Manchester is a city of transformation. The third largest city in the UK had humble beginnings as a small Lancastrian town before becoming the first proper industrialized city in the world during the industrial revolution. And it's been pretty much up-hill from there. The first atom was split in Manchester, the first English canal constructed there and the gay scientist Alan Turing, who deciphered the encryption of German Enigma machines during the second world war, was born in Manchester. 

Now it remains a constantly evolving city and is a hotbed of culture, music, art and sport – who hasn’t heard of Manchester United? Most importantly of all though, Manchester is one of the big three “gay cities” of England – the others being London and Brighton. The legendary Canal Street, part of Manchester’s Gay Village, was the setting for much of the groundbreaking 90s TV show Queer as Folk- the original UK version that is. The show helped men across the UK – and possibly the world – come out as they saw themselves in the characters and how joyous being gay could be – especially in Manchester.

There’s a lot for LGBTQ+ tourists to do within Manchester's streets and canalsides. Just be sure to pack an umbrella, as there’s a reason Manchester is also known as the “rainy city”. But then who goes to England for the weather anyway?

Table of Contents

1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels in Manchester
4. Sightseeing & Activities in Manchester
5. Gay Tours and Activities in Manchester
6. Restaurants & Cafes in Manchester
7. Manchester Gay Bars and Clubs
8. Manchester Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
9. Gay Events in Manchester
19. Day Trips from Manchester

General Tips

Manchester is one of the most gay-friendly places in the UK, which is itself a really progressive country. For LGBTQ+ travelers, the best place to stay in Manchester is anywhere near the Gay Village around Canal Street. This is so you get the full feel of what makes the city so special for LGBTQ+ folks and not because the rest of the city isn’t welcoming.

Manchester can be seen over a long weekend – and most likely a long night out or two – because the truth is there isn’t a lot going on for tourists outside of Manchester city center – a lot of ‘Greater Manchester’ is very residential. For a longer stay, Manchester makes a great base to explore Northern England with cities like Liverpool, Blackpool and Leeds within reach.

The weather in Manchester is infamously not great, but that’s part of its charm giving it an industrial English feel. Despite this, Mancurians (people from Manchester) and “northerners” in general are known for being extremely friendly. In any given bar, or even just a bus stop, you’ll find strangers striking up a conversation out of nowhere. Note that ‘you alright’ is a common greeting in England – especially up north – and is not in fact an implication that you are looking a bit rough around the edges.

Transportation & Airport Transfer

Manchester airport is the second largest in the UK – after London – with flights connecting the region to a range of international destinations, such as Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Houston and Toronto. The airport's three terminals are handily connected by a free shuttle bus. 

Manchester Airport is twelve miles from the city center, with trains from Manchester Airport to Manchester Piccadilly station (the most central of the stations) taking around twenty minutes and costing around £20 pounds a trip. They run every ten minutes, seven days a week, through train operators TransPennine Express and Northern Rail. 

Alternatively, coaches can be caught from Manchester Airport Coach station, which is only a ten minute walk to the Airport terminals via the indoor Skylink walkway. There are seven coaches a day with the average cost for a ticket around £6 – making it a much cheaper option than taking the train. The cheapest option, however, at £4.60 is the Metrolink Tram Service, which can be caught a ten minute walk away from the terminals and stopping at Manchester Victoria Station, taking about an hour. Information on the buses, trains and trams can be found through the Bee Network.

Getting around Manchester is a simple affair, the city center isn’t actually that big and easy to walk around. Within the city center there’s also a bus – the yellow ones with ‘free bus signs in the window’ – providing a free ‘hop on, hop off’ service and linking all of the main rail stations, shopping districts and business areas.

For longer distances – or if you don’t like waiting for buses – consider jumping on the Metrolink tram (Manchester's metro equivalent). You have to pay before you board the tram and you can either buy a ticket from the machines at the station or use a contactless payment method (smartphone, smartwatch, credit card) to touch-in. Singles cost £1.40 but day travelcards can be purchased for £2.70. Don't forget to use the same device you used to tap in to tap out at your destination.

