Where to Stay in Manchester: 7 Best Areas

Where to stay in Manchester

Trying to work out the best area where to stay in Manchester for your next visit? I’ve put together this comprehensive list of places to stay in Manchester, to help you get the most from this city. Keep reading!!

Manchester was there at the birth of the industrial revolution, and still operates at a hundred and ten percent, whether it’s work, rest or play – this proud northern city buzzes with creativity (hence the bee logo everywhere). Mancunians welcome anyone who accepts them as they are, so decide where to stay in Manchester, and have a great time!

Where to Stay in Manchester: 7 Best Areas

With its excellent transport links to the airport and nearby cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and the Potteries, and many attractions just one tram-stop away, the best areas to stay in Manchester really depend on whether you want to be close to the action, or prefer a quieter base.

1. Manchester City Centre, the best area where to stay in Manchester

Walk up from Piccadilly Rail Station and you’ll hit the shops straight away. Locals love a spot of retail therapy, and budget chains compete with upmarket department stores. 

Piccadilly Gardens street-food market sustains shoppers from Wednesday to Sunday, while across the road, music from one of several independent record shops is food for the soul.

Shop till you drop along Market Street and into the Arndale Centre, but stop to catch some of the talented street entertainers. 

Theatres in Manchester City Centre include the Opera House, the Palace Theatre and the Royal Exchange, originally the city’s Cotton Exchange, and now with an interesting interior, shop and café.

Close to the iconic Town Hall (closed for repairs at present), with its Ford Madox Brown murals, the Grade-II listed 1930s Central Library is a peaceful place for a coffee, and sometimes hosts low-key gigs during the Manchester Jazz Festival.

The foyer of the nearby Bridgewater Hall, home to the acclaimed Hallé Orchestra, also provides light snacks, together with occasional free lunchtime and early evening recitals, and has a music-themed shop. 

Opposite, the striking architecture of the Manchester Central Convention Centre still shows its origins as a rail terminus.

Choose one of two old-fashioned pubs in Great Bridgewater Street, with cosy interiors and unusual names: The Briton’s Protection with a huge choice of whiskies, or Peveril of the Peak, a Victorian Irish pub with green-tiled external walls.

The nearest Metrolink stop is St Peter’s Square. In 1819, this was St Peter’s Fields, scene of the Peterloo Massacre, where cavalry attacked a crowd demanding the right to vote, killing eighteen and seriously wounding many more, as depicted in Mike Leigh’s recent film.

Free galleries and museums include the Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth (close to the Manchester Museum), and The People’s History Museum, which champions the story of working people, and boasts a fine collection of banners and other campaign materials.

With Manchester’s history of radicalism, it’s no surprise that the Suffragette movement started here. 

Emmeline Pankhurst’s home, opposite the Royal Infirmary, is now the Pankhurst Centre, with a museum and women-only activity space. 

Another house in the area is that of Elizabeth Gaskell, social reformer, and Victorian author of Cranford and other novels.

Also near the hospital, the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths have retained their stunning Edwardian glazed tiles and coloured glass, and are used for events and tours.

The city is famous for its music, from pub gigs, through thriving clubs like the Band on the Wall (the original stage came out of the wall), to concert venues for rock, pop and classics, and has produced many top performers and trends over the years. 

The annual Manchester Jazz Festival attracts both young musicians and top international players, while the biennial Manchester International Festival showcases new work of all kinds.

The city has long been prominent in the LGBT movement, and every August, Manchester Pride celebrates with a parade, music festival and the Gay Village Party in Canal Street.

There’s always an event somewhere in the city, but the Christmas markets (note the ‘s’) take over the city. They spread around the central streets and spill into the Northern Quarter, some with their own theme, but all with plenty of beer tents and mulled wine stalls. 

A huge sparkling Santa looks down from the Town Hall over the busy main site of Albert Square (best avoided at weekends).

The city centre is a great area to stay in Manchester, and there are hotels and apartment blocks from five-star to budget, together with a backpackers’ hostel not far from the station. University accommodation is also available in vacations, but not all of it is central. 

The city centre can get very busy at night, but that keeps it safe, so just keep an eye on belongings, as you would anywhere.

2. Chinatown, colourful neighborhood close to everything

A cultural hub for the Chinese community in the north, Manchester’s Chinatown is the second-largest in the UK, and the third-biggest in Europe, with Faulkner Street’s golden arch gifted by China itself in 1987. 

