Oldham Street was formerly Manchester’s principal destination for shopping and socialising.
In the hearts of local residents, it still is. Around 85% of shops on Oldham Street are independent, lending it a proud and peculiar sort of character. Below, I’ve listed a few of my favourite spots to spend an afternoon.
Fig & Sparrow
Feels like your living room, if you had a really sharp eye for shabby-chic design. Unusually for a hipster spot, the Fig & Sparrow is genuinely welcoming. Their craft coffee offering is faultless, and the selection of artisan bread elevates buttered toast to a new level. It’s a mellow workspace during weekdays, but be sure not to fritter your earnings in the café’s lifestyle store. I rate their soy candles and novelty greetings cards.
Retro stalwart selling garments from the 60s, 70s, 80s and in-house Pop label. Pop are known for their careful curation and high quality vintage clothes, but fear not – the prices are fair. The store is impressively sized and contains a number of one-off homeware items.
It’s worth setting aside an hour to fully explore.
Long-standing temple to alternative lifestyles. This multi-storey indoor market is a warren of curiosities. It’s one I expected to outgrow ten years ago along with my Fall Out Boy phase, but somehow keep coming back. If your teenage memories are getting fuzzy, be reassured that Affleck’s can still sell you records, posters, fancy dress costumes, handmade jewellery, crystals, punk novelties, tarot readings and unicorn-themed refreshments.
Glamorous watering hole with tiles polished to a mirror finish and interior trimmed with gold. Fress is a relative newcomer to the Oldham Street line-up but doesn’t disappoint.
Sceptic of ritzy arrivals in this grungy neighbourhood, the bartender won me over with one too many fruity, floral-garnished cocktails. It’s not a bad idea to pop back the morning after, as Fress was also voted ‘Best brunch in Manchester’ in 2017. The menu mainly features seasonal dishes prepared from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Holier than Thou
Certainly Manchester’s premier piercing studio and a strong contender for best in Britain, Holier Than Thou offers all manner of body modification procedures from tattoos to tongue-splitting. Hygiene and safety practices match that of an operating theatre and all body jewellery is implant-grade titanium and gold, mostly imported from high end American specialists. It’s such a sparkly and pun-loving boutique that you’ll soon end up holier (got to pronounce that with a Northern accent) than all your mates. Tip? Ask for Helen or Justin!
Not sure how to get there, or where to stay?
As England’s second major city, Manchester is predictably well-connected by rail and road. Hop straight into the centre by tram if you’re reasonably local. Trains can be surprisingly expensive, so car makes more sense for a group – secure a cheap spot in advance with YourParkingSpace. If your budget stretches far enough, make your stay special at The Lowry; if not, Hatters Hostel is close enough to fall straight into bed from the Oldham Street pub of your choice.