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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
July 2008 Email this to a friend

Queer as Folk's hometown!

By Michael J. Darton

Rob Manchester, Manchester
Phil holds the reins at Rob Manchester

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Manchester article click DailyXtraTravel

. The text below has not been updated.


There's something a little gay even in the name. But it took 'Queer as Folk' to put this city in England's northeast on the global gay map.

Once dubbed 'Cottonopolis,' Manchester is credited as the world's first industrial city. Homosexuality and urbanity go together like warp and woof, and the thread of gay life here is long and golden.

Today the textile factories are gone, but postmodern Manchester has shaken off its industrial past but kept the best of its picturesque downtown industrial architecture and canals, which stretch alongside of the main gay areas, with Canal Street its main artery. The incredible area is under consideration by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Instead of helping carry coal and cloth, the waterways serve now as a beautiful backdrop to the thronging bars, clubs, shops, saunas, and hotels.

Getting there and around

Manchester is about three hours' drive from London. The National Express runs regular coaches to and from. The bus station is conveniently situated behind Canal Street, and some of the hotels listed here are walkable within minutes. Trains are also in abundance. There are direct flights from some North American cities. Inside the city, Manchester's local tram system is excellent.

The place to start planning your trip is Visit Gay Manchester.

Upcoming events

Manchester Pride runs this year August 22 to 25, with the big parade on Saturday, August 23. Pride brings in visitors from England and overseas and really colors in the city.

The Queer Up North festival happens in May, this year drawing the likes of Sandra Bernhard, Justin Bond, and Taylor Mac.


New Union Hotel (111 Princess Street; +44-0161-228-1492) offers value for the money and has a friendly and knowledgeable staff. The rooms start at around �35 -- or book a triple room for around �55. In the bar, you can sit in the comfortable chairs or prop yourself up on a stool and join in the lively back and forth between the barman and customers. There's a dance area that's busy at weekends. And the canal-side seating area entices.

Rembrandt Hotel (33 Sackville Street; +44-0161-236-1111) is a spacious hotel, bar, and dining space right in the center of Canal Street. The hotel offers both rooms with private and with shared baths. There's in-room coffee and tea making facilities, TV, and safe. Some rooms front directly on Canal Street for those who like to be right in the midst of the action. The hotel's food and service are exceptional, with the fullest English breakfast you can imagine. The bar is lively and full of locals.

Hotel International (34 London Road; +44-0161-236-1010; Thehotelinternational.co.uk) is around the corner from the bars Legends and Outpost, and sustains a glamorous feel, with huge staircases and banisters and larger-than-life halls and public areas. The rooms are to suit every budget -- quieter ones are at the back -- and many offer fantastic views. The top-scale rooms will surround you in luxury; others are more economical. There's free wi-fi, and they serve an excellent cooked breakfast as part of your stay. There's a hotel bar too with comfortable leather chairs, books, games, and a large flat-screen TV. Owner Julian is always thinking up new finishing touches!

Going out

Via Fossa (28-30 Canal Street) is a stunning venue with space, class, and some of the cutest men. There's a lavish array of drinks and nicely-priced cocktails, along with good food and service. Comfy chairs give you an opportunity to plan your day or night, or just take a break and read. Hang around the busier bar areas to chat with locals guys out for fun and frolics.

Taurus (1 Canal Street) is one of the friendliest places in town, busy day and night, serving pints of beer at amazingly cheap prices. They draw a wide mix of ages, genders and types. Downstairs there's a performance space drawing theatrical and vocal talent. Taurus sponsors Food 4 Thought, which helps people with AIDS in Africa -- see more at Act4africa.org.uk/food4thought.

Descend some steep stairs to find Company (28 Richmond Street), an intimate spot with plenty of low-light atmosphere and sensual fun. Locals pack the place, and the friendly staff serves drinks with a smile. Happy hour is 8 to 9 p.m.

Manto (46 Canal Street) is a lively venue that draws a younger crowd and has great drinks specials. They're on two floors with a veranda on the upstairs level and also seating outside.

AXM (10 Canal Street) is a large modern venue with a polished decor -- and staff. The music gets louder the later it gets.

Legends (4-6 Whitworth Street; Legendsmanchester.com) one of the largest clubs in town, hosting huge themed events, and "Legend"-ary foam parties. It's wall-to-wall testosterone. Right next door is Outpost (4-6 Whitworth Street), a nicely mixed pub where Julian assures a laid-back atmosphere and hosts events for bears and leathermen downstairs. There's an outside annex area which is busy day and night.

