As the saying goes, what Manchester does today the rest of the world does tomorrow, and few areas encapsulate the age in which our hometown was the international epicentre of technological and industrial prowess than the docklands. A district that never had a waterfront until someone asked the simple question: “Why not bring the sea to the city?” Within decades, the Ship Canal was built, providing an ocean faring gateway from Salford to the world — a marvel of the 19th Century that was still invaluable in the 20th.
The areas we now know as MediaCityUK and Salford Quays fell on incredibly hard times post-World War II, with the last shipping infrastructure shuttered in 1982. £280million of public and private investment later, and a transformation had begun to create a brand new contemporary commercial and residential development taking advantage of the aforementioned waterways, the opportunity to start over and build state-of-the-art facilities due to all the dereliction.
Skip forward to today and the project’s success is impossible to contest. MediaCityUK is now home to the planet’s biggest broadcasting force, the BBC, Britain’s leading commercial TV network, ITV, and a host of independent film, television, radio and new media companies. Salford Quays, meanwhile, is among Greater Manchester’s biggest tourist and leisure destinations, with key attractions including The Lowry, a prized theatre, art, and exhibition centre, telly-addict haven the Coronation Street Tour, and the starkly poignant and multi-award-winning IWM, or Imperial War Museum North. This is before we mention nearby Lowry Outlet Mall for discount shopping, Old Trafford, the fabled stomping ground of Manchester United, and the cavernous Victoria Warehouse music venue next door.
Looking for the full lowdown? Watch the video and keep reading below for our indispensable guide to Media City and Salford Quays.
Eating & Drinking in Salford Quays & Media City
Rice and three curries is a staple of Manchester cuisine that everyone should sample at least once (a week). Chapati Cafe is one of the best names in town for this, with a fresh menu available daily until 7pm.
Chapati Cafe, Media City, Unit 4 The Garage, Salford, M50 2TG
Creative cocktails from expert mixologists and a non-conformist dishes define the menu at this statement bar straddling the waterside between the Quays and MediaCity. DJs spin on weekend evenings.
The Alchemist, The Bund The Quays, MediaCity UK, Salford, M50 3AB
A hidden waterside gem, Bee Orchid prides itself on specialist beers like Strange Times Brewing Co and Brew Braganza, alcoholic tea, impressive cocktails, a great wine list, and, on Fridays and Saturdays, very good pizzas.
Bee Orchid, Clippers Quay, Salford M50 3AE
Box On The Docks
Outdoor dining, indoors, pods protect you from winter weather and deckchairs are out midsummer. Ideal for eats and drinks including bagels by Biegel, Il Forno pizza, and A Few Scoops boozy ice cream.
Box On The Docks, MediaCity UK, Salford, M50
Located outside Lowry Outlet Mall, Craftbrew combines an extensive choice of beers, wines, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks with pizzas, tacos and other bites, in walking distance of the major Quays attractions.
Craftbrew, 1 Lowry Plaza, The Quays, Salford, M50 3UB
Four Sis4ers Distillery
Producers of fine rum, gin, and pre-mixed cans, book into Four Sis4ers for a tasting event to sample their excellent tipples, which are also available at the company’s pop-up bar over at Box On The Docks.
Four Sis4ers, 39 Waybridge Enterprise Centre, Daniel Adamson Road, Salford Quays, M50 1DS
Since launching in Manchester circa 2014, Grindsmith has been our hometown’s homegrown coffee hero. Located quayside, freshly roasted beans in great cups of Joe are served alongside brunch and breakfast.
Grindsmith, 5-6 The Garage, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2BS
One of the original watering holes in the Quays, indie bar Lime is an unpretentious, laidback spot with a menu boasting both traditional food and hand-rolled sushi and pan-Asian bites from the excellent Unagi.
Lime Bar, Unit G1, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AG
Marble Tap Room
25-year-old Marble Brewery predates the explosion of micro beer makers in the city. The Salford Quays site — with a huge range of pints and large outdoor drinking space — is the team’s latest gift to Manchester.
Marble Tap Room, Unit 7 Boston Ct, Kansas Ave, Salford, M50 2GN
The go-to grocery shop for anyone in the know, each General Store boasts individually curated stock aimed at local needs, with two floors of big brands and cook-at-home stuff from independents like Nell’s Pizza.
General Store, Unit 1, Lightbox, Salford, M50 2AD
Nila’s Burmese Kitchen
Trafford Park is a vast industrial district just south of Salford Quays, around the corner from the Coronation Street Tour. Nila’s Burmese is a cosy jewel in the area: hearty, fresh South Asian cuisine plated up with love.
Nila’s Burmese Kitchen, 386 Third Ave, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester, M17 1JE
Established in 2012, this eatery prides itself on homemade bites and top ingredients from local independents, and regularly caters TV and film crews. Dishes often have a NYC theme as the owners used to live out there.
Penelope’s Diner, The Open Centre, Dock 10 Studios, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2HQ
Aimed at pre-theatre foodies heading to a Lyric Theatre show, Pier 8 restaurant opens 2.5 hours before the curtain goes up, and diners should expect waterside views and an ever-evolving, upmarket British menu.
