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Written by Luke Bull

August 11, 2022

The (almost) undisputed list of Northern Quarter’s best bars

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the unchallenged leader when it comes to bars in Manchester. The notoriously bohemian neighbourhood is abuzz with students, artists, dedicated drinkers, and all-around hedonists.

Though geographically not that big (the neighbourhood is wedged tightly between Picadilly Gardens, the Arndale, the canal and Great Ancoats Street), the Northern Quarter manages to produce a bewildering array of bars, pubs and clubs – and most of them are pretty good.

Getting around the Northern Quarter’s best bar circuit can often feel like a descent into a labyrinth of options, so let us take you through the absolute unmissable highlights of Manchester’s liveliest quarter. Here are the best bars in the Northern Quarter.

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1. The best iconic Northern Quarter bar – Night and Day Café

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Ask any Mancunian and they’ll tell you you need to visit the true Northern Quarter institution that is the Night and Day Café. Café by day, popular bar by night, it offers punters a no-nonsense space to relax, drink an affordable pint and check out some of the best up-and-coming music the city seems predestined to produce.

Despite threats of closure (due to a frankly absurd noise complaint), Night and Day remain a must-see in the Northern Quarter’s bar scene, giving locals a cheap place to drink and bands a brilliant venue in which to earn their stripes. Here’s to 30 more years.

2. A Northern Quarter bar for whiskey lover – The Whiskey Jar

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Sleek, stylish, and dim enough that everyone looks like an extra from Mad Men, Northern Quarter MVP The Whiskey Jar is bringing its A-game to the bar scene. Nestled into an old textile mill on Tariff Street, this bar makes full use of its raw brick surroundings, achieving an effortlessly industrial aesthetic without ever making you uncomfortable.

Beer and wines can be found here, and they’re nothing to dismiss, but you’d be a fool not to make full use of the extensive whiskey selection the bar puts on.

Private hire is available, and they have an extra subterranean space that’s supported by an integrated sound system. If all this wasn’t enough, their license runs till 2 am on Thursday and 4 am on Friday and Saturday. That’s a lot of time to drink whiskey.

3. The top Northern Quarter bar for a busy atmosphere – The Pen and Pencil

Northern Quarter, Manchester

A great New York-inspired bar on the corner of Hilton and Tariff Street, The Pen and Pencil is a buzzing, popular bar that keeps you fed and watered with iconic NY drinks and snacks.

They cater to a wide range of private parties (including networking events, private bashes and event launch parties), and can get to 70 in their dedicated private room, or 200 if you hire out the whole venue.

Highlights from the drinks menu include the Hot off the Press (featuring a local Manchester Gin) and the homemade milkshakes, for those wanting a wholesome injection of yum.

4. The best NQ dive bar – Dive Bar and Grill

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Conspicuously taking the dive bar stereotype and making it… nice, Dive Bar & Grill injects Tib Street with late-night (well early-morning, technically) fun. The modern Northern Quarter bar is the perfect place to have a few drinks with friends, or stay till late and usher in the 5am closing time with their DJ-curated club nights.

The standard trinity of beers, cocktails and wine apply, whilst the food menu leans decisively toward Asian and American bar food (find another NQ spot where you can wash sushi and Ribeye down with a blood orange margarita). There is a range of private spaces to hire out, with the recently opened terrace proving popular in both summer and winter (don’t worry, it’s heated)

5. The best Northern Quarter bar for beer lovers – Beatnikz Republic Bar NQ

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Proudly small, proudly independent and proudly focused on beer, Beatnikz Republic NQ opened in 2018 with the mission to bring quality and varied beers to the streets of the Northern Quarter.

The bar itself is no-frills – a rectangular space leading you straight to what matters: the 14 oh-so-beautiful beer taps protruding from the colourful bar wall. With pints ranging from the standard 4.0% all the way up to the oh-god-my-head-my-head-why-did-I-pick-that-one 14% brew, it’s a bar for those serious about their hops.

