Manchester student guide: 21 tips for making the most of the city

The ultimate student’s guide to Manchester: going out, where to eat, best coffee shops, arts and entertainment and places to unwind.

manchester student guide
[Picture: davemc / Flickr / CC]

After parents have been waved off, carloads of belongings unpacked and flatmate introductions have taken place, it’s time to soak up the Mancunian charm.

As a wide-eyed fresher it’s easy to feel daunted by moving to a new place, but it’s important to venture away from your student union bar, explore the city’s culture and get to know the local haunts. Manchester is well known for its music scene, and with three universities based in the city there are plenty of attractions for students.

Pippa Day looks at the best places to explore.

Freshers’ Week 2014: A guide to the best events across the UK

Going Out: best student-friendly bars and clubs

The Font

The Font

Hugely popular with students thanks to its central location and cheap booze, this gastro-pub and cocktail bar has an astonishing number of cocktails on the menu, staring at just £2. A brilliant bar to kick off a night out, Font also serves hearty student pub grub (think burgers, hot dogs and moreish curly fries). Make sure to get there early because it’s really popular and it can be difficult to get a table. 7-9 New Wakefield Street, M1 5NP Tel: 0161 236 0944 (Website)

5th Avenue

5th Avenue

If you’re a student in Manchester you’ll inevitably end up dancing away to an indie anthem in 5th. Cheap drinks, fun music and a stuffy underground atmosphere only add to the fun on the packed dancefloor, and there are regular club nights throughout the week. 121 Princess Street, M1 7AG Tel: 0161 236 2754 (Website)

42nd Street

42nd Street

With a sticky floor, ludicrously cheap shots and a very relaxed dress code, head to ’42s’ if you’re looking for a young crowd of fellow students. Again, indie music is favoured over chart hits, and a 3am sing-along to ‘Wonderwall’ is unavoidable. Not to be confused with the Broadway musical. 2 Bootle St, M2 5GU Tel: 0161 831 7108 (Website)

Cheap Eats: eateries that won’t make a huge dent in your student loan



From the same team as Trof and The Deaf Institute (we’ll get to that shortly) this bar/kitchen/stage/club compound has topped many ‘best burger’ lists for the city (the cheese burger on a toasted brioche bun is scrumptious). It doubles as a music venue in the evening and, although the drinks are pricey, a trip upstairs to the gin parlour is a must. 54-56 Whitworth St W, M1 5WW Tel:0161 407 0301 (Website)

Slice Pizza & Bread Bar


All students turn to take-out at some point in their studying, but avoid the tired chains and grab a slice at this northern quarter pizza bar. Fresh, natural ingredients make you feel slightly less guilty than going for a deep fried meal, and you can eat in or takeaway with slices only costing a couple of quid. 1A Stevenson Square, M1 1DN Tel: 0161 236 9032 (Website)

Curry Mile

Curry Mile

The curry mile is a section of Wilmslow road that boasts a huge number of restaurants, take-aways and kebab houses and is a key food hub. Thanks to its location near uni campuses there are often many students looking for spicy meals on the mile and some restaurants offer a student discount. Wilmslow Road, Rusholme.

Coffee Breaks: where to go when the textbooks take their toll

North Tea Power

NTP Coffee

If fancy tea and coffee makes you feel at home be sure to visit this independent coffee shop, tucked away in the northern quarter. The welcoming atmosphere allows for a quiet coffee with your laptop or an afternoon playing the provided boardgames in a group as you spend your entire student loan on chamomile tea, cappuccinos and quite possibly the best chai latte in town. 36 Tib St, M4 1LA Tel:0161 833 3073 (Website)



When freshers’ flu hits, take refuge in Teacup and gorge on fancy cake and loose leaf tea. The service is slow, and if you arrive at lunchtime at the weekend be prepared to wait for a table, but a relaxing afternoon tea can’t be rushed. This one is for the tea connoisseurs – make sure you ask for the specialty brews they have to offer. 53-55 Thomas St, M4 1NA Tel: 0161 832 3233 (Website)

Java Bar Expresso

Coffe Java

Perfect for a quick cup before a cinema screening and the place to avoid dreaded train station coffee from Manchester Oxford Road. If you’re travelling into Manchester by train to this station, make sure to pick up a loyalty card for this place – it gets you 10% off. 1-3 Station Approach, Oxford Road, M1 6FU Tel: 0161 236 3656 (Website)

Shopping: independent outlets with student-friendly price tags



It’s one of the most frequently recommended places to shop in the city (we recommended that everyone visiting the northern quarter pops in), but this emporium of quirky indie outlets can help update a wardrobe, provide a cheap but original birthday present or at least distract students from the looming exam season. With everything from tattoos and beanie hats to vinyl and a shop called ‘Hempology’, this is a must visit. 52 Church St, M4 1PW Tel: 0161 839 0718 (Website)