Gay Hotels in Manchester

There are no official gay hotels in Manchester, but all hotels seek to embody the gay-friendly vibe of the city. In truth, you’d be hard pressed to find any hotel that isn’t welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.

Image credit: New Union Manchester


New Union – one of Manchester’s first ever gay pubs is now also a hotel. And it’s super cheap at only £60 a night for a triple room. The rooms are simple but clean and surprisingly spacious for the price. Being above one of the city’s most popular gay bars and clubs, this hotel is ideal for those coming to Manchester for a night out…or two. 


Holiday Inn Manchester, City Centre – a well-known chain around the world that’s hard to beat when it comes to value on a budget. This one in Manchester also has the good fortune to be right next to Canal Street where all the gay nightlife action centers around. The rooms are simple yet stylish and there’s a jazzy looking open Lobby which combines restaurant, bar and lounge. The restaurant offers modern international cuisine and has a terrace attached which overlooks the canal. Rooms start at around £140 a night. 

Velvet Hotel – nothing says class and sophistication like velvet and that’s what this hotel embodies. This hotel is giving luxury at an affordable price while being right on Canal Street itself. The rooms have huge beds and are ornately decorated, making it a great romantic option. A glass of prosecco on arrival seals the deal. Downstairs there’s the “Brasserie” which serves classic British dishes in addition to a variety of cocktails and wines. Prices start at around £140 a night for a standard king room with more expensive suite options or rooms with balconies that overlook the canal. 

Leven Manchester – just 60 meters staggering distance from Canal Street this red-bricked building was once a cotton factory but the insides couldn’t be more different. The rooms have an undeniably homely feel about them with modern facilities including a fridge and a dishwasher, plus the bathtubs are massive. Prices start at the competitive rate of around £140 euros a night. 

BrewDog DogHouse Manchester – if you’re looking for a quirkier option in the center of Manchester, you certainly wouldn’t be in the doghouse for booking this hotel. Brewdog DogHouse is located above a beer bar with industrial style decor and a hipster feel to it – some of the rooms have oddities like acoustic guitars and neon light signs. An à la carte, continental or Full English/Irish breakfast can be enjoyed downstairs and there's a restaurant serving American and Mexican cuisine. Prices start at around £170 a room. 

Manchester Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel – this luxury 4-star hotel had humble beginnings as a warehouse, built in 1844 during The Industrial Revolution. Since then it has been converted into a rather stylish hotel on the canal – somewhat of a metaphor for Manchester itself! The wooden panelling and brick walls left over from the warehouse give it a home-from-home feel that blends with the more modern furnishings. It's also in a quieter side of town but still withing an easy walk of the city center and its nightlife.  Rooms start at around £140 a night for a guest room. 

Whitworth Locke – an aparthotel just across the canal from the gay area with studios going as cheap as £110 a night. Their units include kitchens and dining areas making it great for those who wish to cut costs by not eating out every night. There’s also a stunning, plant-filled restaurant, café and bar below with reasonable prices. An atrium is often used as a co-working space for those taking their work on holiday with them.

Image credit_ The Midland Manchester

The Midland – perhaps the most iconic hotel in Manchester, this award-winning 4-star hotel has been serving British excellence for around 120 years. The rooms have a classic elegance to them with a standard double room going for about £130, but with more luxurious suite options. On site they have a spa (which costs extra), two award-winning restaurants with bespoke menus, a stocked bar and even their own tearoom.


Hotel Gotham – a luxury 5-star boutique hotel with a twist; the hotel has a Gotham City theme – yes, from Batman. There’s no actual Batman in sight but the interior and its rooms have a moody1920’s vibe, with props like faux-newspapers and vintage decorations around the building helping the imagination believe you have been transported to the dark knight’s home city. The bellboys certainly add to the atmosphere too. The theme doesn’t take anything away from the luxury though and the rooms are huge with all the facilities one would expect of a five star hotel. Their on-site AA Rosettes restaurant and adjoining bar also maintain the hotel style. Rooms start at around £215 euros a night.    

