-effective unless it’s raining (on second thoughts, it usually it) or snowing, and you don’t want to ruin your hair.
If you must get a taxi, download Uber. If you need a free £10 voucher code, register with mine: V9440 (yes, I am shameless – and that TV show was made here too).
If you want to try something different to buses, trains and taxis, however, you can also try the Metrolink, which is great for getting out of town – especially to Salford Quays or Old Trafford. (Note: buy a ticket before you get on the tram.)
You can also hire bikes from the major stations and bike pick-up points across the city.
Friday 20 March
Visitors to the city might want to try DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
DoubleTree by Hilton is the perfect blend of convenience and style. Placed right on the edge of the Village, it’s within stumbling distance of all your favourite haunts, and also equidistant from Piccadilly Train Station – so you won’t have to mince very far with that luggage.
The hotel has great views across Manchester from floor-to-ceiling windows, and has all the usual mod-cons, plus Apple iMacs, complimentary wi-fi access, Skype and an array of satellite and digital TV channels.
The hotel’s lovely City Café offers informal but al fresco dining.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Manchester
1, Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn Street, Manchester M1 3DG
A tour or two
A great place to head for a spot of afternoon tea, Richmond Tea Rooms is one of the most popular daytime spots in the Village. We went there great sandwiches, cakes, teas and cocktails for very reasonable prices – and beneath the restaurant is bear-paradise The Eagle for those hungry for an after-dessert treat.
Richmond Tea Rooms
15 Richmond Street, Manchester M1 3HZ
0161 237 9667
You can also try The Molly House for a spot of tapas if that suits you instead. Soon we’ll be seeing a few new restaurants opening in the Village, including the relaunch of Taurus, so there’s plenty to do during the day if you want to meet friends and socialise.
On Friday we headed to San Carlo Fumo, the latest restaurant from the San Carlo family of eateries. We were joined by the lovely Kieran Bussoopun from Manchester Pride, where we chatted about all things Manchester.
Fumo, launched in June 2012, joins San Carlo and San Carlo Cicchetti in Manchester. The award-winning San Carlo Group runs very popular Italian restaurants throughout the UK.
The food is served tapas-style, and the idea is that you keep ordering while you dine, so that no dish ever goes cold. Try the truffle and cheese ravioli and the gambas.
San Carlo Fumo Manchester
1 St Peter’s Quarter, Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5AN
sancarlofumo.co.uk | @SanCarlo_Fumo
We were pooped from all the eating and drinking, but still found time to hit the bars. We started off at New York, New York – home of the lovely Tracey Walsh – where you can find a very queer poem by Chloe Poems above the men’s urinals, to add a touch of class to your Friday night.
We followed up with a brief jaunt to AXM, where Misty Chance was warming up for a fabulous Trixie Mattel at Holy Trannity. Holy Trannity (usually on a Sunday) brings the RuPaul’s Drag Race queens to Manchester, where the local talent and the US stars own the stage side by side.
Saturday 21 March
You can have breakfast at your hotel, or you can head to the Northern Quarter for some delightful surprises: Home Sweet Home has some great grub, including waffles, burritos and more.
Or, if you don’t want to move too far from the Village, you could pig out with some of the best coffee in town over at Moose Coffee on York Street – just a stone’s throw from Canal Street.
Home Sweet Home
49-51 Edge Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1HW
0161 244 9424
If you feel that way inclined (we all like to learn sometimes), you can easily check out some of the museums within easy reach of the city centre.
The Museum of Science and Industry – down Lower Byrom Street – is situated in an old passenger railway building, and carries bags of charm. Inside, you’ll find exhibits about the industrial heritage of Manchester and some of the great scientific developments that have sprung from this great city.
Museum of Science & Industry
Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FP
mosi.org.uk | @voiceofmosi
A little further out of town – out past Spinningfields, towards Salford – you’ll find the People’s History Museum, which often has LGBT-themed events during Manchester Pride and LGBT History Month.
The museum has a focus on the radical stories of Manchester, including the fight for social justice and democracy.
People’s History Museum
Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3ER
Or, for a taste of classic Mancunian architecture, check out the newly renovated and breathtaking Manchester Central Library – which houses Archives+. Not only does Archives+ have an extensive collection of LGBT-related items, they have a young LGBT Writer in Residence, Bryony Bates, in conjunction with local writing collective, Young Enigma.
Manchester Central Library
St. Peters Square, Manchester M2 5PD
0161 234 1983
Erm, even more afternoon tea?
A girl has to fill her afternoons, am I right? So you could try a late afternoon tea lunch at the gorgeous Proper Tea at Manchester Cathedral, or you could head to trendy cultural hub Nexus Art Cafe for some homemade cakes and matcha lattes.
Proper Tea is the brainchild of broadcaster and tea fanatic Yvette Fielding and the team behind the award-winning Teacup Kitchen (in the nearby Northern Quarter).
Manchester Cathedral, Cathedral Yard, Manchester, M3 1SQ
properteadeveloper.com | @propertearooms
Located in the Northern Quarter, Nexus Art Cafe is a great space that hosts events, live music, life-drawing classes and more within a funky, church-run cafe.
The staff are a young and eclectic bunch, and the cafe itself is a living artwork, with local exhibitions on the walls and the Salford Zine Library in the back room.