Inside the Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
Seven Bro7ers Brewery
Another native institution, Seven Bro7ers is among Manchester’s best craft breweries. Their taproom is open Friday 5-11pm and Saturday 12-8pm. There’s also a dedicated bar in Media City with stomach-filling food to match Hoppy Pales, Amber Lagers and more.
Seven Bro7ers Brewing Co, Waybridge Enterprise Centre, 63, Daniel Adamson Rd, Salford, M50 1DS
Six Trees Kitchen
Not technically in the Quays-proper, Six Trees is an eccentric grass roots music venue, indoor rave space, bar and kitchen with great vibe, amazing staff, and packed events programme a ten minute walk from the BBC.
Six Trees, Trafford Park Rd, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1BN
Arts & Entertainment in Salford Quays & Media City
Formed in 1922, the BBC’s internationally renowned Philharmonic Orchestra has a storied history and added a new chapter in 2017 by relocating to this purpose-built home. Rehearsals and performances are always free to attend — but you do need tickets— and events are often broadcast via BBC Radio 1, 2, 4, 5Live, 6Music or Manchester, and Radio 3’s regular Afternoon Concerts also come from this site.
BBC Philharmonic, Audience Entrance 2, The Studios, Media City, M50 2EQ
A minute oddity surrounded by glass, steel and concrete, Gnome Island is as weird as they come. Simply put, this micro-installation features an extended family of garden gnomes who live on a small concrete island floating in the canal. The ‘official story’, as Finest reported on a little while back, revolves around one of the little characters, Gnorman, landing here and claiming the rock for him and his, but who really knows?
Gnome Island, Clippers Quay, Salford, M50 3XP
Irwell Sculpture Trail
Winding its way to Bacup in Lancashire, the Irwell Sculpture Trail is one of the UK’s largest and comprises more than 70 art installations from renowned local, national and international talent set by the namesake river, with a cluster erected at Greater Manchester’s docklands under the banner Unlocking Salford Quays, celebrating the area’s maritime and industrial heritage with innovative public art.
Salford Quays to Bacup
Imperial War Museum North
Luring 250,000 visitors per year, Imperial War Museum North is unarguably bold. Daniel Libeskind’s trophy-bagging deconstructivist architectural masterpiece represents the idea of a globe shattered by conflict, while inside you’ll find an immersive and hard-hitting permanent exhibition complemented by regularly shifting temporary works. A truly sobering but nonetheless essential destination.
Imperial War Museum, Trafford Wharf Rd, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1TZ
Named after legendary painter L.S. Lowry, The Lowry occupies an iconic spot on the quayside and comprises visual art exhibition halls packed with an extensive collection of works from the man himself, workshop spaces, and a dedicated theatre renowned for dance, ballet, musicals, opera, and comedy. It’s Manchester’s most-visited tourist spot, with Pier Eight restaurant also part of the complex.
The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
Just beyond Exchange and Clippers quays, the O2 Victoria Warehouse is one of Manchester’s most-impressive mid-sized live music spaces and comes complete with its own hotel. Since it reopened in its current format A-list artists have regularly performed to crowds of up to 3,500, with both local and touring festivals also calling this place home.
Victoria Warehouse, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1AB
Events & Things To Do in Salford Quays & Media City
Blue Peter Garden
Small but iconic, this secluded space next to MediaCity Metrolink stop is where the era-spanning CBBC magazine show Blue Peter films outdoor activities, and as such is a big sell with little ones.
Blue Peter Garden, Dock10 Studios, M50 2HF
Coronation Street: The Tour
Open on select weekends, this is the ultimate Coronation Street experience, offering a chance for fans of Britain’s longest-running soap to go behind the scenes, explore all areas of the set, and meet cast members.
ITV Studios, Trafford Wharf Rd, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1FZ
Quayside Media City Makers Market
Running on the last weekend of each month, Quayside Media City Makers Market sells locally made and sourced art, craft, food, and drink, from Manchester rum to vegan cakes, with live music also on offer.
ITV Studios, Trafford Wharf Rd, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1FZ
Salford Watersports Centre
All that water is pointless if you can’t do anything with it. Swimming, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, paddlesports, and powerboats are all available here, alongside training in first aid and more.
Salford Watersports Centre, 15 The Quays, Salford, M50 3SQ
Irwell River Park
Hugely ambitious, and opening in phases, the River Irwell’s banks are being transformed into a road-free walking route of green, public spaces, running from MediaCityUK to Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens.
Manchester River & Canal Tours
Operating daily with pickup in central Manchester and Salford Quays, jump aboard for striking sunset and fascinating history-themed Ship Canal cruises, float to Old Trafford, or book for the many themed parties.
The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
The Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford is the world-famous home of Manchester United, with followers from across the world making a pilgrimage here for matches, tours, the on-site museum and huge merch store.
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Old Trafford, M16 0RA
A year-round, all-weather, floodlit pitch for five-a-side football and netball, The Pitch is one of the most striking places in the city to play a match, overlooked by MediaCity’s biggest tenant, the BBC.
MediaCityUK, The Greenhouse, Salford, M50 2EQ