Every city has its own cultural and colourful epicentre and Manchester’s version is the Northern Quarter. Residents of this locale take their roles as creatives seriously, which is why almost every surface is covered with shockingly good street art. Who needs art galleries when your streets look like this?It’s become a must visit attraction for anyone wanting to have an independent food, drink, shopping, or cultural experience in Manchester. If you’ve come from anywhere else in the city, you’ll immediately notice the difference in atmosphere in the Northern Quarter. Think of it as a hub for grassroots initiatives.
It’s a bold place, with independent businesses expressing their individuality by commissioning painters and graffiti artists to decorate their shopfronts. On weekends and evenings music pours out of bars and music venues and, if you’re lucky, a local musician might set up on one of the side streets.
The Northern Quarter is located on the north-eastern edge of the Mancunian way, between Piccadilly, Ancoats and N.O.M.A. Although the boundary between NQ and Ancoats has become blurry in terms of style and spirit, the most reliable marker of this boundary is Great Ancoats Road, which is also one part of the Mancunian way.
You’ll see loads of cyclists in this area, and even though the streets haven’t been pedestrianised yet, people tend to spill out onto the roads and drivers are used to it.
If you drive, you’ll struggle to find parking since a lot of the spaces are marked as loading bays and some streets are very narrow. Luckily there are big parking bays in Ancoats, above the Arndale centre, and near the Manchester Arena.
The part of the Mancunian way which forms the Northern Quarter’s border and connects drivers to A-roads and motorways is called Great Ancoats.
If you’re using public transport, you’ll be happy to know that you’re right in the middle of two of Manchester’s biggest train and bus stations with a three-minute walk to Piccadilly bus station, a seven-minute walk to Piccadilly train station, and a five-minute walk to Victoria train station.
The Northern Quarter was defined and named in the 90's as part of the regeneration and gentrification of Manchester.
Artists and musicians took advantage of the area’s low rent and turned mills and empty shops into creative studios. Not long after, they opened gallery spaces and music venues for them to perform and showcase their work in, and then came the businesses, followed by people who wanted to be part of the area’s atmosphere. Bars, more music venues, restaurants, clothes shops and creative supplies shops followed.
The Northern Quarter is made up of a rich mixture of people; but permanent residents are typically professionals who work in the city centre. Because of its proximity to key commercial areas, and the recent gentrification, rent prices are generally pretty high.
Tourists and locals alike love the Northern Quarter, as many of the bars, cafes, and restaurants are focused on creating novel experiences. Whether that’s eclectic music and events, speakers on niche topics or, in extreme cases, venues where you can stroke cats or eat American cereal at 10pm.
You won’t see many families, for the most part, but local creatives and students fill the area’s bars, cafes, and event spaces.
Renting in the Northern Quarter will cost on average between £800 and £1000 per month for a one bed or small two bed flat. Most properties on offer are apartments and many of them are located above businesses, bars, and eateries, but there are also lots of brand-new purpose-built properties springing up. These new residential buildings offer luxurious living spaces in the centre of Manchester’s creative zone, but you’ll pay for the privilege.
For everyone else who still want to be as close to this energetic area as possible but are priced out, the Northern Quarter’s next-door neighbour, Ancoats, is a more then viable alternative.
It’s difficult to even begin talking about food from the Northern Quarter, because there’s so much to choose from. To put it simply, if you’re not a fan of cooking, or you’re an adventurous eater, you can live here and have all your food needs met with cuisine from every corner of the world.
Idle Hands started as a pop-up coffee shop and is now a permanent café on Dale Street with a loyal following of coffee and pie lovers. While pie is their speciality, the vegan fry up they serve keeps residents of Manchester far and wide coming back for more.
It’s also a beautiful and tranquil space that encourages productivity, with plug sockets and small single person tables. It’s filled with plants and is great for relaxing and reading your way through their independent magazine shelf.
Eastern Bloc is a cafe, record shop and music venue that started out in Affleck’s Palace and finally settled in its current space on Stevenson Square. This underrated café and dance music hub is a warm welcoming place for music, coffee, and brunch lovers alike and is loved by regulars for its role in Manchester’s dance music scene and intimate free DJ sets on the weekends.
Bundobust is a simple yet vibrant Gujarat-inspired street food and craft beer restaurant with a casual dining atmosphere. On the edge of the Northern Quarter, Bundobust began in Leeds and opened its second set of doors in Manchester in 2016.
The Allotment is one of the latest plant-based restaurants that has taken vegan food to the next level, being voted as 2018’s vegetarian restaurant of the year by The Times. Competitively priced for the quality of the food, this restaurant is great for lunchtimes with a small plate and drink for £10 offer, or on special occasions with a ten-course taster menu.
Best of all, The Allotment sources fresh, local food which means the flavours are at their best and the environmental impact of the ingredients as low as possible.
Less of a restaurant or café and more of a sprawling, maze-like bazaar of food from around the world, the Arndale Market is one of Manchester’s best hidden gems with lots of people living in the city for years without noticing or hearing about it.
A favourite amongst workers in the area, the Arndale market is perfect for anyone looking for a quick, tasty, and cheap meal. With cuisines from around the world, you can eat here most days of the week without ever getting bored of what’s on offer.
Common Bar was one of the first bars in the Northern Quarter to showcase the work of local artists and musicians while offering craft beer brewed by homegrown micro-breweries. With a down to earth atmosphere, delicious cocktails and a menu that caters to all tastes, it’s no wonder this institution was voted one of Britain’s coolest restaurants by The Times.
The Castle is one of the Northern Quarters oldest and liveliest pubs and with a live music line-up that puts bigger venues to shame, so it’s no wonder this pub is consistently full of regulars, music lovers, and faces from the local music scene.
The Castle dates back to 1776 and, since the unveiling of its 80-person capacity music hall in 2010, has cemented itself as one of the cornerstones of Manchester’s live music offering. Expect nothing less than delicious beer, friendly people and a great jukebox.
Looking for plants, vintage or designer clothes, shoes, eye glasses, skateboards, art supplies, organic groceries, craft beer, independent magazines, or records? You’re in the right place at Afflecks. This offbeat, alternative shopping centre is full of cool curios that will help you burn through your pay packet.
There’s also the monthly Sunday markets on Stevenson Square which is great to wander through and Manchester Craft and Design Centre which is perfect for one-off pieces of jewellery, gifts, paintings, posters, and ceramics.
When you’re in the Northern Quarter, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to music, although it’s not always easy to know what’s going on unless you already know where to look. Just so you’re in the loop – Soup Kitchen, Band on the Wall and The Castle Hotel are the places to keep your eye on if you want to see some of the best up and coming artists touring the UK. There’s also endless local talent on show, where you can hear new sounds and musical styles.
Mediation, yoga, tai chi, and dance are all activities on offer in the Northern Quarter, with dance schools, martial arts and yoga studios, and Manchester’s Buddhist Centre all located in the area. With both novice and expert-friendly classes, the Northern Quarter has plenty of spaces where you can reflect, relax, and look after yourself.
Moving To The Northern Quarter
If you’re looking for somewhere to live in the city centre with all the energy, novelty, and creativity an urban environment can offer, you’ll love the Northern Quarter. It’s cemented its place as the cool capital of the city, and it’s only getting more popular with time.