The Best Things to Do in the Northern Quarter, Manchester

If you’re planning a UK city break or looking for a quirky day out, why not pay a visit to Manchester’s Northern Quarter?

The Smithfield Market Hall in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Manchester is a vibrant, lively city in the North-West of England. It’s a perfect destination for a UK city break, whether you are looking for a day of shopping, a night of live music, or excellent food and drink. The city has a cool personality that sets it apart from other cities – it’s one of a kind.

And if you prefer your city break with a slightly more quirky atmosphere, then you should definitely head to Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

This part of the city lies between Piccadilly and the Ancoats, and it’s full of independent stores, buzzing bars and restaurants, and cool live music venues.

If you like seeing new bands and trying out new foods, this is the place to go!

A red brick building in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

The Northern Quarter has undergone a regeneration in recent years, but it still retains a lot of fantastic buildings dating back to the Industrial Revolution. The period architecture gives the area a very distinct appearance and it’s acted as a period set for Peaky Blinders, Captain America: The First Avenger and more.

But there’s much more to the area than architecture. Take a look at just some of the best things to do when you visit Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Street Art Spotting

Like most major cities, you’ll find street art dotted around the walls of Manchester.

Street art featuring 'Eleven' from the TV show Stranger Things, in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

And like any other city, the murals can change regularly. Some buildings have designated spaces for street art, and their owners invite artists to repaint them every so often.

Others are simply altered by taggers as time goes by, but some of the murals last longer.

Akse P19 painted his portrait of Stranger Things’ character Eleven in July 2019, and it was still in place when I visited the Northern Quarter in March 2020.

Street art featuring a bee in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Manchester might not have the same reputation for street art as cities like Bristol, Birmingham or London but there’s plenty to spot as you wander around.

You can either explore the city at your own pace, or sign up for a Manchester walking tour to see the city with a guide.

Street Art featuring England footballer Steph Houghton, in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK


And you can spot street art of a different kind on the walls outside Affleck’s on the junction of Church Street and Tib Street

The building originally housed the drapery business Affleck and Brown from the 1860s before it closed in the 1970s.

Colourful mosaics on the wall outside Affleck's in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Affleck’s Palace opened as an indoor market in 1982, with a policy of offering affordable rent to local businesses. A change of management in 2008 saw the building change its name to Affleck’s, and it is now a hive of bustling independent cafes, record stalls and clothing boutiques.

There are more than 50 traders selling everything from vintage clothing to fancy dress and collectable vinyl LPs.

Two people walking down Tib Street outside Afflecks, in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Outside Afflecks, mosaics on the walls feature some of Manchester’s most famous faces and brands, and a large silver tree decorates the Tib Street wall.

A Haven for Music Lovers

And if you love flicking through bins full of LPs, then you definitely need to pay a visit to Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter.

Piccadilly Records music store in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

There you’ll find record shops like Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc and Vinyl Exchange where you might stumble upon that elusive collector’s edition or rare vinyl pressing.

Manchester has long had a reputation for great music, and that’s still very true today. The cool, laid back nature of the Northern Quarter makes it the perfect place to see live music away from the big stadiums and arenas.

Head to Band on the Wall on Swan Street to catch bands and artist from a mix of genres. They’ve been part of Manchester’s music scene for decades, and bands like the Buzzcocks and Joy Division played some of their earliest gigs there.

Meanwhile Matt & Phreds is one of the names synonymous with the Northern Quarter. Their offering combines live jazz with pizza and cocktails for a fantastic night out!

A cyclist rides past a colourful store in Edge Street, in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Greater Manchester Police Museum

The Greater Manchester Police museum used to be an operational police station until it closed in 1979.

The Greater Manchester Police Museum in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

In 1981 it was converted into a museum and archives, and now tells the story of policing in Greater Manchester.

The building was given Grade II listed status in 1994 and it’s interior serves as a reminder of how policing would have looked in Victorian times.

A visit to this museum let’s you experience what life would have been like for a police officer in Victorian times. You’ll also see how policing has evolved over the years to meet the demands of modern times.

At the time of writing, the Greater Manchester Police museum is closed due to lockdown restrictions. But do please visit their website for updates on their reopening plans.

Shoppers in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Browse the Makers Market

The Northern Quarter Maker’s Market runs on the second Sunday of the month.

The Makers Market on Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

You’ll find the Market on Stevenson Square, showcasing a wide range of Manchester based bakers, producers, artists and creatives.

Treat yourself to some delicious foods and drinks, or pick up some unique homewares, clothes and artwork from the many market stalls.

And you may even spot a musical performance or two while you’re there!

A man plays a cigar box guitar at the Makers Market in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Makers’ Markets run in various towns in the Midlands and Northern England, you can find your nearest Makers Market over on their website.

Indulge in Delicious Food

With so many fascinating places to explore, you’re sure to work up an appetite while you’re walking around the Northern Quarter.

Luckily you’ll find plenty of great places to eat in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, serving food from around the world.

V Rev vegan diner in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

Choose to indulge in an amazing burger at Almost Famous, tender fried chicken at Yard and Coop or an amazing curry at This and That.

And you’ll also find plenty of vegan options, including some excellent burgers at V-Rev.

The Koffee Pot diner in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK, showing the street art of bees on the side of the building

If you’re looking for a fantastic breakfast or brunch, then the Koffee Pot is definitely worth checking out.

They not only serve a Full English breakfast, but also have Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish varieties as well as vegan and vegetarian options.

And their range of sandwiches and burgers includes this fabulous Reuben Melt sandwich. It’s stuffed with masses of salt beef, together with thousand island sauce, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.

With a pile of seasoned skin-on-fries alongside, it makes a very tasty and very filling lunch!

How to Get There

Manchester is very easy to get to by road, public transport or even by air.

If you’re driving to Manchester, it’s very easy to via the motorway network and you’ll find plenty of car parking dotted around the city. Trains arrive at two major stations in the city, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria, and there’s an excellent bus and tram service as well.

And if you’re flying into the UK to visit Manchester, you’ll be happy to hear that the city has its own international airport.

Where to Stay in Manchester

There are hotels and apartments to suit every budget in Manchester.

  • For a luxury hotel, try the Malmaison Manchester which is a short walk from the Northern Quarter.
  • The Crowne Plaza offers mid-range accommodation that’s just a short walk from places like Band on the Wall.
  • The EasyHotel Manchester is a great value hotel on the edge of the Northern Quarter.
  • If you want a hotel that’s close to Manchester Piccadilly station, the Holiday Inn on Aytoun Street is around a 10 minute walk from the Northern Quarter.

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