Warehouse Raves, Record Stores, and Jazz Bars, Uncover Manchester’s Music Hang Outs

Follow Manchester's musical beat.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Rob Jones

Manchester, a city steeped in a rich and illustrious history, has left an indelible mark on the world stage. Renowned for its pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution, this dynamic metropolis has also played a significant part in the realms of science, politics, music, arts, and sport. It is the birthplace of groundbreaking achievements, from the splitting of the atom to the advent of the world’s first passenger railway and the invention of the modern computer. It’s even nurtured iconic bands like the Smiths, Oasis, Joy Division, and the Stone Roses, whose music resonated with audiences worldwide. But in recent years, travellers have slept on the charismatic city as a destination—until now.

It’s the enigmatic jewel of the industrial north, and it’s experiencing a renaissance. If you look beyond the clichés of football and drizzle, you will find vibrant neighbourhoods pulsating with an artistic fervour that is truly infectious. Discover why Manchester is a must-visit destination in 2023.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Rob Jones

Gigs, Bands, and Warehouse Raves

While the Madchester era may have faded into memory and the Haçienda transformed into residential flats, the beating heart of Manchester’s musical heritage continues to resonate with unyielding vitality. The city, known for its remarkable ability to foster talent, has birthed and nurtured countless bands throughout the years while also providing a vibrant stage for live performances today.

In 2023 alone, there is a huge variety of must-see gigs and festivals, including Lizzo, Florence and the Machine, Hot Chip, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, and Paramore.

Immersing yourself in the electrifying atmosphere of a live gig stands as one of the quintessential experiences Manchester offers after dark. From the renowned Band on the Wall and the Deaf Institute, showcasing emerging talents, to the grandeur of the AO Arena, which attracts global superstars, the options are limitless.

This year alone, a wave of new venues has entered the scene, with the newly opened Factory International bringing the stunning exhibition by Yayoi Kusama, featuring inflatable sculptures titled “You, Me and the Balloons”, to the masses. The biennial Manchester International Festival (June 29 – July 16) follows, showcasing immersive performances, including “Free Your Mind,” directed by Danny Boyle, which reimagines The Matrix films. Prepare for a captivating blend of art and performance that pushes boundaries and sparks the imagination at this cultural destination.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Ducie Street Warehouse

The newly opened Ducie Street Warehouse is part of the new wave, housed within a beautifully transformed former railway goods warehouse. This multifaceted space encompasses a striking bar, a restaurant, and even a mini cinema. As one of Manchester’s beloved social hotspots, it hosts many exciting events, including DJ sets, live music, and engaging talks. Indulge in their renowned disco brunch while savouring delicious drinks, nibbles, and a menu featuring a tempting selection of small and larger plates.

Although, we can’t forget about the city’s institutions, including The Warehouse Project, which forever changed the vibrant music scene back in 2006. This revolutionary concept brings together groundbreaking artists from various genres and showcases them in a mesmerizing warehouse space over three months. With more than 30 events held annually, this iconic venue pulsates with energy. Whether it’s an evening of live performances by Caribou, James Blake, and Bonobo or a night filled with dance music legends like Seth Troxler, Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Above & Beyond, The Chemical Brothers, Skream, and Four Tet, there’s something for every music enthusiast at The Warehouse Project.

Then there is the future of music—Co-op Live. This music-focused venue is set to open in Manchester in late 2023 and is expected to transform the city’s Northern Quarter. Co-op Live, backed by local and global pop sensation Harry Styles, is an enormous music venue capable of accommodating a staggering 23,000 attendees, making it the largest indoor music venue in the UK. With a smart bowl design, state-of-the-art visual and acoustic technology, along with over 32 food and drink concepts, this new music venue is the future of concerts. Keep an eye out for its opening. We have a good feeling Harry Styles might be the first act.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Music Tours

Looking for a music tour in Manchester? Manchester Music Tours has a deep connection to the city and its musicians. Join a tour to discover the city’s renowned ‘Madchester’ music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s and explore iconic venues like The Haçienda, where legendary bands such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays performed, and learn about the cultural impact of the ‘Madchester’ era.

For fans of The Smiths and Joy Division, the “Smiths Tour” is a must. Led by knowledgeable guides, this tour takes you to significant sites related to these influential bands, including Salford Lads Club and the grave of Ian Curtis. You will gain insights into the Manchester music scene of the 1980s and its enduring legacy.

Whether you’re a rock, indie, or electronic music fan, Manchester’s music tours offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s diverse and influential music culture and discover something you might not have known.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Piccadilly Records

Record Stores and Art

With a legendary music reputation, it makes sense for the city to be a haven for record stores. From iconic establishments like Piccadilly Records, where you can explore a vast collection of vinyl and discover new sounds, to Vinyl Exchange, offering a treasure trove of rare and second-hand records, these stores cater to diverse musical tastes. Afflecks Palace is another gem, housing various independent record shops within its alternative marketplace.

For a dose of art, head into UNITOM, an independent magazine and book store where you will find quirky titles and zines. The Manchester Craft and Design Centre is also a well-known spot to discover the region’s most talented designers, makers, and artists under one roof.

best things to do manchester
Photo: New Century

Fostering The Next Generation of Musicians

After years of hiding in plain sight, New Century breathes new life into Manchester’s musical legacy by blending it with stunning mid-century modern architecture. The innovative venue acts as a social hub and creative platform across three floors.

The first floor boasts a resurrected ambience, complete with a sprung dance floor, dazzling disco ceiling, and cutting-edge sound system. Expect a diverse lineup of events to keep you entertained on this level.

On the ground floor, resident independent food traders tantalise taste buds with a constantly evolving menu featuring local and global culinary delights, from Italian pizza to bao buns and contemporary Indian flavours, complemented by a long list of beers, wines, cocktails, and spirits from the central bar.

In the basement, you will find dBs Institute nurturing the next generation of artists and performers. Here, the institute offers music technology and game design courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in a state-of-the-art facility.

best things to do manchester
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Food Halls and Restaurants

Manchester’s street food scene has exploded in recent years, moving beyond burger vans and transforming Victorian market halls into vibrant food halls. In the trendy Northern Quarter, you will find just about everyone from locals to travellers packed into the foodie haven and Instagrammer’s dream, Mackie Mayor. Whether you’re craving a delightful breakfast, leisurely brunch, satisfying lunch, or indulgent dinner, Mackie Mayor provides. With its mesmerising glass roof, you can spend an entire day feasting without ever leaving the atmosphere. Vegetarian and vegan options are also on offer, ensuring a diverse range of culinary delights for all dietary preferences.

Another food hall worth mentioning is GRUB, located just steps from Manchester Victoria station. Here, a converted textile warehouse hosts the longest-running street food market, where you can grab anything from Greek cuisine to Sri Lankan. There’s a secret beer garden, too, if you can find it.

best things to do manchester

Where to Stay

Experience five-star luxury at The Edwardian Manchester, awarded ‘Leading Hotel of the Year 2019’. Following a recent multi-million-pound redesign, this stunning hotel resides within the historic Grade II*-listed Free Trade Hall. Enjoy sweeping city views from a suite of award-winning Japanese and Mexican cuisine at Peter Street Kitchen, or savour a Parisian-inspired menu at The Library curated by Assouline.

With a contemporary spa and gym, meeting spaces for up to 500, and unrivalled access to Manchester’s business district and vibrant nightlife, The Edwardian Manchester is the perfect place to base yourself in the heart of the city. Delve into its musical heritage, having hosted iconic performances by Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Pink Floyd, and more, shaping the city’s music history.

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Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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