There’s nowhere in the LGBTI world quite like Manchester’s Gay Village and there’s no time better to visit it than during Pride.
Yes, some argue the Village hasn’t innovated like the trendy Northern Quarter neighboring it. And on some weekday nights, tumbleweed blows through a few venues.
But there is always somewhere busy, chatty, friendly and often very intimate. And during Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend this weekend (22 to 25 August) it comes alive.
Start by checking in to the recently refurbished the Mercure Hotel in Piccadilly. Just across the road from the Gay Village, it is ideally located for the shopping district, Northern Quarter and main train station.
All rooms are modern and comfortable and many boast great views across the city. Even more importantly they have flat screen TVs, free wifi and all the luxuries you would expect. Upgrade for unlimited free movies, a free newspaper, Nespresso coffee machine and extra space.
One highlight is enjoying a slap-up buffet breakfast – the perfect hangover cure – while people-watching the passers-by in Piccadilly Gardens through the enormous picture windows. Our breakfast was also enlivened by strapping window cleaners abseiling past us to ensure that view was pristine.
Incidentally, the hotel has recently spent £500,000 ($837,000 €635,000) into renovating its International Suite which has become popular for weddings and gives a warm welcome to same-sex couples getting married.
There are simply too many great LGBTI venues in Manchester to list them all, but if you are looking to party, here are a few places to start:
Taurus, Canal Street: If you are a first-timer to Manchester or want to get involved in the tight-nit community that makes it an LGBTI capital, start here and ask the bar staff where to go next. The team also produce the helpful Canal Street App and a Canal Street Card to get you discounts.
G-A-Y, Canal Street: Half bar, half club, this is invariably one of the busiest places in the Village. A mixed boys and girls crowd, video walls showing pop, a couple of dance floors and the cheapest drinks around – as little as £1 ($1.70 €1.25) for a beer on weekdays. It’s a non-stop, very friendly, party.
Eagle Bar, Bloom Street: One of the best-presented venues in the Village, this is very much a gay and bi men’s bar, with the vibe getting progressively more sexual as you go plunge deeper into the basement.
Richmond Tea Rooms, Richmond Street: It’s as refreshing as a cup of Earl Grey to find something like this in a gay district. Connected to the Eagle Bar, but a world away, this is the place for traditional English tea, with scones and lashings of cream. The décor mixes Victoriana with Willy Wonka zaniness – the result is camp magic.
Vanilla, Richmond Street: The Village is far more lesbian-inclusive than most ‘gay’ scenes and Vanilla is the bar at the heart of that. Around a million women have come through its doors in the last 15 years or so, earning it the title of ‘lesbian mecca of the north’.
Poptastic at Alter Ego, Princess Street: Tuesday and Saturday nights see gay boys and girls crowd into this venue for an explosion of everything alternative, indie, funky, hip hop, electro and more. It’s a must for indie kids and pop queens. Top tip – the DJs get better as the night progresses, the one in the early evening is a bit of a chatterbox.
Cruz 101, Princess Street: From sports kit nights to dance, r’n’b and disco, this club set on two floors has been keeping gay Manchester entertained for 21 years. It’s open every day except Tuesdays, with listings on its website.
Lesbian and Gay Foundation, Richmond Street: The charity that brings together the north-west’s LGBTI community with courage, commitment and a big dollop of northern charm. The LGF takes on campaigning and research but also offers support tailored to everyone from the young to old on everything from health to hate crime.
Manchester is fun and friendly all year round, but it also hosts some of the UK’s best LGBTI events:
Manchester Pride, 22 to 25 August 2014: A festival throughout August culminates in the Big Weekend, where the Gay Village is closed off for people who’ve bought a wristband. After the parade, you can watch Conchita perform, browse the market or just chill out with a beer in the sun. It all finishes with a candlelit vigil for HIV.
Queer Contact, 5 to 15 February 2015: Theater, dance, comedy, cabaret and exhibitions come to Manchester for this annual LGBTI culture blow-out, hosted by Contact on Oxford Road. Next year’s program will be released in October.
The Great British Bear Bash, early May 2015: If you head down to the Gay Village in May, you’re in for a big surprise as everything hairy, burly and furry is celebrated with club nights, a pool party and more.
Pride Games, 6 to 7 June 2015: Softball, squash, swimming, track and field, a 5km run and a 40km bike ride are all part of this annual LGBTI multi-sport festival. Plus plenty of celebrating to pile on the calories you have just burnt off.
Sparkle, mid July 2015: Manchester’s LGBTI scene is much more welcoming of T and I folk than most and this weekend-long festival gives transgender people from around Britain the chance to come together and party. From live music in the park to after-parties, it is enthusiastically embraced by the Village.