Check Out Manchester’s Nightlife, Some of the Best in the World

The city of the 24-Hour Party People, Manchester’s nightlife is a kaleidoscopic spectrum of clubs and bars that attract people from all walks of life and from all four corners of the globe to the “Capital of the North”, hoping to revel in the nighttime hedonism that has defined the city at least since the drug-fuelled Hacienda days of the 1990s. The city is home to over 6,000 licenced premises with 650 registered bars in the town centre alone and employs over 414,000 people to keep its behemothic night-time economy breathing, with the city even having had a dedicated Night-Time Economy Advisor since 2018, the first UK city outside London to implement such a scheme. With bars and clubs ranging from intimate basement cocktail bars to colossal warehouses that can cram in thousands of sweat-drenched partygoers at a time, you’re never lacking options in this singular city. However, if the sheer breadth of choice ever seems a bit daunting, we’ve written the perfect guide to Manchester’s best nightlife spots below!

Manchester at night.

- © Thomas Ashall / Shutterstock

The Warehouse Project, Manchester’s Nocturnal Titan

The Mayfield Depot building, where the Warehouse Project is held.

- © James Matthew Birchall / Shutterstock

Attracting swarms of raveheads to Manchester every year like moths to a pulsating strobe-light flame, the Warehouse Project is a musical mecca and by far Manchester’s most famous nightlife event, regularly ranking as one of the best and most exciting clubs in the world. Operating out of Depot Mayfield - a 10,000-capacity former railway yard that was breathed new life during a £1billion regeneration of Manchester city centre - part of this perennial excitement is in the club’s liminality, which runs on a unique seasonal basis between the start of the student year in September and New Years Eve, when the Project will run a colossal all-night long blowout spectacular which remains one of the most anticipated events of each year’s global club calendar. Annie Mac, Rudimental, and Fatboy Slim rank among the club’s previous New Years guests.

Warehouse Project was launched in 2006 by local entrepreneurs Sam Kendall and Sacha Lord, who are also responsible for launching the city’s equally-famous summer Parklife Festival in 2010 (guests have included Two Door Cinema Club, Snoop Dogg, Frank Ocean, and The 1975). Raised on and inspired by the Mancunian rave scene of the ‘90s, the duo inaugurated Warehouse Project at the disused Boddington Brewery in Strangeways before moving to a former air raid shelter under Manchester Piccadilly station as the noise began disturbing inmates at the Strangeway Prison. Following a decade-long stint in this subterranean safe haven, which even then was attracting an annual average of 100,000 people and names such as New Order, The Chemical Brothers, and Calvin Harris, Warehouse Project relocated temporarily to the Victoria Warehouse in Trafford before settling into its present Depot location in 2019. The venue’s debut season line-up starred the likes of Aphex Twin, Disclosure, Chase & Status, and Skepta and sold out its tickets twelve weeks in advance.

After a two-year dormancy in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, Depot roared back to life come September 2022, welcoming, to name a few, hometown rave icons Happy Mondays, genre-defying music producer Jamie XX, industrial-techno heavyweight I Hate Models, and South Korean deep-house sensation Peggy Gou. The Warehouse Project is a monumental shrine to electronic music and brings the industry’s biggest names to one of the biggest venues in the world every season, making it unmissable for those visiting Manchester to pursue the nighttime hedonism that has made the city famous. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime clubbing experience.

Practical Information

  • The Warehouse Project season typically runs between September and January, with line-ups being announced around July. To keep up to date, be sure to consult the Warehouse Project website and consider subscribing to their newsletter.
  • The Warehouse Project operates out of Depot Mayfield, located at 11 Baring Street (M1 MPY) in central Manchester. It is easily reached from Manchester Piccadilly station for those travelling from outside the city, which is just a two-minute walk away. Trams also connect Piccadilly station to most of the rest of the city. Depot Mayfield is a twelve-minute walk from Piccadilly Gardens bus station, the city’s main bus hub. For more travel information, visit the website here.
  • When attending Warehouse Project, remember that you are attending a colossal 10,000-person event in a truly gigantic space. Stay close to your friends as cell phone service can be unreliable, and set a designated meeting point in case you get separated. Free drinking water points are available throughout the site and a welfare team is located in the smoking area in case you feel unwell. If you do become unwell or see somebody who appears to be, tell a member of staff immediately - a full and friendly medical team is available on-site all night. Illegal substances are not condoned and any substances found on your persons will be confiscated, however on-site drug tests that show purity and content of drugs to facilitate safe consumption are available. Visit the Warehouse Project website for more guidance, and also consider downloading the app.
  • Due to the scale of the event, it is also recommended you plan a safe way home in advance as public transport can get quickly congested when the event closes and thousands of clubbers flood the street, and taxis will quickly become sparse. Walking could be your only viable way of getting home safely, so it is recommended you find a hotel within reasonable walking distance. Avoid the canals while walking back; the combination of intoxication and cold waters can quickly become deadly if you fall in.
  • If you have access requirements, it is advised that you contact Warehouse Project at least a week prior to the event you will be attending so that appropriate access arrangements can be made. For more information and the relevant contact information, visit the website here.