Nexus Art Cafe
2 Dale St, Manchester M1 1JW
0161 236 0100
The Northern Quarter
Great for shopping, browing, and hipster-spotting, the Northern Quarter is the trendy heart of every bearded, tattoo’d hotness you can imagine.
Start at Oi Polloi, an indie menswear store, where you can pick up a taste of Northern fashion.
With classic, functional and contemporary clothes on offer, alongside a killer collection of footwear, this shop is world-famous – and was selected as the No. 1 men’s independent fashion store in the UK by Esquire. We think they’re pretty good too.
63 Thomas Street, Manchester, M4 1LQ
Next up, try the Craft and Design Centre to pick up some gifts for those loved ones back home who’re missing out on the rain-drenched, Morrissey-perfumed pavements.
Manchester Craft and Design Centre
17 Oak Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JD
craftanddesign.com | @ManchesterCraft
Beermoth is a relative newcomer to the city, but is beloved all the same. This beer emporium is the perfect place to join in Manc’s number one hobby: getting pissed (we jest – sort of!).
71 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1 LG
beermoth.co.uk | @Thebeermoth
Even Lady Gaga visited Afflecks when she came to Manchester, so perhaps you should too. It’s a proud assortment of DIY boutiques and punk-ethos brands.
Check out Pride to Be for some LGBT gifts and cards for all occasions.
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium is some terrific handmade ice cream and, if you’re feeling really wanky, you can even try Black Milk: Manchester’s first cereal café. Although, there is an Aldi nearby if you want to buy a carton of milk and a box of no-frills Cheerios.
If you want a really special memento, you can even get a tattoo (we’ll give you a pint if you make it a Vada tattoo)!
52 Church Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1PW
afflecks.com | @affleckspalace
Well, now, all this travelling will surely make you thirsty. So as you pass Stevenson Square, you should head to the area around the Basement Sauna (that can wait until later) and try a drink at Kosmonaut or El Capo. These bars, located near Tariff Street, are in the same area where much of Cucumber was shot.
10 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FF
12 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FF
Okay, so while you may think all the food here is fish and chips and Yorkshire puddings, British people are surprisingly Imperialist when it comes to their dinnerplates. We love a curry and we love a Chinese! For that reason, you should make an excuse to head to China Town as we did.
There you’ll find the lovely family-owned restaurant Yang Sing, located on Princess Street. Founded in 1977 by the Yeung family, this restaurant is in a grade II-listed building and offers purely exquisite Cantonese food. It’s also worth trying some of the saki and Japanese spirits.
34 Princess Street, Manchester M1 4JY
yang-sing.com | @yangsingmcr
Saturday is always a big night in Manchester. This particular Saturday, we had a veritable smorgasbord to choose from. Naturally, we didn’t choose, and went everywhere.
We started off at Vanilla, before heading to Electropop Curious? back in the Northern Quarter (up the stairs at Kraak).
Next we headed to Poptastic with the fabulous Bamby Meltz and Cake Moss – to dance like a pair of tits with all the students.
I couldn’t help myself, and paid visits to both The Eagle (om nom) and The Thompson Arms (everyone loves a sticky dancefloor and pretty boys).
Finally we wound up in Aftershock @ Sub 101, where the sublime Anna Phylactic presides over all kinds of madness, underscored by Nick Denton’s fine, fine house beats.
Sunday 22 March
So we spent most of Sunday pretty hungover. But that was okay.
We opted to keep to tradition and went for a traditional Sunday roast at Sam’s Chop House. Established in 1872, the bar-restaurant has a very traditional pub feel, with lovingly restored Victoriana throughout, and a classy but laidback feel.
Sam’s Chop House
Back Pool Fold, Chapel Walks, off Cross Street, Manchester, M2 1HN
samschophouse.com | @chophousesams
The Sound of Music
After dinner we headed back to the Village for drinks at Oscars – the Village’s divine showtunes-inspired bar.
34 Canal Street, Manchester M1 3WD
0161 237 9201
Monday 23 March
On our final day of the ‘trip’ (bearing in mind I live in the city…), we headed to Contact in studentville. Contact is a dynamic charity based in Manchester with young people at the heart of everything they do.
Top of their list of queer credentials is their annual LGBT arts festival, Queer Contact – where a certain genderfluid writer had his/her first solo show.
While at Contact, we got to check out ‘George House Trust: HIV Activism on Paper’ – a continuing exhibition which began during Queer Contact 2015 as part of LGBT History Month. We grabbed a light lunch on the go at Kukoos – a street-food restaurant back towards town at the bottom of Oxford Road.
Kukoos (Made by Zouk)
12A Oxford Road, Manchester M1 5QA
0161 235 8536
After some downtime from all the walking, we took early dinner at Albert Square Chop House (not the same one as before, but quintessentially English nevertheless), where the food was divine and the service as friendly as you’d expect from we Northern types.
The Albert Square Chop House
Memorial Hall, 14 Albert Square, Manchester M2 5PF
0161 834 1866
Next we headed to the Royal Exchange Theatre to catch trans writer Jo Clifford’s adaptation of Anna Karenina (directed by Ellen McDougall and starring Ony Uhiara).
The Royal Exchange is a seriously impressive building, and this just adds to the atmosphere of any show that appears here (last year we saw a transgender rendition of Hamlet there too).
Royal Exchange Theatre
St Anns Square, Manchester M2 7DH
0161 833 9833
And then, just like that, it was time to head back to reality. Until Tuesday, of course …