For private hires, the lovely people over at Beatnikz do table bookings, area reservations and full-venue hires for those special events.

6. The best Northern Quarter speakeasy bar – The Fitzgerald

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Wanting to be borne back, ceaselessly into the past? Specifically the 1920s? Specifically, a bar that pays explicit homage to the Jazz age with its flapper girls, Art Deco design and heavily symbolic green lights? The Fitzgerald on Northern Quarter’s Stevenson Square ticks all these boxes with a literary flourish, bringing a dimly lit world of cocktails, live music and general speakeasy vibes.

The programming is eclectic and the aesthetics hit that sweet spot of nostalgia for a time you know, but never experienced.

You can get up to 120 people into the bar if you hire exclusively, and the team over at the Fitzgerald have experience in putting on all types of events from murder mysteries to theatre productions.

7. NQ’s best hipster bar – NoHo Bars

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Undeniably cool, the folks over at NoHo keep the shutter firmly down before the clock strikes 5 pm. This Northern Quarter bar is a strictly evening affair, its discreet neon sign winking against the often rain-lashed bustle of Stevenson Square.

It’s the kind of bar you duck into on a whim, and immediately know you’ve found a favourite. With signature cocktails competently prepared, and a charming stretch of original parquet flooring, NohHo makes the list with a little effort.

8. The best bar for when you’re proper hungry – Pie & Ale

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Arguably this Northern Quarter venue identifies as a ‘beer hall’ but we’re including it on our ‘Best bars’ list for two primary reasons: It does pies, and it does ale. Opening in 2013, Pie & Ale has entered the Mancunian subconscious with uncompromising zeal. Consider this: a homemade pie, sodden with gravy, followed by an exhaustive selection of ales. Yeah, we thought so.

They also show sports and have private hire for all sorts of events. Plus, did we mention that they do pie and ale?

9. Northern Quarter’s best Tiki bar – Lono Cove

Northern Quarter, Manchester

After proving a hit over in Chester (they have awards – do you have awards?), the tropical Tiki empire that is the Lono Cove group have set their eyes on the fiercely competitive Northern Quarter, and they’re not pulling punches.

A venue that subjects their delicious concoctions to shaking, stirring, whisking, combustion and a whole litany of other verbs, Lono Cove bring the full cocktail bar experience. Accompanying their not-to-be-missed drinks is a refreshingly responsible attitude to environmentally friendly procurement and a fun cocktail masterclass that will impress your lucky guests.

Alongside this, two hireable floors mean you can enjoy the maddeningly good cocktails without waiting in line.

10. The best Northern Quarter bar with famously good food – TNQ Restaurant & Bar

Northern Quarter, Manchester

TNQ combines an unbelievably stocked bar (we counted 50 wines) with a restaurant The Sunday Times described as “one of the best British restaurants”.

The TNQ Restaurant & Bar sits on the corner of High Street and Copperas Street in a handsome, understated venue that wouldn’t look out of place in an Edward Hopper painting. Relaxed, stylish and delicious in every way.

11. The best bar for history buffs – Tariff & Dale

Northern Quarter, Manchester

At HeadBox we love a well-historied bar. You can feel the layers of different times sedimented within the walls, and it really makes every drink feel important. Tariff & Dale (named after the two intersecting Northern Quarter Streets is sits on) is a bar and kitchen that makes full use of the old cotton warehouse it calls home.

With original infrastructure assimilated into the comfortable bar space (you can drink one of the delicious cocktails while looking up into the old cargo lift shaft), it’s a Northern Quarter bar that wears its past on its sleeve.

Check out the best bars in Northern Quarter

We've put together the best bars in Northern Quarter for you to find and book. From activity bars for a corporate day out to cosy pubs to swanky cocktail bars, Northern Quarter is full of amazing bars for you to explore. Take a look at all our bar venues in Northern Quarter. Alternatively, tell us exactly what you need and we'll make sure the very best Northern Quarter bar venues respond to your enquiry.

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