These past few years has seen a shift in how we think about the outdoors, with tables appearing on Manchester’s pavements, joggers along the city’s canal towpaths and picnics in the local parks. It’s a change that, despite Manchester’s unpredictable weather, looks set to stay – and with several beneficial results. We are reconnecting with nature, reclaiming space from the city’s traffic, and walking, running and cycling more than ever before. Increasingly, we are seeking out the best ways to take advantage of Manchester’s outdoor spaces: this guide includes a long list of ideas to get you started.
Bars and restaurants with outdoor seating areas
The pedestrianisation of Manchester’s Stevenson Square and several other streets in the Northern Quarter could not have been a more welcome, or successful, move. Now, bars including Flok and Common, which already benefited from suntrap seating, have around double the capacity outdoors, lending the area a bustling, mediterranean vibe in good weather. The same goes for Ancoats’ Cutting Room Square, home to a clutch of popular bars and restaurants, including beautifully restored pub The Edinburgh Castle, Neapolitan pizzeria Rudy’s Pizza and Seven Bro7hers Beerhouse. Also nearby is the Green Quarter’s Pilcrow Pub, with its sturdy tables running along one side of a scenic, secluded square.
HOME, meanwhile, has always had seating under its stunning, curved frontage – but has now expanded to dedicated outdoor venue Homeground, just a short walk from the venue itself. This temporary complex opens 28 May 2021 on a lot three times the size of Albert Square, with two stages as well as pop-up food and drink stalls. It’s a similar vibe to Hatch, a collection of independent retailers in shipping containers on Oxford Road with plenty of outdoor seating, while the Roof Garden at The Ivy in Spinningfields offers a glitzier alternative. In the suburbs, make for neighbourhood bar Nordie in Levenshulme, The Creameries in Chorlton and Volta in Didsbury.
Manchester is threaded with canals that run, semi-submerged, through the city centre and emerge out into the surrounding area. You can walk along the Bridgewater Canal from Castlefield to Salford Quays, or from New Islington to the Etihad Stadium, the National Squash Centre and Philips Park by following the Ashton Canal – all along off-road towpaths. The scenery varies along the way, from an unexpected perspective on the city centre’s landmark buildings, to lock cottages, overhanging trees and the swans that dot the Rochdale Canal. The Ashton Canal also connects to one end of the Fallowfield Loop, an off-road pedestrian and cycling route that traces a wide arc through Gorton, Levenshulme and Fallowfield, reaching Chorlton at its other extremity. The route follows a former railway line, is banked by greenery, and is filled with a profusion of birdsong from spring onwards. It’s an idyllic way to travel to Gorton Monastery, Levenshulme Antiques Village and the bars and restaurants in Chorlton.
Lesser-known parks and gardens
The popularity of Manchester’s best-known parks and gardens can become their Achilles’ heel, with large numbers of people flocking to them at the first hint of warmer weather. Instead, head for off the radar green spaces known and loved by local residents, like Queens Park in Harpurhey, one of Manchester’s earliest public parks, which first opened in 1846. Crowned by a former museum and art gallery building and with playing fields at the bottom of its sloping paths, Queens Park was created by the same designer behind Philips Park and Peel Park in Salford. Philips Park is reachable from both the Rochdale and Ashton Canals, has two play areas for children and leads on to the wooded oasis of Clayton Vale. Alternatively, south of Manchester city centre are Hulme Garden Centre and Highfield Country Park in Levenshulme; slightly tardis like and surprisingly like escaping to the countryside, the latter is also not far from Cringle Park, with its tennis and multi-use games courts.
One of Manchester’s best, the award-winning Altrincham Market combines an indoor food hall with market stalls under an elegant awning. There’s also outdoor seating for drinks and dining on two sides of the building, as well as toilets beneath it; shopping, eating and drinking, all in the open air. Levenshulme Market is more of a pop-up affair, with stalls appearing in the Levenshulme station car park every weekend between March and December, before disappearing again at the end of the day. Community-led and also award-winning, the outdoor market is host to a variety of traders covering both food and drink, and arts and crafts. Also popular are the monthly Makers Markets in Chorlton, West Didsbury, Sale, the Northern Quarter and more.