The Quays covers the four areas of Salford Quays, Trafford Wharf, Old Trafford and Trafford Centre to the west of Manchester city centre.
Manchester is 40 miles inland, but became a major seaport at the beginning of the 20th century when the Manchester Ship Canal enabled ocean-going vessels to sail beyond the Mersey to reach Manchester docks. The canal remains in use but is too small for present-day container ships, so the docks declined and became derelict, and the whole city west end was a polluted brownfield eyesore. A bold regeneration scheme was launched in 1986, which converted the area into a buzzing modern district with major attractions and striking architecture. It must rank as the most successful such regeneration in the UK to date, a testament to what can be achieved with vision, entrepreneurial dynamism, and lots of investment (subtle hint there to the UK government). "The Quays" span the River Irwell: the north bank is in the separate City of Salford and its attractions are the Lowry gallery, theatre and retail centre, and Media City with the BBC studios. The south bank is in Trafford in the City of Manchester, with the ITV studios, Imperial War Museum North, Manchester United and Lancashire county cricket ground.
In the 21st century a large retail and leisure complex has grown up at Trafford Centre, which is anything but central at the western edge of the city next to the M60. This is a separate development two miles from the Quays, but there's lots to do there, and new transport links in 2020 will connect it better to the Quays, so it's described on this page.
See Salford for other parts of that city, which takes in a triangle of land stretching out to country villages.
By tram: Metrolink trams (orange and blue lines) take 20 min from Manchester Piccadilly via St Peters Square, Deansgate and Cornbrook to Salford Quays and Media City, with the blue line continuing to Eccles. The Quays and Eccles are in Fare Zone 2 so a single journey from city centre is £2.80; trams run every 10 min 06:00-00:00. Eastbound, these lines continue through Piccadilly to Ashton-under-Lyne. Change at one of the central stops for trams to Old Trafford, Stretford and Altrincham; to East Didsbury; to Wythenshawe and the airport; and via Victoria to Bury and to Chadderton, Oldham and Rochdale.
A new tram line opens in April 2020 from city centre to Imperial War Museum North, Old Trafford and the Trafford Centre. Until then, to reach Trafford Centre take the tram to Stretford then the connecting shuttle bus.
Buses to this area have mostly been axed in favour of the tram. Those that still run go south of city centre, handy for the University Quarter but not for Piccadilly or Victoria.
Trains are convenient for central Salford and for Trafford Park, but the stations are a mile or so from Old Trafford and the Quays. The special matchday trains direct to Man United stadium were axed in 2018.
By car find your way onto M60 orbital motorway. Exit at jcn 9 for Old Trafford, jcn 10 for Trafford Centre, and jcn 11 for the M602 spur into Salford Quays.
- Modern architecture: the area is full of boldly-designed buildings, including the Lift Bridge spanning the River Irwell between The Lowry on Salford Quays and the Imperial War Museum North on Trafford Wharf.
- 1 Imperial War Museum North, Trafford Wharf Rd, Stretford M17 1TZ. Daily 10:00-17:00. While the IWM in London contains tanks, guns, planes and uniforms, the North museum is focused on the social impacts of war, with less military hardware on display. Free.
- 2 The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ, ☏ . Su-F 11:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. This award-winning modern building contains two theatres and a large art gallery, with many works by L.S. Lowry (1887-1976). When he was 22 his family moved from a leafy suburb to Pendlebury, an industrial district of Salford; he detested but then became fascinated by its landscape. Initially he tried to paint in Impressionist style but the results were gloomy, so he took to using a flake-white ground, and populated the scenes with his characteristic "matchstick men". He also secretly painted the disturbing "marionette" works, only found after his death, and only displayed on request. Gallery is free.
- Go to the theatre at The Lowry, details above.
- Watch football (ie soccer) at 1 Manchester United FC, Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Stretford M16 0RA. United play in the Premier League, the top tier of English football. The stadium has a capacity of 75,000, and sells out against top-calibre opposition, such as the other big names in English football, and for European tournaments. You should have little trouble getting tickets for lower-ranked opposition, from either the club's official website or the Ticketing Office.
