With theatres, museums, galleries and plenty of live sport for both players and spectators, Salford City is an exciting place to visit. Salford is often overlooked by first-time visitors to Manchester, but there is more than enough to do here to keep anyone occupied for days.
Officially a city thanks to its 19th century cathedral, Salford forms the east and north-eastern chunk of Greater Manchester. It is separated from Manchester city centre by the River Irwell, making it a great, often cheaper, alternative for nightlife and hotels. Most of the main attractions can be found at Salford Quays to the south of the district. The Imperial War Museum, The Lowry and the offices of BBC North at Media City are all situated around this wonderfully regenerated waterfront area.
The Imperial War Museum is on the Trafford (south) side of Salford Quays and presents a chilling portrayal of the contradiction between the creative and destructive qualities of war. The museum depicts how technology advanced rapidly during various wars to try and gain the upper hand, while warning of the destruction such advances caused.
Salford Quays are a prime example of a successful rejuvenation of a post-industrial landscape. As such, it is only fitting that The Lowry should be sited there. Showcasing the famous stick figure paintings of local artist L.S. Lowry (1887-1976), whose take on North-West England during the industrial-era provided some of the period’s most iconic images, The Lowry is one of the area’s most prominent examples of modern architecture. The gallery contains around 400 paintings by L.S. Lowry as well as other changing exhibitions. Admission to the permanent collection is free. There are also two theatres and a drama studio on-site with a busy programme of events.
Lowry mostly painted outdoor scenes of workers heading to or from the factories. Like the rest of Manchester, Salford grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution as people moved to the cities to find work in the textile mills. Most of Lowry’s works were painted in Salford’s Pendlebury.
Immediately to the south of Salford Quays is the Trafford region, which is home to the Trafford Centre, one of the biggest malls in Britain. But Trafford also draws in sports fans as much as the shoppers during big sporting events. Old Trafford, Manchester United’s home ground covers the football, while Old Trafford Cricket Ground is the home of the revered Lancashire County Cricket Club. Salford Red Devils, the main Rugby League Club have been around for well over a century and play at the AJ Bell Stadium, which is also home to Sale Sharks rugby union team who have been around even longer. Also in Salford, Worsley and Swinton Park have large golf courses. Meanwhile another golf club at Prestwich is close to the home ground of Salford City F.C.
The canals and waterways are great for walking, with extensive tow paths leading all the way into central Manchester. Bridgewater Canal paved the way for Manchester’s importance in the industrial revolution, connecting the city to Francis Egerton’s coal mines. The Bridgewater Way, heading from Salford out towards Worsley and beyond, is pleasant and passes remnants of some significant industrial era architecture. Barges can also be hired from a number of companies.
Another popular attraction is the Salford Museum and Art Gallery. Another great free admission choice, there is a good mix of permanent and changing exhibitions in this 18th century building. This museum also happens to have been the first public library in the UK, which opened its doors to one and all in January 1850. The museum is sandwiched between the University of Salford and Salford Crescent train station.
There are rail and tram links that keep the district in regular connection with the rest of Manchester and beyond. Salford Central is the main train station in Salford connecting with many of the major towns of Lancashire like Preston and Wigan.
Tram lines D and E connect to central Manchester; there are multiple stops all along the waterfront, through Salford Quays as far as Eccles. Incidentally, Eccles has the ignominious title of being the site of the world’s first ever railway accident. It coincides with the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, which would ultimately form the blueprint for successful rail transportation.
Of the many buses running to Salford, the 38, 97 and 98 all head into Manchester city centre. There are numerous other routes through Salford.
AC Hotel Manchester Salford Quays (17-19 Trafford Road) is a great luxury choice, located minutes from The Lowry on foot. As a member of the Marriott Lifestyle chain, it comes with all the mod-cons of a large hotel, including a restaurant, library, bar and fitness centre. A great breakfast is included in the price of the room. Bedrooms are bright and airy and come equipped with a flatscreen TV, Nespresso machine and a minibar if drinking at the public one is not your preference.
While the majority of hotels in Salford can be found minutes from the waterfront all the way to Deansgate, some of the best are located around Salford Quays. TheHeart Apartments by BridgeStreet (Blue, MediaCityUK) is just such an example. This property offers apartments, which are ideal for anybody looking to stay for a couple of days. The location is excellent, in the heart of Media City and next to a footbridge crossing within minutes of Old Trafford. There are some excellent facilities, including a washing machine, equipped kitchen and a sitting area within all apartments, which range in size from studio to three bedrooms.