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Editor’s tip

The Warehouse Project is a seasonal event, so if you’re in Manchester during its off-season between January and September you’re unlikely to be able to attend (save the occasional off-season events they also run). However, Manchester does offer several year-round electronic-music alternatives for those still wanting to indulge in pulsating beats and strobes during their staff. The White Hotel is one of the UK’s most exciting electronic clubs, located just opposite the Warehouse Project’s former haunt in Strangeways. It specialises in avant-garde performance and underground sounds, so be sure to check out their full range of events on Resident Advisor before attending. Hidden at Downtex Mill, meanwhile, offers a more mainstream electronic sound out of a multi-room converted warehouse on the city’s edge. It hosts a weekly Thursday club night as well as the city’s famous monthly Teletech raves and other one-off events. Past Hidden guests include Australian house guru Mall Grab, Berlin’s self-described ‘nu gabber post techno punk’ duo Brutalismus 3000, lofi-synth sensation Ross from Friends, and transgressive, ballroom-inspired DJ-provocateur LSDXOXO.

Canal Street, the Country’s Queer Capital

Canal Street during Manchester Pride Festival, 2019.

- © Grande Calico / Shutterstock

Canal Street, located in the heart of the city, is one of the most famous gay villages in the world and is an indelible slice of Manchester’s social history, long considered a global beacon of queer rights, inclusivity, and community. The area first developed with the construction of the Rochdale Canal (from which it takes its name) in 1804, a vital trade artery in the emergent industrial megapolis that, at its peak, produced 30% of the world’s cotton. However, when the cotton industry stalled with the onset of the American Civil War and the emancipation struggles of the 1860s across the Atlantic, the Rochdale Canal and the commercial areas it fed evaporated, leaving behind deserted areas of tragic urban decay. Such desertion was quickly exploited by those seeking to escape conventional society’s purview, including queer folk and sex workers, leading to the development of an inchoate red-light district along Canal Street, which included the opening of the New Union pub and hotel at the intersection of Canal and Princess Streets, inaugurated in 1865 for a clandestine gay-male clientele and still in operation today.

Hostile homophobic policing in the midst of the HIV crisis under James Anderton, the infamous Chief Constable of Greater Manchester who accused gay men of “swirling in a cesspit of their own making” when asked about the progression of the illness in the city, subjected the area to mounting pressure in the 1980s as queer spaces became subject to regular raids. However, the community was undeterred.The first Manchester Pride Festival was launched on Canal Street in 1985, a small charity event raising money for those affected by HIV while, in 1990, a proud and openly gay club named Manto opened on the street in defiance of Anderton, who stepped down the following year. From there the village’s reputation grew exponentially: by the end of the ‘90s it had featured on Channel 4-favourite Queer as Folk and was recognised by the Manchester City Council as a protected area. Meanwhile, Manchester Pride, held annually on the August bank holiday weekend, has since become one of the largest pride festivals in Europe, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for LGBTQ+ charities in the local area every year. Other annual events include Sparkle, the city’s national transgender celebration weekend in July, and fetish/tribe events such as the Great British Bear Bash during the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Canal Street today welcomes both queer and straight clientele and is one of Manchester’s most popular nightlife spots, almost overflowing with bars and clubs to choose from, most open every night of the week. G-A-Y is maybe the most recognisable bar thanks to its sister location in London and offers free entry and an all-night dance floor to the sound of chart classics, while Bar Pop boasts dangerously cheap drinks and regular drag events to kick off the night. Then, we recommend heading to Cruz 101, the Village’s largest and most reputed club, or, on Tuesday nights, ‘Filthy Gorgeous’, the city’s award-winning LGBTQ+ student night hosted by drag collective Haus of Filth, runs out of Brewers Club. But, on any given night you can simply follow the rainbow flags to end up at what promises to be an epic night out. 

