If you are looking for the best gay city in the UK to travel to, look no further than Manchester.
Manchester has been our home for over 10 years, it’s where I came out during University, where we attended our first gay pride and holds a very special place in our hearts.
We affectionately call Manchester, ‘The Gay Capital of the North’. [no_toc]
What makes Manchester ‘The Gay Capital of the North’?
When it comes to gay cities in the UK, Manchester is our number 1.
Manchester has a lot to offer and has a long-standing history with the LGBTQ+ community including:
- The Gay Village in the city centre (aka Canal Street).
- One of the biggest Prides in the UK.
- Listed by the New York Times as one of the most LGBTQ Friendly places to visit describing it as “West Hollywood, England style, but more gritty.”
- Home to the LGBTQ Foundation and akt (national LGBTQ charities)
- The location for iconic LGBTQ TV Series’ including the Queer as Folk series, It’s a Sin and Banana/Cucumber.
- Home to Gaydio.
- Home to Alan Turing, breaker of the enigma code who was prosecuted for being gay in 1952, later pardoned in 2014 and the ‘Alan Turing’s Law’ brought in to retrospectively pardon those criminalised for being gay.
- 1986, Europe’s first purpose-built Gay Centre built in Manchester when Manchester City Council approved funding of £118,000. The centre, on Sidney Street, is still serving the community today.
- The first Bi Visibility Day held in 1999 on canal Street
The list goes on and it makes us feel incredibly proud to live in Manchester.
Take it from us, Manchester is the gay capital of the North.
Gay Area of Manchester
Gay Village/Canal Street
If you don’t head to the Gay Village when you visit Manchester, you are seriously missing out.
The Gay Village centres around Canal Street and most people will use ‘Canal Street’ or ‘the Village’ interchangeably when talking about a gay night out in Manchester.
Canal Street (unsurprisingly) runs along a canal with gay bar after gay bar and restaurants lining the street.
The street itself is pedestrianised, in summer it is full of people sat outdoors enjoying drinks and food in the sun.
Along the adjoining streets you can find more gay bars, shops, places to eat and the biggest gay club in Manchester, Cruz 101.
During summer, Sackville Gardens (just off Canal Street) becomes busy and popular for sunbathing, picnicking and chilling outdoors.
This is an unofficial personal opinion.
Living in the area for over 10 years and seeing how it has developed, it is clear that Ancoats is one of the trendiest new neighbourhoods in Manchester and by coincidence or not, is an exceptionally popular place with the LGBTQ community to live.
We have always said that our gym in Ancoats is the gay gym of Manchester after all!
Make sure you explore and hang out in Ancoats Marina with a gin in a tin if the sun is out!
Gay Bars in Manchester
We have a full blog dedicated to our Best Gay Bars in Manchester.
Here are our tfavorites!
With three floors, the campest pop on play and a lot of fun themed nights, G-A-Y Manchester has always been a favourite of ours.
In terms of crowd, this typically feels quite young and trendy, much like the one in London.
When it comes to music, expect all the current chart hits that are trending mixed with some camp throwbacks including the likes of the Spice Girls and so on.
We could (and have) easily spend the entire night here.
Renamed many times but always providing a solid night out is The Brewers, formerly Kiki, formerly Queer.
Always busy being at the top end of Canal Street and therefore one of the first places people start for the night, The Brewers has two floors with booths to sit and drink and dance floors for later on in the night.
Music here is a bit more mixed, with some cabaret nights and live entertainment.
Cheap, cheesy and fun with great drag hosts, whether you are here to eat, dance, drink or play, Bar Pop always delivers a fun night out.
Similar to G-A-Y, a typically younger crowd and plenty of pop.
Thompsons is a long-time favourite of ours, it’s a little bit of a dive bar with cheap drinks and awesome music.
If you are looking just to have fun, drink and dance then this is the place for you.
On Bar Manchester
Formerly Manto, one of the oldest gay bars in Manchester after The New Union, On Bar Manchester classes itself as a versatile venue offering everything from up to the minute sounds to bespoke cocktail menu, entertainment nights, bottomless brunch and fantastic food.
We also love the service at On Bar!
For a more chilled and classy vibe head to Via.
Via offers great drinks, food, a cool venue and live shows throughout the week.
Gay Clubs in Manchester
There aren’t many huge gay clubs in Manchester, most places on Canal Street marry the two together serving as a bar and club at the same time, G-A-Y, Eagle, Bar Pop and The Brewers included.
However, one of the longest running gay clubs in Manchester which we love, is in infamous Cruz 101.
This is the biggest gay club in Manchester and has been going for over 20 years.
Like many other places, it has different levels for different musical tastes and is open until the early hours of the morning. Most people will not arrive here until 1am after they have finished at G-A-Y.
At Cruz, they often put on stage shows, competitions and performances to get the night started.
