Lauded music venues, world-class museums and mouth-watering cuisine have all helped Manchester become one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities. It’s also one of its largest, with an energetic city center and eclectic outer suburbs spreading out more than 100 sq km (38 sq miles).
Want to wander along 18th-century canals that are a major throwback to the city’s industrial heyday? Or how about browsing the shelves of some of the North’s best independent fashion stores? You’ll be well catered to in the best neighborhoods in Manchester.
Best place for buzzy brunch spots and vintage shopping
The Northern Quarter (or NQ) has long been the trendiest neighborhood in Manchester, and it’s not likely to relinquish that title any time soon. Its curiously Manhattan-esque streets sit just above the city center and are home to dozens of proudly independent businesses, from cool lifestyle stores and grungy basement bars to cozy cafes that double up as book shops.
Elsewhere, Manchester Craft & Design Centre is the domain of handmade jewelry and ceramics, while Afflecks is your one-stop shop for vintage threads, collectible records and comic book memorabilia. Feeling peckish? Federal, Cane&Grain, and Evelyn’s are just some of the brilliant places to dine in the NQ. There’s also Mackie Mayor – a stylish food hall lodged inside a glass-roofed former Victorian meat market.
The NQ’s striking street art is another reason to explore this neighborhood. Head to Stevenson Square to see the huge mural of a hand reaching optimistically for the sun created by local artist, Folie, or check out the detailing of Phlegm’s city-in-a-bottle mural on Cross Keys Street.
If you're searching for the best place to stay in Manchester, you can’t go wrong with the Northern Quarter. Bypass the chain hotels and book a room at one of the many boutique options, such as the chic Cow Hollow Hotel.
Best neighborhood in Manchester for coffee and craft beer
This up-and-coming neighborhood nestles alongside the Northern Quarter and is awash with brick warehouses that hint at its industrial past. Many have been refurbished into loft-style apartments, while others house indie coffee shops, trendy tattoo parlors and global eateries, like the much-loved Nam Manchester.
Blossom Street and neighboring Cutting Room Square are Ancoats’ premier destinations for both quiet pints and lengthy bar crawls. Highlights include the 19th-century Edinburgh Castle Pub and the Seven Bro7hers Beerhouse. Jimmy’s is another great pick for live music, moreish comfort food and tasty cocktails.
Ancoats is often referred to as the city’s Italian Quarter, and you’ll spot some brilliant places to dine on Mediterranean grub, from Rudy’s Pizzeria to Sugo Pasta Kitchen. If you choose to stay in one of the area’s stylish aparthotels, breakfast won’t be an issue. Get your caffeine fix at Ancoats Coffee Co. before heading to Companio Bakery to savor the mouth-watering coffee-almond croissants.
Best place to stay for LGBTIQ+ nightlife
Manchester’s Gay Village is a magnet for fun-seekers – especially after dark when the bars of Canal Street and Bloom Street throw open their doors for long nights of revelry. There's a wide mix of venues to choose from, including industrial-style bars, casual pubs and all-night clubs. A good pick for first-time visitors is Fac251, a club with three floors of music that’s housed in the former Factory Records HQ.
Fringing the Gay Village is the city’s Chinatown – the largest outside of London – where banquet houses and Asian supermarkets mingle alongside bubble tea shops and karaoke bars. Some of Manchester’s best hotels are located around here too, including Townhouse Hotel, Hotel Brooklyn and Whitworth Locke.
Best neighborhood for canal-side strolls
Another Manchester neighborhood to have on your radar is New Islington. It’s next door to Ancoats and characterized by a web of canals fringed by modern apartment blocks and casual neighborhood eateries.
Pollen Bakery is a local favorite, thanks to its minimalist Scandi decor and delicious homemade sourdough. On sunnier days, grab your food to go and sprawl out by the water in Cotton Field Park. You could also soak up the views from several canal-side drinking holes, such as Flawd wine bar or cask, a casual pub.
