Your ultimate guide to suppin' in the sun this summer
(This list was updated in May 2017)
We love summer in Manchester. It’s our favourite day of the year. Actually, to be fair, our reputation for being one of the soggiest cities in the UK has been proved not entirely accurate - we're not even in the top 10.
Ok so in a few days we'll be dodging hailstones, but these few sacred days of sunshine have reminded us to update our ultimate guide to the city's finest outdoor bars, terraces & beer gardens.
We're now at a whopping 38 and counting...
Two years on from its refurb, which included an extension of the outside terrace, the original Spinningfields bar (as well as its sister venue on New York Street) is still a magnet for summertime cocktail-lovers. The heated and canopied terrace with stylish white bench seating has space for 100 drinkers, diners, poseurs and people-watchers.
Alchemist 3 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, M3 3HF & 1 New York Street, M1 4HD. 0161 817 2950
A real Manchester stalwart drinking den, their all-weather outdoor terrace is a peaceful city centre enclave. South facing to capture the sun in good weather, it has a retractable roof and heating for when it get a bit chillier. Alternatively, a few shots of gin from their vast collection (200 and counting) will bring a warm flush to the cheeks come rain or shine.
Atlas, 376 Deansgate, M3 4LY. 0161 834 2124
Take Australasia restaurant and bar in the basement, squish it down and roll it out upstairs with more cushions and you're just about there. This was the first bar to break out onto Spinningfields Avenue when it was the least shopped shopping street in the city, pioneering the way towards turning the whole boulevard into food and drink venues. The terrace here, a forest of bamboo with colonial (almost nautical) style seating beneath a white canopy, boasts delicate cocktails, high tea and the world's most powerful patio heaters.
Australasia, The Avenue, Spinningfields, M3 3AP. 0161 831 0288
If a hearty weekend brunch out on the terrace with perhaps a small beer or crisp Pinot Grigio is what you’re after then Banyan Tree (practically in Hulme but masquerading as Castlefield) is your best bet. Unfortunately you're currently sat opposite a building site, still, isn’t the looming neo-gothic St George’s Church lovely?
Banyan Tree, Ellesmere Street, M15 4JY. 0161 835 9906
Castlefield’s perennial under-performer Barca (formerly Sugar Buddha, formerly Bohemia, formerly Barca again) only ever seems to attract custom when the sun comes out. You'd hope so too, having forked out heaps over the years on artificial grass, decking and more decking. Great canalside location though and, when the sun is a shining, there are few better views in the city.
Barca, 8-9 Catalan Square, M3 4RU. 0161 820 7975.
Despite its downsize earlier this year, Deansgate's hidden boozy back-alley is back with a vengeance (well, until it gets chilly). Offering a happy mish-mash of bars, street food and beer garden, B.eat Street will open weekends from 12am-12pm until 28 August. Grab something with rum 'n' ice from The Golden Pineapple, a salt beef bagel from Eat New York, sit back and forget the world.
B.eat Street, Deansgate Mews, Great Northern Warehouse, M3 4EN.
Black Dog NWS
Few know that student hang-out Black Dog NWS has a terrace, even fewer know it's called Bruce. Named after the owner's pooch, the terrace comes with a glass ceiling (just in case), a bar, a grill, erratic seating arrangements and TVs for the footy. Down in the bowels of Black Dog, there are plenty of pool tables and the Underdog club for when your day out becomes a night out.
Black Dog NWS, 11-13 New Wakefield Street, M1 5NP. 0161 236 4899
The unstoppable Albert's Schloss next door doesn’t have a pavement terrace, though its huge front windows retract - allowing those lucky enough to be sitting by a window to tan one arm and one side of their face at a time. A better bet is to head further down to Brewdog, where craft beer lovers can get a full dose of vitamin D.
Brewdog, 35 Peter Street, M2 5BG. 0161 832 1922
This boozer isn’t just a jewel in the crown of the Manchester pub scene; it’s the whopping great 170 carat Black Prince’s ruby of the Manchester pub scene. Steeped in over 200 years of history, this choice watering hole for generations' worth of thinkers, grafters, thespians, philanderers, martyrs and all-round rapscallions also sports a quirky and mostly unnoticed sun trap.
Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street, M1 5LE. 0161 236 5895
If you dare to run this gauntlet, trying your darndest not to be gobbled up by a hen party from Wigan, then Canal Street can be the most vibrant, boisterous and exhausting strip in the city. The street is lined with popular gay and straight-friendly bars, grouped here because their drinking terraces are practically one and the same. We'd recommend trying Village stalwart Velvet.
