The Best Salford City Guide: How to See Everything in One Day

Often overshadowed by nearby Manchester, Salford is a great city for a day trip. It has so many cultural attractions from sport stadiums to world-famous theatres and museums – wear your comfy shoes to wander around them all!

Salford city day trip - what to see and do in Salford in one day

Salford continues to undergo remarkable expansion and transformation, making it an exciting destination for a day trip. Its theatres, museums, famous TV studios, and an array of bars, cafes and restaurants all mean a fun-filled day for all who visit. This juxtaposition of the modern and the historic lends Salford its unique charm.

From historic docks which have witnessed centuries of maritime activity, which are now regenerated into a thriving place to live, to the Tudor Ordsall Hall, Salford has a curious past for visitors to explore. The recent addition of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bridgewater Garden, an oasis of greenery and horticulture, is the perfect example of its continuing expansion.

Our carefully curated Salford city guide is designed to help you make the most of your visit. From the arts and culture lovers to nature and history fans, Salford really does justify being one of the best day trips from Manchester.

How to have the ultimate Salford day trip

From iconic galleries and museums to sports stadiums, restaurants, theatre and architecture, Salford has it all. If you’re planning a day trip here, this Salford city guide is designed to make sure you see everything on offer.

This Salford day trip itinerary starts at The Lowry in Salford Quays which is accessible by tram, bus, bike, train and car (parking is available) and thus makes this an easy destination to get to and makes the best of your limited time in Salford.

1. Have breakfast at The Lowry Café

First on your Salford day trip is to break that fast! No better place to fuel up for your day than the wonderful setting of The Lowry in Salford Quays.

The Lowry Art Gallery is an ultimate part of a Salford city guide

The Lowry is a well-respected and loved arts centre which includes two theatres, art galleries, exhibitions and cafe. It’s known for its distinctive architecture and its dedication to the works of the famous artist L.S. Lowry.

The Lowry Café is conveniently placed within The Lowry complex so as to help you relax after touring the site or, as in this case, getting in a coffee and light breakfast of sandwiches, snacks and pastries before the excitement begins. It’s not just a place to satisfy your hunger; it’s a bright and inviting space that complements your visit to the galleries and theatres, especially with its views of the surrounding Salford Quays. 

2. Admire art at the Lowry galleries

Once you’re fuelled up for your day head to the galleries at The Lowry. They’re a testament to the life and works of L.S. Lowry, as well as contemporary art and exhibitions. 

The L.S. Lowry collection is the primary focus of the gallery and it is proud to house the world’s most significant public collection of works by the artist. You can see his famous industrial landscapes, seascapes, and portraits. The collection provides valuable insights into Lowry’s distinctive style and the settings he depicted, particularly those inspired by Salford and Manchester.

Lowry painting visible at Lowry galleries in Salford

In addition to the permanent Lowry collection, The Lowry hosts a rotating program of temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions often showcase contemporary art, photography, and other forms of visual arts. Check ahead to see what additional exhibitions are on when you’re thinking of visiting.

Who doesn’t love a souvenir, especially one with classic artworks on? The gallery shop is a perfect place to pick up souvenirs, art books, and unique gifts related to the works on display. It’s an excellent way to take a piece of The Lowry’s art home with you.

3. Visit the Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum North is a visually and emotionally arresting museum located at Salford Quays. It’s one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum and focuses on the impact of modern conflicts on people’s lives. 

One of the most distinctive features of the Imperial War Museum North is its remarkable architecture. The museum’s design is a piece of art in itself. The building is known for its unconventional, fragmented structure, helping to create an exciting landscape around the former docks. The architecture is intended to evoke the idea of a world torn apart by conflict – immediately capturing the attention of visitors.

Imperial War Museum North is a must-see on a day trip to Salford

The museum offers a range of thought-provoking exhibitions and collections. These exhibits cover a wide range of themes, including World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and contemporary conflicts. 

The Big Picture Show is a visually stunning presentation that uses a 360-degree, 8-metre-tall video wall to provide an overview of the museum’s collections and the stories of those affected by conflict.

One of the strengths of the Imperial War Museum North is its emphasis on personal stories. The museum’s exhibits are designed to highlight the experiences of individuals during times of war and conflict. Through letters, diaries, photographs, and oral histories, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the human impact of these events. These personal narratives help to humanise the often overwhelming scale of conflict.

The Imperial War Museum North offers a thought-provoking experience on your day trip to Salford; especially, but not exclusively, if you’re interested in the history and impact of modern conflicts. The mixture of its remarkable architecture and powerful exhibitions makes it a must-see whilst you are there.

4. Tour Manchester United Old Trafford Stadium

Even though it’s technically in Manchester, you can see Old Trafford stadium from The Lowry so it would be incredibly tempting to head over the water and take a tour of the Theatre of Dreams. No Salford city guide would be complete without mentioning it.

