Billed as one of Manchester’s most creative and coolest neighbourhoods, you’ll be hard pressed to ever find yourself bored when in the Northern Quarter. Home to institutions and independents that have shaped the neighbourhood (and city) into what it is today, as well as being a popular filming location, a visit to Manchester’s Northern Quarter cannot go a miss.
In this Manchester neighbourhood, you can find great bars, top notch eateries, eclectic street art, vintage stores galore and plenty of vibrancy to keep you busy (and well-fed).
Below follows a rundown of some of the best things to do in the Northern Quarter:
1. Browse the various shops inside Afflecks
Afflecks is an iconic shopping emporium standing loud and proud in the Northern Quarter. The building, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is home to over 60 independent traders selling everything from bath bombs to badges, vinyls to nail varnish. Get a tarot reading, haircut or Thai massage or come away from Afflecks with a new poster, figurine, artwork or piercing to add to your collection- whatever you’re looking for Afflecks has got it. And be sure to end your shopping experience with an ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium.
2. Chow down on tasty tacos and bargain bao buns at Wolf at the Door
Serving up small plates and some of the best vinos in all the region, Wolf at the Door offers an unbeatable casual environment – and it’s perfect for catching up with friends. The Northern Quarter bar and restaurant has one of the best menus in town, offering up tasty tacos and fluffy bao buns for just £1. Yep, you read that right- £1! Chow down on tacos with toppings such as jerk chicken, Sloppy Joe mix and Berlin Bratwurst – and with the menu being extremely pocket-friendly, it means you can try the whole menu if you really want to without breaking the bank.
3. Grab a pint or two at Flok
Follow the yellow brick road (or doors…) into Flok, and you’ll be greeted with casual décor, comfy leather booths and nik naks that you only notice upon close observation. It’s one of the coolest bars in the Northern Quarter and a great spot for a relaxed, post-work drink, with a number of rotating beers on tap, wines, bottles, craft beers and much more. In the summer, you’ll see barrel-style tables outside with extra seating so you can soak up the sun, with a lively atmosphere full of people catching up with one another.
4. Pick up some beautiful blooms at Northern Flower
One way to remember your trip to the Northern Quarter is with a lovely bunch of flowers or a house plant. Northern Flower has been sitting pretty on Tib Street for some years now, with a quaint display of plants outside brightening up the area. Selling plants, flowers and bouquets, the shop is a regular haunt for plant-lovers in the city – and they have some gorgeous seasonal arrangements on offer all-year-round.
5. Sit back with a coffee and relax at Feel Good Club
Feel Good Club is a coffee house with a difference. The brainchild of wives Kiera and Aimie, well-being themed coffee shop provides feel-good vibes, with the mission being to ‘make you feel good’ following every visit. Serving up delicious brunch and light lunch dishes, coffee, wine, cakes and treats, the chilled coffee house aims to unite the community by channelling wellbeing and positive vibes in a calming environment. Feel Good Club is not just for winding down with a hot beverage as it also hosts special events such as yoga sessions, wellbeing talks, and even pop-up galleries for local artists to showcase their work.
6. Sip on a selection of wines at Ad Hoc
Enjoy a glass of wine in the cool surroundings of Ad Hoc with bottles galore stacked high almost on every wall. Whether it’s a dry white, crisp rosé, full-bodied red, juicy orange or fizzy bubbles, Ad Hoc has it all in their Northern Quarter wine bar and shop. Their fridges are not only stocked with chilled bottles of wine but also plenty of different brews for beer and cider fans. Plus, the friendly staff at Ad Hoc are always on hand to recommend a tipple to suit your taste buds.
7. Discover some second-hand finds from the numerous vintage shops
It’s no secret that Manchester is a pretty ~fashionable~ city. So when it comes to shopping for a sustainable wardrobe, the vintage shops in the city are the cream of the crop, plus some of the best ones are tucked away in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. For reworked vintage fits head to Cow or for a throwback to the fashion of the 60s to the 80s venture into Pop Boutique. For classic menswear pieces make a beeline for Bionic Seven or if you want to get more bang for your buck, Blue Rinse sells bags of retro and pre-loved treats for just £15 per kilo.
8. Gorge on sumptuous stacks of pancakes at 19 Cafe Bar
19 Cafe Bar has to be one of the sweetest spots around for breakfast and brunch, with a sugar-dusted menu of treats up for grabs to start the day with. The homely cafe has become well-known for its breakfast creations, in particular, their fluffy American pancakes which consist of a stack of three, thick, fluffy pancakes. Each plate of pancakes is given a generous dusting of icing sugar, before being completed with an array of drool-worthy toppings such as Lotus Biscoff, Kinder chocolate, fresh fruit, maple syrup and tasty bacon. It’s a menu fit for any pancake lover, and one sure to fulfil that sugar craving – stat.
9. Enjoy free-flowing margaritas and a bottomless taco brunch at El Capo
Your weekend plans will never be the same again with this bottomless brunch offering from El Capo, which Mexican cuisine lovers can enjoy every single week. El Capo serves up tons of tacos for the occasion, alongside a selection of free-flowing drinks like frozen margaritas, mimosas and bottles of Sol to wash ’em all down with.
10. Play a game of ping pong at Twenty Twenty Two
Long established as one of the Northern Quarter’s most fun bars, Twenty Twenty Two lies underground down an unsuspecting alley, but when you take the staircase down to reach the bar, you’re greeted with a ping pong paradise. The activity bar features a number of fantastic spots to socialise – all kitted out with cosy leather Chesterfield sofas – while at the back of the venue, you’ll find rows of ping pong tables and a small bar where you can hire out a table and start up your own tournament with friends.