Sightseeing & Activities in Manchester

Canal Street (The Gay Village) – iconic is an often overused word, but it certainly fits Manchester’s Gay Village (their gayborhood) in particular Canal Street – the street of gay bars, clubs and restaurants running alongside the canal. Without a doubt the main thing for LGBTQ+ folk to dive straight into when visiting Manchester – not literally mind you – is Canal Street. It’s full of LGBTQ+ folk all the time, but by night the energy is particularly palpable and just strolling along the canal at night makes you really feel part of something special. Check out the street sign where the C has been humorously – and perhaps aptly – wiped clean. 

Image credit: Rossendale 2016 from flickr

Sackville Park – at the top of Canal Street you’ll find a cute little park – a great place for a picnic on a nice day but important to the LGBTQ+ community for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s a memorial statue to one of the most important gay men in modern history, Alan Turing, on one of the benches. Turing was the father of modern computing and the man who cracked the German Enigma Code, effectively winning the Second World War. Despite his importance he was still subjected to the gay conversion therapy of the time. The park also contains the ‘Beacon of Hope’, a steel column memorial for people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. Book tour →

Science and Industry Museum – Manchester has quite the history when it comes to industry and the sciences and at this museum you can learn all about it in a fun and engaging way. They run all sorts of exhibitions and galleries – some permanent and some temporary – ranging from a journey through Manchester’s industrial innovations to hands-on science experiments to “operation poo” – a walk through the digestive system. Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance. 

Manchester Museum – the largest university museum in the UK has been around since 1821. It’s free to enter, open every day except Mondays and has open exhibitions of anthropology, archaeology and natural history – with sections on dinosaurs, Egypt and Chinese culture. Located just a fifteen minute walk from Oxford Road Train Station. 

Manchester Art Gallery – the gallery has the largest body of works outside London. With over 46,000 objects of fine art, decorative art and costume. You can find almost every type of art there but Manchester Art Gallery's largest collection is of Victorian art. It’s open every day except Mondays and located a short walk away from St. Peter’s Square.

Manchester Cathedral – any self-respecting big city has a cathedral and Manchester is no exception. Located right in the center, it may not rival St. Paul’s in London, but it is still worth a visit. The cathedral is free to enter but they suggest leaving a donation of around £5. Book tour →

The John Rylands Library – this stunning neo-Gothic building is a huge library containing priceless artifacts and is one of the world's finest collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives. Located in the Spinningfields neighborhood, it’s open Wednesday through to Sunday and – like most of Manchester’s attractions – is free to enter. Book tour →

Castlefield Canal Walk – at the southern basin of Manchester’s canal is Castlefield, a quieter artsy area with bars and restaurants alongside the canal . The one and a half mile walk up the canal – and following the circular route in the center – runs through the heart of the city and passes former mills and warehouses, giving a unique perspective of the city. Book tour →

Queer Lit – in the spirit of Paris is Burning, reading is fundamental. Therefore any trip to Manchester isn’t complete without a visit to Europe's largest LGBTQ+ bookshop with over 4,500 books by queer authors and a range of other queer accessories on sale. 

Afflecks – this indoor market or “independant shopping emporium” as they refer to themselves is found in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Inside is an explosion of creativity in the form of sixty shops owned by independent traders like tattoo artists and fashion boutiques, as well as artistic spaces. It has a very welcoming queer feel to it.

Gay Tours in Manchester

Manchester LGBTQ+ Walking Trail – around the Gay Village you'll find the Heritage Trail, in the form of street mosaics designed by artist Mark Kennedy. The trail gives examples of queer life in Manchester to remember, reflect on and celebrate. Commissioned for EuroPride, it provides a better understanding of the city’s gay rights movement.

