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Manchester’s best small music venues across the city centre

Written by James Young.
Posted February 5, 2024.
small music venues across manchester include the Deaf Institute
Deaf Institute

Manchester is well known for its big venues. The AO Arena, newly opened Factory International and historical venues such as the Ritz and the Apollo provide plenty of great live music all year round but for those on a smaller budget, the city also offers plenty of affordable places to enjoy more intimate gigs for a fraction of the price. Here are some of the best smaller venues on offer.

Deaf Institute

135 Grosvenor St, M1 7HE

Three floors with a kitchen and a roof terrace, Deaf Institute is another one of those places where you can go for something to eat at 2pm and come out 12 hours later. The building goes back to 1878 when it was known as Manchester’s Deaf and Dumb Institute, helping people with speech and hearing problems. Back then it cost £5,800 to build which would be nearly £500,000 in today’s money.

Mainly known for its rowdy club nights and the grand music hall upstairs holding 260 people. Just off Oxford Road and close to Manchester Metropolitan University, it’s an ideal spot to catch a gig. Badly Drawn Boy, Jarvis Cocker and Emili Sande are just some of the names that have played here in the past.

Castle Hotel

66 Oldham Street, M4 1LE

One of Manchester’s most iconic music venues, the Castle Hotel has been on Oldham St long before the term “Northern Quarter” was a thing, dating all the way back to 1776 and taking on the current name in the 1930s. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was interviewed by John Peel for his fanzine Northern Lights back here in 1979 and the music hall that stands today holds 80 people. The likes of James Bay, Bill Ryder-Jones and Megan Wyn have all played here in recent years. The venue also hosts live comedy and spoken word.

The Peer Hat is one of Manchester's best small gig venues

The Peer Hat

14-16 Faraday St, M1 1BE

Nestled away down Faraday St, The Peer Hat is a venue that if you didn’t know existed, you’d walk straight past. The Northern Quarter is known for its “hidden bars” and with no lights on outside and down a ginnel off Stephenson Sq, The Peer Hat is often missed out on the usual lists because people don’t know it’s there. This is what makes it great, at times it feels like a secret club. With live music downstairs most nights of the week and a bar upstairs, the late closing time on weekends can be a far more attractive option than an overpriced club.

The Star and Garter is a small gig venue in Manchester

Star and Garter

18-20 Fairfield St, M1 2QF

Conveniently located below Piccadilly station, the Star and Garter is a must visit venue if you love live music in Manchester. Not only does it have a Courteeners B-side written about it’s infamous Smiths disco nights but it has also been used as a filming location for It’s a Sin and Brassic. The venue is a favourite amongst musicians in the city and Peter Hook will be playing a small show there in April. Recently it has also been used as a bar for The Warehouse Project with Mayfield Depot being next door.

YES is a small gig venue located on Charles Street


38 Charles St, M1 7DB

Having opened in 2018, YES has established itself as a pillar of the Manchester music scene with the basement and Pink Room both having bands on frequently. A pizza counter in the main bar and a very reasonably priced food menu makes it popular amongst students and young professionals nearby. Its location close to Canal St and Oxford Road makes it a great central spot to catch a band or chill out in the rooftop bar. The 250 capacity Pink Room is a chance to see the next talents emerging with promoter Now Wave heavily involved.

The Lion's Den has had a refurbishment making it a top small gig venue in Manchester

Lions Den

253 Deansgate Mews, M3 4EN

Tucked up in the Great Northern Warehouse complex above Deansgate, Lions Den has one of the best views of Deansgate when the sun comes out in the beer garden outside. There seems to be something on almost every night, from live music to comedy and a recent renovation has improved the music venue upstairs with a new stage.