Canal Street, M1 3HE. @VelvetHotel
Though the clink, clunk and clatter of the No.1 Spinningfields construction site next door might have you chewing on dust rather than Ditalini, the team at Carluccio's have nonetheless annexed a hefty chunk of Hardman Square and made it a great place to kick back, observe and knock back a spritz.
Carluccio's, 3 Hardman Square, M3 3EB. 0161 839 0623
This historic venue is now a hub for restaurants serving a range of global cuisine. Many of the food outlets on all sides have an expanse of outside seating overlooking the landscaped Exchange Square or Cathedral Gardens. Colourful seating from the likes of Banyan, Salvi's and Wahaca mark out each restaurant’s external territory and, being the city's main retail square, there’s a real international vibe. On sunny days, you can close your eyes and even convince yourself you are eating food from its country of origin. Almost.
The Corn Exchange, Exchange Square, M4 3TR. 0161 834 8961
The Deansgate occupies a handsome 1920s exterior under the lofty 169m high Beetham Tower. The pub boasts lots of dinky little rooms, a big function area on the first floor and some of the most eclectic outdoor drinking space in the city. The pub was formerly the Crown and has one of the oldest licences in Manchester, dating from the nineteenth century.
The Deansgate, 321 Deansgate. M3 4LQ. 0161 839 5215
Hiding down an airy Victorian glass and iron arcade lies Dimitri’s leafy terrace. Not the finest spot in town for bronzing, what with the ceiling an' all (it's a glass ceiling mind), but still a canny courtyard to scoff a medley of mezze - especially if, like us, you prefer your courtyards emblazoned with faux Grecian mosaics, green plastic patio furniture and the buzzing chitchat of a Mediterranean bar taverna.
Dimitri's, Campfield Arcade, Deansgate, M3 4FN. 0161 839 3319.
Particularly popular in the summer months, generations of drinkers and diners from Dukes and its adjoining sister restaurant, Albert’s Shed, have enjoyed sunning themselves on Manchester's largest terrace since it opened in 1991. Boasting a fanastic location looking out over the ducks and barges of Castlefield basin, Dukes also has a gallery space upstairs overlooking the courtyard below. Amazingly, for a terrace that has so many seats, there's rarely one without a bum in summer.
Dukes 92, 18 Castle Street, M3 4LZ. 0161 839 3522
El Gato Negro
This award-winning three floor Spanish restaurant on King Street boasts a top floor cocktail bar named ‘The Black Cat’, with a retractable roof for pre or post dinner drinks on balmier evenings. Smaller than it looks, we felt we couldn’t do the bar area justice, so requested that a PR take a shot from above using a camera on a very long stick. You’ll be lucky to grab a seat, but it’s a gorgeous spot for those who do.
El Gato Negro, 52 King Street, M2 4LY. 0161 694 8585
While the bars of Castlefield and Canal Street are well-known as a sun-seekers' hotspots, here's an option right in the middle of the city centre. Grafene on King Street has a nifty outdoor terrace that's perfect for summer supping. There's lots of space, plush seating, and heaters for when it turns chilly. Try their new menu of of speciality gins, such as Forest Gin - which uses botanicals hand-foraged in the Peak District - or, even closer to home, Manchester Gin.
Grafene, 55 King Street, M2 4LQ. 0161 696 9700
Great John Street Hotel
You’ll find an elegant south facing rooftop lounge on top of this Eclectic hotel. Available to the public when not hired privately, it leads onto what they refer to as a ‘rooftop playground’. We’re not talking slides and swings here, but a terrace with a hot tub, sun lounges, informal seating and a heated glass veranda. Leave the frisbee, eh?
Great John Street Hotel, M3 4FD. 0161 831 3211
Great Northern Square
The expanse of outdoor space on the corner of Peter Street and Deansgate has never quite reached its potential as a cracking outdoor gathering space, but there is always the 'conversation pit'... where ironically little conversation goes on. Still, many of the ground floor venues leading onto it - All Star Lanes, Home Sweet Home and Pane Vino - have outdoor seating, whilst there are finally plans in place for the old Purity bar.
