All you want for Xmas is a gift guide for the Northern Quarter, right? Never mind naff high street gift packs, the same old rubbish year in year out, head North to our brilliant NQ and get them something different for Peter Hook’s sake. You can do all of your shopping in the independent shops of the NQ and warm your cockles on the smug knowledge that you’re supporting indies too. There really is something for everyone, even your dog.
Read on for our suggestions for the best alternative Xmas gifts from the Northern Quarter.
40 years of Afflecks book from Afflecks
Afflecks (or Afflecks Palace if you’re over 35), is a Manchester institution with a long-held ethos of offering a safe and fun environment for all. It’s always been a low risk marketplace for creatives and entrepreneurs to start out, offering affordable rent and no long-term contracts and many Manchester greats started out there. There’s a wealth of diverse shops and spaces, with fancy dress, galleries, Star Wars figurines, a Japanese maid bubble tea café, barbers, badges and vinyl. The store recently celebrated 40 years in business and published a beautiful coffee table book celebrating the faces that have made Afflecks what it is. A great pressie for anyone whose youth was defined by this palace.
Afflecks, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW
1974 GMPTE Pin Badge at The Modernist
The Modernist on Port Street is the public face of The Modernist Society, founded by Eddy Rhead and Jack Hale as a group focused on post-war modernist architecture in Manchester, which they felt was being dismissed and destroyed. The store is the ‘public face and space’ – celebrating good design, holding talks and hosting exhibitions, and is a fantastic spot for presents and gifts. Their best seller? A 1974 Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive pin badge.
The Modernist, 58 Port St, Manchester M1 2EQ
Cannoli from Sicilian NQ
Sicilian NQ is not just a delightful restaurant but also has a well-stocked shop full of Sicilian pantry essentials. Think homemade tomato sauces, Limoncello, pasta, purées, pestos and olive oil shipped over from owner Carmen’s small family farm on the island of Sicily. Xmas hampers are cute little picnic baskets packed with bottled cocktails, biscuits and sauces. You can even add a bottle of Prosecco and some wine to make the ultimate Christmas gift hamper. But we’d be very happy with a simple box of pistachio and lemon cannoli tbh.
Sicilian NQ, 14 Turner St, Manchester M4 1DZ
Caroline Dowsett Prints from her Stevenson Square studio
Freelance artist Caroline works from her studio in Stevenson Square. With art that focuses on the bright and the colourful, her work is inspired by movement, sounds and feelings. You can grab a range of products featuring Caroline’s evocative signature patterns from silk scarves to different sizes of prints. In some cases, she can even create special custom pieces (as long as you give her enough time).
Christmas hampers from Butcher’s Quarter
Satisfying all of your locally-sourced butchery needs in the Northern Quarter, Butcher’s Quarter has transformed over the last couple of years into so much more than a butchers. Alongside the best cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork, they also offer the highest quality charcuterie, cheese, wine and food and drink hampers which are perfect for the foodie in your life this Christmas.
66 Tib St, M4 1LG
Coffee Table Book from UNITOM
A brand-new bookshop and visual arts store right in the heart of the Northern Quarter, UNITOM is the spot for all kinds of books about contemporary art, design, fashion, photography and counterculture. There’s also an extensive range of independent magazines sourced from a diverse bunch of artists and publishers from around the globe. UNITOM also stocks bags, tees, notebooks and a few homeware bits, many of which you can’t purchase anywhere else in the city.
UNITOM, 1A Stevenson Square, Manchester, M1 1DN
Crystal necklace from Livewell
Everyone has a witchy mate who is all about manifestations, sage space cleansing and crystals. Maybe they are manifesting us to write this paragraph right now and manifesting you to read it. This is your sign to buy them a lovely citrine necklace. They also do crystal infused candles, fancy incense sticks and crystal wands.
1a Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DN
Vinyl from Piccadilly Records
Reliably packed with an abundance of audio excellence, Piccadilly Records’ End of Year Review booklet is available every December if you need something to flick through for ideas – or want to pick up an extra freebie stocking filler. It’s a free booklet painstakingly put together by the in-house team of music nerds featuring a roundup cherry picked from the year’s top 20 albums. Pick an album from the list for a loved one or grab something they’ve been going on about all year.