Practical Information

  • Canal Street is centrally located and easily reached from the rest of the city. It is a seven-minute walk from Piccadilly Gardens, the city’s main bus and tram terminus, or the 17, 41, 83, 101, 142, 192, and 202 buses all stop nearby.
  • Although Canal Street is open to straight clientele, remember that this is primarily a queer space and a safe haven for those who don’t feel accepted anywhere else. Have fun, but remember to be respectful towards performers and fellow partygoers alike. Queer people are not a spectacle and those who are just there to party are not part of your nightly entertainment and shouldn’t be treated as such. Manchester Pride have published a useful guide on how to respectfully attend the festival as a non-queer-identifying person, however these tips apply all year round and are useful to keep in mind when operating in queer spaces.
  • Manchester Pride is held every year on the August Bank Holiday weekend and brings tens of thousands of people to the city, making it one of the busiest times of year to visit the city, so book transport and accommodation in advance if you want to celebrate. Tickets to the Pride celebrations, centred around Canal Street, must also be bought in advance and generally cost £41 for the whole weekend, although day tickets and VIP packages are also available. For more information, visit Manchester Pride’s FAQs page here.

Stay at the historic New Union Hotel

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Where Else to Check Out

The various clubs and bars along Deansgate Locks, Manchester.

- © Alexander-Glover / Shutterstock

Manchester is truly a city with something to cater to everybody’s nocturnal tastes, each area offering something slightly different If you want to immerse yourself in the alt/indie music scenes that made the city famous, we have written a dedicated guide to Manchester’s music venues and an action-packed itinerary to a musical weekend in the city for you to discover, however there are several city-centre clubs that offer unmissable indie tunes to help you Dance Yrself Clean. FAC251 is open every night of the weekend except Sunday and advertises itself as the spiritual successor to the Hacienda, operating across three themed floors out of the former offices of Factory Records. Meanwhile, 42nd Street Nightclub (known locally as ‘42s’) is the nationally-famous student favourite, open five nights a week and with criminally cheap drinks. Free-entry indie nights can also be found at venues such as YES or Deaf Institute throughout the week, so it is worth checking their websites to see what’s on! And, if you fancy something a bit more headbang-y, Satans Hollow is the city’s edgier rock/metal club, located just off Canal Street.

The Northern Quarter offers a slightly hipper, more bohemian vibe, with several fun concept bars and hybrid nightlife spaces, such as Crazy Pedro’s, a pizza parlour with a full-time cocktail bar; NQ64, which has a fully decked-out retro gaming arcade; and Twenty Twenty Two, filled to the brim with ping pong tables. Ancoats and Spinningfields are the more upmarket picks and offer a classier, more reserved atmosphere, while Deansgate Locks is the eclectic, waterfront student hive which promises cheap alcohol, loud tunes, and at least one spilled drink! Lastly, Salford, just beyond the city limits and home to the aforementioned Hidden at Downtex Mill and White Hotel, has become Manchester's de facto rave space and offers a night with a grimier, more underground feel. Head here to experience something a bit different, but be sure to pre at Adelphi Lad’s Club for its spectacular beer garden. 

Editor’s tip

Manchester is an exceptionally safe city, ranked among the safest in the world and with an extremely friendly population willing to help anybody in case something goes awry. However, crime rates are slightly above the national average and, like any big city, it has its own risks. So, remember to be sensible and vigilant on any night out. As always, basic common sense applies: do not flaunt expensive belongings and stick with your friends as much as possible; avoid areas that look sketchy or isolated. Avoid walking home on your own, especially if you find yourself drunk or otherwise intoxicated: trams run until midnight, night bus services are available**, and taxis are relatively easy to find**. Do not walk through areas you are unfamiliar with or along the canals, where it is easy to fall into the water and risk drowning or hypothermia. If walking is necessary, stick to well-lit and busy areas. The emergency number in Manchester, as throughout the rest of the UK, is 999, however do not be afraid to approach business owners or security personnel if you feel you need help. Also be aware that spiking is unfortunately a chronic issue in Manchester as throughout the rest of the UK. If you suddenly feel unwell let bar staff know immediately and call an ambulance. Never leave your drinks unattended, be cautious when accepting drinks from strangers, and do not be afraid to ask staff for anti-spiking lids - most bars now offer them free-of-charge. For more guidance on spiking, consult the UK Police website here.

by Jude JONES
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