London and Brighton may take all the gay glory, but don’t be quick to judge Manchester. Known for one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world, this northern city has the second largest LGBT population in the UK and a scene that has a down-to-earth feel. Fine, we’ll say it, it’s a little friendlier than the attention whore that is London.
The majority of queer life in Manchester happens in the Gay Village, specifically Canal Street; or “Anal Treet” if you’re feeling saucy. Feeling nostalgic? Back in the 18th century a Molly House used to be a pub where gay men were able to meet. The Molly House
in the Gay Village pays homage to the secret and not-so-secret pubs of the past, but the crowds are much more diverse now. London’s famous G-A-Y
brand has a location in the heart of Canal Street. Loud club remixes blast as cheap well drinks in plastic cups are consumed by rowdy and sometimes recently out university students, but what makes G-A-Y one the best clubs not only on Canal Street but in all of Manchester is the rooftop terrace where you can drink, dance, and flirt under the stars. Cruz 101
(Nobody says the 101) is another club staple in the Gay Village. Housed in an old shipping warehouse (So Manchester), viewers of the UK version of Queer as Folk know this club as Babylon; they even changed the name during the show’s filming in the late ‘90s and then changed it back when the show got canceled.
If you’re looking for conversation over great cocktails instead of trying to scream over the pounding music and drinking well vodka, Via
with its grown up gothic feel, and Tribeca
are better options. Even if you plan on hitting Cruz or G-A-Y later on, these bars are perfect to kick off a night of partying. If you step out of the Gay Village bubble, there’s Sackville Lounge
; a more sophisticated spot that is ideal for first dates.
If you’re a girl who seeks girls, navigating Manchester can be a bit of a crap shoot. Actually,it’s a bit vanilla--literally. Vanilla
is pretty much the only lesbian bar in the city. It used to be a hangout for young 18 to 21-year-old brooding Shane wannabes, but now that Coyotes is closed the crowd is a decent mix of single queer chicks.
The Manchester Pride
organization hosts parties and events throughout the year including a spring benefit and an international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, but the Big Weekend happens on the last weekend of August. It’s one of the UK’s largest pride events.
Manchester might be a little grittier than its southern big sister city, but it still has a great LGBT scene and you won’t have to worry about paying those ridiculous London prices.