53 Oldham St, M1 1JR
Fashion zines at Village Books
A bookshop and gallery that offers up an impressive selection of contemporary art, design, fashion and photography publications – as well as self-published and small-press issues from artists from all over the world. Village aims to promote work from talented, local, emerging artists and photographers within the city, as well as provide a platform to showcase their work. Glossy mags are great for the coffee tables of the most stylish people, we’re sure you know one.
131 Oldham Street, M4 1LN
Flowers from Northern Flower
Bringing all things pretty and colourful to Tib Street for over a decade, Northern Flower offers up not just plants and flowers but has, in recent years, re-imagined its original offering to open up downstairs – offering classes such as Christmas Wreath making, Flower Crown making and a ‘Build Your Own Terrarium’. Flowers aren’t everyone’s go to Xmas present but surely it’s the best time of year to send a bouquet as most people have more time off to enjoy it brightening up the house.
Northern Flower, 58 Tib St, Greater, Manchester M4 1LG
Gender Swapped Fairy Tales book at Queer Lit
Manchester’s first dedicated gay bookshop opened its doors on the eve of the Pride celebrations in 2021, the culmination of a year-long journey for owner Matthew Cornford who launched the bookshop online during lockdown in 2020. Helping to make LGBTQ+ titles more available, the Northern Quarter store stocks over 1700 LGBTQ+ titles, including gay, lesbian, trans, non-binary, parenting, youth (10-14 years), graphic novels and children’s books. We love the Gender Swapped Fairy Tales book which reinvents classic children’s stories but challenges the gender stereotypes within them.
39 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LX
‘Girls can do fucking anything’ tote bag from Nibble NQ
Nibble NQ isn’t just a lovely little cafe on Oldham Street but its shop has all sorts of fun pressies for sale too. Pop in for a box of cakes and sweet treats or get stuck into the range of ‘girls can do fucking anything’ branded items from mugs to tea towels to totes.
36 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JN
Houseplant and an Aeropress from Foundation Coffee
Is can’t just be us that would like to hibernate for the next few months and home comfort essentials are a lovely gift for anyone in that mode. At Foundation, you can kill two Xmas birds with one card payment by buying someone you love an Aeropress and a plant from in-house plant shop Groen. Your work-from-home friends will thank you for bringing greenery and caffeine to the home workspace and those going back to the office can use them to soften their January blues by brightening up their desk.
Sevendale House, Lever St, Manchester M1 1JB
Italian hampers and panettone from Salvi’s
Family run, named after owner Maurizio’s father and inspired by his mother’s kitchen back home in Naples, Salvi’s is a firm Italian favourite in Manchester. Every year you can rely on them for a cracking foodie hamper packed with Italian produce with different sizes depending on your budget. Another winner is the special collaborative Milanese panettone, made by confectionary artists Fiasconaro and packaged in a Dolce & Gabbana designed tin – these sell out every year so be quick if you want one for your most stylish aunt or uncle.
60-67A High St, M4 1FS
Make your own craft kit from Fred Aldous
Manchester’s very own arts and crafts sanctuary that goes far beyond glitter gel pens and coloured paper. Fred’s advertise a range of ‘make your own’ craft kits that sees customers creating their own glass, ceramics, jewellery, basketry, lampshades, beads and cane seating. As well as stocking every art material you could imagine, including paint, spray paint, pens, ink, oil pants and brushes, the Lever Street harbour even stocks equipment for metal work, candle making, mould making, scratch building, wood craft and clay work. Great for crafty kids and adults.
Fred Aldous, 37 Lever St, Manchester M1 1LW
Make-Your-Own Terrarium at Nice Things
Another relative newcomer to the Northern Quarter, Nice Things is the project of the people behind the wildly successful Glass House over at Whitworth Locke. it’s a jungle-like space right in the centre of the city, with hundreds of plants available ranging from mini shelf toppers to Amazonian room fillers. They also offer up terrariums; artificial, self-sustaining eco-systems that are perfect for that person in your life who never seems to be able to look after plants.
