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Northern Quarter
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Northern Quarter area guide

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is filled with indie bars, galleries and shops. Here's our pick of the best spots

Rob Martin
Written by
Rob Martin
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You know what it's like - you wait years for a great neighbourhood to come along and suddenly two come at once! And whilst that might be a slight exageration, given they've been around for years, it's certainly true that the Northern Quarter and neighbouring Ancoats have recently taken great strides and really upped the city's game. And whilst Ancoats is still in it's honeymoon period as a cooler than cool place to hang out, the Northern Quarter feels more established, with so much more than great bars and restaurants on offer.

Established, yes, but far from tired or old hat, some of it's venues and appeal having lasted longer than current trends, tastes and fads, with cultural venues, live music and great shopping keeping it fresh.

And now, with much of it pedestrianised, the Northern Quarter has never been easire to spspend some easy time in. Here are te best reasons to do just that.

Discover the best things to do in the Northern Quarter

Nine independent kitchens and bars have created one of the most vibrant and beautiful places to eat and drink in the city, let alone the Northern Quarter. A vast food hall housed inside an 1858 Grade II listed market building, Mackie Mayor is perfect whether you're after a fresh pizza, grilled meats and fish, a vegan brunch - there's something for every palate. And if it's just a nice bottle of wine or a craft ale you're after, there's that too.

  • Music
  • Music venues

Band on the Wall represents a real musical success story for the city of Manchester. Funded by both the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council, the venue has been extended for 2022 to accommodate more live music and ambitious plans for music education in World of Music. The building is over 200 years old and, when it started life as a live music venue, the band played on a stage built halfway up the wall. Hence the name...

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For brunch, lunch, coffee or cake, you can't go wrong with a nice sit down in Ezra and Gil. Established in 2014 it remains one of the most essential venues in the Northern Quarter, relaxed, friendly and with great quality food and drink. Its original mission to create a strong social space has never diminished, making Ezra and Gil the coffee-scented heart of the Northern Quarter.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés

An Aladdin's cave of delights, Oklahoma is a gift buyer's dream shop, with the emphasis firmly on the kitsch. It's packed to the rafters with exotic homeware, fabulous things for the kitchen, toys, games, book and cards, plus jewellery. It's not huge but you'll find yourself getting lost as you browse.

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More than just and arts and crafts shop, Fred Aldous is a Northern Quarter institution, having been around for over 130 years. Yes, it's perfect if you need to top up your paints and brushes, or you need some sequins for a new costume, or even some inspiiring craft ideas for the kids. But there's so much more to it as well, with a superb array of cards, gifts, books and more. 

  • Restaurants
  • Indian

This is the best Indian street food in the city and the menu, combined with some very drinkable craft ales, makes for a very popular whilst having to be in-the-know kind of feel.

It's entirely vegetarian or vegan and the combo platters are tremendous.

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  • Shopping
  • Art, craft and hobbies

Awarded 'Best Independent Retailer' at the 2013 Manchester Tourism Awards, Manchester Craft & Design Centre boasts over 30 artists, designers and craft makers under one roof. MCDC lies in the heart of the Northern Quarter, offering an impressive array of quality goods that you won't find on the high street – handmade, bespoke and personal. 

National Football Museum
  • Museums
  • Sport

Housed inside one of the most impressive of Manchester City Centre's modern buildings, the former URBIS museum, this four-floor monument to football boasts that it contains the greatest football collection in the world. It’s the permanent home to the FIFA collection, the Football League collection, the FA collection and many more, and it works towards the preservation and conservation of such memorabilia. 

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Tib Street's award-winning LGBTQ+ bookshop started life as an online venture but now you can visit in person and peruse thousands of titles covering history, poetry, graphic novels, you name it. There are also accessories - jewellery, flags, clothes and more, so you can look super proud whilst you read!

Afflecks
  • Shopping
  • Arcades

Established in 1982, Afflecks is a bit of a Manchester institution. And it's easy to see why, with an admirable indie spirit courtesy of some very cool shops, bars, tattoo parlours, skate shops, events and pleasant people. Definitely somewhere to seek out.  

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Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art
  • Art
  • Galleries

Formally known as the Chinese Arts Centre, the Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art works to bring Chinese art and visual culture to a UK audience. Working with a four-strong team of associate curators based in East Asia - each specialising in a particular strand of the centre's artistic programme - this Northern Quarter building brings exhibitions, artists in residence, engagement projects, festivals, talks and events.

Established over 30 years ago, this beating heart at the centre of the Northern Quarter's music scene, having seen over 26,000 bands perform there. It nurtured the talents of Elbow, Delphic, Badly Drawn Boy, and saw the likes of Johnny Marr and Mark E. Smith in frequent attendance. Go for some music, go for a pint, go for some grub or even catch an exhibition.

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The rise of vegan options in the Northern Quarter increased massively with the opening of Purezza, a fully plant-based pizzeria where everything, wine included, is fully vegan. And don't fret about the side dishes or the cheese topping, it's all delicious and, as an extra treat, dogs are allowed. 

Abode Manchester
  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels

Nicely placed for Manchester Piccadilly station and the shopping and drinking delights of the Northern Quarter, Abode hotel is housed in a nineteenth-century textile factory and retains some handsome period features. Bedrooms and suites are decorated in a quietly quirky, modern style; suites come with extras such as Nespresso machines and Bose sound systems. There are two bars and a modern European restaurant.

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