For anybody looking for proximity to Manchester city centre without being in it, The Ainscow Hotel (Trinity Way) is a perfect blend of location and great value for money. Located a minute from Salford Central train station this hotel tends to offer four star hotel quality at three star prices. Rooms are clean, modern and come with plenty of amenities such as tea and coffee facilities, free toiletries, a desk and seating area with a couch.
If you’ve just finished exploring the Lowry Museum’s fantastic exhibitions or want a pre-theatre meal, then Pier Eight (The Lowry) is ideal both in terms of location and the appropriately scenic setting. Many tables have views out over Salford Quays, which is especially impressive after nightfall. The menu is a happy halfway between rustic British and Italian fare and there are decent options for vegetarians in both starters and mains. There is a special pre-theatre menu available too with set prices for either two or three courses.
If you find your way out to Eccles, Smiths Restaurant (1-3 Church Road, Eccles) is a great neighbourhood restaurant with its own venue room, which hosts jazz nights and theatre productions. The menu changes every month and offers a small, yet eclectic range of dishes that accommodate all sorts of dietary requirements, including vegan and vegetarian. Prices offer excellent value for money, especially when opting for the three-course offer. There’s also a children’s menu and room hire for functions is available.
Vero Moderno (Unit 4 Vimto Gardens) is a classy Italian establishment that takes food seriously. With that in mind it’s understandable that all their wine and produce is selected from independent Italian producers. The main aim of Vero is to bring Italian authenticity to Salford, which is certainly something lacking in the area’s many Italian-style restaurants. Booking ahead is recommended as space is limited. The restaurant is not far from Salford Central Manchester and easy accessible from Manchester city centre.
Across Salford and Manchester there are some fantastic South Asian restaurants. Shahi Masala (1 Capital Quay) is particularly noteworthy among these for the staff alone. But anybody looking for a spice challenge is unlikely to leave here with taste buds untickled either. Shahi serves Halal and true to any good South Asian restaurant you can have most of the menu items regardless of where you stand on the vegetarian-carnivore spectrum.
Pubs and Cafes
Manchester and Salford have fantastic nightlife. Head down to the Eagle Inn (19 Collier Street), a genuine Edwardian pub that has also become a great music venue. It might seem a little rough around the edges at first but that is all part of the charm; the Eagle Inn has a perfect atmosphere for gigs. There is usually something on here most nights. There’s a decent selection of spirits and beers on tap here too.
Linda, Lincoln and Sarah run the Deli-Lama Café-Bar (220 Chapel Street) near Salford Central Station. This great little spot opens a little later and closes late evening on most nights. The exception is when they host open mic night on the last Wednesday of the month. There are occasionally other events too, where the bar is open until 11. The Deli-Lama is a great place to have a meal, with daily specials and a menu that is designed to include, rather than placate, vegans. The vegan full English breakfast might just convince you that meat is not a necessary ingredient.
Alchemy does exist, it’s just that it has less to do with precious metals and pretty much everything to do with delicious cocktails. The Alchemist (The Bund, Media City) is part of a rapidly expanding chain and while navigating their website is pretty, yet mystifying, booking ahead is recommended for busier periods of the week and/or year. The range of cocktails and the creativity that went into them is astounding, and when you taste them there is clear substance behind the presentation too. This is alcohol theatre at its very finest.
For aficionados of both real ale and traditional British pubs, The New Oxford (11 Bexley Square) ticks both boxes. Cask ales are on regular rotation, taking ales from a number of breweries local and distant, including Bowland, Moorhouse’s and Mallinsons. Usually there will be more than ten on tap at any one time. If that’s not enough, there are up to 100 bottled beers available, many of which come from Belgium and Holland.
The Station Bar (17 Church Street) is a family run café bar in the heart of Eccles that offers exceedingly well-priced drinks and some good grub to go with it. The English breakfast is particularly popular here. The style and layout are somewhat bizarre – there is a pool table and traditional bar, with fast food restaurant style seating at the front and a wrought iron spiral staircase in the middle – but it works. This place doesn’t open too late though, so don’t plan this into a night out as you’ll find it locked.
More than just a beer place, the brews of Craft Brew (Digital World Centre, 1 Lowry Plaza) include barista crafted loose leaf teas like Bollywood Dreams Chai and Chocolate Abyss, a netherworld of chocolate and tea combined. Beers are both locally and internationally brewed and sourced, while the wine list is thoughtfully compiled. This is a great spot for anyone visiting Salford Quays for work or leisure as and good lunch spot to as their sandwiches and artisan deli boards cater to varying degrees of hunger.