- Manchester United Museum & Tour, ☏ . M-Sa 09:30-17:00, Su 10:00-16:00, closed matchdays. Tour of the stadium facilities, plus museum of the club's history from its 1878 founding as Newton Heath, through the managerial eras of Busby and Ferguson, and a glittering cast of players. Exit via the gift shop: the club merchandising Megastore is within the east stand. Standard tour adult £25, under-16 £15.
- Watch cricket at 2 Lancashire County Cricket Club, Emirates Old Trafford, Stretford M16 0PX (Tram to Old Trafford). Lancashire CCC were promoted in 2019 and now play in Division One of the County Championship. Test matches ie 5-day internationals are also played here. The stadium itself is worth a look; rebuilt by 2017 it has a capacity of 19-26,000, boosted to 50,000 for rock concerts.
- 3 MediaCityUK has TV studios that you can visit.
- - BBC has tours daily 10:30-15:00, book online. Tours take 90 min, adult £13, child £9. There's also a CBBC tour for children.
- - ITV has the Coronation Street tour, Sa Su 10:00-16:00 but only when the set isn't in use for recording. Adult £32, online booking essential.
- 4 Trafford Centre is a large leisure and retail park by jcn 10 of M60, five miles west of city centre. Attractions include:
- - Ski at Chill Factore, a 180 m artificial snow slope for skiing and snowboarding.
- - Skydive at iFLY - you float in a wind tunnel, no parachutes involved.
- - Golf at Trafford Golf Centre driving range.
- - Sea Life Aquarium has a large range of habitats and creatures.
- - Legoland Discovery Centre is aimed at children age 3-10, and even more surely at their parents' wallets.
- Trafford Centre has four budget hotels and lots of eating places.
- Lowry Outlet Mall is next to The Lowry theatre and gallery.
- Trafford Centre: see "Do" for this large leisure and retail park.
- A dozen chain outlets around the Quays and Media City, including Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express, Nando's, Prezzo, Arbuckles and Chiquito's.
- The Lowry and Imperial War Museum North both have good cafes with views.
- At the match: you are permitted to bring your own food, but not alcohol, including any large amounts concealed within your bloodstream. Snacks are available within the stadium. Man Utd's "Red Cafe" is open daily 09:00-16:00 but not on home matchdays, when it's reserved for corporate schmoozing.
- The traditional post-match meal is a fearsome curry somewhere along Rusholme's "curry mile", which is in the University quarter a mile or so east.
- Lime, Lowry Outlet Mall, Salford Quays M50 3AG (next to Lowry Gallery), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Su-W 11:00-23:30, Th-Sa 11:00-01:00. Lively bar and restaurant on the square outside the Gallery.
- Lots more on the Quays, eg Cafe Rouge, Craftbrew, The Botanist, and Dockyard.
- At the match: Alcohol is not permitted in the football or cricket grounds, and will be confiscated by stewards. Plenty of bars and cafes in the nearby streets.
- 1 Holiday Inn Express Salford Quays, Waterfront Quay, Salford Quays M50 3XW, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable, clean hotel though rooms are small. B&B double £90.
- There's another Holiday Inn in Media City. Other budget choices are the Ibis, the Marriott and Travelodge all along Trafford Road, and the Premier Inn on Ontario Basin with another in Media City.
- 2 Copthorne Hotel, Clippers Quay, Salford Quays M50 3SN, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Four star hotel. Good service, decent sized bedrooms. Free parking. B&B double £130.
- 3 Trafford Hall Hotel, 23 Talbot Road, Old Trafford M16 0PE, ☏ . Great location near Old Trafford football ground on transport routes into the city, gets booked out for big matches. Tatty hotel which is halfway through a much needed refurbishment. B&B double £60.
- Hilton Garden Inn is built into the cricket ground, and the best rooms have a view of the pitch.
- Trafford Centre at jcn 10 of M60 has no less than three Premier Inns and a Holiday Inn Express.