Cruz 101 (101 Princess Street), a block behind Canal Street, is a large nightclub and dance space, open late, with the crowds flocking at the weekends. There's a mixture of hard-hitting house and camp here, along with singing and performance acts. The feeling stays gay, but the crowd can be quite mixed. Downstairs, their smaller dance area has a more underground ambience, sometimes sharing events with the main level, and other times with something different.

Thompsons Arms (21 Sackville) is a smaller, but centrally located bar, also with regular live entertainment on their schedule, and Essential (8 Minshull) is a two-level gay club just off Canal Street.

Two icons in Manchester's bar scene include Napoleons (35 Loom Street), and New York New York (98 Bloom Street), both with a base of loyal regulars.

Club Alter Ego (105-107 Princess) is a subterranean club that's home to the Poptastic parties, featuring the kind of indie, grunge, and trash pop for which the region is famous. Billed as Manchester's best gay alternative night out, the Tuesday events here will infringe into your Wednesday mornings well beyond the 3:30 a.m. closing. Saturday nights are also hot.

Internationally known, and with events in many cities, Federation now has regular parties in Manchester with fantastic music, fit-bodied guys in abundance, and elaborately decked-out stunt and performance entertainment. Check their website for upcoming events and tickets such as their huge August 23 party to coincide with Manchester pride.

Spirit (63 Richmond) is a large multi-level cocktail lounge with space to sprawl, on cushy sofas and beds either to cuddle with new-found friends or to chill out from the the scene awhile. Their rooftop garden affords relief to smokers, and an overview of Canal Street frolicks below. Weekend DJs here, some big names among them, will soon get you back in the mood for dancing.

Other local bars to check out while in the area include: Pure Space (11 New Wakefield); Queer Up North (4 Canal); Bar 10 (10 Canal); and Coyotes (14 Chorlton).

Saunas, escorts, and hooking up

Basement (18 Tariff Street) is a sauna with a wide array of facilities and a huge array of people to mix and meet. The steam and sauna rooms are spacious, and the facing open showers are large and clean. The double jacuzzi suite is surrounded by state-of-the-art TV screens, but I doubt you'll have much time to watch! Have a snack and drink between sessions in the sauna or the adjoining maze and relaxation areas. You can experience a full menu of spa/massage treatments, too. Choose from Indian head massage or a full body massage in a candle-lit private room. I wish I were back there now!

H2O Zone Sauna (36-38 Sackville Street) is a centrally-located sauna which sits just off Canal Street in the heart of the action, so there's a regular stream of visitors and tourists. A large jacuzzi faces a communal relaxation room, and private rooms are available, as well. There's a pleasant area to sit and snack while watching "Queer as Folk" re-runs with the friendly staff.

Escort Guys (+44-07722-062-077) offers an array of gorgeous English lads, Latinos, Russians, and Eastern Europeans. Their website is well-organised and extensive -- don't miss their porn stars section -- with up-to-date pictures and info on who and what's available. Escort Guys is established, professional, and discreet. VIP memberships are offered, too.

Manchester-based XY Community is an innovation in worldwide GLBT social networking. The site enables members to connect with each other, socialize, share info, post events, list parties. Members can blog, post music, art, videos, events, job listings, or whatever. Registration is free, and complete site access is $7 for a year.

Shopping and grooming

Rob Manchester (17 China Lane) is a must-visit for all your leather, fetish, and sex-toy needs. They sell the most advanced lubes, accessories, and full leather gear. It turns you on just walking around the shop! They sell t-shirts and vests as well as football socks and other fetish gear. There's rubber and leather accessories too for those who want to get fully rigged out. Phil gives great advice and assistance and wears the clothes he sells well, too.

Clone Zone (36-38 Sackville Street) is a shop with everything� newspapers and mags, DVDs and CDs, fun t-shirts, leather thongs, street wear, and accessories, as well as aromas and lubes in abundance.

Fringe (Richmond Street) offers first-class styling, coloring, and beauty care in a chic and modern hair salon. The staff will make sure getting beautiful won't be a chore. Spend a pleasurable time while getting the look you want.

Eats and treats

Most of the bars on Canal Street serve food throughout the day and early evening. Or nip across the bridge for Eden Amazon House (3 Brazil Street), which sits comfortably on the canal, with seats inside or out and on a floating barge. There's great food, together with a wide selection of drinks. Service is attentive, and there's room for everyone. They host parties and civil partnership celebrations too.

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