Si Manchester – this free afternoon walking tour in Manchester can be taken in either English or Spanish and is run by a local gay couple, who have a rather cute dog as their mascot which joins them on the tour sometimes. Book tour →

Gailytours – this international gay tours operator run two tours in Manchester. Their principal tour is a day tour through the most famous buildings in the city like the cathedral and John Rylands Library, finishing in the Gay Village. Their night tour focuses on the nightlife of the Gay Village and includes a drink in one of the Village’s best gay bars. Book tour →

Restaurants and Cafes

Richmond’s Tea Room – afternoon tea and cream scones might seem like a dated English stereotype – but hey, when it works it works and this cafe is the best place to have the authentic experience. This odd cafe in the gay village has an Alice in Wonderland theme with its garish kitschy decor making you feel like you’re indeed at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. As well as the aforementioned tea and scones, they serve breakfasts, sandwiches, pies and baked delicacies. They also host burlesque shows. 

The Mollyhouse – located in the gay village, this restaurant has a classic English pub feel to it but serves a delicious range of tapas, which would make Spain proud. 

The Village Fish & Chip Shop – fish and chips are often mocked as a “British delicacy”, but you know what? It’s often exactly what the doctor ordered and there is no better hangover cure than a battered cod and greasy chips dipped in curry sauce. This fish and chip shop is the best outside of the coast of England and also handily in the Gay Village. 

Kampus – this is actually a newly constructed “area” across the canal from Canal Street made up of existing built structures – Victorian brick canal-side warehouses and the 1964 concrete tower. Inside are a range of good eateries including Yum Sha (a Chinese restaurant with great Dim Sum), Nell’s Pizza (for cheap Pizza) and Great North Pie Co (for delicious homemade pies).

Arnero – Indian food is huge in the UK and is the third most ordered takeaway after pizza and Chinese food. Amero is the best Indian restaurant in Manchester with authentic Indian food and great cocktails. 

Happy Seasons Restaurant (China Town) – like most big cities in the UK Manchester has its own Chinatown with brimming Chinese restaurants. Happy Seasons is the best. The service is good and the food exquisite, especially the Hong Kong style duck.

Image credit: New Union Manchester

Manchester Gay Bars and Clubs

Via – this bar is one of Canal Street’s most popular drinking holes. The place is huge and the decor looks more like a traditional Irish pub than a gay bar – with ornate church-like balconies winding all around the place, gaudy chandeliers and big dark wooden tables. The atmosphere, however, is pure gay bar and it's always buzzing any night of the week. The fun vibes are further bolstered by the drag and cabaret shows that frequently take place downstairs. 

The Rembrandt (The REM Bar) – REM bar is a staple in the Gay Village and one of the oldest. The friendly community bar has a terrace on the canal and is always busy with a mixed crowd. It also has a hotel and a nightclub attached to it. The nightclub, Club Tropicana, found behind the bar often has drag DJs who play cheesy 80s/90s music on the weekends. 

The New Union Pub – this classically looking English pub – well except for the bumblebees and rainbows painted on it – was in fact the first gay venue on Canal Street and even hosted drag shows during the second world war. It has continued the tradition to this day and has DJs, karaoke, drag cabaret and themed nights. 

G-A-Y – exactly what it spells itself out to be, this bar/club pulls in a younger crowd with its cheap drinks and cheesy pop music played over two floors. It’s open most nights until 4am and from Sunday to Thursday all drinks are £3 – so be sure to make it a double. The bouncers are infamous for turning away people they consider are too drunk or not gay, which is something to be aware of if you’re bringing your straight ally friends. 

Bar Pop – drag is the lifeblood of Manchester Gay Village and Bar Pop on Canal Street seems to always have a drag queen show or DJ entertaining the masses. Most nights you’ll usually find a queen – or gaggle of them – on Canal Street enticing you to go into this fun bar.   

Oscar’s – those seeking a little something different from the pop of Canal Street should head to this underground themed film and theater cocktail bar, which plays musical theater songs – as well as the usual pop – and even Disney songs. It’s an original choice for a sit down bar and has an extensive cocktail and wine list. They also have cabaret, local music performances and – of course – drag queens. 

