Similar to Liverpool's Waterfront, Greater Manchester's Waterfront is home to some of the most impressive attractions and buildings you'll find anywhere in the city, or in the country for that matter. Typically referred to as Salford Quays, we think it's one of the best areas in the Northwest of England to visit for a mix of culture and leisure. We wanted to highlight this area for anyone planning to visit in 2023, with an outline of the best things to see and do. Let's get into it:
Where is Salford Quays?
Salford Quays is the name for the waterfront area located in the City of Salford, Greater Manchester. It is situated near the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Irwell, about 2.5 miles southwest of Manchester city centre. We have more travel information at the bottom of this article.
How was the area created?
Salford Quays was once the site of Manchester Docks, a bustling area of 9 docks which formed part of the Port of Manchester. The docks closed in the early 80s due to a decrease in use, but the docks were quickly snapped up by Salford City Council, who saw the potential of the area for commercial and residential use. Redevelopment began in 1985, and by the 90s the area had completely transformed into a cool, fun area to visit. It's estimated that around £300 million was spent to transform the area. Money well spent we think!
What is there to do at Salford Quays?
You'll find quite a bit to see and do during your visit to this area, here are some of the highlights:
Visit The Lowry
One of your first stops at Salford Quays should definitely be The Lowry, which is worth visiting for several reasons. Firstly, the building itself is a spectacular architectural masterpiece that stands out in the Salford Quays skyline, and as you can see it's very photogenic. In terms of what you'll find inside the building, The Lowry is home to 2 theatres, showing a variety of performances ranging from drama to musicals. You'll also find an art gallery housing over 400 works by the famous local artist L.S. Lowry. Talks and tours are held here regularly for visitors to learn more about art and theatre, which are usually required to be booked in advance but which are really interesting. The centre also boasts several bars and restaurants, making it a great destination for a full day out. Learn more and plan your visit here - thelowry.com
Imperial War Museum North
This unique museum is dedicated to the history of war and conflict, with a focus on the impact of modern conflicts on people and society. Similar to The Lowry, the building itself is a stunning piece of modern architecture which is worth seeing in its own right. It sits on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and is an iconic feature of Salford Quays. The museum features powerful exhibitions, interactive displays, and personal stories that provide a thought-provoking and emotional journey through the history of war. It also offers events, talks, and workshops, making it an excellent educational resource and a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history and war. Learn more and plan your visit here - iwm.org.uk
Take a river cruise
Although we love walking around Salford Quays, we think a river cruise at Salford Quays might be the best way to explore the area and see its sights from a different perspective. Cruises usually run for an hour and take in the impressive waterfront, including everything we've mentioned so far in this guide. The knowledgeable and friendly guides provide interesting commentary about the history and development of the area. Additionally, a river cruise allows you to relax and take in the beautiful views while enjoying a drink or two from the onboard bar. It's a unique and enjoyable experience for all ages. Learn more and book a trip here - manchesterrivercruises.com
This media hub at Salford Quays is home to some of the UK's leading broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV. Visiting this hub offers visitors the chance to see behind the scenes of some of their favourite TV shows, as well as explore a range of interactive exhibits and events. If you're someone looking to break into the world of television, whether behind or in front of the camera, this is an excellent place to visit. Learn more and plan your visit here - mediacityuk.co.uk
Emirates Old Trafford
Emirates Old Trafford is located right next to the Quays area, and is not just one of the finest cricket grounds in the entire country, but also an exciting events venue. As the home of Lancashire Cricket Club since 1864, the stadium hosts both domestic and international matches and always has an excellent atmosphere. In the off-season, you can join a stadium tour, which takes you around this stunning stadium and gives you a fascinating insight into the history of the stadium and the cricket club. But as we mentioned, there are plenty of other things to enjoy here - the Emirates Old Trafford is also an amazing music venue, often hosting massive bands and other music acts. We highly recommend a visit here during your time at the Quays, learn more here - emiratesoldtrafford.lancashirecricket.co.uk
Visit Ordsall Hall
This magnificent Grade I listed Tudor mansion is based in Salford, just a stone's throw from the waterfront. Ordsall Hall is a beautiful building dating back over 750 years and is full of history, art, and culture. Visitors can enjoy exploring the beautiful gardens, stunning architecture, and exhibitions that tell the story of the hall and the people who lived there. With its fascinating history, beautiful setting, and rich cultural significance, Ordsall Hall is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in English history and architecture. On top of all of that, it's free to visit, although there is a shop in the building which is full of souvenirs, as well as an excellent cafe on site. Learn more and plan your visit here - ordsallhall.com
Visit HOME Mcr
There are lots of great locations to visit within the city of Manchester itself, but we wanted to highlight one in particular - HOME Mcr. This is an amazing arts centre which features 5 cinemas, two theatres and 500 m² of gallery space. If you want to immerse yourself in art and culture then in our opinion there is nowhere better to head to in the city. You could time your trip to coincide with one of the excellent Exhibitions held here, or you could simply catch a movie here.
The bar areas and restaurant here are all excellent and great places to grab a bite to eat when you're in the city. If you want to reach HOME Mcr from Salford Quays on foot then the walk is actually very pleasant. We've created a Google Map here, but for more specific directions follow this route:
- Cross Trafford Road and head through Ordsall Park
- Cross the river at the Mark Addy Footbridge
- Follow Hume Hall Road to Chester Road and walk for half a mile until you reach just before Castlefield Gallery
- Head East along Little Peter St until you reach Albion St
- Walk down towards the Indian Tiffin Room and then towards the Friedrich Engels Statue, you'll see HOME Mcr in the distance
How to get to The Quays?
It's really straightforward to get to this area of Manchester - it's only 15 minutes from the centre of the city if you're using the Metrolink trams. Just jump on the Eccles line which stops at 'Salford Quays' or the Trafford Centre line which stops at the Imperial War Museum. Taxis are also easy to get (or an Uber, although we prefer to support the local taxi businesses). Alternatively, you could walk or hire a bike! Even better for the environment.
More detailed information about the trams to Salford Quays can be found here - tfgm.com