The Manchester United Old Trafford Stadium Tour is a must-visit for football fans. During your tour, you’ll learn about the club’s history, including its founding in 1878 as Newton Heath FC and its rise to become one of the most famous football clubs in the world.

Old Trafford Stadium Tour is a must see in a Salford city guide

You’ll visit the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, named after the club’s legendary former manager. You’ll walk through the players’ tunnel, where generations of Manchester United players have entered the pitch. You’ll have the opportunity to see the dressing room where Manchester United’s players prepare for matches – so it really is one not to be missed if you are interested in football.

Most tours include access to the Manchester United Museum, where you can explore a vast collection of memorabilia and trophies. It’s a treasure trove of football history and a chance to see the club’s most prestigious trophies up close – who could resist photos with the Premier League trophy to show off to friends?

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply interested in football, the tour offers an unforgettable opportunity to explore one of the most iconic stadiums in the world. 

5. Fill up with lunch at MediaCityUK

With a plethora of cafes, restaurants and bars at Media City you are spoilt for choice as to where to stop for lunch. If it’s a nice day you may even want to eat outside on the grass or at the piazza. 

Media City Salford city guide - what to see and do

Take in the architecture of all the glorious new buildings that now house a huge array of famous-name media companies. You’ll see Quay House that houses the BBC, Dock 10 studios where many TV programs are filmed and radio shows are recorded. ITV studios are just over the water too, next door to the Imperial War Museum. 

The Dockyard is one notable and popular pub-style restaurant at MediaCityUK where you can have a great lunch and rest your feet from the morning’s sightseeing. There’s much more to come so you’ll be raring to go after lunch.

6. Enjoy a Coronation Street tour at ITV Studios (only on Saturdays and Sundays)

Experience the iconic Coronation Street tour at ITV Studios and explore the famous cobbled street, Rovers Return Inn, and other well-known sets that have housed all the drama of the show throughout the years.

Coronation Street Tour Experience

The Coronation Street Tour at ITV Studios allows fans of the long-running soap to step into the world of Weatherfield. One of the highlights of the tour has got to be the opportunity to walk on the famous cobbled streets of Weatherfield, where many memorable scenes have been filmed. You can also get your photo taken here, which is a great Salford souvenir.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of the show or just curious about the behind-the-scenes magic of television production, the tour is an endlessly interesting tourist attraction. Be sure to check the tour schedule and any specific guidelines or requirements for visitors before planning your visit. It’s not every day, or in every city, you get to visit a world-famous television set so I’d definitely recommend this stop on your day in Salford.

7. Take a cruise down Salford Quays

This Salford city guide is of course going to mention the picturesque Salford Quays. And one of the best ways to explore it is with a river cruise. It will take you along the historic Manchester Ship Canal and provides you with views of both the city’s industrial heritage and modern developments. 

Salford Quays cruise is a great way to see the city in one day

The Manchester Ship Canal is also known for its wildlife and natural surroundings. Keep an eye out for birds, such as swans and herons, which often inhabit the waters and green areas along the canal. 

The duration of the cruise may vary, typically ranging from one to two hours. It’s advisable to check the schedule in advance to plan your visit accordingly. Whether you’re a history or nature lover, or simply someone seeking an exciting boat trip (and how often does one get to do that?) then this cruise would be a great idea.

8. Travel back in time at Ordsall Hall

Ordsall Hall dates back to the late 15th century. It’s a beautifully restored Tudor mansion with beautiful interiors and gardens. It is an almost hidden and yet very historic gem located in Salford. It’s witnessed centuries of change and has been home to various notable figures throughout its existence spanning the Tudor, Stuart, and Victorian eras, making it a time capsule of Salford’s past.

Ordsall Hall is great for seeing the history of Salford
Ordsall Hall

The hall is a prime example of Tudor architecture, characterised by its distinctive black and white timber frame construction. The architecture includes intricately carved wooden beams, leaded windows, and ornate ceilings whilst the Great Hall features a wonderful carved Tudor fireplace. I can feel myself reaching for the recorder to play Greensleeves on as I write!

The hall is surrounded by beautiful gardens and grounds that have been lovingly restored. The gardens are designed in the style of the 19th century and include lawns, a knot garden, and a traditional herb garden. 

Ordsall Hall makes a wonderful contrast to the very modern new buildings in Salford Quays with their metallic and glass designs. History enthusiasts, architecture admirers, and anyone interested in learning more about Salford’s past would surely love a visit here on your day trip.

9. Indulge at Pier Eight Restaurant

Now after a full day of architecture, history, nature, sports and art you’ll be a very hungry traveller. Enjoy an elegant dinner at Pier Eight restaurant, located at The Lowry. With its waterfront views, this is an excellent place to enjoy a pre-theatre meal.

