From a wool market, through cotton mills to a hip and hipster heart of bohemian culture. Manchester’s Northern Quarter appears to be the most interesting and fascinating district of the city. Comprised of a maze of dodgy-looking backstreets between Manchester Piccadilly station, Market Street and rapidly improving Ancoats, the NQ (called by locals) in recent years has become a centre of cool bars, independent coffee houses and quirky shops. You could spend a whole day, or even an entire weekend, strolling the secret streets, admiring street art, spending your money in vintage stores and satisfying your artistic and actual hunger and thirst. Because oh man, the amount of electric bars, cute coffee shops and great places to eat seems almost infinite.
What are the best things to do in the Northers Quarter then?
Where to eat, where to drink, where to shop, what to see?
With living in Manchester for more than 3 years, and now for a few months in Norther Quarter itself, I walked its streets a million times and managed to discover a lot of its secret and not so secret spots, the best coffee shops and places to eat. So check out my guide to:
the most epic things to do in the Northern Quarter in Manchester!
Let’s start with the thing that keeps us all alive:
HAVE A COFFEE
Manchester is a coffee heaven. If you’re passionate about coffee, you could visit the city for this reason alone and spend the entire day going from one place to another. Ever since the third-wave coffee movement became more popular, coffee shops in Manchester have been spreading like wild fire and most of them are located directly in the Northern Quarter. From big mugs of deep dark filter coffee and strong espressos to creamy lattes and oat milk flat whites with perfect microbubbles – here is a selection of places serving the best cups of black gold.
Just Between Friends
This super cosy place located in the middle of the Northern Quarter serves one of the best coffees in town. Apart from coffee, tea and tasty sweet and savoury snacks, the lovely owner and chatty baristas will make you feel like you’re “just between friends”. In “normal times” it was my favourite place to squeeze in on a rainy day and have a hot cup of oat flat white. Now, because of “the one who must not be named” JBF operates mainly on a takeaway basis, with some secret outdoor seating behind the café, but hopefully it will go back to normal soon.
Just between friends
56 Tib St
M4 1LG Manchester
“Siop” means “shop” in Welsh, so the name really translates to “Shop Shop”. But my personal translation is: donut heaven. And why in Welsh? Because the bakers who came up with idea of serving donuts in all shapes and sizes come from Wales. During the past few months Siop Shop became our go to coffee place, because ohh, the coffee is simply divine! Add to that a delicious and colourful donut and your mood is immediately lifted. Two out of the seven types of donuts they offer are vegan, but if you want to get them, you have to be quick. Vegan donuts sell out super fast. Siop serves as well (in normal times) a great selection of vegan and vegetarian food, so visiting it has to go on your “things to do in the Northern Quarter” list.
53 Tib St
M4 1LS Manchester
“Coffee, pie, natural wine” with a selection of brunch dishes for good measure. With an interior looking a bit like an old school classroom, you can fill your belly with a delicious selection of good quality coffee, which you can complement with their famous pies and cakes. Like all the best coffee shops, they also serve brunch delights and beer.
35 Dale St
Manchester M1 2HF
The first ever coffee shop in Northern Quarter I visited and after trying their amazing brownie, I knew I’d be coming back. Nordic inspired Takk was a result of travels through Scandinavia and Iceland and a tribute to their people and their love for coffee. Therefore Takk provides a cosy atmosphere, a great space to work, meet and talk and of course a great selection of delicious tea, coffee, pastries and a brunch/lunch menu.
6 Tariff St
M1 2FF Manchester
SPLURGE ON SHOPS
Now when black coffee is running through you veins, it’s time to hit the stores. Northern Quarter is perfect for anyone who, instead of buying from chains, prefers unique and original pieces. And likes to browse for hours. From cute flower shops to hipster homeware and vintage clothes, every aspiring bohemian will find something for themselves or others.
Unless you’re very committed to shopping, you can’t visit all the stores in one day, but I listed here a few that are worth considering, dividing them into 3 categories:
NQ homeware stores sell everything from stylish ceramics, organic toiletries and scented candles to unique art, bohemian jewellery and quality gifts. No matter which one you choose to visit, I’m sure you’ll find something original, stylish and most importantly – of good quality. And let’s not forget about the store with the cutest looking display in whole Manchester – a flower shop: Northern Flower. Big selection of beautiful and unusual plants in quirky containers, friendly service and good prices guaranteed.
If vintage clothes are more your thing, there are a few stores in NQ worth paying a visit. Blue Rinse, Cow, Pop Boutique should definitely not be missed. Alternatively, you can also shop in charity shops to find some original pieces for your wardrobe while helping out a good cause.
