24 hours in manchester's northern quarter

Last updated Aug 13, 2023

It’s time to grow your record collection and drink a craft beer… Manchester's Northern Quarter is filled to the brim with character. Tattoo parlours cosy up to record shops and galleries turn into bars after dark. You could spend a week exploring the area and barely scratch the surface. Make the most of your time in the city’s creative heart with Staycity’s 24 hour guide to Manchester’s Northern Quarter…


The only respectable way to start the day in any city is with a strong cup of coffee. The Koffee Pot serves up flat whites alongside espresso martinis. They also do a mean English breakfast and classic homemade pies. For more brunch options head down the road to Mackie Mayor. This Victorian market has been transformed into a trendy, glass-roofed food hall with everything from tacos to baos.


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Once you’ve had a good feed, it’s time to get your art on. Just down the road you’ll find The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, housed in part of the renovated Smithfield Market Hall. This free art space hosts talks and exhibitions along with some fun workshops for kids.

If there’s one thing NQ loves it’s a converted building… You’ll find the Craft and Design Centre in a preserved Victorian fish market. Wander around the artist studios (which are open to the public) and see Manchester’s best craftsmanship up close. With 19 studio shops all with a unique take on modern craft, it’s not easy to leave without a souvenir.


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Grab lunch in This and That Café, a no-frills curry house home to ‘rice and 3 curries’. A Manchester institution, this family run business has been feeding locals with their homemade food for over 30 years. For something a little less spicy, pull up a pew at the Soup Kitchen for fresh soups and sandwiches. You might want to pop back here later, at night this café turns into a DJ set with a buzzing bar upstairs.


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Now it’s time to hit the shops. Afflecks is a famous maze of stalls, boutiques and vintage shops. Get a piercing, tattoo or pick-up an ice-cream at Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. If records are your bag, you’re in luck! Piccadilly records, Eastern Bloc and Vinyl Exchange are three great places to start, but you’ll find an impressive selection in second-hand shops all around the neighbourhood.

If you’ve any energy left (doubtful!) explore the street art. Skyliner Street Art Tours do ‘anti-tours’ of the area. Expect a modern history of the Northern Quarter with an interesting perspective on the neighbourhood’s artworks and murals. 


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After an action-packed day, reward yourself with an aperitif in one of NQ’s hidden cocktail bars. Dusk Til Pawn is masquerading as pawn shop and Washhouse is pretending to be a launderette – don’t be fooled! Both do a serious cocktail and have a speakeasy vibe with bearded locals relaxing after work.

Walk (or stumble) over to TNQ for dinner. Seasonal, locally-sourced food is served up in a simple, contemporary setting. In the summer, grab one of their outdoor tables and watch the world go by. 63 Degrees is another great option, literally around the corner. They do delicious French food with a modern Mancunian twist.


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NQ comes alive at night. Drinks are flowing at Common bar, a local’s favourite and Cane & Grain is 3 floors of fun with lots of hangout space and a high-tech drink laboratory. If you’re up for a dance Twenty Twenty Two has your back. Hip-hop, R&B and garage play in one room with a second room filled with ping pong tables.