Image credit: The Brewers

The Brewers – this bar/club is another of the favorites on Canal Street. The outside is bedecked with Union Jacks and rainbow flags and the Edwaridian windows light up with rainbow lights by night. Inside is a retro dance floor and no-nonsense fun. 

Eagle Manchester – this popular men-only gay bar/club in an industrial looking basement is popular with bears and fetish types but isn’t exactly a cruising bar. That said they hold themed nights like JOCK and Deviant but also drag shows and bear karaoke (yes, that’s a thing on Canal Street). It’s members only but membership can be easily bought at the door. 

Cruise 101 (Cruz) – Cruz has a legendary status largely due to its appearance on the original Queer As Folk – only there it went under the fictional name ‘The Babylon’. It’s also the longest-running gay club in Manchester and to this day remains the most popular clubbing option in the area. There’s a spacious lounge area, two dance floors and it’s also where you’ll find dance/house music played. 

The Deaf Institute – for those who prefer a touch more queer in their nights out you have to step out of the Gay Village and visit the nearby Deaf Institute on Oxford Road near the university – about a fifteen minute walk from Canal Street. The amazing venue is a mansion dating back to 1878 with three floors and two outdoor terraces. Nowt But Love night is their most popular club night with DJs playing everything from pop to house to techno and live shows showcasing local queer talent. 

Manchester Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars

Basement – just North of the Gay Village in Ancoats you’ll find Manchester’s only gay sauna. Interestingly it's over twenty years old and in the basement of an old Victorian mill, but you probably aren’t there for its history. Basement has a huge dry sauna, a steam room, two spas, a bar, and a large dark room maze with private cabins. Entrance prices range from £15 to 20 depending on the day and on Friday/Saturday it stays open until 8am then next day, 

Gay Events in Manchester

Manchester Pride – Pride in Manchester is epic and one of the most fun in the UK. It has run since 1989 and happens in August smack in the middle of the pride season. There´s of course a huge parade through the city center, but it’s also counterbalanced by a poignant candlelit vigil to provide a moment of reflection on those lost during the HIV/AIDS crisis. For a whole week the Gay Village becomes party central with three main stages: The Village Stage, The Alan Turing Stage in Sackville Park and the Indoor Arena. Be aware the street party now charges for entry. 

Image by Maxpinsoo from Pixabay

Day Trips from Manchester

Liverpool – the city most famous as being the hometown of the Beatles is easily reachable for a day trip from Manchester by an hour train journey. Liverpool has a lot to do including the Beatles Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, the Royal Albert Docks, the famous Cavern Club music venue and Stanley Street Quarter, Liverpool’s very own “gay village”. Good luck with understanding the Liverpoolian accent though.

Blackpool – the coastal town of Blackpool is just an hour and a half train journey from Manchester. Historically a haven for vacationers since the Victorian era, Blackpool remains a symbol of British beachside culture steeped in nostalgia. It’s famous for the Blackpool Tower – inspired by the Eiffel Tower -, piers, beach and one of the UK’s most popular amusement parks, Blackpool Pleasure Beach. 

Lake Windermere (The Lake District) – the Lake District is England’s most beautiful secret. A serene region of forests, mountain peaks, countryside and – yes, you guessed it – lakes. Lake Windermere is one of the largest and most beautiful and makes for the perfect day trip respite from busy Mancehster or as a romantic getaway. Book tour →

Chesterthis historic city along the River Dee is renowned for its rich history dating back to Roman times. It is famous for its well-preserved Roman walls, which encircle the city and provide a scenic walking route for visitors. At the heart of Chester is the medieval Rows, unique two-tiered shopping galleries that offer a distinctive retail experience. The city is also home to the Chester Cathedral – a beautiful example of medieval architecture with origins in the Roman era – and a Roman Amphitheatre, the largest in Britain, underscores the city's ancient significance. Additionally, the Eastgate Clock, standing prominently in the city center, is one of the most photographed clocks in England after Big Ben. Book tour →

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