The point where the twin cities of Manchester and Salford meet was once nothing more than the derelict home of heavy industry and the final stop on the Manchester Ship Canal. However, Salford Quays has experienced something of a transformation over recent years and is now the beating heart of the North West’s cultural and media scene.
With its unique mixture of heritage, leisure and retail, all set on a stunning and ever-changing waterside location, the area is quickly becoming one of Manchester’s most sought after destinations.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach Salford Quays is by hopping on one of the frequent trams from the city centre. An adult return ticket costs approximately £2 depending on the time of travel and can be purchased from the machine on the platform. Note that it is not possible to buy a ticket on the tram and the ticket inspectors are numerous and vigilant!
The Eccles line will take you directly there but if you want to make a side trip to Manchester United football ground, take the Altrincham tram to Old Trafford station.
Visit the Theatre of Dreams
With more than 330 million supporters worldwide, Manchester United Football Club is one of the most popular soccer clubs in the world. Manchester United are the reigning English, European and World Champions having won the 2007–08 Premier League, the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League and the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.
The impressive Old Trafford stadium is world renowned and more than 200,000 people visit the on-site museum and stadium tour every year. Visitors can steep themselves in the history and atmosphere of the club, experience the backstage excitement of the trophy room and can even get up close to the famous pitch itself.
Tours take place Monday to Sunday between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Advance booking is highly recommended.
Visit the Imperial War Museum North
A short walk round the quays lies the Imperial War Museum North. Housed in an imposing building designed by award winning architect Daniel Libeskind, this is one of Britain’s most innovative and talked-about museums.
Focusing on the way ordinary people’s lives are shaped and changed by conflict from the First World War to present day, the museum is both educational and inspirational.
With hands-on action stations throughout the building, there is plenty to keep younger visitors occupied and a trip to the viewing station at the top of the funnel-like tower is a must, offering breathtaking views over Manchester. Not one for the faint of heart!
Admission to the museum is free and it is open seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm.
Grab a bargain at the Lowry Outlet Mall
Over the suspension bridge from the museum is the Lowry Outlet Mall, a great place for scouting out fantastic bargains on clothes, accessories, electrical goods and homeware.
This is the only factory outlet centre in Manchester, where the stores offer their products at up to 50% of the usual high street price, all year round.
There’s also a cinema complex on the upper level showing all the latest blockbusters.
Dine on the waterside patios
While it’s true that Manchester doesn’t always have the best weather, there is nonetheless the odd sunny day when the views of the spectacular architecture can be enjoyed from the comfort of an al fresco dinner table!
Many of the restaurants have canopies and outdoor heaters to keep the valiant diners warm but if you don’t feel that brave quite yet, it’s just as easy to get a warming meal while safely tucked up inside.
Good refuelling choices include Lime Bar, for lazy drinks, burgers and bar snacks; Café Rouge for excellent coffees, baguettes and other French style light meals; or Pizza Express for reasonably priced pizza and pasta fare.
Catch some live theatre at the Lowry Centre
Rising from the dockland is yet another award winning feat of modern architecture, the Lowry Centre. This multi-purpose cultural centre is a diverse home for the performance and visual arts, encompassing two theatres, restaurant, studio and 1,610 metres of gallery space, showing modern exhibitions alongside the work of famous Salford artist, JS Lowry.
The vibrant interior and open layout of the building encourages visitors to explore and engage with its many attractions – making it a ‘must see’ destination, rather than just a theatrical venue.
The theatres welcome a number of home grown and international performances throughout the year, with an extremely varied programme of theatre, music, family shows and dance meaning there is bound to be something for everyone.
Photo of Salford Quays, Manchester, UK by Manky Maxblack