If you’re partial to a pint in the pub, you can’t go wrong in Manchester. The city centre and surrounding suburbs are home to a staggering amount of drinking dens, including a vast variety of both authentic and contemporary public houses. They may not serve fancy cocktails, but these are the places to head to if you fancy an affordable pint in down-to-earth surroundings.
One of the Northern Quarter’s most beloved pubs, The Castle Hotel may be small but it’s always packed with an eclectic crowd. Its links with the city’s music scene were cemented in 1979, when John Peel interviewed Ian Curtis inside the pub. Since reopening its doors in 2010, it’s become one of Manchester’s best small venues, frequently packing out the back room for live music, literary events and local festivals. The restorations made to the building have restored original features and preserved the 200 year history of the pub, keeping long-time patrons just as interested as the younger crowd that it now draws in.
The Castle Hotel’s sister pub, Gullivers is conveniently located right across the road (keep your eyes peeled for the distinctive green tiles on the exterior). The two pubs at the top of Oldham Street tend to attract a similar crowd, both drawing in music fans and ale-lovers alike. When the owners of The Castle took over Gullivers, they restored the interior of the pub with the same acute attention to detail, keeping the interior authentic whilst giving it a subtle modern facelift. The upstairs ballroom and small acoustic lounge are two of the best places in the city to see local and up-and-coming musical acts, whilst the main bar area and snug are the perfect places to relax with a cold pint.
It may be located over the river in Salford but The Kings Arms is too iconic to be left off the list. Self-described as “a bit more than your average boozer”, the 19th Century pub is regularly frequented by an increasingly bohemian crowd, thanks to the landlord’s emphasis on the arts. For the past decade, the large upstairs spaces have been used as artists’ studios and have hosted musical and theatrical performances, as well as accommodating festivals, poetry evenings and a variety of clubs including The Knitting Club. Downstairs, the large bar area boasts an award-winning jukebox and there’s even a sizeable beer garden around the back that gets packed in the summer months.
A contemporary public house that somehow manages to capture the magic of a traditional pub, whilst residing inside a more modern building, Port Street’s craft beer selection has ensured that it is a favourite haunt of the Northern Quarter’s hip crowd. With seven handpulls, eighteen draft lines and over a hundred bottled beers, this is one of the most extensive craft beer collections in Manchester. It’s little wonder that their tasting sessions are so popular. So if you’re into your beers, keep your eyes peeled for their regular tap takeovers by guest breweries.
Another contemporary offering to the list, The Pilcrow only opened its doors last year but is already becoming a favourite of city centre drinkers. Run by the owner of Port Street (and popular Northern Quarter bar, Common) and the co-founder of Cloudwater brewery, the wooden shed that houses the bar and everything inside it was made by local volunteers using traditional methods. Although the structure feels very modern from the outside, inside it is as comfortable and cosy as any traditional pub, serving up pints and offering a series of tap takeovers and weekly pub quizzes.
This Victorian pub, nestled in among a collection of towering office blocks, is truly the pub that time forgot. Despite local competition from contemporary bars, it’s kept true to its roots and remains a friendly drinking den that charms everyone who stumbles upon it. Its beautifully tiled exterior first captures your attention, but it’s when you step inside that you realise that you’ve discovered one of the city’s hidden gems. The series of small and cosy rooms are lined with benches, often full of punters enjoying their real ale. Occasionally you may be treated to impromptu musical performances by regulars who just happen to have their instruments with them.
Located in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village, The Molly House offers something a little different to your traditional public house, although it should be noted that it has previously been voted CAMRA’s pub of the month. Anyone is welcomed here by the friendly bar staff, whether you’re seeking a quiet pint from their extensive ale selection, or an array of delicious Spanish tapas. The charming bar area, tea room and upstairs veranda offer an eclectic array of seating, dependent on your mood, but the vibe throughout is very much that of a traditional pub.
Located on the edge of the city centre on Rochdale Road, The Marble Arch is a favoured drinking spot of anyone with a long wait for their train at Victoria Station. Over a hundred years old, the pub is filled with beautiful original features, and few people aren’t impressed when they first step into its grand bar area. The majority of the beers on tap are courtesy of the Marble Brewery, which now resides nearby beneath the railway arches, and are all Vegetarian Society approved. The pub is also renowned for its delicious food, more gastro than the standard pub fare, and exquisite cheese plates.
Located just down the road from The Peveril of the Peak, the Briton’s Protection is ideal for those who love their whisky as it has an extensive scotch selection. If you’re more into your pints, there’s still a wide collection of international lagers, ales and ciders to choose from. Inside its large façade, you’ll find a variety of snug little rooms with open fireplaces, perfect for cosying up during the winter months. Once summer arrives, the large beer garden is fully packed with revellers, and there’s also a function room upstairs.
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