Restaurants serve up dishes from all around the Asian region, and the food markets are fun to browse.

Always colourful, the area becomes even brighter for the Chinese New Year, with streets and buildings decked out with red lanterns – get there early to be at the front for the colourful parade with its dancing dragons.

To stay in Manchester close to Chinatown, search for accommodation in the surrounding area. As it’s in the city centre, the choices are the same.

3. Northern Quarter, where to stay in Manchester for nightlife

Located between the two mainline rail stations of Piccadilly and Victoria, and on the edge of Ancoats, the Northern Quarter is the heart and soul of the city

Independent shops line its streets, selling quirky fashions, vinyl records, and vintage clothing, some of them housed in the iconic 

Afflek’s emporium, and side by side with bars, pubs, music venues like the Night and Day Café, or Matt and Phred’s Jazz Club, and a comedy club.

At the far end of Oldham Street, its busiest thoroughfare, Ancoats awaits students of industrial history. 

Once home to early cotton mills, this birthplace of Cottonpolis, as Manchester is nicknamed, now embraces craft breweries, tea houses and eclectic eateries, with St Peter’s church in use for rehearsals and concerts by the Hallé orchestra.

This is a city that welcomes outsiders. The Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art is just one organisation making links with exhibitions and projects, while the Cervantes Institute sponsors European jazz bands during the jazz festival. 

Manchester has a thriving Jewish population, with an interesting museum in the Cheetham Hill area.

Manchester’s cathedral on Victoria Street sometimes hosts concerts, while the Urbis Building in Cathedral Gardens offers a different kind of religious experience over four floors, at the National Football Museum.

This is also a good area for traditional pubs, such as the budget-priced half-timbered Sinclair’s Oyster Bar, and 1552-built The Old Wellington. Both were transported three hundred metres, brick by brick, to fit in with the city’s regeneration plans. 

The Printworks is a more modern complex, with leisure activities, bars, restaurants and one of Europe’s biggest IMAX screens.

The Northern Quarter is especially lively at night, but visitors need only watch out for the usual petty crime to be found in any city. 

Don’t worry about the side streets, where buses and walkers will keep you company, but if you prefer, use Oldham Street which is always popular and well-lit. 

If you stay in Manchester in the Northern Quarter, there is a good selection of hotels around Victoria Station, or closer to Ancoats.

4. Salford Quays and Old Trafford, cool area where to stay in Manchester

The once-crowded docks have been transformed into a thriving waterfront destination, site of the architecturally-acclaimed Lowry theatre and art gallery, glittering Media City UK, a cinema, and the Imperial War Museum in the North, all in a beautiful setting, and quickly reached by Metrolink. 

Restaurants, bars and the Lowry Outlet discount shops serve both the workforce and leisure visitors.

The Lowry is named after Salford artist L. S. Lowry, whose Salford figures come to life before your eyes. He didn’t only paint city scenes, though, and the art gallery provides a more rounded view of his talent. 

Nearby, the award-winning Imperial War Museum in the North covers stories of both wartime and peace in the past hundred years and beyond, and has a pleasant café.

The glitz of Media City is visible from the Lowry, although it has its own Metro stop. Take a tour around the BBC studios, or apply to sit in on a show’s recording for free.

ITV also produces programmes here, and organises tours of the set of Salford-based saga Coronation Street, which fronts the Manchester Ship Canal. 

The campus of Salford University’s School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology completes the line-up.

Sports fans are spoilt for choice, with Manchester United Football Club and Old Trafford cricket ground not far away, and the Helly Hansen Watersports Centre on the Quays. 

Old Trafford also hosts concerts, but the main musical must-see in the area is Salford Lads’ Club, where photographer Stephen Wright took his iconic photo of Manchester band The Smiths.

The Quays are quiet at night, and it’s a peaceful place to hang out on a sunny day.

Accommodation prices are lower if you use somewhere slightly less central like Salford for your stay in Manchester, although there is also a five-star hotel.

Read also: Best places to stay in London, best places to stay in Edinburgh, best places to stay in Liverpool, best places to stay in Glasgow, best places to stay in Birmingham

5. Castlefield, where to stay in Manchester on a budget

In Castlefield, you can explore the partly-reconstructed ruins of Mamucium, the Roman fort that once stood here and gave its name to the city (the origins of Castlefield’s name are obvious). 