Manchester has a long reputation for great music. So no matter if you’re a record collector or not, you should definitely add visiting one the record stores to your “things to do in the Northern Quarter” list. If you’re only choosing one, go to Piccadilly Records. Founded in 1978, it’s built a reputation as one of the best record stores in the UK, even winning a few awards. The staff are friendly, helpful and always willing to give you a recommendation.
A store with everything…
A former department store, Affleck’s is a NQ indoor market with history. Apparently everyone who grew up as a teenager in Manchester remembers spending their free time there browsing through the band t-shirts, pin badges and pop posters. But hmm…how do I say it…you have to like junk to truly appreciate it. Across the 4 stories, you can find everything from vintage records and clothing to anime outfits and fancy dress to jewellery and plants. You can even get a piercing, a tattoo there or have a Thai massage.
52 Church St
M4 1PW Manchester
FILL YOUR BELLY WITH FOOD
Time to eat something! And apart from London, there’s no better place in the UK where you can stuff yourself with a wide variety of delectable dishes. And the best part is, that a lot of them are located in the Northern Quarter. From proper sit down restaurants, cafés and bars to pop-ups and street food, Northern Quarter’s food and drink culture will not leave you wanting. Visiting one or two places on my list of things to do in Norther Quarter will give you a good taste of the atmosphere. Brunch, lunch, a quick bite or a proper dinner – eat away my friend!
Ok, just a quick disclaimer. In most of the coffee houses mentioned above and below you have both coffee and food. So you can really mix and match. But these are the places, that in my opinion are perfect for an enjoyable brunch/lunch break.
Technically not in the Northern Quarter, but you can take the diversion to Ancoats (a new up and coming neighbourhood, separated from the NQ with one street) and enjoy the best breakfast/brunch experience. This family-run café-bakery serves a thoughtfully curated seasonal menu, freshly baked sourdough, homemade chutneys, cakes and pastries will blow your taste buds away. Super polite staff and an interior that you could describe as “minimal meets rustic” definitely make Trove a place worth visiting.
5 Murray St
M4 6HS Manchester
Feel Good Club
Opened in 2020, just before the second lockdown in England, Feel Good Club quickly became one of our favourite places to visit. Super pleasant atmosphere provided by the two owners, a lot of space and if you’re lucky you can get a friendly welcome from the resident poodle: Juno. The menu is very diverse. You can treat yourself with a full variety of coffee, beer, soft drinks, baked good and of course hot food. All day brunch/lunch menu consists mainly of vegetarian/vegan dishes and man, it all looks so yummy!
Feel Good Club
26-28 Hilton St
Manchester M1 2EH
One of the most well known places in Manchester, Foundation (or really I should say Foundations, because there are 3 locations), is also the largest in size. Apart from the great variety of delicious, speciality coffee, FDN offers a range of brunch meals and light bites. The fact that it’s also a great co-working space, makes it even more worth visiting. You can literally spend the whole day there, enjoying the minimalistic yet cosy interiors, sipping their luxurious flat whites or flavourful tea, nibbling on avo toast or one of the tasty cakes, while getting some work done.
The Foundation Coffee House
M1 1JB Manchester
Snacks/For a quick bite
What the Pitta
Fabulous falafels, delicious döner and great gyros. What the Pitta opened recently and it’s already my favourite takeaway. Their menu is perfect to eat while strolling the streets, so definitely go there when hunger strikes. And the best thing is (well, for me) that everything on the menu is vegan.
What the Pitta
42 Back Turner St
M4 1FR Manchester
A Manchester institution, Go Falafel serves wraps, bowls and surprisingly falafels. Another place where every plant based person will have a lot to choose from. Perfect for midday and late night snack.
3 Newton St
M1 1HW Manchester
After a whole day of exploring, I bet you’ll be ready to sit down and stuff your face with some of the best food that Manchester has to offer. And again, most of them are luckily located in the Northern Quarter. I solemnly swear that visiting at least one of these places must go on your “things to do in the Northern Quarter” list.
Continuing the theme of plant based food, Bundobust serves delicious and flavourful vegetarian and vegan Indian tapas. It’s honestly one of my, if not the most favourite place to eat in Manchester. Their food is served in the form of tapas. It’s perfect to share and everyone can try something new. However, don’t let the idea of tapas sized dishes deceive you – after 2 or 3 you’ll be full! I highly recommend the vegan combo, washed down with a coconut mojito or one of their craft beer collaborations. And…now I’m hungry.
