No city in Europe has a stronger gay identity than Manchester. And it’s largely down to the city’s nightlife.
Before Queer As Folk; before Manchester Pride; before Coronation Street’s host of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans characters, came the opening of Manto Bar on Canal Street in 1990.
In stark contrast to the furtive dive bars of the past, Manto’s huge display windows proudly flaunted their clientèle. And with this one fabulously bolshy move helped establish a new visible and proud gay identity in the city.
Since then Manchester hasn’t looked back, with the Gay Village exploding outwards and becoming as synonymous with the city as top-drawer chip shops and rain.
Canal Street remains the nerve centre for the most well-known LGBT clubs and bars, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find something for all tastes. Let us guide you through the best of the Gay Village and beyond.
For 17 years Vanilla has been one of the most popular lesbian bars in the UK. Winner of countless awards, the space is intimate, the soundsystem booming and the punters as upbeat and lively as you’d expect from the self-professed “lesbian Mecca of the North”. It might be called Vanilla, but come the weekend it’s anything but.
39-41 Richmond Street, Manchester M1 3WB, 0161 637 6258 – more info
Off The Hook
The brainchild of Manchester man-about-town Greg Thorpe, Off The Hook is a joyous mix of the most danceable R&B and hip-hop, old and new. Always classy, never trashy. Before that midnight cocktail, at least.
Kraak, 11 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB – more info
As you can probably tell by the name, Bollox is the enfant terrible of the Manchester gay club scene. Except not terrible at all, but pure ridiculous fun, set to a synthpop soundtrack. Like a Beano comic strip come to life, Bollox is a riotous celebration of the more colourful side of queer clubbing.
Various venues – more info
Just round the corner from Canal Street, past the street sign curiously missing the ‘C’ and the ‘S’, lies Alter Ego, home of the long-lasting and always excellent Poptastic. If you’re craving a midweek fix of pop and alternative anthems, the sterling resident DJs Phil Perry and DJ Si will you keep dancing well into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Alter Ego, 105 – 107 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD, 07974 248247 – more info
You can’t really say you’ve been out in the Village until you’ve crawled out of Aftershock on a Sunday morning, wide-eyed and blinking after a night throwing shapes to cutting-edge dance music. Held at one of the city’s best-looking venues, with wall-to-wall strobe lights and mirrors, Cruz was famously used as the backdrop for Queer As Folk’s Babylon club. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know what to expect. Just with better haircuts.
Cruz 101, 101 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD, 0161 950 0101 – more info
Main image: Cruz 101
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