3 Central Hall, M1 1JQ
Natural wine from Vin De Bodega
Four lads who are passionate about natural wine, Vin de Bodega curate a weekly selection of small-batch wines from all over the world and then deliver them directly to wherever you may be in the city (on the same day if you order by 2pm). Since launching in 2021 in the city, they’ve quickly gained a dedicated cult following. This one’s probably not for your gramps, but maybe for your beanie wearing nephew.
Festive outfit for your pooch from Dog Shop
Need a pressie for your best friend? Head to this premium pet-focused store on Tib Street – imaginatively named ‘Dog Shop Manchester’. There you can pick up dog accessories and health conscious treat for your four-legged friend. The diverse range is all responsibly sourced and sustainable as well as high quality. Dress your dog up as Rudolph and ensure hilarity all round this Xmas.
75 Tib Street, Manchester, M4 5JJ
Posh soap from Nordic Muse
Nordic Muse is an own-label jewellery and branded Nordic lifestyle collective run by Jenny Maxwell. The Muse moved onto its very own permanent bricks and mortar site on Tib Street in the NQ in 2021, having launched originally at Hatch on Oxford Road. You’ll find design-led products at a good price, with all sorts of wares for home, living, jewellery, accessories, cards, stationary and loads more. Perfect for that mate whose Pinterest is nothing but interiors or one for whom a bar of Dove won’t cut it.
106 Tib Street, Manchester, M4 1LR
Sustainable womenswear at Beaumont Organic
Still one of Manchester’s most sustainable women’s wear stores, Beaumont Organic is luxury fashion with contemporary design, made from responsibly sourced fabrics. An oasis of all things minimal with a nod to the Mediterranean right in the centre of the Northern Quarter. Pay a visit for womenswear, accessories, homeware treats and in-house events.
Beaumont Organic, 49 Hilton St, Manchester M1 2EF
Unique jewellery from Manchester Craft & Design Centre
For almost 40 years, Manchester Craft & Design Centre has provided a home to some of the region’s most talented independent designers and makers. The stunning Victorian venue houses small business specialising in textiles, jewellery, accessories, ceramics, glass, prints, homeware and much more. Each maker offers a unique shopping experience where you can meet them at work, watch them create one-of-a-kind pieces by hand and hear their stories and inspiration. You will find some particularly unusual jewellery pieces there, so it’s a good shout if you’re buying for someone elegant but eccentric.
17 Oak St, M4 5JD
Willy socks from Oklahoma
A Christmas without socks in like a guide to Alternative gifts in the Northern Quarter without Oklahoma. This quirky gift store has been going strong for many years and it’s still that place you are guaranteed to find the niche stocking filler you are looking for. We love the range of kitsch religious statues and trinkets but this pair of willy socks will ensure your Xmas has bells on. They also do a range of brilliant baubles too, no cock and baubles that we know of though. Maybe next year.
74-76 High St, Manchester M4 1ES
Wine or craft beer from Ad Hoc
The easiest present you can buy someone at Christmas is booze, and you can’t go wrong with the selection of bottles and cans at Ad Hoc on Edge Street. The range includes plenty of familiar old and new world wines (think Aussie shiraz or French Chardonnay) as well as trendy pet nats and labels from lesser-known wineries in Eastern Europe, Georgia and even Scandinavia. They also stock a great range of local craft beers and ciders, plus hard liquor from across the globe. Corkage is only a fiver to drink as well, if you need a moment’s respite from the Xmas shopping.
Ad Hoc, 28 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HN
And a gift card in a pear tree
Many of the NQ’s shops, bars and restaurants sell vouchers too. These are a lovely gift that not only guarantees a great night out or special shopping trip for the giftee, but supports these local businesses as they continue to recover from a hell of a couple of years. Rather than getting a generic gift card from a high street behemoth, grab one from a local indie, it will mean the world to them.