There’s no doubt that dating can be tough. Once you navigate the often excruciating small talk and awkward silences, you’re usually left wondering what to do with your evening that doesn’t necessarily involve getting blackout drunk to overcompensate for the uncomfortable first meeting.
There’s so much more to getting to know someone, and if you’ve chosen wisely, it’s likely that you’ll both share some common interests, which is a great place to start on a first date. Admittedly, I’m no Cilla Black, but the below list should give you some decent ideas if you’re struggling to think of a place to make a good first impression.
For example, if you’re both into fashion, hit the vintage shops and pick out an outfit for each other – something that always says a lot about a person. Or, if music is your thing, Manchester’s burgeoning gig calendar is often overflowing with incredible musicians and artists, a meeting place that’ll always make a good story for the grandkids.
With Manchester being Manchester, there are absolutely loads of places to check out live music, starting with the big boys over at the Manchester (now AO) Arena, via the O2 Apollo, Manchester Academy and even Band on the Wall. You can also add the Albert Hall and Blues Kitchen to the list, who have a big calendar of music and acts, as well as the much smaller venues such as Gorilla, Night & Day, YES, Gulliver’s, The Castle Hotel, The Talleyrand and The Deaf Institute.
Nothing screams ‘I Love You!’ better than competitively challenging someone to a game of Mortal Kombat 3 and then laughing and jeering at them when they lose. This can, of course, be done at one of Manchester’s two NQ64’s – either in the NQ or on Peter Street.
Both offer up the perfect date environment, one where the competition can kick in pretty early, and the cocktails will get you both suitably drunk enough to shake off that fear and tackle that dancing game together.
NQ64, 9 Short St, Manchester M4 1AA
NQ64, 23 Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5QR
Do a Craft Workshop
Living in one of the UK’s most creative cities means that there’s always time to take up a new hobby, whether it’s painting, hiking, cooking or anything else you might’ve dreamt about giving a go. Craft workshops are always a great shout for a date, and places like Cork & Canvas, a BYOB painting class are an excellent place to start. There’s also Sken Studios, who run silver signet ring and pendant making workshops, 7 Spot Pottery’s pottery making classes and Hot Bed Press’ printing workshops.
Albert Hall, which runs regular Bongos Bingo nights to usually packed out crowds, is an easy option to get steaming and break the ice on an early date. Bongos is so far removed from the traditional Mecca and Galas of the world that it’s probably an insult having them in this same category, but you can expect music, dancing, mental prizes and stupid games to keep you and your date entertained all evening long.
Manchester Climbing Centre
As a date venue you can’t really go wrong with Manchester Climbing Centre. Not only is it challenging, but you will have a proper laugh at each other as you wear those truly flattering harnesses! It’s a great alternative to going out for a few drinks, that brings with it a healthy dose of competitiveness, which is always good to witness in those early days…
Go for a Walk
Our Weekend Walks series is immensely popular, because sometimes people don’t want to spend all night in a loud bar with someone they hardly know. Instead, get your walking boots on and be at one with nature, with fresh air, exercise and something pretty to look at. There’s thousands of places you can head, right on Manchester’s doorstep, but here’s a few to get you started.
A Bit of Tapas
Tapas is the perfect date food and nowhere does it better than Manchester. Well, apart from pretty much every single city in Spain. There’s a ton of fantastic places down on ‘Tapas Alley’ or King Street as the council like to call it, from El Gato Negro to Tast to La Bandera just tucked away down at the bottom, Abeja has also just opened in Alvarium, too. Outside of the city, in Chorlton no less, you’ll find one of the greatest tapas bars in the world – San Juan. You can’t beat some patatas bravas and sangria for getting the romantic juices flowing.
Your date is sure to be massively impressed if you bring them to Tattu, open the doors, head to the bar and order an absolutely amazing cocktail. To impress them even more, head on into the restaurant and order some of their modern Asian inspired dishes, while surrounded by their fantastic cherry blossom tree and the odd celebrity!
Tattu, 3 Hardman Square, 4 Hardman Square, Gartside St, Manchester M3 3EB
If there was ever a more suitable date event and activity it would be ten pin bowling. Not only is it bloody good fun, but it’s indoors, it’s easy to play and you can also slowly get leathered over the course of a game. The only downside is the stupid shoes that you have to wear, especially if you have big feet because they make you look like you’re walking around with a couple of canoes on the end of your legs.
Dog Bowl on Whitworth Street is perfect for a date, not only do they have the bowling, they’ve also added some arcade machines, and they have a great selection of cocktails too so you can both get sloshed and enjoy each other’s company that little bit more.
