Manchester Gay Scene Guide | So So Gay magazine

No-one can forget Queer as Folk – the controversial and compelling late Nineties television series that followed the partying, personal and sex lives of some of Manchester’s LGBT community, set in the city’s vibrant and iconic gay village: Canal Street. Named one of Europe’s best gay destinations and home to one of the friendliest gay communities, Canal Street is always bustling with thousands of LGBT people, be they local, national or even international visitors. Even some heterosexuals love it too, and you’ll never fail to see (predominantly) straight girls wanting a good night where they can go out without being harassed by prowling straight guys.

If you have never visited Manchester and Canal Street before but plan to go at some point, we have compiled a list of a few bars, pubs and clubs that we’d recommend:

Baa Bar

This chain bar is located in a few places across Manchester (Fallowfield and Deansgate) as well as other neighbouring towns and cities (Liverpool, for example) and is very popular for its vast variety of inventive and strong shooters and shots (all for just a quid each). And let’s not forget some of their names, which you will probably never forget either. Anyone fancy a Slippery Nipple, Pink Pussy or Reluctant Virgin? Sackville Street’s branch is the only primarily gay one and also the smallest, but it’s bursting with character. Lined with neon lights and painted in all the colours of the rainbow, Baa Bar is flashy, fun, inexpensive, and usually a good place to start your night.


Queer is an extremely popular venue situated in the heart of Canal Street, and it is probably safe to say that the nearly naked and extremely gorgeous go-go dancers that stand outside advertising it and dance on the podiums inside play a big part in this bar’s attraction. Boyz is down in the basement and every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday plays host to hot male strippers and pole dancers. Even the sexy bar staff get their tops off to serve you.

Just some of the “attractions” to be found at Essential (image courtesy of


Spread over two floors, Essential is the gay village’s largest club and owned by the same people who run Queer and Boyz. It has had its fair share of closures, name changes and re-openings over the past few years in a bid to regain its once-glorious popularity, but has now reverted back to its former and original name. While the ground floor pumps out more hardcore house tunes and dance remixes of pop songs, downstairs is more spacious and plays the usual chart hits, with stages and podiums where you can show off your moves (and your body, if you wish). Once Queer has quietened down, Essential is the place to be and you’ll find the same go-go dancers will be there too to keep on entertaining you.

The Molly House

Tucked away down a side alley is The Molly House, a quaint little three-storey bar with a warm, friendly country pub feel to it. The ground floor serves as a café with a wide selection of teas and coffees while the upper floors are the bars with an array of gorgeous cocktails and authentic ales as their speciality. Adorned in charming Victorian style décor (which is also found in their unisex toilets), Molly’s is a lovely little gem that is worth checking out.


Towards the outskirts of the village opposite Sackville Gardens lies Tribeca, a stylish bar with comfy leather sofas and dimmed lights that shamelessly calls itself ‘Manchester’s Number One Venue’. Here they serve great-tasting wines (house from £6.95) and a variety of beers and cocktails, sometimes offering two-for-one, making them a worthwhile deal. TV presenter Anthony Crank also occasionally DJs here, and their quiz nights on Mondays are popular with customers. Downstairs is Bed Bar, so called because of the beds you can sit and lie on – but perhaps not sleep on and stay over. Bed Bar usually does not open until much later and is far less busy but just as great.


For girls in need of a break from seeing too many guys around the village, Vanilla is the place to head to. One of two chiefly lesbian bars (the other being Coyotes), Vanilla may be small and dingy but it still manages to draw a large crowd, so they must be doing something right. Some men are allowed in, but not always.

Some of Salford University’s LGBT Society on a night out.


Velvet is a luxurious bar and restaurant hotel along Canal Street that exudes style – French Nineteenth Century style to be more accurate. One of the most relaxing places to be and probably the poshest in the village, it will almost feel as though you’ve just stepped onto the set of Moulin Rouge, but without the prostitutes. Although a little pricey, their divine drinks and delicious food make this one place where your money will be well spent.


One of the famous bars where numerous scenes in Queer as Folk were filmed is VIA, an old fashioned-looking pub bar. It usually attracts a slightly older and more mature clientele, but when the village is busy, its customers are just as varied as everywhere else. Decorated and furnished with an old, Gothic feel and with a maze of stairways leading to extra hideaway spaces and seats, VIA is much bigger inside than it may seem from the outside. Little cabaret shows and drag acts sometimes take to the stage to provide entertainment, but it’s just as fun without them and another recommended place to start a night out.

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