Great Northern Square, Deansgate, M3 4EN
Whilst scoping out this little treasure, a respectable looking elderly chap informed us that the 'hanging ditch' on which this small but perfectly formed wine bar is built was so called because this is where, in medieval times, they used to hang outlaws and scallywags by the neck. We later found this to be nonsense (a small water course hung above the river), but, by the neck or not, this spot looking up at Manchester Cathedral is nonetheless a great place to hang and nurse a bottle or two of well-sourced wine. You'll find them inside piled floor to ceiling.
Hanging Ditch, 42 Victoria Street, M3 1ST. 0161 832 8222
Manchester’s £25m creative hub, the result of a merger between two of our best-loved arts organisations - Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company - boasts three food and drink spaces, two of which you can grab some rays. The ground floor bar includes an outdoor seating area with branded deck chairs overlooking Tony Wilson Place, for those who like to spend sunny Manchester days discussing arts and literature. There is also a sunny little terrace upstairs available during functions, but try your luck because it’s often open to the general public.
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN. 0161 200 1500
Here, in this once windy corner of Spinningfields, you'll find a number of boozy establishments running alongside the River Irwell. The Dockyard pub boasts a wraparound terrace with plenty of seating, while Scene Indian street food restaurant opposite offers a hefty riverside terrace with lanterns, loungers and shisha. Nearby bistro, Beastro, are also said to be installing a terrace come summer. Or, if you're really desperate, there's always Slug and Lettuce.
Leftbank, Spinningfields, M3 3AG
This fine dining restaurant on the second floor of Tower 12 has a full length open terrace with soft grass carpet and huge wicker armchairs available for dining guests to enjoy in finer weather. Should you just fancy a wet though, up in the lounge and bar on the twelfth floor you’ll also find a number of heated and partially-covered terrace areas boasting fantastic views over Manchester and Salford.
Manchester House, 18-22 Bridge Street, Tower 12, Spinningfields, M3 3BZ. 0161 835 2557
Mr Thomas's Chop House
Mr Thomas’s boasts such Victorian authenticity you can almost feel Fagin reaching into your pocket. The outdoor terrace with its charming plaid green tablecloths is nestled behind the elegant 300-year-old lady of St Ann’s Church. This little corner of the square provides a sheltered recess for those shoppers who’ve mustered up a thirst, or just had enough. If you’re lucky (or wait an hour) you can hear the toll of the church bells and the croons of a busker as the midday sun begins to creep along the terrace. FYI, its sister restaurant Albert’s Chophouse - across the other side of Albert Square - has a much smaller nubbin of a sunspot outside with half a dozen tables.
Mr Thomas's Chop House, 52 Cross Street, M2 7AR. 0161 832 2245
Piccolino Caffé Grande
Following its £1.3m refurbishment last year, this flagship Italian restaurant now has a very smart canopied terrace out front. With room for 40, this seated area on Albert Square makes the perfect summer people-watching spot to relax with a cool drink or a homemade ice cream and take in Alfred Waterhouse's magnificent Town Hall.
Piccolino, 8 Clarence Street, M2 4DW. 0161 835 9860
Rain bar is a truly fantastic spot in the sun and winner of our 'Best Outdoor Drinking Spot' in last year's Twitter poll. Slightly less hectic than Dukes 92 up the canal, but by no means quiet, this beer garden makes the most of its space; boasting a four-tiered, picnic-benched, neatly groomed canalside spot - ideal for dipping toes and kicking Canada Geese up the jacksie. They deserve it.
Rain Bar, 80 Great Bridgewater Street, M1 5JG. 0161 235 6500
Restaurant Bar and Grill (RBG)
Despite the restaurant's diminishing reputation, this outdoor drinking terrace is an old favourite. Leading off from the first floor restaurant, it has a new retractable roof and its own designated bar looking out over John Dalton Street.
RBG, 14 John Dalton Street, M2 6JR. 0161 839 1999
This Northern Quarter tearoom, restaurant and bar has a well-sized and popular terrace area out front, overlooking the clamour of Stevenson Square. It’s a great spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or post-work drinks; however, being one of very few terraces in boozy Northern Quarter, it does fill up quickly.
Rosylee, 11 Stevenson Square, M1 1DB. 0161 228 6629
Salut is a lovely place to sit if you prefer drinking a carefully chosen glass of alcoholic grape juice, handpicked from a highly recommended vineyard, served at optimum temperature. There are about a dozen seats outside and, although they’re directly by the road, this makes a lovely place for a pleasant tipple if you’re over that side of town.
