From a small Roman fort at Mamucium or Mancunium in 79 AD, Manchester has grown to become Britain's second largest metro area, with a population of over 2 million. Once dubbed “Cottonopolis” during the heyday of textile manufacturing when 65% of the world's cotton was processed in this area, Manchester became the world's first industrial city during the early-19th century.
"What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow" was a 19th century saying, and the first train station was built here. Later the first programmable computer was built at the Victoria University of Manchester, and scientists at the Manchester College of Technology are credited with first "splitting the atom" in 1932. The atomic trio were Irish, English and a New Zealander, illustrating the long-time cosmopolitan character of this city, the commercial center of a far-flung empire. Even earlier, 14th century Flemish weaver immigrants made their contribution to the genesis of the textile industry to come.
Today, with the factories gone, Mancunians have moved decisively into the post-industrial age, retaining the best industrial architecture, recycling buildings that survived the war, and creating new urban models - especially since the late-1980s. The incredible stretch along Canal Street is arguably the finest example of a Victorian commercial district in England. Now, instead of transporting coal and cloth, the old canals serve as a backdrop for chic to funky boutiques, thronged bars, renowned dance clubs and top DJs who create cutting-edge music trends - one of the world's most vibrant gay villages.
It took the TV series Queer as Folk (British original version) to put this city in England's northeast on the gay map for most Americans, but area pubs have welcomed a gay clientele since at least 1940. Manchester Pride events take place over ten days in August, attracting visitors from around Britain and the world.
As befits a city with such a history of industry, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Museum of Transport have major collections of steam locomotives, machinery, aircraft, buses and trams. The Manchester Museum has Egyptology and natural history departments of note, the Manchester Art Gallery is known for European paintings, and the Whitworth Art Gallery has displays of modern art, sculpture and textiles. At Chetham's Library, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, the economics books read by Karl Marx can be seen on the shelf, as can the window seat where Marx met Friedrich Engels. In his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, Engles drew on the period he lived here to critique rising inequalities of wealth and the poor living conditions of many workers in this early industrial society.
The Hallé Orchestra, founded in 1857, is the fourth oldest symphony orchestra in the world, with concerts at Bridgewater Hall. The Manchester Opera House, featuring large-scale touring shows, dance, opera and West End theater productions, is just one of several large stage venues. The Phones 4U Arena is the world's busiest indoor arena, and Manchester United and Manchester City are the famous local football (soccer) teams.
Manchester Airport has direct flights from nine major North American cities, ten Caribbean airports, over one hundred from cities around Europe, as well as others from Africa and Asia. On arrival there is fast and frequent Trans Pennine Express train service linking the airport with over 100 destinations across the North of England and beyond. Their website has links for services to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Midlands, and the South of England. There is also 24-hour bus service from the airport into downtown Manchester. For details see GMPTE, the Transport for Greater Manchester website.
National Express coaches make up to 14 trips a day from London Victoria Station to Manchester Central Coach Station, Chorlton Street - a three-hour journey. National also operates C2C trains from London to Manchester Oxford Road & Piccadilly Station. The Virgin Train brings party people from London Euston to Manchester in a little over two hours, with departures every half hour or so -- from Paris too, connecting with Eurostar trains that arrive at London St Pancras. They also offer WiFi access. For more rail connections into Manchester see National Rail.
Within the city, Manchester's train, bus and tram system is excellent. See TFGM for info on all public transport in the city, including a section on cycling. Manchester Bike Hire will deliver a rental bike to your door, then collect it later - for about £20/ day, with 9-5 service hours.
Currency and Money
The British pound is the currency of the United Kingdom. ATMs are sprinkled throughout the downtown area, in all the usual places. Contact your local bank for possible UK partners to save on withdrawal fees. A smart chip credit card with a pin number, now required by some ticket machines on this side of the pond, can also be useful.
Media & Resources
Canal Street, GayLife Manchester, and the Discover/LGBT section of Visit Manchester are good online sources for what's happening around town. Manchester Bars covers over 500 pubs and bars of all kinds in Manchester, plus restaurant and hotel listings.
Hot Village Magazine, a monthly pocket guide to what’s happening in Manchester’s Gay Village is no longer publishing, but back issues remain online and their twitter site is still updated.
Attitude covers what’s happening around the country, including Manchester. Boyz and QX, two more national gay periodicals, focus mainly on London. The Pink News website has LGBT news of Britain, the US and the world.
Besides their gay listings, Visit Manchester also has a good local tips on where to stay and eat, and what to do around town. Their Manchester Visitor Information Centre is at 45-50 Piccadilly Plaza, on Portland Street.
The Manbears Manchester website will keep you up to date on what's happening with area bears, cubs and friends, including GBBB, the Great British Bear Bash in May.
Stop by the Alan Turing Memorial in Sackville Park, a statue of one of the fathers of modern computing who committed suicide in 1954, two years after being convicted of gross indecency for homosexual acts.
