Image: Carl Sukonik 

Manchester is a welcoming and cosmopolitan city with a thriving and vibrant LGBT+ scene and is well known across the world as a gay-friendly destination. Manchester’s Gay Village is the beating heart of the LGBT+ community; made famous by the hugely popular TV series Queer as Folk, the area continues to be packed with thousands of revellers every weekend, both gay and straight. There’s something for everyone in Manchester regardless of sexuality and plenty to explore beyond the confines of Canal Street, with a year-round calendar of events that always provide a reason to visit.

1. The Gay Village

Pivoting around vibrant Canal Street, Manchester’s Gay Village is one of the oldest and most established gay communities in Europe and is known as the “gay capital of the North”. A beacon of celebration in the city, the Gay Village is a must for any visitor to Manchester.

Canal Street and its neighbouring roads are filled with bars and clubs, making it a thriving hub for partygoers. There are venues catering for all manners of persuasion providing entertainment seven nights a week.

Via is one of the most highly regarded bars in the village, seen by many as the community heart of Canal Street. For a relaxing glass of wine, Tribeca's Manhattan styled interior is a firm favourite, as is New York New York on Bloom Street, popular for its camp comedy cabaret nights. Popular lesbian bar Vanilla makes sure the ladies get a good representation and you can dance the night away at popular nightclubs like G-A-Y, Company Bar, MAYA or Oscars.

The area has flourished into a village-like community through a range of gay-owned businesses, restaurants and cafes all set along a stretch of the Rochdale Canal making it ideal for alfresco dining and drinks. The Richmond Tea Rooms provides an Alice in Wonderland inspired afternoon-tea experience and The Molly House, an intimate, rustic pub with vintage décor, is a delight in which to enjoy some of their home cooked tapas and cakes.

2. LGBT+ club nights outside The Village

Although the Gay Village is rightly regarded as a focal point for LGBT+ nightlife in Manchester, if you look slightly further afield there are plenty of other LGBT+ nights across the city offering something a little different.

Pop Curious? is a regular party held at varying locations around the city and is known for its pop star masks, costumes and other props distributed each night. A more alternative option to the gay clubs on Canal Street, you can expect current pop hits plus tracks from more obscure artists, and a fun and friendly party with drag shows on small stages.

Starting out as an alternative night for the bear scene, Bollox provides a soundtrack of punk rock, wonky pop, indie, '80s trash and electroclash, a stark contrast to the pop and commercial house of the clubs on Canal Street, with a warm welcome for gays, drags, bis, bears, outsiders, and everything in-between.

If you’re looking to see Manchester’s new generation of artists, musicians, drag artists and performers – REDROOM events throughout the city are a vibrant showcase of music, art and fashion. A proud safe space for all types of creatives, catch a REDROOM event for a healthy dose of creativity and artsy vibes.

3. Manchester LGBT+ Heritage Trail

Manchester's City Council is so immensely proud of its LGBT+ ‘Heritage Trail’ that it has installed permanent rainbows created by Manchester-based tile artist Mark Kennedy. Set into the pavement at various points around the city centre, the tiles mark the locations of both key and amusing stories from Manchester’s gay past. This makes Manchester one of the very few cities in the world to recognise its LGBT+ community and its history. This guided walk is a unique opportunity to find out more about Manchester’s vibrant LGBT+ history, culture and politics.

4. People’s History Museum

Charting protest and democracy throughout the UK, this museum is the UK’s hub for all things politics. With items dating back to the Peterloo Massacre, suffragette movement and miners’ strike, the People’s History Museum uncovers the history of Manchester’s radical roots.

A permanent collection of LGBT+ items is available to view, including original campaign banners from major protests, and items related to the fight for LGBT+ equality.

5. LGBT+ sports clubs

Manchester has an outstanding array of LGBT+ and community sporting groups with everything from competitive team sports and individual athletics to racquet sports and the more placid pursuits.

Village Manchester FC formed in 1996 and is a gay men's football club with ambition and commitment to provide all players and supporters with a competitive yet fun approach to the beautiful game.

The Manchester Village Spartans, founded in 1998, is Manchester and North-West England's gay and inclusive rugby union team based at Sale Sports Club, and a full and founding member of International Gay Rugby Association and Board.

GHAP Badminton is a gay and lesbian badminton club based in Manchester, providing a friendly, relaxed and sociable environment to improve your game.

Manchester Sharks, Manchester's LGBT+ water polo club, is always on the lookout for new members and is open to both men and women and the club welcomes players of all levels.

Northern Aces Tennis Group is a mixed LGBT+ tennis group based at Sportcity offering the opportunity to play and improve your tennis in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

6. Queer Contact Festival

Each February, as part of LGBT History Month, Queer Contact Festival takes place at Contact Theatre to celebrate LGBT+ arts and culture in Greater Manchester, with theatre, music, cabaret comedy, dance, literature, and visual art from the best in established UK and international artists, alongside new and emerging performers.

7. Sparkle Weekend

The Sparkle Weekend has been celebrating the trans community for the last 15 years and now regularly welcomes over 4,500 people, making it the largest free trans event in the world.

Taking place in July every year in Sackville Gardens, Sparkle is open to everyone who sees themselves as transgender – and this extends to friends and families.

The Sparkle Weekend runs over two days with a full programme of live music, events and stalls. Furthermore, Sparkle comprises the Sparkle Fringe which promises to entertain, educate and thrill through innovative theatre and book readings as well as ever-popular talks and discussions to support and promote Trans issues and life.

