Image: King Street Townhouse

City skylines can be a thing of beauty – the terraces, skyscrapers and rooftop spots that lift us up to these vistas a welcome new perspective on our surroundings. Some are high enough to gift their visitors with a real sense of open space, others are hemmed in by Manchester’s incredible architecture. All are special places at which to enjoy a drink and spend some time spotting the city’s standout landmarks.

Perhaps the most enviable view is held by Cloud 23, the highest of the picks in this guide and situated on, you guessed it, the 23rd floor of the Beetham Tower. Floor to ceiling windows wrap around the bar on three sides, the result a panoramic cityscape that’s particularly magical as the sun goes down. A perfect erie for Fireworks Night, Cloud 23 is best known for its creative cocktails, champagne selection and decadent afternoon tea; it’s worth booking ahead to be sure of a seat. Not quite as high up, but with the added advantage of outdoor seating, is 20 Stories, a high-end restaurant and cocktail bar. The rooftop garden terrace here is dotted with full height trees, fireplaces and sheltered seating in the colder months, the bar menu full of contemporary cocktails inspired by Manchester’s culture and history. On a clear day, the vista here stretches all the way to the distant hills.

Image: The Ivy Manchester (credit: The Ivy Manchester Instagram account)

Also garden-themed is The Ivy’s Rooftop Garden, a lush space filled with floral prints, foliage and comfortable seats. The terrace has a retractable roof, but remains dependent on the weather, with bookings released 24 hours prior. There’s a food menu as well as cocktails, featuring modern British dishes as well as international picks – and a view that’s dominated by Spinningfields’ impressive glass buildings. Award-winning restaurant El Gato Negro on Manchester’s King Street also has the advantage of a roof terrace with retractable roof, with tables for two or bigger groups open to the air in good weather. The view here is a symphony of Manchester brick, the side walls and sloping roofs of the surrounding buildings lending a hidden-away, almost secretive feel to the space.

Another restaurant that’s in possession of a terrace is Honest Burgers – not that you’d know from the exterior of the building. Overlooking Trinity Square, which is home to Crazy Pedro’s and Honest Burger’s neighbour Dishoom, and the buildings beyond, this terrace is a lesser-known suntrap, with picnic style tables, planters and ironwork railings. Order a beer, burger and some rosemary chips and relax back in the knowledge that this is not a spot most people are aware of. The terrace at YES has a similarly metropolitan view: the very top of the venue’s four floors, it’s loomed over by new development Circle Square at one end, and backed by the railway line at the other. Dotted with hanging and potted plants, the space still feels like an extremely hip oasis, with its own bar and 100% vegan food from Döner Summer, or pizza from Pepperoni Playboy.

Further down Oxford Road is Big Hands, a near-legendary bar with a dive vibe, often deafeningly loud music inside, and an eccentric, plant-filled roof terrace. Here, there’s a view of the shops opposite in one direction – and of Contact theatre’s magnificent crenelations in the other.

No article on Manchester’s best bars with a view would be complete, however, without mention of two of the city’s most exclusive: Club Brass at Hotel Gotham, which is open to members and hotel guests only, and the rather more accessible rooftop bar at King Street Townhouse. Both offer a slick, high-end setting for sipping a drink and surveying the surrounding buildings, and are a fitting end to a roundup that celebrates Manchester’s unique – and ever-evolving – skyline.

By Polly Checkland Harding