The NME guide to Manchester

The very best venues and bars for live music in Manchester

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Manchester is one of the world’s most iconic musical cities.

Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall and so many others helped put Manchester on the map while a new generation of acts like The 1975, Pale Waves, Hot Milk and Witch Fever continue to push genre boundaries and have kept the city at the forefront of exciting new music.


We’ve rounded up the best venues Manchester has to offer, and where to grab a drink before or after a show. Check it out below.

AO Arena

It’s hard to argue with the pulling power of Manchester’s AO Arena. The venue formerly known as The Manchester Arena currently has capacity for 21,000 punters, and is helpfully located just outside the city’s Manchester Victoria train station. It hosts a range of events, from sports to comedy but it really comes into its own as a music venue.

Over the next few weeks, the likes of Elton John, Michael Bublé and Duran Duran are all set to play, while later in the year, SZA, The Black Keys and Roger Waters will also grace the stage.

If you’re heading to Manchester’s AO Arena to see Elton John on May 31 or June 02 and 03, why not head to The Botanist Bar & Restaurant beforehand for a cocktail or two.

Fans can buy and sell tickets for Elton John at global marketplace, viagogo here.

Elton John. Credit: Theo Wargo via Getty Images
Elton John performs live. CREDIT: Theo Wargo via Getty Images



One of Manchester’s many iconic grassroots venues, Gorilla quickly cemented itself as an important hub of live music shortly after it opened in 2012. Located on Whitworth Street, the 550-capacity venue offers a platform to local bands as well as attracting touring artists. Earlier this year, The 1975 took a break from arenas for an intimate show here, while over the next couple of months the likes of Billie Marten, Brooke Combe, Songer and Maggie Lindemann are all set to play, as is Radiohead’s Philip Selway.

If you’re going to see buzzy rapper Songer at Gorilla on May 25, make sure you check out the bar for their range of signature cocktails, inspired by Manchester legends.

O2 Apollo

Manchester’s O2 Apollo is a venue dripping in history. The art-deco cinema originally opened in 1938, The Beatles famously performed there in 1960 and until the Manchester Arena opened in 1995, it was the biggest venue Manchester had to offer. Located in Ardwick Green, the 3,500 capacity venue is a short walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station. The likes of The Flaming Lips, Avril Lavigne, Pentatonix and Glady Knight are scheduled to perform at the O2 Apollo in the near future.

If you’re heading to the O2 Apollo to see Avril Lavigne on May 06, why not head to Manchester’s only dedicated rock bar, Satan’s Hollow, afterwards.

Fans can buy and sell tickets for Avril Lavigne at global marketplace, viagogo here.

Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne CREDIT: Jenn Five

Etihad Stadium

For most of the year, Etihad Stadium plays home to Manchester City but we won’t start digging up football rivalries here. During the summer though, the 60,000 capacity venue hosts some of the biggest names around. Previous years have seen Ed Sheeran, Liam Gallagher and Metallica take over the enormous venue but this year, Coldplay and The Weeknd are both set to perform.

If you’re heading to any of Coldplay’s four shows at the Etihad Stadium this May and June, make sure you check out Manchester’s famed Northern Quarter beforehand.

Chris Martin of Coldplay
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the first of ten shows as part of ‘Music Of The Spheres World Tour’ at Estadio Mas Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti on October 25, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina CREDIT: Santiago Bluguermann/Getty Images

Albert Hall

This former church is in no way related to its London namesake, and it spent a period in the ‘90s being used as a nightclub, but after a refurb the Grade II listed building is one of the most gorgeous venues around.

The 1,800 capacity venue is located in the heart of Manchester and is set to see the likes of Yard Act, De La Soul, Razorlight, Caroline Polachek and Le Tigre perform over the next few months while a string of shows set to celebrate the venue’s 10th anniversary will take place in May.

If you’re going to see Yard Act at the Albert Hall on April 29, make sure you stop off at Night And Day Cafe beforehand. The community space, bar and venue is a keystone of Manchester’s thriving music scene.

Fans can buy and sell tickets for Yard Act at global marketplace, viagogo here.


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