Exploring Manchester’s Northern Quarter as a new student
Written by Inés Cases-Falque, a current Film Studies MA student.
I remember what it felt like first walking around the streets of Manchester as a new student. I had a week before my classes began, and I decided to explore as much of the city as possible. Admittedly, I didn’t get far; I spent most of my time in the northern quarter, a district I consider the beating heart of Manchester’s culture. It’s a hub of bright lights, colourful art murals on brick walls, and independent businesses that have maintained a warm and friendly atmosphere for decades. Neighbouring other popular and heritage spots like Market Street, Gay Village and Piccadilly Gardens, it’s easily accessible by bus, tram, or foot from campus if you fancy a trip beyond our campus.
If like me, you’re a newcomer to the big city, you will at some point need new décor, clothing, and trinkets to make your space feel more like yours. When also trying to balance a budget, look no further than the charity shops and second-hand stores dotted around the northern quarter. The town offers an Oxfam Originals, British Heart Foundation, and dozens of other sustainable and affordable options. Speaking of affordable options, if you’re after some more original, handmade pieces, take a trip up to Afflecks Emporium on the junction of Church Street. A gold mine of independent traders, galleries and print-sellers cater to many students, art lovers, and locals alike.
But what if you don’t have a week to explore? Regardless, the northern quarter has a lot to offer even when term time takes a hold of your schedule and you find yourself looking for nooks and hidden gems to study in. During my first term of postgraduate studies, I spent countless hours in cafés like Fig + Sparrow and Chapter One Books, armed with a strong pot of tea and my laptop. I can find campus a little overwhelming at times. The libraries fill up during exam season, countless other students are typing up their essays around you, the stress filling the rooms over deadlines and word counts. Though this atmosphere can be a driving factor, it can be nice to have a break and find a new place to learn. I would recommend going as early as possible to a café to take a seat. Remember you probably won’t be surrounded primarily by students anymore. The quarter is a popular resting place for locals too, so be sure to make the most of your time there.
But not all trips to the quarter need to be study-driven. The district can also be one of the best ways to escape student life for a moment. One of my favourite stops in the northern quarter is the Pride Bookstore on Tib Street. The store is a narrow corridor lined with bookshelves and stacked high with queer lit, Stonewall memoirs, graphic novels and more, the shop is now the longest-running queer bookstore in the city and just one section of Manchester’s rich queer history.
Manchester has a lot to offer, beyond the quarter, but if you’re arriving as a complete novice to the city, I don’t know a better place to start exploring.