Head to one of Manchester’s many museums on a date and you’ve already scored a couple of points in the little black book. I mean, for one, they’re free so you’ve saved each other a few quid. On top of this you have some of the best museums and exhibits right on your doorstep, including the fantastic Science & Industry Museum, the Football Museum and the People’s History Museum who continually create compelling and exciting events and special exhibitions for a range of subjects and interests.
There’s also the Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery if your date is a fan of that kind of stuff, or even the Manchester Museum where you can show off your knowledge of dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies!
Go to a Natural Wine Bar
Manchester is overrun with some incredible natural wine bars that span Northern Quarter, Ancoats and all the way out to the up and coming districts of Levenshulme and Monton. These are excellent places to take a date, especially one that loves wine and is bound to be impressed with your extensive knowledge that was memorised from Wikipedia before you left the house. KERB, Ad Hoc, Isca Wines, Flawd and Wandering Palate are just some of our favourites, but there are so many others to check out!
There are about a million places in Manchester where you can both enjoy a lovely cocktail, but it’s rather rare to find somewhere where you can see the whole city from a few hundred feet up in the air. Not only will your date be impressed with the stunning views of Manchester and the surrounding areas, they will surely be bowled over with the classy, luxurious surroundings and the fantastic selection of champers and cocktails.
A Michelin-starred Meal
Sure, if you’re packing a fat wallet and want to seriously impress this date, you can take them to the city’s only Michelin-starred restaurant – Mana in Ancoats. It’ll set you back a pretty penny, but it’s worth it – as Simon Martin takes you on a gastronomic and culinary journey that you’re never going to forget!
It’s just a massive risk, spending so much money on a date which might be a disaster – so maybe save this one up for date number 5 – once you know they’re a keeper.
Mana, 42 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
Escape to Freight Island
Escape to Freight Island has a huge range of entertainment, food, drink and music – all under one roof, making it an essential stop off for any fussy date. Everyone flocks for miles around to come down, especially if there’s some music on from The Untold Orchestra, or a bit of drag. Grab some food, sink some pints and flirt away.
Go Vintage Shopping
There’s nothing better than a Sunday afternoon rummage through some fully stocked vintage rails, and if your fellow date is also into fashion this is an excellent choice for an outing. The way someone dresses says A LOT about their personality, so start off in Northern Quarter and head to the likes of Pop Boutique, Margot & Lux, Blue Rinse, Gone Fishing Vintage and the newly opened Bare Necessities. Then, if you’ve got time, The Wonderful Flight is another must visit, as well as Suzy Loves Milo and of course, Piccadilly Thrift Store.
Do the Northern Quarter Street Art Trail
Northern Quarter isn’t just home to a never ending list of gorgeous bars, restaurants and retail spaces – the district also features some incredible murals and street art, which you can spend all day wandering around and marvelling as you pop into pubs that sit conveniently on the route. Start at Port Street and let the art guide you to Newton Street, Tariff Street, Cavell Street and beyond as the once awkward silence is now filled with passionate art reviews and reflective ‘hmms’ as new pieces are found.
Go to the Theatre
Manchester is home to some cracking theatre houses, and I don’t just mean the big guns like The Palace Theatre and the Opera House (even though they are both equally as great). The smaller, independent institutions such as HOME, Contact Theatre, Salford Arts and The King’s Arms often have a packed programme of events, too, that include comedy, film, panel discussions and cult classics, so it’s always a good idea to check them out if you’re looking for an alternative date spot.
There’s no better date food than pizza. First of all it’s not messy – you can easily eat it with your hands, and on top of this, I’ve never met a human being who doesn’t like pizza – I just don’t think that person exists.
Even if you hate tomatoes, or can’t eat cheese, there’s still hundreds of options out there for you – so it’s definitely a safe bet. In Manchester you have a fair whack of choices when it comes to the Best Food in the World™.
First of all I recommend you to head to Rudy’s where you will both have a choice of one of their fantastically authentic Neapolitan pizzas – rammed with a choice of toppings and finished with a lovely beer or wine. Or you can head to Noi Quattro or Ciaooo in the Northern Quarter, or Honest Crust in Mackie Mayor.
Finally, you could both go a bit ape-shit on the pizza front and head to Crazy Pedro’s – where it probably wouldn’t be unusual to find a roast dinner perched on some dough and served by the slice. If your date doesn’t like any of these places, it’s probably safe to assume it’s just not gonna work!
You can’t beat a bit of science for your date – impressing them with your GCSE Physics knowledge and explaining the insignificance of their existence, clinging to a rock hurtling through an empty void at 30km per second in an endless universe populated with billions of worlds; likely harbouring billions of species of life that we will never live long enough to meet.