Best place to stay for shopping
There’s a definite old-meets-new vibe in this posh area of Manchester city center. Pedestrianized Spinningfields sits off Deansgate, and it’s not merely the city’s slick finance hub.
As well as designer stores and high-end restaurants, there’s the Victorian Gothic facade of the John Rylands Library. Even if you’re not much of a reader, it’s worth popping in to admire its beautiful, cathedral-like interiors and row upon row of rare books. You’ll also find the People’s History Museum in Spinningfield's northwest corner, where you can uncover the details of Manchester’s often turbulent road to democracy.
Spinningfields additionally houses several of Manchester’s top dining spots. Head to Hardman Square, where 20 Stories serves fancy food and exquisite cocktails with a backdrop of cityscape views.
Best place to stay for families
Ask any Mancunian what’s in Castlefield and they’ll likely mention the canal-side pubs, the Roman ruins, and the Castlefield Bowl outdoor music arena.
The neighborhood sits at the bottom end of Deansgate and houses the remains of the ancient fort of Mamucium (the Roman name for Manchester). Castlefield is also the location of the award-winning Science and Industry Museum, a must-see for kids and adults alike. It's jam-packed with interactive exhibits, including a Victorian cotton mill complete with original machinery and regular demos on how it was used.
Castlefield’s central location and innumerable attractions make it a great spot to stay if you’re traveling with kids. There’s a handful of hotels, ranging from the swanky Hilton Deansgate, with its epic panoramas across the city, to INNSIDE Manchester, which is right next to the brilliant HOME arts center. You’ll also spot the YHA Manchester overlooking Bridgewater Canal; it’s one of the best places to stay on a budget.
Best place to spend a lazy weekend
When it comes to which is the best suburb in Manchester, Didsbury often comes up trumps. Along with nearby Chorlton, it’s also one of the safest parts of Manchester.
The leafy neighborhood is situated south of the city center and split into two distinct sides: East Didsbury and West Didsbury. Both have friendly village vibes, with the former home to some great charity shops, the kid-friendly Fletcher Moss Park and numerous independent dining venues.
West Didsbury has a decent dining scene too. The majority of its restaurants and bars are scattered along Burton Road, handily serviced by a tram stop. On the last Sunday of every month, the Maker’s Market sets up shop in the hospital car park, and browsing the stalls is the ideal activity for lazier weekends, with options including home-baked goods (pastel de nata, anyone?), scented candles and Manchester-themed art prints.
Hotels are a little sparse in Didsbury as it’s mostly residential. Nevertheless, the Didsbury House Hotel sits just across the road from Fletcher Moss Park and is a sublime pick for a romantic couple’s break.
Best neighborhood in Manchester for food lovers
This suburb of Greater Manchester is a quick 20-minute ride away by tram and well worth the detour. Altrincham's main allure is its market, open six days a week and featuring both an indoor food hall and stalls selling local arts and crafts.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a thriving High Street littered with both local and well-known stores, plus a handful of artisan brunch spots and cool cocktail bars. You could also go ice-skating at Planet Ice Altrincham or catch the latest indie movie at the neighborhood’s Everyman Theatre.
Best place for modern architecture aficionados
Okay, so Salford Quays technically belongs to the City of Salford, but it’s still a great place to visit during a trip to Manchester. Hop on the tram or bus from the city center and disembark at Exchange Quay. From here, it’s only a short walk along the waterfront to the Quays – the area’s cutting-edge shopping, dining and bar complex.
The Quays additionally houses the Lowry theater, which has a fantastic lineup of drama, comedy and dance shows throughout the year. Directly across the water are the lofty, glass-fronted buildings of MediaCityUK, the home of the BBC and ITV in the North, where you can explore the Blue Peter Gardens or book tickets for Coronation Street: the Tour. Beneath the studio buildings, there’s a selection of cafes and bars, where you’ll likely spot producers and presenters hanging out once office hours are over.
You can’t visit Salford Quays without ducking into the Imperial War Museum North. It’s situated across the Media City Footbridge in a striking, angular structure and features immersive exhibitions on recent global conflicts and their impact on society.
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