A guide to Manchester's Northern Quarter

  • City guides
3 min read

There’s so much to do in Manchester, you might find planning a break in the city a little overwhelming. But if you’re looking for cool bars, independent shops, quirky cafes and a laid-back bohemian vibe, you don’t need to look any further than the Northern Quarter, and it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from your Roomzzz aparthotel.

We’ve been out and about hunting down the best ways to pass the time, from shopping to late night jazz, so you can do Manchester like a local.

Get lost in Affleck’s 

For alternative culture and one-of-a-kind mementoes, you have to visit to the iconic Affleck’s. A self-proclaimed ‘emporium of eclecticism’, this rabbit warren of independent traders and cafes set over several floors is a shopping experience like no other. From anime-themed Japanese cafes to vintage homeware, gender-fluid fashion to original artwork, you could browse the dozens of independent stores for hours without coming up for air. And when you’re all shopped out, you can head to the incredible Ginger’s Comfort Emporium on the top floor. Billed as an ‘ice cream van for adults’, Ginger’s serves up all kinds of delicious puds based around ice cream, with grown-up flavours like black treacle and parkin, coconut malted milk and gin and plum sorbet. If you need a real boost, they serve affogato – a mix of ice cream and hot espresso – and have some great vegan flavours so no-one has to miss out.

Top up your music collection 

Vinyl’s back in a big way, and there aren’t many better places to find vinyl gems old and new than in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Whether you prefer sifting through second-hand records to find a classic, or want the latest releases in a retro format, there are plenty of independent record shops just minutes from your Roomzzz apartment. For brand new vinyl, head to Piccadilly Records, the city’s largest and longest running record store. It prides itself on introducing customers to bands they might not have heard of yet, and the staff have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the music they stock. Or, if you prefer to spend hours digging through boxes of pristine vintage vinyl, head to Vinyl Exchange and while away a rainy Manchester afternoon searching for a second-hand treasure. And there are loads more small independents dotted across the area, so have a wander and get browsing.

Grab a coffee and people watch

Manchester’s Northern Quarter attracts an eclectic bunch of people and there’s nothing better when you’ve been busy exploring than sitting back with a coffee and watching the world go by. For a twist on your usual caffeine fix, try coffee house Takk, serving hand-roasted Icelandic drip coffee, plus a host of Scandinavian style breakfasts and brunches. It’s sleek and simple, with cool Scandi furnishings, exposed brick and natural wood, and perfectly placed for people watching. You can even buy a bag of their single farm coffee from El Salvador to enjoy back at your Roomzzz apartment.

Find your new favourite band

Manchester’s well known for its rich musical heritage and you can still discover the next big thing playing a tiny venue somewhere in the Northern Quarter. If you’re staying at Roomzzz on a weeknight, head down to the iconic Castle Hotel, which has live music throughout the week in its small but iconic music hall (it only holds 80 people, so book early!). John Peel famously interviewed Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis here in the ‘70s, and the pub makes the most of its indie rock cool points, right down to the music-themed ales served behind the bar. For a different vibe, check out Band on the Wall, another Manchester musical landmark, specialising in jazz, blues, folk and international music. The venue – which opened in the 1930s and hosted the likes of The Fall and Buzzcocks in their heyday – keeps an archive of all performances, which you can check out on YouTube before you go.

Drink, dance and be merry

Whether you prefer a traditional British pub or a cool, contemporary cocktail bar, there’s plenty of options in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. From a first drink in the tiled Victorian grandeur of the Marble Arch with its craft beers, solid pub grub and cheese boards to a 3am game of pool in the New York-style Blackdog Ballroom, you can stay out all night long and never get bored. For a lively night with food, music and dancing, head to Matt and Phred’s, a charming jazz club that does drinks, pizza and dancing to everything from classic jazz to ska, salsa and swing (they even do dance classes some nights). With live music six nights of the week and Happy Hour deals every night, and a free pizza when you buy two drinks, it’s a great spot to soak up the Manchester vibe. 

Sound like your kind of place? Check availability at Roomzzz Manchester and get booking!

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