Junk Shop

If you fancy a vintage look when reinventing yourself as a student wander over to Junk to pick up creative, sustainable clothing and jewellery. If you fancy saving money and making your own clothes Junk also offer sewing courses. Attend then spend two years practicing; by graduation ball you’ll have the most envy-inducing outfit on the dancefloor. 2 Dale St, M1 1JW Tel: 0161 238 8517 (Website)

Piccadilly Records

Piccadilly records

Because in Manchester, music is important. Piccadilly records is not only a friendly independent record store, but the staff really know their stuff, and interesting new music can always be found on the recommended rack at the front of the store. Warning: all your money could be spent here because new music is necessary. Shop with caution. 53 Oldham St, M1 1JR Tel: 0161 839 8008 (Website)

Arts and Entertainment: take your mind off exams and essays with a dose of culture

The Cornerhouse


Ah, the Cornerhouse: every Mancunian film fan’s happy place. With a cafe, exhibition space and a bookshop, this is the best cinema in Manchester to turn up early to. It doesn’t screen big blockbusters, but that only adds to the charm. Avoid Michael Bay and go watch an indie flick or foreign film – your bank balance will thank you, as student tickets are only £6. 70 Oxford St, M1 5NH Tel: 0161 200 1500 (Website)

The Deaf Institute

The Deaf Institute

With the best wallpaper in town, the Deaf Institute has three floors of fun. The upstairs music hall has a huge disco ball and a nice sized floor space, so you can have a little dance or listen to one of the live acts. There is also a Trof cafe bar (for burgers) on the ground floor and the downstairs bar serves fancy cocktails. 135 Grosvenor St, M1 7HE Tel: 0161 276 9350 (Website)

The Lowry

The Lowry

This waterfront complex next door to Media City mixes theatres and art galleries for your cultural needs. Their collection of LS Lowry paintings (the largest in the world) is free to view and the ‘matchstick men’ in his work should be seen by those living in the city. The theatres show larger touring shows as well as famous comedy acts. Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford M50 3AZ Tel:0843 208 6000 (Website)

Escape: places to relax and unwind after a soul-sapping study session

Heaton Park

The largest municipal park in Europe, this is the place to go to escape the city for greener pastures. A weekly 5k race is held for all abilities, there’s an animal centre to visit if you’re missing the family pet whilst away from home, and there’s lots of grassy space to lay a picnic blanket down and soak up the sun. The Farm Centre, M25 2SW Tel: 0161 773 1085 (Website)

Debdale park

A smaller park than Heaton, Debdale is right next to an outdoor centre, so you don’t have to travel far to try dinghy sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking, powerboating, rock climbing or abseiling. There’s free tennis courts in the park if you fancy a game. Hyde Rd, M18 7LJ Tel: 0161 223 5182 (Website)

Central Library


Let’s face it, if you’re at university in England over winter you need to find some relaxing indoor space. Before you quickly scroll to the next section don’t judge a building by its name. In this one there’s a media centre with computers and gaming stations, the British Film Institute Mediatheque and lots of quiet spaces to tuck into a good book (for free!). Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, M3 3WD Tel: 0161 234 1983 (Website)

What makes Manchester unique: bragging points to tell your friends elsewhere

Manchester Christmas Markets

Festive food, drink and stalls in Christmassy wooden cabins bring the holiday spirit to Manchester just when the thick winter coats become mandatory. With the markets split throughout the city, with different themes and stalls in each location, make sure to make multiple trips. Grab a cup of mulled wine and browse for unique Christmas gifts for all budgets. The dates for 2014 are Friday 14 November to Sunday 21 December. Manchester City Centre (Website)



This area of the city hosts seasonal events that are worth a trip. In summer it holds Screenfields and screens cult classics for £3 rain or shine. In winter there’s an ice rink, so hire some skates and soak up the snow season. Spinningfields has very yellow marketing, you can’t miss it. Spinningfields (Website)

Breakout Manchester

An escape room game for 2-5 people, Breakout Manchester gives you one hour to figure out how to escape a locked room by solving puzzles and finding clues. One for the whole flat, this may at first seem a bit pricey for students (5 people off-peak is £13 each) but it’s an unusual alternative to a gig at the Academy, so exercise your brain power and bond over teamwork. 14a Brazennose Street, M2 6LW Tel: 0161 839 8012 (Website)

Find all the locations in this student guide on our Manchester map:

Still short of ideas? Try our other Manchester guides:

• 25 things you didn’t know you could do in Manchester
• 10 of the best bars in Manchester
• 14 of the best restaurants in Manchester for any budget
• 10 of the best shops in Manchester
• 10 things to do for free in Manchester
Best cheap eats in Manchester
A beer lover’s guide to Manchester

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