Based in Altrincham, just outside Manchester, the Vegetarian Society continues the 1807-1816 work of Reverend William Cowherd, who led his Salford, Manchester congregation to abstain from meat, and of Joseph Brotherton, a local MP during early years of the Industrial Revolution. Members have since included George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy.
The Edward Carpenter Community (ECC), a group of gay men of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, offers alternatives to the commercial scene, with gatherings across the country, from Scotland to the Lake District. Regular groups meet in both Manchester and London.
Hotel ibis Manchester Centre (Portland St), 127 modern rooms near Gay Village, moderate rates, restaurant/bar, WiFi throughout.
New Union Hotel (111 Princess St; 44-0161-228-1492), value for money, friendly and knowledgeable staff, lively pub, dance area, canal-side seating.
Rembrandt Hotel (33 Sackville St; 44-0161-236-1311), spacious hotel and bar, center of Canal Street action, six newly renovated rooms above gay men's pub, some overlook canal, TV, free WiFi.
Doubletree Hilton Hotel Manchester (One Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn St. 44-0161-242-1000), centrally located, beautifully appointed, comprehensive amenities including iMacs and complimentary WiFi access.
Malmaison Hotel Piccadilly (Piccadilly Manchester M1) 167 rooms. 44-0161-278-1000, centrally located, comprehensive amenities, Smoak Bar & Grill.
See another dozen hotel suggestions at our map and listings pages.
Canal Street, at the center of the Manchester Gay Village, runs along the west side of the Rochdale Canal. Lined with gay bars and restaurants, this street and others nearby, fill at night and on warm afternoons with locals and visiting gay and lesbian tourists from all around the world
Alert (Club-Alert.com) members-only strict dress code leather/fetish/skins club, 4th Fridays and special nights. Temporary memberships for visitors if accompanied by an existing member.
Alter Ego (105 Princess St), subterranean club, home to Saturday and Tuesday Poptastic parties, indie, grunge, and trash pop, Manchester's best gay alternative night out.
AXM (100 Bloom St), late-night large modern venue, polished decor, pop and commercial music, seven nights of events, game shows, karaoke, cabaret, DJs, dancing, foam parties.
Baa Bar (27 Sackville St), two floors of dancing, pop and disco classics, bar with booth seating, restaurant, good food, inexpensive drinks.
Bar Pop (10 Canal St), Tuesday and Saturday Poptastic Parties at old Crunch location, comfy leather lounge sofas, gay students' alternative to gay mainstream, an "affordable night out with great entertainment."
Belinda Scandal's Show Bar (Sackville & Canal Streets), nightly live shows, games, cabaret, male strippers, no cover charges, upstairs at The Rem.
Centre Stage (51 Bloom St), intimate gay cabaret & showbar performances, diva stars, T-Girl Karaoke.
Churchills (37 Chorlton St), popular gay pub, drag show entertainment, karaoke nights,
Company (28 Richmond St), downstairs intimate spot, low-light atmosphere, sensual fun, packed and friendly, leather and fetish guys.
Coyotes (14 Chorlton), large entertainment nightly bar, open late, young crowd, women's favorite; holiday parties, dance, pop, RnB and Old Skool classics.
Cruz 101 (101 Princess St), behind Canal Street, large dance club, open late, big crowds, with a broad mix of pop, chart, R’nB, and commercial dance music nightly except Tuesdays. Poptastic Thursdays, Big Gay Fridays, Drama Queen and AfterShock Saturdays until 6am. Their basement SUB is the most underground clubbing space in the gay village with weekly Saturday Aftershock late night dancing, and monthly Twisted gay queer fetish nights.
Eagle (15 Bloom St), basement men's club, industrial style with dash of plush Victorian, dress code leather/rubber/skin/uniform nights, bear events, progressive electro, funky house to chill-out tunes.
Eden (3 Brazil St) - CLOSED FEB 2015 - foot bridge across the canal, restaurant seats inside, out or on a floating barge; great food, wide selection of drinks, spacious lounge, dancing till dawn.
G.A.Y Manchester (63 Richmond St/ Canal at Abingdon), large multi-level cocktail lounge , space to sprawl, cushy sofas and beds to cuddle or chill out, rooftop garden for smokers, overview of Canal Street below. Big-name weekend DJs, former Spirit site.
KIKI Manchester (4 Canal St), daily food, drinks and entertainment, breakfast from noon, burgers, nachos, deserts; theme parties, evening lounge and nightclub dancing, young gay mixed crowd.
Living Room (80 Deansgate), leisurely lunch, evening restaurant/bar, elegant comfort foods; Sunday lunch traditional roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, while they last.
Molly House (26 Richmond St), three-level cafe/bar, stylish, mixed crowd, next to Company Bar; ales, beers, wines and spirits plus burgers, Spanish/South American tapas, and brunch Eggs Benedict/Florentine.
