From the very early days of the local Pride movement which has since grown into a internationally-renowned extravaganza, to the explosion of the Manchester Gay Village club scene in the ‘90s, the area has forever been a hotspot for those in search of a uniquely fun atmosphere.
Elegant bars, historic pubs, lively clubs, and amazing restaurants - for Mancunians, what’s there not to love?
The history of the Manchester Gay Village
Long before the cocktails and cheesy tunes, Canal Street was thriving for a very different reason: cotton. At the heart of Manchester’s identity as ‘Cottonopolis’ were the waterways which threaded through the city and kept trade flowing. But, by the late 1800s, boom had turned to bust and the area turned to decay.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that life was injected back into the neighbourhood with the birth of the Manchester Gay Village. Emerging off the back of section 28, which prohibited councils and schools from promoting homosexuality, the area around Canal Street offered a place where people could feel safe being openly LGBT+.
"Emerging off the back of section 28, which prohibited councils and schools from promoting homosexuality, the area around Canal Street offered a place where people could feel safe being openly LGBT+."
Despite opposition from the police, who would frequently raid clubs in an attempt to get them shut down, the Manchester Gay Village blossomed.
Pride goes mainstream
With Manchester Gay Village’s first Pride having been launched in 1985 as a small charity fundraiser for those with HIV and AIDS, the event was lightyears from ballooning into one of the country’s biggest parties as it’s now known. But the ‘90s saw the advent of another turning point: gay going mainstream.
With its huge glass windows advertising the revelry on offer to the world, a club called Manto changed the game, making Canal Street somewhere you went to be seen for the first time. Raucous nightlife coupled with exposure on shows like Queer as Folk catapulted the Manchester Gay Village into the limelight.
Now internationally famous as one of the UK’s most vivacious and welcoming LGBT+ districts alongside Brighton and Soho in London, the Manchester Gay Village continues to attract countless locals living in the city who are looking for an exciting night out in one of the city’s most historic areas.
Out on the town: must-see bars
New York New York
About as rowdy as bars can get, New York New York is party central, but what else would you expect from a place nicknamed the ‘Party Palace’? One of the longest-standing locales in Manchester’s Gay Village, New York New York offers patrons DJ sets, drag acts, karaoke, and even a bespoke coffee bar.
Looking for a red-carpet welcome and a twist on the classic Canal Street evening? Look no further. Oscars is all about the debonair things in life, serving glitzy cocktails with a side of razzle dazzle in the form of its musical theatre theme, live music, and endless showtunes. Singing along is encouraged.
"Raucous nightlife coupled with exposure on shows like Queer as Folk catapulted the Manchester Gay Village into the limelight."
Widely known as Manchester’s ‘lesbian mecca’, Vanilla has established itself as a Canal Street favourite with its low ceilings, eye-popping array of cocktails, and booming house music. Having welcomed over one million women through its doors over the years, Vanilla is frankly a misnomer - this place is anything but.
Offering something a little different, The Eagle is the Gay Village’s premier private members’ bar open to anyone identifying as male. Boasting a wide array of cheeky themed nights, a night at this Canal Street fixture, with its plush decor designed with a nod to Manchester’s industrial history, will be one to remember.
Paint it red: grace clubs’ historic dancefloors
Having first opened its doors back in 1992, Cruz has gone on to become a Canal Street fixture. With a range of themed nights, thumping sets from international DJs, and an infamous Saturday night party which runs until 7am, this former shipping warehouse is one of Manchester Gay Village’s must-see venues.
Often described as being at ‘the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village’, Bar Pop does it all: quizzes, drag shows, bingo, comedy, and endless amounts of fun. Run by drag queen ‘Mr Poptastic’ John Hamilton and his husband Antonio, Bar Pop is all about sharing the good vibes and showing partygoers some love.
With its iconic sign lighting up the estuary of Canal Street, you simply can’t miss G-A-Y Bar. Serving up a unique cocktail of thudding bass and hip-bumping tunes, this place boasts two floors and a balcony area to keep the party going late into the night. Put simply, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the Gay Village’s most popular spots.
Indisputably Manchester Gay Village’s ‘Grande Dame’, this Canal Street fixture boasts the area’s best cabaret as well as being a fine bar, club, and restaurant. Never afraid to stand out and indulge in a spot of merriment either, the venue also held Lip Sync War, the UK's biggest lip-sync competition, earlier this year.
Renting with UNCLE in Manchester
Situated right in the heart of the city, Orient House is a charming Grade II listed building just a stone’s throw from Manchester’s Gay Village, both universities, Chinatown, and the trendy Northern Quarter. With a range of one-bed and studio apartments available, it offers a real taste of the Mancunian lifestyle.
As well as being furnished to a high standard by Made.com, the apartments also offer residents use of a gym, yoga studio, co-working space, and art room, all within the stylish setting of a modern city centre building boasting a number of original features. Plus, they’re pet-friendly too, so what better place to call home?
As the famous saying goes, Manchester has everything except a beach. So what are you waiting for? Book a viewing now.
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