The restaurant features glorious views of Salford Quays and the waterfront, creating a gorgeous atmosphere and adds something special to begin your evening in Salford. It offers a pre-theatre menu designed to give you a wonderful dinner all the while keeping in mind the showtimes for theatre-goers.

Dining at Pier Eight at The Lowry offers a perfect combination of fine dining, culture and convenience. Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner, a pre-show meal, or a special night out, it’s an excellent choice. Be sure to make a reservation, especially during busy times, to secure your table.

10. Catch a theatre show at The Lowry

The Lowry Theatre hosts a huge array of live performances, including theatre productions, musicals, dance performances, comedy shows, and more.

The theatre regularly features popular musicals, so you’ll be sure to have a choice of well-loved classics and new, cutting-edge productions. Check in advance what is playing on the dates you wish to visit. It’s not just musicals and drama that is on at The Lowry, the theatre also hosts a variety of comedy shows featuring household names. 

The Lowry Theatre at Media City in Salford Quays
Media City

If you are a visiting young family then The Lowry also offers a selection of shows tailored for children and families. These productions can include children’s theatre, interactive experiences, and adaptations of beloved children’s books.

Accessibility is a proud trait of the theatre, it provides accessible performances including sign-language interpreted shows and relaxed performances designed for audience members with specific needs making it an inclusive venue for a wide range of audiences.

11. Go out-out in Salford

Now if you like to carry on the evening after the theatre show, you can end your day by exploring the local nightlife in Salford and Manchester, such as bars, pubs, or live music venues. If you fancy a nightcap close to the theatre then there are cocktail bars in MediaCity such as The Alchemist and The Botanist. 

Situated in MediaCity, The Alchemist is known for its creative cocktails and a stylish flair whilst The Botanist, located at The Greenhouse in MediaCity, offers botanical cocktails, craft beers and wines in a bar whose decor is inspired by the natural world.

The Alchemist Salford Quays - what to eat and drink in Salford

If you have more than one day available on your trip to Salford, or if you’re simply looking for more options for things to do in Salford then we have a brilliant additional jewel of Salford.

12. Wander around RHS Bridgewater Garden

The RHS Bridgewater Garden, located in Salford, is one of the five public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society. It’s a relatively new addition to the RHS network, with the garden opening to the public in 2021. 

RHS Bridgewater Garden Salford is a must-see
Amanda Slater, Wikicommons

Rather than being based in and around Salford Quays as most of our suggested itinerary is, RHS Bridgewater is situated in Worsley, Salford – a few miles away from the Quays. It’s a wonderful new gem that Salford has to offer and covers a large area of approximately 154 acres.

The garden is located on the estate of the historic Worsley New Hall. The project to create the RHS Bridgewater Garden was initiated in 2017 and has transformed this area into a beautiful attraction. Featuring a wide variety of horticulture, including themed gardens, woodlands and wetlands, RHS Bridgewater has many highlights including the Paradise Garden, the Weston Walled Garden, and the Woodland Play Area.

The Paradise Garden is inspired by the design of an Islamic paradise garden and includes geometric patterns and a calm reflective pool. The Weston Walled Garden is a four-acre walled garden that features a kitchen garden, an orchard, and beautiful ornamental borders. It’s quickly become a much-loved place to go to spend an afternoon in Salford.

RHS Bridgewater hosts various events and activities throughout the year, such as plant fairs, gardening workshops, and family-friendly activities and prides itself on conservation and sustainability efforts – including efforts to support local wildlife and the restoration of wetlands and woodlands.

With various walking trails and pathways for visitors, you can explore the garden at your own pace. It’s a beautiful place to visit for anyone interested in gardening, horticulture, or simply enjoying the outdoors.

What can you see in a day trip to Salford?

Salford is an ever-expanding, evolving, growing city with exciting modern theatres, museums, media companies and social offerings. Fused with its historic docks, its Tudor Hall and now the RHS Bridgewater, I think Salford has a huge amount to offer everyone on a day trip there. We hope you make use of this Salford itinerary to get the most out of your visit!

Quicklist of what’s included in the ultimate Salford city guide

  1. Have breakfast at The Lowry Café
  2. Admire art at the Lowry galleries
  3. Visit the Imperial War Museum North
  4. Tour Manchester United Old Trafford Stadium
  5. Fill up with lunch at MediaCityUK
  6. Enjoy a Coronation Street tour at ITV Studios
  7. Take a cruise down Salford Quays
  8. Travel back in time at Ordsall Hall
  9. Indulge at Pier Eight Restaurant
  10. Catch a theatre show at The Lowry
  11. Go out-out in Salford
  12. Wander around the RHS Bridgewater Garden

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