M1 2AG Manchester
Before I became vegan, it was my go to place to eat. Luckily, Almost Famous has vegetarian and vegan burgers, but I’m not such a frequent guest anymore. Because yes, Almost Famous serves the best beef burgers in town. Filthy, saucy, spicy, weird and wonderful. If you’re ever dreaming of mixing your burger with cotton candy or breakfast cereal, you have to go there. The creativity of the cooks will surprise you. Now, Almost Famous has a second location in Manchester, but their original headquarters are in NQ and it’s not that easy to find. So good luck.
Almost Famous NQ
100-102 High St
M4 1HP Manchester
APPRECIATE STREET ART
While your meal is going down, take a wander around and see some of the street art that Manchester’s Northern Quarter has to offer. You don’t even have to look very hard, because it’s around every corner and on every building. Some are so good that they are even worth posing with for an Insta photo. If you’re looking for locations, check out my “best photography locations in Manchester” blog post. A lot of the pieces were painted by a famous local graffiti artist: Akse. He specializes in lifelike portraits and the latest addition to his collection was Captain Tom Moore – the former soldier who raised millions for the English National Health service during the pandemic. You can find it on the corner of Tib and Thomas Street.
While you’re strolling don’t forget to check out one of the most iconic pieces of Manchester street art: a mosaic displaying the words: .“..And on the sixth day God created Manchester“. It’s located on the side of the Affleck’s building, on Short St.
SLURP SOME DRINKS
I bet this is what you’ve been waiting for! Where can you finally sit and chill with a hoppy craft beer and a flamboyant cocktail? I’ll tell you!
Craft beer bars
Northern Monk will satisfy your craft beer needs! Don’t expect cocktails or wine. This is a place for the real beer fanatics. You can choose from their huge selection of IPAs, sours, stouts in different shapes and forms. Keg, cask, bottles, cans, pints, two thirds, thirds…There is no beer need, that Northern Monk can’t meet. The best part is that you can taste everything before you order, so you don’t have to suffer through the whole pint of something you don’t like.
10 Tariff St
M1 2FF Manchester
Just across the road from Northern Monk you can find another beer heaven. Beatnikz serves a huge amount of their own beers brewed in Manchester: IPA, DIPA, TIPA, NEIPA, GFIPA. If those letters mean something to you, get yourself down to Beatnikz. Their friendly staff will help you chose your favourite and will offer you advice if you’re not a beer pro.
35 Dale St
M1 2HF Manchester
One of the Northern Quarter’s most beloved bars. Evolved from a tiny space where the DJ was on the bar, to a food and drink powerhouse. Your visit in Northern Quarter cannot end without visiting Common. Especially during summer, I really recommend going there during the day for a little outdoor craft ale or a colourful cocktail in the sun. Recently they started pizza in slices and whole pies, which can complement your chosen drink. But if you see fries on the menu, make sure to get yourself a portion. Good vibes guaranteed.
39-41 Edge St
M4 1HW Manchester
Just across from Common, Terrace NQ was previously one of very few bars with outdoor sitting in the Northern Quarter. Now because of ‘rona, there are a lot more options. But the terrace mentioned in its name was a sun trap for an afterwork beer. In the summer of course, so you know, those 2 weeks in July.
43 Thomas St
M4 1NA Manchester
Wolf at the door
A relatively new place on the edge of the Northern Quarter attracts with cool cocktails, small brewery craft beers, natural wines, delicious tacos and bao buns. Add to that uber modern interior with bohemian vibes and you’ve got yourself a place that won’t disappoint and won’t break the bank. Thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, it’s a great bar to visit during the day as well as at night. I’m sure you will have fun.
Wolf at the door
30-32 Thomas St
M4 1ER Manchester
Science and Industry
If you’re looking for a unique and slightly more upmarket cocktail experience, you have to visit Science and Industry. It’s hidden behind a secret door inside the restaurant Cane & Grain, but no password is needed. Dark wood, low light and classic bar seats give off a speakeasy vibe. The presentation as well as the cocktails themselves is spectacular, fog, fire, smoke…you get the gist. Prices aren’t low, but you can treat yourself once in a while.
Science and Industry
49, 51 Thomas St
M4 1NA Manchester
Oh man, that’s a lot to take. But with this list of the best things to do in the Northern Quarter you will have made the most out of your visit.
Don’t forget to check my blog post about best photo locations in Manchester, so you could also snap cool shots during your visit!
And enjoy your time in the Northern Quarter!
If you have any questions, write them in the comments or hit me up on Instagram.
Pin for later!