If you are looking for somewhere alternative to the mainstream then why not check out our hipster guide to Manchester packed with cool places to make the most of this iconic city.
From being the birth place of modern industry in the 18th Century to spawning legendary bands like The Smiths, Joy Division and Simply Red in the 80s, Manchester has never been one to follow the crowd. So it seems only fitting that Manchester is finding fame as a hotspot of hipster culture in the UK. From urban street art and underground music venues to vintage markets and eco-friendly co-ops, Manchester has plenty of hidden gems for those looking for something a bit different.
Where to stay in Manchester
Hatters Hostel, Newton Street
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, Manchester has some great options to help you find your ideal hotel – and for hipster visitors to the city, the choice doesn’t get much better than Hatters – Newton Street in the Northern Quarter.
Found in a former bowler hat factory, the lively backpackers hostel provides clean and comfortable accommodation in a safe environment, offering both spacious dorms and private doubles complete with secure key-card access. Guests will also find a range of entertainment options, such as table football, board games and a pool table, as well as a communal kitchen.
Hatters is famed for its social atmosphere, with regular pub crawls, film nights and free walking tours provided. The hostel is also situated above a popular bar, the Hold Fast Bar.Compare price
What to see in Manchester
When it comes to exploring Manchester, there are several neighbourhoods which stand out for hipsters.
The Northern Quarter (NQ) is known as the city’s hipster mecca and is where you’ll find regularly-changing murals and street art, as well as a huge array of great bars and boutique shops.
Chorlton, a trendy suburb to the south-west of the centre, has a laid-back, slightly middle-class vibe and is a popular destination for foodies – particularly Beech Road.
Meanwhile there’s also a thriving LGBT scene based around Canal Street, known as the Gay Village. Here, you’ll find some great bars and clubs, as well as restaurants and tea rooms.
Visitors to Manchester should also check out Castlefield, a former industrial hub, which is now known for its bars, restaurants and canal-side beer gardens. Half the city seems to flock here when the sun comes out.
Things to do in Manchester
Culture vultures will enjoy a visit to HOME, an art-house cinema, theatre and exhibition space created from the merger of two beloved Manchester institutions: the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company.
Art lovers should head over to the utterly unique Creative Recycling Gallery in Chorlton, where visitors can view (and buy) bespoke contemporary designs made entirely from upcycled materials.
Meanwhile, music lovers can get to grips with Manchester’s musical heritage and follow in the footsteps of their favourite musicians on a guided walk from Manchester Music Tours.
And if that doesn’t take your fancy, you can test your wits against Breakout Manchester, a locked-room game where visitors have to solve puzzles and find clues in order to escape
Where to shop in Manchester
Manchester is a haven for shoppers. From the Arndale to King Street, the city has plenty to satisfy designer and high street tastes. But if you’re looking for independent retailers and unique boutiques, there’s something for you too.
Afflecks Palaceis a famous go-to if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind shopping. This eclectic emporium dubs itself a ‘totem of indie commerce’ in the city and offers visitors an ever-changing range of boutiques and pop-ups, selling everything from lingerie to skating gear. Hugely popular, the place is a Mancunian institution.
Arts and crafts lovers should make a bee-line for Fred Aldous, another home-grown favourite found in the NQ. Art shop, craft shop, model shop and DIY shop rolled into one, this hub of design has everything you need to help you unleash your creativity.
Of course, if there’s one thing hipsters love to shop for, it’s vinyl records and Piccadilly Records is one of the best in the country. Found in the Northern Quarter, the store has won endless awards and accolades and stocks a huge range from indie and rock to house and psych.
Manchester also has plenty of thriving markets. Held on the first Saturday of the month in a Victorian market hall, the Castlefield Artisan Market is the city’s largest for fine food, crafts and vintage, offering everything from cakes and deserts to vintage furniture. Outside the centre, Chorlton Art Market (CAM Hub) is a recent crowd-sourced venture in Chorlton precinct, which showcases a mix of locally-produced artwork, handmade crafts and designs from local producers.
Where to eat in Manchester
When it comes to food, Manchester has plenty to offer – and it’s not all barms (or breadcakes) and chips and gravy (though those are pretty amazing too).
Trof NQ | Photo credit: John Pilkington
If you’re looking for where to eat in Chorlton, The Horse & Jockey is a local landmark. Overlooking Chorlton Green, the Tudor-era pub-cum-restaurant serves up great food and traditional ales – even boasting its own micro-brewery, The Bootleg. Food ranges from traditional British grub to more adventurous fare, including calamari, hanging kebabs and mussels. For sunny days, the Horse & Jockey has one of the best beer gardens in Manchester, while in winter you can cosy up to the log fire.
Also in Chorlton, you’ll find the North Star Delicatessen, a bright and open deli serving up great food for brunch and lunch, including sandwiches, salads and bagels. North Star is popular choice for yummy mummies and young families on a Sunday morning.
If you’re looking for a greasy full English after a night out or a beautiful Sunday roast to set you up for the day, look no further than Trof NQ. This stripped-back, no frills bar and restaurant is perfect for any time of day, whether you’re looking for an evening beer, a morning coffee or a great meal. The chicken Sunday Roast is hands-down one of our favourites.
Another popular spot is Home Sweet Home. Peeled-back wooden panels, eclectic furniture and cool prints decorate this chilled hangout that prides itself on its delicious range of cakes. However, it’s the Pulled Pork Pile Up that we love – pulled pork smothered in BBQ sauce served on a bed of sweet potato fries. Nom.
Where to go for a drink in Manchester
Mancunians know how to party. The city is revered for its nightlife and its ‘Madchester’ heritage is the stuff of legends. But individualists on the look-out for bars off-the-beaten-track can still find them here.
First off is Under New Management (formerly Corridor Bar). A real hidden gem, this edgy cocktail bar in Salford, famed for it’s hard-to-pin-down location (though this author can claim to have actually been there) and excellent cocktails. The interior is simple, dark and no-nonsense.
Of course, Manchester is a big hit among students, so it’s no surprise that cheap drinking holes have sprung up. But few have achieved the same level of popularity as Font. The main appeal? £2 cocktails of every variety. Cheers!
Looking for something a little more off-beat? How about a bar that used to be a public toilet? Well, The Temple is exactly that. This quirky bar is a bit snug, but is one of Manchester’s best, with a wide range of foreign beers on offer and a jukebox full of home-grown acts.
If Doctor Who is more your thing, why not try Fab Café on Portland Street? The Sci-fi themed bar has a large, loyal following and attracts a good crowd. The interior is out of this world – literally – fitted with its own T.A.R.D.I.S. and Star Trek-inspired dance floor. You’ll also find retro games machines – perfect for any and all nostalgia and vintage lovers.
Where to see live music in Manchester
An evening of live music is a must in Manchester. The city has fostered the talents of incredible artists over the years and has some great intimate venues where you can catch the latest gig from the next best thing.
Night & Day Cafe | Photo credit: Sarah Bird
Night & Day Café has seen some of the biggest names in UK music pass through its doors: Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Snow Patrol and other big names have all played a set here. The key draw for fans is the size, with the small space creating a rare, intimate atmosphere.
Another stalwart on the Manchester music scene is The Deaf Institute, just off Oxford Road. A popular place for quiet drinks, student club nights and gigs, this cosy hipster-friendly venue attracts some great up-and-coming names in cutting-edge indie.
For more established acts, check out the concert listings at the O2 Apollo Manchester. Found on the edge of Longsight, the former theatre has full standing and seating capacity and has played host to a range of musicians from a variety of genres.