Circus Tavern – Manchester, England - Gastro Obscura

Located near the buzzing intersection of Portland Street and Princess Street is the tiniest pub in Manchester. The bar counter in particular—which the owners claim to be the smallest in Europe—measures only a few feet across and not much longer in length. The owners embrace this small serving space, squeezed inside a slim corridor: The tavern’s slogan, after all, is “The smallest bar in Europe, the biggest welcome in the world!”

To avoid a bottleneck of thirsty customers, servers take orders from tables in two small sitting rooms adjacent to the minuscule counter. All told, the property measures no more than 500 square feet with a maximum capacity somewhere between 20 and 40 people (but nearly double that number can be squeezed in on match days). Each sitting room is adorned with a TV and a plethora of black-and-white photographs depicting sports personalities. Many of these pictures include members of community football teams, including Manchester United. Several feature George Best, the Manchester United star, who was a frequent visitor to the tavern. In fact, there is “George’s Corner,” where the local legend liked to stand.

There is some speculation as to how the establishment got its name. It could have been derived from a circus that used to perform in the nearby field, which is now Chatham Street. But when asked about the name, the staff will sometimes say, “It’s because we get a lot of clowns in here.”

The building itself dates back to 1790 and didn’t officially become a drinking tavern until 1842 when Tetley’s Brewery acquired it.

Know Before You Go

Closing times may vary depending on the number of remaining clientele and the particular season. Since the space is so small, the ladies' toilets are located outside in a building that used to be a bomb shelter.

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