So head on down to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre for one of the largest radio telescopes in the world and a host of interactive exhibitions and displays for you to get your head around. The surrounding areas are amazing too, so you can head to Mobberley or Knutsford afterwards for a few drinks and some grub.
Platt Fields Park
There’s plenty of parks in and around Manchester, it’s only because I used to live round the corner from Platt Fields that it gets a mention here. If the weather is nice there’s no better place to take a date – not only can you take a stroll around the lake and feed the ducks, there’s ice cream, a little playground and plenty of grass to have a picnic and some ciders. There’s also a brilliant Market Garden on here now, too.
Walk Around a Market
The city and it’s surrounding environs are awash with a variety of weird and wonderful markets throughout the week, from the up-market indoors variety (Altrincham Market, Mackie Mayor) to the rough and ready outdoors-in-the-rain kinda gaff (Levenshulme & Ancoats).
Another great date, and this is from personal experience, is a Car Boot, where you can both hunt for bargains amongst a bunch of old tat, chat to some old fella about his crappy cigarette card collection and generally flirt yourselves into each other’s arms. Take a look out at Alexandra Park in Moss Side, The Carlton Club in Whalley Range or Bowlers in Trafford to see what’s going on.
Karaoke is not about singing at all; I’ve always said that it’s about having a laugh, getting sloshed, and belting out some absolute classics while your friends look on horrified. That’s got to be good for a date, right?
Get yourself down to The Millstone in the NQ, or one of the many karaoke venues in Chinatown and get Bon Jovi – Always on the screen, have a little bit of Dutch courage and get singing the song at the top of your lungs. If after the 3 minutes 41 seconds you’re not in love – I’m sorry – it’s not meant to be.
Sticking with the idea that playing some sort of game for an added competitive edge is a good thing, you can always give Junkyard Golf a try and down some cocktails while trying to hit a tiny ball with a thin stick. There’s three themed rooms to choose from in here, and a ton of brightly coloured, sweet-laden cocktails to sink – should you get bored of playing golf.
A more dignified and elegant alternative, afternoon tea has experienced a massive revival in Manchester over the past couple of years or so, meaning that now you can pretty much get it anywhere.
I suppose it depends on your budget, and how much you actually like the other person, but there’s plenty of options for you. There’s pure luxury at The Lowry Hotel, a great new one from The Refuge, and even one which you can have in the back of a Black Cab whilst the driver tells you all about the places whizzing past through the window.
This pub on Thomas Street is one of my favourites, it’s always full of a great crowd, staff are brilliant and their Strongbow is fizzy as fuck. If you’re looking for a no nonsense date, where you can have plenty of drinks, loads of chat and meet some interesting ‘characters’ then The Millstone is one of the best choices in the city.
It’s not the only choice though – there’s loads of great, proper boozers in which to take someone on a date, where you can slowly get merry while eating some proper British Tapas. Other favourites include The Briton’s Protection, The Unicorn and Seven Oaks.
The Millstone, 65 – 67 Thomas Street, Manchester, M4 1LQ
Frog and Bucket
It’s a well-known fact that most comedians are physically grotesque; from the ‘chubby funster’ Peter Kay to the posh Auntie appearance of Michael McIntyre – it’s highly likely you will be visually superior – so why not let them do the hard work – get your date all giggled-up and then swoop in. Head on down to the Frog and Bucket at the top of Oldham Street for one of their brilliant comedy nights and treat your date to some food, some drinks, some fantastic gags and then a cheesy disco afterwards where you can clumsily make your move.
Fish and Chips
This is one of my personal favourite dates ever; so if anyone is reading this and fancies trying it on with the Brownmeister – take some notes. First of all, head on over to one of the city’s best Fish & Chip shops – in this case I suggest Northern Fisheries on Tib Street. Order fish, chips and mushy peas (x2) with loads of salt and vinegar.
While that’s being sorted out, one of you runs out to the nearest offy and grabs some ice-cold ciders. Then take the fish and chips and drinks down to the canal in Ancoats and proceed to scoff your face while having some bevvies – ideally in the sun. It also works in the rain, but does involve some slightly depressing undertones, and don’t try to recreate the same effect indoors – I tried once and it failed miserably.
There’s only one bad thing about Bottomless Brunch as a date, and that’s the fact that you have to get up early in order to do it. It works perfectly if the other person has woken up in your bed though, just grab your clobber, wipe the lipstick off your face and head out the door for 2 hours of non-stop Prosecco and some grub.
The city has some truly excellent options open to you, from Elnecot in Ancoats, to Spanish Brunch at La Bandera, check this list of the very best places to head on a weekend…