8. Sugar and Spice

Sugar and Spice is the LGBT Foundation’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day for lesbian and bisexual women. This free festival has been running for 12 years and features workshops, discussions, socialising, wellness activities, crafts, food and lots of fun!

9. The Great British Bear Bash

Four days of furry, friendly fun held each April/May, the bears come out of hibernation and the Gay Village comes alive with club nights and parties catering for fans of fur. The majority of programmed events take place within the Gay Village, where regular nights like The Rem’s Beareokee and The Big Scrum are joined by special events plus a lot more to keep bears busy over the course of the weekend.

10. Gay Cinema Clubs

LGBT+ film events have been growing in popularity across Manchester for some time now with the two prominent groups being Pop Curious?, which shows film screenings along with drag shows, and Make a Scene - a loud, proud, interactive film club showing camp classics and queer gems at Z-Arts in Hulme.

11. Manchester Pride Festival

The multi award-winning Manchester Pride Festival consists of The Manchester Pride Parade, The Big Weekend and The Candlelit Vigil. The Big Weekend is a 72-hour ticketed event taking place in Manchester’s world famous gay village each August. The popular, vibrant Manchester Pride Parade runs through the heart of the city centre on the Saturday, meanwhile, inside The Big Weekend site, expect performances from national and international artists in the Main Arena; a chilled-out programme of music and entertainment in Sackville Gardens and high-profile DJs in the 2,000 capacity Dance Arena.

The festival closes on the Monday with a poignant and moving George House Trust Candlelit Vigil to remember those who we have lost to HIV, and show solidarity in fighting the disease, with a sea of candles lighting up the calm surroundings of Sackville Gardens.

The extended Manchester Pride Fringe is a colourful programme of arts, cultural and community   events   showcasing   Manchester’s   vibrant   lesbian,  gay,   bisexual   and transgender  community  taking  place  throughout  August  in  the  run-up  to  The  Manchester Pride Festival. Previous highlights have included diva Margarita Pracatan, live cartoonist Ennio Marchetto, the Colour of Salford paint throwing, and celebrity exhibitions and events.

12. Pride across Greater Manchester

Pride festivals in Manchester aren’t limited to the city centre with events popping up across the Greater Manchester region.

Taking place in April, Bury Pride Festival was launched in 2017 to celebrate Bury’s warm and welcoming community. A huge, carnival-themed parade is led from Bury Town Hall and weaves its way through the Culture Quarter taking in major landmarks on the way. It features live music and comedy across three stages, food and drink and stalls for family-friendly fun.

Bolton Pride festival takes place in September and started as a campaign against hate crime in 2015, reaching out to the community to develop relationships with businesses and charities in the area to support the LGBT+ community. The slogan Love Bolton, Hate Homophobia soon became the tagline for Bolton Pride, which provides opportunities for empowerment, participation, inclusion, advocacy, partnership working and celebration.

The Pink Picnic is Salford’s annual free LGBT+ pride celebration taking place in July. Attended by 150 people at its inaugural event in 2011, the picnic now attracts a crowd of 2000 and has a variety of live acts on the main stage, a bar, food tent and sporting activities.

13. LGBT+ Theatre

Greater Manchester has a diverse selection of theatres with excellent performances exploring LGBT+ issues.

Hope Mill Theatre is an award-winning and critically acclaimed fringe theatre run by two actors who spotted the creative potential in Manchester. Hope Mill has seen many of its shows reach the West End, and produces plays exploring coming out, LGBT+ relationships, and queer culture.

HOME offers year round platforms for LGBTQIA+ films, hosting events and festivals throughout the year. These include festivals like Queerupnorth and Queer East, which are some of the biggest collections of queer cinema to come to the city.

14. Superbia

Organised by Manchester Pride, Superbia is a year-round calendar of cultural events including theatre, comedy, dance, nightlife and more.

Reaching its climax The Superbia Weekend, this bold 4-day programme features film screenings, cabaret, community workshops and parties. This year’s line-up includes gay icon Michelle Visage, LGBT plays at fringe theatre Hope Mill and a family-friendly evening with RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Alaska.

15. Sackville Gardens

A public park in the heart of the Gay Village, Sackville Gardens is the centre point for the Manchester Pride Festival and Sparkle Weekend and is a popular year-round hangout spot for events and the community.

The park is also a place of reflection, with three memorials; a statue of Alan Turing, computer scientist and war hero who worked at The University of Manchester, who was persecuted for being gay. Every year on Turing’s birthday, a candlelit vigil is held to remember his life and contribution to computer science.

Also in the park stands the Beacon of Hope, a light sculpture remembering those who have died from HIV/AIDs, which stands alongside the Tree of Life, planted on World AID’s day 1993 to serve as a place for reflection and memorial.

The Park is also home to The National Transgender Memorial Garden, the first memorial of its kind in the UK, which stands as a lasting memorial for those who have died because of transphobic hate crime and prejudice.

Bonus: Village Angels

This team of volunteers have been providing support and assistance to people in need around the Gay Village since 2011. Working every Friday and Saturday night, the Angels patrol from 9pm to 3am wearing their famous hot pink uniforms, ensure the village remains a safe space free from prejudice, where all walks of life can come together and be who they are. Set up by the LGBT Foundation, the Angels also operate The Village Haven, for vulnerable people to find refuge at night.

The list of reasons to explore LGBT+ Manchester is endless, why not come and check it out for yourself? Visit the dedicated LGBT+ section on our website for ideas and inspiration, hotels and upcoming events.

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