One of the largest LGBT centres in the UK, Manchester’s Gay Village centres around Canal Street, located just south of the city centre, next to the Rochdale Canal. Its popularity amongst gay and straight visitors exploded after the 1999 TV series, “Queer as Folk”, and today, the sheer abundance of bars and clubs on Canal Street has created a thriving nightlife scene.
Visit during the day, and you’ll discover a more relaxed vibe. For a touch of afternoon decadence, head to the Richmond Tea Rooms on Richmond Street, a gloriously kitsch and colourful English tearoom. Its fried breakfast will cure even the most virulent hangover, or visit later in the day for a decadent afternoon tea, complete with cakes, pastries, scones, hot drinks and a glass of champagne.
If you need to walk off your indulgence, saunter towards Sackville Gardens for some fresh green air in the midst of the urban sprawl. Sit next to Alan Turing, gay icon and father of modern computing, and soak up the afternoon sun.
Although Canal Street is primarily known for its nightlife, quite a few venues also serve decent food. Walk over the famous fish tank in the floor at Velvet bar and restaurant, one of the area’s originals. As well as serving delicious pizzas and steaks, Velvet hotel has some of the city’s quirkiest hotel rooms for those who want to stay right in the heart of the village.
The Molly House, on Richmond Street, is a relative newcomer, and already a firm favourite. You can eat here, (it’s famous for authentic Spanish and South American tapas), drink tea in the basement tearooms, or just hang out with a glass of real ale in vintage shabby chic surrounds.
Those with a musical theatre obsession will want to check out Oscars, while the community minded should visit Taurus, a well-established and vital part of the city’s gay community. It welcomes a number of Manchester’s social and support groups, as well as hosting art exhibitions and fringe theatre, and is even licensed to perform civil partnerships.
Vanilla is one of the city’s oldest lesbian bars, and still one of the few venues aimed primarily (though not exclusively) at women. Alternatively, The Eagle is marketed more towards men and offers a great night out.
Drinking and dancing carries on into the wee small hours on Canal Street. One of the most popular Saturday haunts is Poptastic, at Club Alter Ego. Its soundtrack is aimed at “Indie Kids and Pop Queens”, playing nostalgic favourites and club classics. Cruz 101, meanwhile, hosts a different event almost every night of the week.
Have you explored Manchester’s Gay Village? What are your favourite clubs and bars on Canal Street? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Ruth Rosselson