Napoleons (33 Bloom St), two-level mixed crowd bar, oldest in the Village, events nights, drag diva favorite, open Wednesdays to Sundays, late.
New Union (111 Princess St), long-time favorite village show bar with DJs, karaoke, drag cabaret and theme nights; lively men/women mixed crowd.
New York New York (98 Bloom St), loyal regulars' gay party bar, cabaret entertainment; cocktail bar with jukebox open daily from 4pm, club room dancing to Motown, cheesy, pop, dance and RnB music.
Oscars (34 Canal St), intimate, theatre-style bar, classic to modern musical film clips, show tune favorites, live vocalists, gay mix.
Paddy's Goose (29 Bloom St), traditional pub, traditional ales, older and drag crowd, home cooked pub grub, jukebox, across from coach station.
Sackville Lounge (46 Sackville St), stylish noon to 1am cocktail lounge and restaurant, snacks and buffets to full course meals, Sunday diva dining, live music.
Taurus (1 Canal St), friendly, busy day and night, cheap pints of beer, wide mix of ages, genders and types. Downstairs performance space, theatrical and vocal talents.
Thompsons Arms (21 Sackville St), small, central bar, regular live entertainment on the schedule.
Tribeca Bar (50 Sackville St), burgers, appetizers, sandwiches - noon to 8:30pm, daily drinks specials, Quiz Nights, DJs, dance floors, gay/straight mix.
Vanilla (39 Richmond St), women-only club, considered among the best lesbian bars in Britain, WiFi, special holiday events.
Velvet (2 Canal St), hotel, restaurant, breakfast, soup, sandwich, small-plates, pizza lunch, classic British comfort foods, Sunday roasts, canal-side seating, eclectic music style.
Via (28-30 Canal St), daily from 11am (Sunday noon), stunning venue, gay men/women straight-friendly mix; nice-price cocktails, good food, nightclub, drag diva entertainment into the early hours, comfy chairs.
View (40 Chorlton St), large bar/club venue, young gay men/women, straight-friendly mixed crowd.
Void (4 Richmond St), two-level nightclub, dancing, theme parties, young gay mix, drag divas, muscle boys, Saturday-Sunday afterhours 3-10am.
CLOSED - Essential and Queer (8 Minchull), 14 years running big gay dance clubs; building sold - new owner plans cocktail bar, TBA.
The Alchemist (3 Hardman St, Spinningfields), gay-friendly cocktails or dining establishment, early morning coffee, lunch or weekend brunch. Check out their Cocktail Master Classes. Also with a new location at 1 New York Street, at Mosley.
Australasia (1 The Avenue, Spinningfields), straight but very stylish and gay-friendly spot with world-class dining. Ranks among the finest restaurants in the city.
Chaophraya (Chapel Walks) Thai restaurant & bar offers award-winning food, plus cocktails and Saturday cooking classes, just off Cross Street. Look for their Tuk-Tuk at the Manchester Pride parade for meal discount vouchers.
El Rincon de Rafa (244 Deansgate), popular, authentic Spanish/Basque tapas & paellas, wines.
Mughli Restaurant + Charcoal Pit (30 Wilmslow Rd), open 'angithi' charcoal pit, 'tandoori' clay oven, authentic street food, char-grilled meats, rustic home-style Mughlai cuisine.
Ning Malaysian Restaurant (92 Oldham St), a straight but stylish and gay friendly spot. Cozy, intimate; reasonable prices, delicious food.
Red Hot World Buffet (48 Deansgate), all-you-can-eat buffet with cuisines of India, Italy, China, Thailand and Japan; Cajun Country, Mediterranean, and Tex-Mex options.
Richmond Tea Rooms (15 Richmond St), traditional English tea room and cocktail lounge, Alice in Wonderland theme; full breakfast, afternoon tea sandwiches, rich desserts and cakes
Smoak Bar & Grill (1-3 Piccadilly), funky, upscale steak house and burger joint at the Malmaison Hotel.
Zouk Tea Bar & Grill (3 Chester St), at The Quadrangle, healthy, alternative Indian and Pakistani dishes, open kitchen.
See some more restaurant suggestions at our map and listings pages.
Basement (18 Tariff St), sauna, wide array of facilities, wide mix of people, spacious steam and sauna rooms, double jacuzzi, big TV screens, snacks and drinks, maze and relaxation areas, spa/massage treatments.
H2O Zone Sauna (38 Sackville St), central-location sauna just off Canal Street, large Jacuzzi, communal relaxation room, private rooms, snacks.
Rob Manchester (17 China Lane), leather, fetish, sex-toys, lubes, accessories, full leather gear. T-shirts and vests, football socks, fetish gear, rubber and leather accessories.
Clone Zone (36-38 Sackville St), newspapers, mags, DVDs, CDs, t-shirts, leather thongs, street wear, and accessories, as well as aromas and lubes in abundance.
For locations and websites for the above businesses and more, see our map & listings tab.