How to Spend a Day in Manchester's Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter | ©  Jose Francisco Del Valle Mojica / Flickr
The Northern Quarter | © Jose Francisco Del Valle Mojica / Flickr
Photo of Emma Lavelle
9 March 2017

Manchester’s Northern Quarter isn’t just a hipster hot-spot, it’s an eclectic, fun and welcoming area of the city centre that all visitors should explore. It’s possible to spend an entire day (or indeed a weekend) without ever leaving the confines of the small district, discovering hidden bars and secret streets tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Oldham Street.


Start off your day in the Northern Quarter on the right foot by sampling some of the finest coffee in the city and tucking into a hearty breakfast. When you’re feeling suitably fuelled, it’s time to hit the shops, popping into a selection of the independent gems that line the Northern Quarter’s streets. Whether you prefer vintage clothing, vinyl or independent magazines, there’s something for everyone in the vicinity.

Piccadilly Records | © Marc Wathieu / Flickr


This Icelandic-themed coffee shop on Tariff Street is the best place to start your morning, whether you’re after a cup of their Icelandic drip coffee, a healthy breakfast or a place to power up your laptop and check your emails. Beloved of the city’s freelancers, the laid-back atmosphere in this light-filled café makes it a welcoming place for a slow start. Order blueberry porridge, eggs three ways or their tasty avocado and bacon sandwich and spend some time people watching.


Exploring this rabbit-warren of shops and stalls is a rite of passage for every Manchester teen and a must-have experience for first time visitors to the Northern Quarter. Take at least an hour to wander up and down the stairs, taking in an eclectic mix of clothing, knick-knacks, jewellery and memorabilia. If you’re looking for a more permanent memento of your trip, Affleck’s is also the place to get a tattoo, henna or a piercing. Don’t miss Ginger’s Comfort Emporium on the top floor for a taste of the city’s best ice-cream.

Piccadilly Records

If you’re into music – whatever genre – Piccadilly Records is the place to head. Located on Oldham Street in the heart of the Northern Quarter, this iconic institution displays an eclectic range of records from both local and internationally famed artists. If you’re after recommendations, the knowledgeable staff are more than willing to point you in the direction of new music to try.


When you feel in need of a break, there’s no end of choices to sit back and enjoy a light lunch or a more substantial meal, whether you fancy a vegan burger, a dirty burrito or a plate of rice and three curries. Feeling suitably stuffed, spend the afternoon wandering around the streets admiring the eclectic architecture – many of the streets resemble New York so much that they’ve been used for filming Hollywood blockbusters – and seeking out the very best street art.

Northern Quarter Street Art | © Aero Pixels / Flickr

Soup Kitchen

Head to Soup Kitchen on Stevenson Square to take up a pew on one of the communal benches and enjoy a tasty lunch. Served canteen style, their vegetarian-friendly menu leans towards Caribbean tastes with a variety of stews, dumplings and jerk dishes served alongside their iconic soup and sandwiches. If you like your surroundings, make a mental note to return after dark when bands and DJs take over downstairs and the upstairs bar becomes a hipster hub.

Skyliner Street Art Tours

Local architecture blogger Hayley Flynn occasionally offers walking tours of the Northern Quarter, concentrating on interesting aspects of the architecture and the most prolific street art. Book in advance to secure a place on one of Hayley’s tours to avoid disappointment, setting aside a couple of hours to learn more, not only the area’s street art but also the story of the gentrification of the Northern Quarter.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Housed inside a lovingly preserved former Victorian fish market, the Craft and Design Centre is home to two floors of artist studios that are open to the public. Step inside to discover a variety of local art, ceramics, jewellery and sculpture that are all for sale in the very spaces where the artists work. The building also hosts the occasional musical performance and exhibition, so it’s worth checking their website to see what’s on. If you’re in need of a break, the small café serves excellent cakes and market salads.


Kick start your evening in the Northern Quarter by selecting one of the area’s many restaurants (there’s everything from pizza to Thai food) to enjoy your evening meal. This is the city’s favourite place to spend the evening, so prepare to be bombarded by an almost overwhelming array of options for where to drink. Drinking dens range from traditional pubs serving craft ale to secret cocktail bars offering tantalising tastes. When the closing bells ring, there’s plenty of options for continuing your night, whether you prefer ping-pong or dancing.

TNQ Outdoor Dining | © Matthew Hartley / Flickr


There’s so much choice for where to eat in the Northern Quarter that it can feel a little overwhelming. If you’re only around for one night and fancy something a little bit special, TNQ offers a regularly updated menu offering contemporary cuisine with a focus on fresh and seasonal local ingredients. There’s no gimmicks here, just simple, well-cooked food with a focus on immaculate presentation and delicious flavours. In summer, you can even dine outdoors on the cobbled street.


One of the Northern Quarter’s most beloved bars, Common may also serve food but after dark it comes to life with locals seeking craft ale and cocktails. The stripped back, Scandinavian-style surroundings include plenty of seating plus room for dancing on busier weekend nights. If you’re looking for a place to catch up with friends, try to secure the snug above the bar for a couple of cosy drinks.

Twenty Twenty Two

This subterranean den is one of the best places to end your evening, whether you’re looking for a perch to sit and sip a pint, a packed dancefloor or even a ping pong table to appease your competitive side. Open late every night (until 4am on weekends), people flock to Twenty Twenty Two to hit the dancefloor to hip-hop, R&B and garage beats. If that isn’t your thing, don’t despair – there’s a second room filled with ping pong tables where you can even challenge the bar staff to win your next round.

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