Manchester, like many British cities, is famous for its pubs. As one of the original centres of the industrial revolution, Manchester saw its population rise nearly tenfold from 1700 to 1900. Many pubs sprouted up during this time as a way to feed and water the growing population with their increasing disposable income. We check out the 10 best and most historically significant pubs in Manchester city centre to visit today.
Since coming under new management in 2009, The Angel Pub has gained a reputation for being one of the best dining pubs in the city centre, finally giving discerning drinkers and diners reason to cross to the other side of Ancoats. The inside is quite light and contemporary, with pictures of old Manchester scattered on the walls to give us a glimpse of the pub’s roots. There is even a piano, with drinkers being regularly treated to some light, live background music. The pub received CAMRA‘s North Manchester Real Ale Pub of the Year award in 2010 and haven’t let their standards slip since, with the availability of on tap and bottled specially selected real ales, lagers and ciders from all around the UK.
The Britons Protection has stood proudly on its current site since 1806. Inside, there is a mural of the nearby Peterloo Massacre of 1819, showing the pride that this pub has for its city. There are six rooms inside which range from traditional to more modern and some even have roaring fireplaces to help you escape the often unforgiving Manchester weather. There is also a beer garden to the rear. Situated next to The Bridgewater Hall, you will often find musicians from the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic orchestras, as well as a bevy of theater goers enjoying a drink. There is a good selection of real ales and whiskey lovers will be in paradise with a selection of over 300 to choose from.
With its brown tiled and mosaic facade, The Castle Hotel certainly stands out among the usual Northern Quarter drinking establishments. The pub was first opened in 1776, changing hands and names several times, with its current frontage being added in 1898. Under new ownership since 2009, the current owners have taken great pains to restore the interior very much to its 19th century glory. Over the course of the 20th century, The Castle cemented itself as an important venue for musicians and music fans, with the pub being a popular stopping point before going to Band On The Wall and also hosting the famous 1979 interview between John Peel and Ian Curtis. Today, the concert hall still plays host to gigs, comedy shows and film screenings.
Fine brickwork and hanging baskets welcome revellers into The English Lounge, where they are then greeted by leather sofas, dark woodwork, prints on the walls and bookshelves to create a very English interior. Upstairs is lighter and brighter, demonstrating the difference in traditional and contemporary pub interiors. On tap, there is a wide variety of traditional cask ales and there is also a large selection of wines from across the world. They have a menu of largely English dishes that also takes inspiration from around the world, as well as a rather refined finger buffet. The English Lounge is a real English pub.
The Molly House Interior | Courtesy of The Molly House
The Marble Arch is home to one of the finest traditional pub interiors in Manchester. The listed building, first built in the 1880’s, has tiled floors and mosaic walls, with grand design which is altogether quite staggering when observed for the first time. In addition to demonstrating the possibilities of pub architecture, there is award winning beer courtesy of the Marble Brewery available, a full bar and a good jukebox. There is also a kitchen which has garnered acclaim among critics and patrons, with booking being required in busy periods. It is quite a small pub but there is plenty here for foodies, real ale lovers and architecture and design buffs.
Nestled in the gay village just behind Canal Street is The Molly House, an homage to post-Victorian drinking for ‘discerning gay boys and girls.’ The pub takes its name from 18th century Molly Houses, the precursors to today’s gay bars, where men could meet other men without the fear of persecution. It is split into the ‘tea room’ and ‘bordello’ on the inside and also has an outdoor veranda, all of which are decorated with vintage and delightful shabby chic items. There is a vast array of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails as well as tapas and special lunch and brunch selections. It attracts a diverse clientele which serves as a good reminder that Manchester is one of the original multicultural, liberal cities.
Taking its name from a now extinct Georgian variety of potato, The Oxnoble has the type of quirky charm that its name would suggest and it is for this reason that it has remained in operation since its inception in 1804. Food is unashamedly the main attraction at The Oxnoble and it has a very good reputation locally, serving updated, high quality English pub food with regularly changing specials. At the bar, there are traditional cask ales, fine wines, premium spirits and malt whiskeys for clients to imbibe. The interior has had a relatively recent makeover, updating the look of a traditional pub without losing any of its spirit. It is warm and inviting and worth a visit for some of the higher quality food and drink to be had in a traditional pub.
The emerald and green tiling and Art Nouveau lettering of Peveril of the Peak’s exterior catches the eye when walking Great Bridgewater Street, never more so than in summer, when the flowers of the hanging baskets are in full bloom. The building is Grade II listed and its interior has been selected as one of historic importance. There is a mixture of period styles inside, with the bar being mostly dark wood with some coloured glass work and the rear lounge somewhat evoking the Victorian sitting room that the building once housed. Another point of interest is the famous table football table which, having first been brought into the pub in 1955, is said to be the oldest pub table in continuous use in the UK.
One of the classic city centre pubs on the list, in spirit at least, is The Seven Oaks. The interior is simpler than others, with stools generally being used in favour of the more lavish leather sofas and generally more space on the floor than in other pubs. Built in the 1920’s, The Seven Oaks is exemplary of the type of pubs that were being built around this time. There is a good range of real ales, ciders and lagers and a simple but hearty menu of pie and mash. It has a warm and friendly atmosphere, but be warned, it gets very busy when there is football on.
With its large beer garden and comparatively cheap drinks, Sinclair’s Oyster Bar is one of the city’s most popular pubs and it can often be difficult to find seating, particularly on football match and sunny days. There is evidence of the building’s existence going back to the 16th century, hence the rather, uncommon for Manchester, Tudor exterior. It is now Grade II listed, having thankfully survived World War II and the Arndale bombing. In 1999 Sinclair’s, along with The Old Wellington, were moved brick by brick from its original location 300 meters away to its current site in Shambles Square as part of a regeneration project. Great for beer in the sun whilst basking in historic surroundings.