The Victorians used the waterways to carry goods, especially cotton, to Liverpool via the Manchester Ship Canal (now used for cruises).

This pleasant area offers green spaces, canalside bars, the Castlefield Bowl for rock and classical music, and HOME Arts Centre with live theatre, film, and art shows.

The family-friendly Museum of Science and Industry, which puts on a yearly Science Festival, incorporates into its premises the world’s oldest railway station for passengers.

You can access Castlefield from Deansgate. Take a stroll up this shopping drag, pause to admire the dramatic facade of the John Rylands library, and take a look inside, before continuing to the Victorian Grade II-listed Barton Arcade with its sparkling iron and glass ornamentation.

Stay in Manchester enjoying the relaxed vibe of Castlefield, and take advantage of reasonable prices. Backpackers can have a historic experience at one of the world’s oldest YMCAs (1846).

6. Didsbury, affluent suburb with good transport links into the city centre

Starting long ago as a small hamlet on the north side of the river Mersey, by the eighteenth century Didsbury had become an affluent suburb four-and-a-half miles south of Manchester. 

Today it’s a conservation area with more listed buildings than anywhere in Manchester apart from the city centre.

Locals love the Didsbury Festival, and flock to separate events for the arts and for beer, while WestFest showcases local businesses.

With good transport links into the city centre, it attracts young professionals who prefer independent shops and eateries to famous chains, and holds a makers’ market on the last Sunday of every month. 

Green spaces include the hidden delights of Marie Louise Gardens, with its flowering trees and twisting paths.

Fog Lane Park’s wild flowers and rare trees attract nature, and its facilities for tennis, bowling and football do the same with sports enthusiasts. 

Find more of these, plus Gaelic football pitches and a gym, at spacious Hugh End Playing Fields, opened for aircraft-testing in 1918, while children can attack the junior assault course at Cavendish Road Park.

Rare plants flourish in Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens, with heathers, rock garden and alpine house, making the grounds an atmospheric setting for summer performances. 

You can even swim in Didsbury – Withington Community Baths, with many original features and a more recent gym and sauna, contains the only Edwardian pool still in use around the city.

Didsbury is only around four miles from the airport, so it offers reasonably-priced hotels and apartments, and there is a good selection for a stopover or a stay in Manchester.

7. Chorlton, trendy area 

Three miles to the south west of the city centre, Chorlton-cum-Hardy (to use its full name) has existed since at least the ninth century. 

Now a buzzing, trendy suburb with good transport links, it’s populated by those looking for organic food, health food shops and a great neighbourhood vibe, and also has the biggest gay community after the Canal Street Gay Village.

A Maker’s Market sets up on the third Saturday of the month.

Annual events include an arts festival plus one for books, and the Big Green Happening, and there is even a local comedy club. Chorlton’s open spaces offer visitors and locals the chance to forget the big city. 

Chorlton Park’s impressive sports facilities include football, tennis and basketball, play areas, and spaces for skating and cycling.

Longford Park, mostly in Stretford, but sharing the border with Chorlton, has similar amenities, plus bowling, athletics and a wildlife centre. It’s run by a community group who arrange health walks, and have established allotments. 

Ees is an old term for water meadow or flood-prone land, and at Chorlton Ees or Water Park, you can stroll along the banks of the Mersey.

Chorlton is home to Southern Cemetery, burial-place for philanthropist John Rylands, Manchester United manager Matt Busby, author and gay icon Quentin Crisp, L. S. Lowry, and Tony Wilson of Factory Records and Madchester fame. 

Now a haven for wildlife, music fans may know it from the Smiths’ song Cemetery Gates.

If you’d like a more residential area for your stay in Manchester, with a thriving community, Chorlton ticks all the boxes, and there is a good mix of accommodation, including self-catering.

Manchester has an excellent transport system. The Metrolink starts underground, emerges onto the city streets, and becomes a train beyond the city! Fast, frequent and economical, it covers all the places mentioned here, and reaches far outside the city.

If you need more retail therapy, the trams now run to the Trafford Centre, and there’s a stop outside the Etihad Stadium to please Manchester City fans.

Buses are constantly departing from Piccadilly Gardens and Shudehill Interchange, with some running all night, and there are two main line train stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, plus local services.

Leave a comment