Gay Club Nights in Manchester
Jock Party UK
Jock is an online underwear and gear store, they also run regular underwear and sportsgear party nights across the UK.
In Manchester they run the night out of Eagle and it looks like a LOT of fun.
Follow them on Facebook to see when their next event is coming up.
DILF hosts regular house music fetish dance parties in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and elsewhere in the UK/EU. The club nights are aimed at men and proudly trans friendly.
In Manchester expect to see DILF hosted at Eagle and follow their page to keep up to date.
Gay Friendly Hotels in Manchester
Given Manchester is the gay capital of the North, we would not expect you to find any problems at any hotels.
However, we have stayed at the following which we highly recommend and who are very active in working to serve the LGBTQ+ market in the best way they can:
DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester
Hilton have done so much work globally for the LGBTQ+ community, making them a brand we stand behind.
When it comes to Manchester, DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester sits just a 5 minute walk from the main train station (Manchester Piccadilly) and a mere 2-minute walk into the gay village – ideal!
The service, breakfast and everything about the hotel is exactly as you would expect from the Hilton brand and you are sure to receive a warm welcome (and warm cookie!) on arrival.
If you want style, character and to be wowed make sure to check out the 5* Kimpton Clocktower.
As a brand, Kimpton have always been committed allies to the LGBTQ+ community and this was particularly evident when we spoke with the General Manager on site.
The rooms (especially the Heritage Suite) are stunning, grand and have many thoughtful local touches – you won’t be disappointed.
Hotel Indigo is right outside Manchester Victoria train station and within walking distance to the city centre (and the gay village).
The rooms are beautiful and stylishly decorated with plenty of space and all the amenities you could need for a weekend away. We particularly loved the bed which we did not want to leave!
Gay Events in Manchester
Hands down, our favourite UK based Pride event – it is one of the biggest and best after all.
Manchester Pride is a 4 day event over the August bank holiday weekend attracting over 170,000 people each year.
As it has massively increased in size over the years the festivities are split between the gay village itself and the main stage, usually nearby in the city.
With past acts including the likes of Ariana Grande, this is a pride for everyone’s bucket list! Just make sure you get your tickets well in advance!
Sparkle – The National Transgender Charity organises and runs Sparkle weekend each year.
This is the world’s largest free-to-attend celebration of gender diversity, held in Sackville Gardens at the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village.
They promote a positive representation, awareness and acceptance of the Trans, Non-Binary/Genderfluid and Intersex community through our events, communications, advocacy and arts projects.
Check their website for updates.
Manchester Rubber Weekend
Manchester Rubber Weekend is a growing non-profit series of events attracting rubber guys from all over the world.
Over the weekend there are four main club nights, events, retailers to get geared up and everything else you can imagine comes with a weekend like this.
LGBTQ Organisations/Charities in Manchester
If you need any support or help whilst in Manchester or would like to donate to these charities:
LGBTQ Sports Clubs in Manchester
If you enjoy your sports, whether living or visiting Manchester check out these inclusive LGBTQ+ clubs:
- Northern Wave – inclusive swimming club.
- Village Manchester Football Club
- The Village Spartans (Rugby)
- Outdoor Lads (UK Wide activities)
- Northern Aces (Tennis)
- Manchester Frontrunners (running club)
- Manchester Prairie Dogs Line-Dancing Club
- Pride Out (cycle club)
Top things to do in Manchester
Gay Manchester and its nightlife aside, make sure you enjoy the following whilst visiting our city;
Canals run throughout the whole of Manchester and in places (on a sunny day) provide some beautiful walks.
Our top suggestion is to start at Canal Street by The New Union, enter the Canal and walk all the way to Salford Quays where you will find lots of activities, restaurants, bars and once a month the Makers Market which we highly recommend.
We have two huge shopping centres in Manchester.
The best known and biggest is The Trafford Centre and the smaller in the city centre itself The Arndale.
Also head down Deansgate for more shops and department stores.
There are so many incredible places to eat, probably warranting a whole separate blog post.
However, our favourite places for dinner include Don Giovanni’s, Gusto, Tattu, La Vina, Grill on The Alley, The Ivy, Hotel Gotham, Mamucium, Velvet and The Refuge – you won’t be disappointed
Other Useful Information
Other useful information for your trip:
- Manchester is quite a small city; you can walk most places.
- If walking is not for you, Uber is always cheap or there are great tram networks (day passes are good value).
- Manchester City Centre is generally very safe, Piccadilly Gardens can get a bit rough at night though!
- The main train stations are Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Victoria. If you are looking to arrive and stay near the gay village aim to arrive at Manchester Piccadilly (although all are close enough).
- For those from overseas, the currency is GBP.
We love Manchester and are very proud to live in this city. It might be the gay capital of the North, but for us it’s the gay capital of the UK.
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