Traditional pubs up and down the UK have shuttered at an alarming rate in recent years. But in Manchester many old-school drinking dens have held on – and thrived. There may be a bigger, thirstier clientele up here, but their success may also be due to the fact they very much get the basics of any self-respecting public house. These destinations are knocking out quality food, working with the finest indie brewers and craft beer bars, and hosting top-notch comedy and music events. Whiling away an idle afternoon, book and beer in hand, must be among the best things to do in Manchester. Our list is here to help guide you to the coolest, most atmospheric pubs this city has to offer right now.
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Best pubs in Manchester
Owned by former Beautiful South and Housemartins lead singer Paul Heaton, this Salford institution has tapped into the gentrification of Chapel Street with a lovable mix of old and new styles. Some features date to Victorian times with lovely woodwork and tiled flooring as well as a carved wood, cathedral-esque performance space on the top floor.
If you were putting together a dream pub in your booze-fuelled mind you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more perfect construction than the Marble Arch. Admire beautiful tiled walls and floors dating back to the heyday of pub architecture while you explore one of the city’s best selections of ales, lagers and liquors, plus food that goes far beyond regular pub grub.
Just across from the neon and fake tan of Deansgate Locks, The Briton’s Protection could not be further removed in both vibe and décor. A proper old-fashioned boozer with a well-stocked bar that even has a serving hatch at the back, this is the kind of place that wears its nicotine-stained curtains with pride.
Housed in a beautiful Tudor building in the centre of town, Sinclair’s is home to the city’s biggest beer garden. Unfortunately, the secret is well and truly out, so as soon as the sun starts shining you’ll find it awash with drinkers enjoying a lager that’s almost half the price of what you might find just a few streets away in the Northern Quarter.
Manchester’s Portland Street is often seen as a bit of a no-man’s-land, a forgotten road between the Village and Chinatown characterised by a chocka bus route and dangerous crossings. It’s not a destination, more a path to the next place on the map. But that’s what makes the pubs that reside here so much more special, including the awesome Grey Horse.
Taking a brave step outside the Northern Quarter, The Beagle has found its feet after shaky beginnings. Dressed head-to-toe in wood and 1970s-inspired fabrics, the bar doesn’t lack class. Nor does it lack drinks, which focus on real ales and craft beer.
The Angel is a local pub on the outskirts of the Northern Quarter serving a fine range of well-priced, locally brewed bitters. Liverpool Organic Brewery and White Lion can usually be found on the pumps, and on-tap lagers go beyond the usual mass-produced swill.
One of Manchester’s most popular pubs, The Castle on Oldham Street has proven to be one of the Northern Quarter’s big success stories since its refurbishment in 2009. Originally founded in 1776, it’s well known in indie rock circles as the site of a legendary interview between John Peel and Ian Curtis in 1979, and today pays heed to its musical heritage with several weekly gigs at its own charming music hall.
The 18th-century equivalent of a gay bar, a Molly House was a place where men could meet others like themselves without fear of prosecution and public hanging. These days, the only worry is finding a space at the bar.
You can tell by just looking at the place that Knott is a higher breed of bar. Jutting from the side of a railway arch, it seems to have grown organically from its surroundings. There are beer adverts and gig posters in lieu of wallpaper and it’s also handily close to the ring road and Deansgate station, for those who like to work out escape plans.
Mother Mac's is supposedly one of the most haunted pubs in Manchester, which is one of the many reasons a lot of punters are afraid to go in. That’s a shame: this is a damn good pub and, once you’ve consumed a couple of pints, you’ll be treated like family by those who dwell within.
Let’s get things straight: The Wharf is a chain pub. But it’s a chain pub run by the Good Pub Guide’s pub group of the year, Brunning & Price. Which isn’t exactly a watertight seal of approval but it’s at least some indicator of what you’ll get.
There’s nothing particularly original about this pub – no gimmicks, no heavy branding. It’s just a good pub. It serves beer. It serves fish and chips, and bangers and mash. And on Friday and Saturday nights, it has karaoke and the jukebox also plays videos.