11. Dig into a banging breakfast at this cult classic greasy spoon
Boasting over 40 years of success, The Koffee Pot on Oldham Street is a classic no-frills greasy spoon. The Koffee Pot keeps it simple when it comes to their beloved fry-ups – which is just one of the reasons they’re so beloved in the first place. Filled with all the good stuff such as sausages, bacon, black pudding, beans, and crispy hash browns, the cafe has become the city’s go-to for that all-nostalgic hangover cure – attracting queues around the block every weekend for those seeking a breakfast for champions.
12. Unleash you competitive side at NQ64
Fancy a dose of nostalgia? NQ64 is a unique gaming arcade and bar tucked away down a back street in the Northern Quarter. Glowing in a purple neon with a sign that gives a friendly nod to the dusty Nintendos stuffed away in our attics, inside the time capsule-like bar is where the fun really begins (obviously!) – with retro games galore greeting you as soon as you step through the illuminated doors. Featuring a whole roster of retro favourites, NQ64 is home to a number of famous games as well as gaming-themed cocktails to sip on whilst you play.
13. Tuck into a range of street food at Mackie Mayor
As the start (and end) point to one of Manchester’s street food walking tours, Mackie Mayor is an absolute hub for trying delicious dishes from an assortment of traders. The former Smithfield Market has been restored to house traders serving up the likes of tacos, pizzas, wines, fried chicken, succulent beef and plenty of new menus and pop-ups to make you want to come back for more. If you want to get insight into Manchester’s street food scene, this market hall in the Northern Quarter is a great place to start your journey.
14. Bag yourself some brilliant baked goods from Gooey
Another Manchester spot which has become an institution is Gooey, thanks to its tasty, New-York inspired treats varying from warm and gooey cookies to sugar doughnuts stuffed with a variety of fillings making up the delectable menu. After a few years popping up in the Northern Quarter, Gooey now has its very own neighbourhood bakery and café for you to sit down and have a bite of their baked goods alongside coffee, egg sandos and brunch dishes like French toast stuffed with dulce de leche.
15. Explore all of the epic street art this area has to offer
The street art in Manchester is pretty impressive and you won’t be able to take your eyes off it as you wander through- it’s even been ranked one of the best cities in the UK for it. The Northern Quarter of Manchester leads the street art scene in the city. Start at Port Street to find murals by Mateus Bailon, Faunagraphic and Nomad Clan. Then head to Stevenson Square, where disused public toilets are frequently updated with new artwork. Next, stroll through Thomas Street, High Street and Salmon Street, where new additions can always be found.
16. Cycle your way around the Northern Quarter on a boozy bike ride
Emulating the fun frequently found in European cities such as Budapest and Dublin, the MCR Party Bike allows riders to experience the city in a whole new way, pedalling through the city together with drinks of their choice. After all, cycling is thirsty work. Perfect for hen dos, stag dos or just your average Saturday night, groups of up to ten can enjoy a leisurely pedal around the Northern Quarter, on a huge party bike steered by your host and powered by your own cycling efforts.
17. Devour a mouth-watering burger from Almost Famous
When we think of juicy, dripping-with-sauce burgers in Manchester, we think of Almost Famous. And while they may be ‘almost famous’ by name, they’re completely famous in the city for having some of the best burgers in town, becoming a long-standing fixture in the Northern Quarter since 2012. The burger haven may have closed their High Street branch but not longer after it came back with a bang at a different site in the neighbourhood on Edge Street, even slinging out NQ menu exclusives like a double juicy cheeseburger featuring chorizo, wonderdusted waffle fries, crispy jalapeños, cholula, bacon mayo, jalapeño mustard, jalapeños and onions.
18. Munch on a grilled cheese sandwich from Northern Soul
Manchester’s much-loved grilled cheese restaurant Northern Soul is housed in the Northern Quarter and it’s definitely a lunch option worth shouting about. The sandwiches are carefully-crafted on soft, crusty Vienna bread – with tasty filling choices such as pastrami, tandoori chicken, onion bhaji and Asian-style pork belly. And they’re not stingy with the cheese! Grab one of their grilled cheese sandwiches to go and get lost in that gooey, stringy cheese as you continue exploring the Manchester neighbourhood.
19. Wind down with a drink or a roast at The Smithfield Social
Forever mixing up the drinks and food menu to keep you on your toes, The Smithfield Social is a crowd-pleaser bar and restaurant whatever the season. Whether it’s a refreshing, frozen cocktail to cool down in the sunshine out on their al fresco seating area or a comforting slice of banana bread with a coffee all cosied up inside, The Smithfield Social has got you. As well as serving sensational small plates, the Northern Quarter spot serves up a fine roast sure to brighten up your Sunday- choose from beef, lamb, pork or a vegan Wellington, with all the trimmings and optional truffle cauliflower cheese.
20. Discover this speakeasy cocktail bar hidden in plain sight
Manchester is home to a number of hidden bars just waiting for you to explore and drink at. Tucked away underground behind an unsuspecting door in the Northern Quarter, Behind Closed Doors is a wonderfully dirty little secret – full of cleverly placed details that you might not spot at first glance. Cloaked in plain sight on Oldham Street, the décor pays homage to the era that speakeasies absolutely thrived in, with decadent finishes akin to those you’d find in the 1920s, as well as cheeky touches here and there paying tribute to vintage/70s erotica.