Salut Wine Bar, 11 Cooper Street, M2 2FW. 0161 236 2340
The Shack is a summer pop-up bar and grill located on the grass opposite the Dockyard in MediaCityUK. With an outdoor capacity of, well, however many arses they can squeeze on the grass, The Shack knocks out street food alongside summer cocktails such as the Sex On The Quays - though we'd save that one for the nearby car park.
The Shack, Green, Media City, Salford, M50 2EQ
Should you yearn for pizza by the slice, Italian beer, or the smell of stale urine emanating from a nearby phone box, then Slice on Stevenson Square is the one for you. A great little trap when the sun feels like it - be quick, though, these premium Northern Quarter seats don't hang around for long.
Slice, 1 Stevenson Square, M1 1DN. 0161 236 9032
Sinclair's Oyster Bar and The Old Wellington Pub
Full of character and local characters, these two old pubs on historic Shambles Square really aren’t the place for high end cocktails or premium spirits, but the atmosphere is usually as warm as the (very cheap) cider is cold. Expect to pocket more change here from a fiver than anywhere else in town. Lively on match days.
2 Cathedral Approach, M3 1SW. 0161 834 0430
A new one for this year, modern Middle Eastern restaurant Suri (named after the Persian word for red rose) has helped to enhance the food and drink offering on King Street. On sunny days, customers can choose to sit in an enclosed terraced area under a blue canopy in front of the restaurant imagining they are somewhere by the Mediterranean sea. Lower King Street is the perfect place for people-watching whilst picking at Suri rose olives, baharat spiced almonds, spiced sharing bread and a number of sharing platters. Suri also has an enviable drinks menu including various signature cocktails, no less than ten gin and tonic varieties and a whole host of sunshine friendly wines.
Suri, 22 King St, Manchester M2 6AG
This cobble-side terrace in Northern Quarter sits beneath the magnificent Smithfield Fish Market gates and opposite a very decent restaurant, TNQ, recommended in the Michelin Guide between 2010 and 2015 (not sure what happened in 2016, mind). If you're lucky enough to catch a sunny day on Monday or Thursday, you can make the most of their 'Happy Monday/Thirsty Thursday' offer which includes three courses and unlimited wine (UNLIMITED WINE?) for thirty quid. Watch those cobbles now.
TNQ, 108 High Street, M4 1HQ. 0161 832 7115
Contending Dukes 92 for the King of the city centre drinking terraces is this faux sixteenth-century hop drying house - moved brick by brick from Kent - in Spinningfields. Opened in 2011, Oast House was originally intended as a pop-up pub. However, six years later and this boozer - with its vast seating area, good beer selection and famous 'hanging kebabs' - is surely now here to stay. Make the most of Spinfest, its free summer bank holiday music festival, as well as the outdoor kitchen and pop-up bars.
Oast House, The Avenue Courtyard, Spinningfields, M3 3AY. 0161 829 383
For years this trendy Northern Quarter bar was, ironically, barred from having a terrace. Something to do with noise or planning regulations or bored council people. No matter, because now Terrace's terrace is open to all (even bored council people) who thirst for craft beer, cocktails or suspended beer barrels.
Terrace NQ, 43 Thomas Street, M4 1NA. 0161 819 2345
This three-storey super pub on the south westerly side of the Castlefield basin is the young usurper to the dominance of Dukes 92. Much like Dukes, The Wharf boasts fantastic canalaramas, but with the addition of a picture-postcard wooden footbridge, a colourful splashing of mostly well-maintained river barges and a pretty little fountain trickling away in the centre of the terrace.
The Wharf, 6 Slate Wharf, Castlefield, M15 4SW. 0161 220 2960
The White Lion
Liverpool Road’s old faithful, The White Lion, is worth a mention if only because it sits on an original Roman road and by the ruins from which Manchester takes its name. The Roman fort Mamucium (meaning breast-shaped hill) was established in this area around 79AD, about the same time The Lion’s interior was fitted. It all adds to the pub's charm. This is a proper pub, a pubby pub. Just don’t stroll in wearing a City shirt: you probably won’t stroll out...
The White Lion, 43 Liverpool Road, Castlefield, M3 4NQ. 0161 832 7373
Zouk's impressive new terrace keeps its options open, with a retractable roof and screens of bamboo and grass to keep any chilly breezes at bay. Cosy yet stylish, it's a fine spot to enjoy cocktails, teas, hookah and a bite to eat.
Zouk, Unit 5, The Quadrangle, Chester Street, M1 5QS. 0161 233 1090