northern soul in the Sixties to Madchester in the Nineties, the Rainy City is
steeped in musical heritage. Few places in England have the history, style and
urban aplomb to match the music capital of the north.
Piccadilly, Roadhouse sees local and big-name rock, indie
and alternative acts being put through their paces in front of an
ever-enthusiastic crowd. It’s rightly considered one of the top spots for
catching unsigned acts and stars of the future before they break through to the
big time (8 Newton St; tickets around £4).
Impressive Bridgewater Hall, close to Deansgate, is the venue that three resident orchestras – the
Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata – call home. The place
hosts up to 250 events and concerts every year, and not just classical music
either. Soul, world, jazz, opera, folk and musicals get their own fair
representation too (Lower Mosley St; tickets from £10).
What the Manchester Arena lacks in intimacy, it more than makes up for in sound and scale.
Hosting music and sporting events, it’s one of the largest venues of its kind
in Europe, with a capacity of 21,000. If it’s big-name international acts
(everybody from Lady Gaga and Lionel Richie to Keane and Radiohead) you’re
looking for, you’ve come to the right place (Victoria Station; tickets from
Immortalised on the artwork of The Smiths’ 1986 album The Queen is Dead, Salford Lads Club, a functioning sports club, is considered one of the country’s most
iconic buildings by pop and rock fans. Visitors can view memorabilia such as
rare photos of Morrissey and co (St Ignatius Walk; admission free by
arrangement, donations welcome).
offices of Factory Records (the label behind Joy Division and the Happy
Mondays) are now music venue Factory 251, part-owned by ex-Joy Division and
New Order bassist Peter Hook. Saturday club night Stonelove celebrates northern
soul, indie and funk. Those seeking modern thrills should try The Loft Club on
Fridays for house and dubstep (118 Princess St; weekend admission from £3,
drinks from £2).
place defined ‘Madchester’ – the baggy, indie-dance style and sound that made
the city the music centre of the universe, albeit temporarily, in the early
1990s – quite like Afflecks. This four-storey warehouse of independent
retailers and cafés in the Northern Quarter sells vintage, retro and customised
fashions, vinyl and homeware (52 Church St; admission free, T-shirts from £8).
Common by name, cool by nature: this is a terrific
boozer in the Northern Quarter, adorned with local art and favoured by a young
and unpretentious crowd that heads here for beans on toast, BLTs and hot Vimto
in the day, and some of the city’s best DJ line-ups of an evening (39–41 Edge
St; sandwiches from £5.50, admission free or £2).
institution among die-hard record buyers and the vinylcurious, Piccadilly Records is place to visit if you’re seeking out the
best sounds of right now. It’s essentially a northern take on London’s
independent Rough Trade stores, selling the best in lesser-known and
underexposed new music (53 Oldham St; 12-inch singles from £5).
Why go to a
separate café, canteen, club and live music venue, when Soup Kitchen
has all four? There’s a friendly atmosphere and the food is simple but
impeccably done: roasted tomato soup, pork pie and pickle, and vegetarian
Scotch eggs. There’s a good selection of real ales and local brews. Stay in the
evenings for top DJs and live events (31–33 Spear St; ales from £3.10).
Where to stay
Roomzzz does a smart line in swish open-plan
apartments, with enormous beds, walk-in rain showers, glossy white kitchen
areas and iMacs in every room. Fresh pastries and coffee are available each
morning. A real bargain for the city centre location (36 Princess St; studios
Velvet in the Gay Village is a definite contender for
the best mid-priced place to stay in the city. It offers 19 decadent, bespoke
bedrooms that just about stay on the right side of kitsch (2 Canal St; from
Great John Street has pretty spectacular rooms, with
Egyptian cotton sheets and free-standing baths. The rooftop garden has a hot
tub and views of the Coronation Street set (Great John St; Baby Grand room from
The M6 links the
city with the south and Scotland, while the M62 connects with the northeast.
Manchester Piccadilly is the main station for trains to and from the rest of
the country (Liverpool from £4 with East Midland Trains; London from £24 with Virgin Trains), but Victoria station serves
Bradford and Halifax (Bradford from £17 with Northern Rail).
A good pair of shoes and the excellent Metrolink
tram system are all you need to get around the compact city centre (singles
The article 'Mini guide to Manchester’s music scene' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.