An Impromptu Night in Manchester: Bars to Visit in the City

After booking a hotel in Manchester with the original intention of getting my visa (more on that whole headache another time), it was only natural not to put the booking to waste and do the obvious thing: a night out. Of course, originally this wasn’t the plan, so it meant wandering the unfamiliar streets and popping into whatever spots looked the most exciting according to Google.

Unlike my other posts about bars I like in Cardiff (you can find the most recent one here!), I haven’t had the chance to try and test bar after bar multiple times, so this is a just quick little overview of the few places I did manage to pop into. Basically, a visitor’s guide to Mancunian bars written by a one-time visitor (I’ll be back though!).

No.1 canal street

We started the night at No.1 Canal Street, as we were looking for something to eat before beginning the night. It was very quiet inside, though we only just made it before the kitchen closed, but we were greeted by some lovely staff members who made sure we could order food and even helped me decide on a cocktail (you know how indecisive I am!).

The inside was very nicely decorated, chic and modern. The outside boasted a large amount of outside seating too, and I imagine on a busier night it would be a very nice area to enjoy. Food was very tasty, but the real highlight was the Apple and Melon Mai Thai. Although it didn’t really taste like what I would expect from a Mai Thai, it was super sweet and the apple flavour really reminded me of some Japanese sweets. Originally, I wanted to try a couple of different cocktails, but honestly, I could not bring myself to order anything else.

Drinks – 10/10

The Apple and Melon Mai Thai was a solid 10/10, and it was the only drink I tried, so I’m just going by that. The drinks menu also had some classic options, and I’d assume the quality would be of a similar level. That said, they were pretty much only offering your average bar basics so if you’re looking for some drinks that are a little more experimental, you probably won’t find them (on the menu) here.

Atmosphere – 6/10

It was dead quiet, which may have been a timing thing. However some of the bars we visited later had a lot more of a buzz, so I’d say this is more of a sit down for a quiet meal and some classy cocktails spot.

Instagramability – 5/10

I mean, yes, it was very nicely decorated. But I’m usually looking for something a bit more exciting for the old ‘gram.

cottonopolis food & liquor

Our next stop was Cottonopolis, a Japanese-inspired restaurant and bar. This piqued my interest, and maybe had we gone for food it would’ve brought the theme together a little more. However, to me, it seemed a bit random, I mean, for a start you can’t even tell by the name that it’s supposed to be Japanese-inspired.

Despite my misgivings about the theme (to be fair on them, I’m very finicky when it comes to Japanese-inspired things – don’t even get me started on Wagamama’s), I found the décor to be inviting and interesting, every wall had a picture or something to look at. The drink options seemed to be fairly exciting, though I can’t remember which one I ordered and it wasn’t particularly memorable, and when my boyfriend ordered, both drinks he wanted happened to be out of stock, which was a little disappointing but it happens.

Drinks – 5/10

As I said, the drink I had wasn’t one of the best, and while it was by no means bad, I have become quite used to some very exciting drinks, thanks to the talented local bartenders in Cardiff. They were also pretty price-y which is fine when you’re really impressed by the beverage but I wasn’t. It was just a bit “meh”. Also knocking off some points for lacking two of my boyfriend’s drink choices.

Atmosphere – 8/10

It was a pretty random night to go out on, but Cottonopolis had filled nearly every seat. This meant there was a lovely buzz in the venue and the music and décor also created an enjoyable atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the array of art on the walls. However we didn’t get that much interaction from the staff, so it did seem a little impersonal.

Instagramability – 6/10

It was nicely decorated and the lighting leant itself well to photo opportunities. I didn’t notice any particularly insta-worthy cocktails, and nothing that was hugely striking for that stand-out picture though.


The next spot we popped to was NQ64, an arcade bar, which is possibly one of my favourite creations – I mean games and booze, what more could you ask for?! Walls covered in bright neon graffiti and a wide selection of arcade games lined up against every wall, this was definitely a spot not to be missed.

Most of the games required tokens which could be purchased at the bar, but they were surprisingly reasonably priced and the games didn’t eat your tokens too quickly, though Fraser and I could have easily gone through every token in the building playing Time Crisis II. There was a variety of drinks on offer, including some themed cocktails, which interested me, but not as much as playing games so I opted for an old classic, Hooch.

Drinks – 7/10

I guess this is a bit of a wary mark, because I didn’t drink anything other than Hooch while I was there. However, there were a few cocktails, inspired by games, which I reckon would’ve been quite tasty, and a fairly wide selection of other drinks too.

Atmosphere – 10/10

Adults are mostly just kids at heart, and nothing brings out the inner child like computer games. Sure, there’s a frustrated cry here and there, but mostly just people being happy to play games, drink and have a good time. A solid ten, because I honestly could have stayed there all night.

Instagramability – 7/10

So it was pretty dark in there, but the games and the walls would definitely look good on Insta if you can grab a good pic. Certainly a more interesting look than your average bar, but not a place for group selfies in the toilet mirrors.

CAne & Grain

Our final stop of the night was Cane & Grain. I was pretty excited for this one, purely because the named rhymed and I thought that was cool. Well, I definitely wasn’t disappointed, as it was probably my fave place from the whole night. Cheesy music, a Zombie in a cup that was bigger than my head (it was advertised as a drink to share, but I’m sure it would be no problem to drink it all for a braver man than me), friendly, chatty staff and general good vibes. Definitely the perfect place to end the night.

Drinks – 8/10

By this point, I was probably a little past the point of caring what my drink tasted like. Still, I was served a damn good Zombie and Fraser even taught the bartender how to make him a Yacht Club.

Atmosphere – 9/10

Only dropping one point, purely because after the games at NQ64, it didn’t have anything amazingly special. But for your average bar with no special extras, Cane & Grain were right on top.

So there we have it, a little play-by-play of my cheeky impromptu bar-crawl through Manchester. Honestly, with it being my first visit and only having one night in the city, I wasn’t sure if it was worth writing about – after all, I’m sure the locals know of plenty of other awesome bars, a lot more than me at least. Still I definitely enjoyed exploring the nightlife in an unfamiliar city and would be very interested in popping back if I ever get the chance.


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