England’s northern powerhouse, Manchester offers world-class museums, historic architecture, a wealth of culture, and plenty of sport. One day provides enough time for a whirlwind tour around town. Here are the essential stops to make on your day in Manchester.
Imperial War Museum North
The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester, M17 1TZ
Opened in 2002, the Imperial War Museum North is located at the Salford Quays, a formerly industrial area that was devastated during World War II’s Manchester Blitz. The museum is divided into three gallery areas. The main exhibition space features thousands of objects, including everything from the World War I field gun that fired the first British round on the Western Front to rubble from the World Trade Center. The 360° Big Picture Show is an immersive cinematic display, while the Reactions gallery features contemporary artworks, performances, and other commissioned pieces.
The museum is free to enter, and its location near other Manchester highlights—including the Lowry and Old Trafford Stadium—makes it a natural stop for walking and cultural tours in the area.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Imperial War Museum North is fully wheelchair accessible, though visitors with mobility issues should be aware that exhibition floors are slightly sloped.
The ground-floor café serves a selection of sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and hot drinks.
The museum was purposefully designed with a confusing entrance and other disorienting features in order to evoke the destabilizing effects of war.
How to Get There
There are numerous ways to access the Imperial War Museum North. Take the Eccles Line on the Metrolink to the MediaCityUK stop, which is just a quick walk away. The 291, 250, and 50 bus lines also stop nearby. For those coming by car, leave the M60 at Junction 9 and join Parkway toward Trafford Park; the museum hosts paid parking on-site.
When to Get There
In addition to its permanent displays, the Imperial War Museum North also hosts temporary exhibitions, discussions, and other interactive experiences, so be sure to look at its schedule to see what’s on during your visit. The museum is open daily 10am–5pm.
The Salford Quays
Once associated with urban blight and decay, the waterfront Salford Quays have, in the last several decades, experienced a sweeping regeneration. Now one of the city’s most-in-demand corners, the area is renowned as a hub for shopping, dining, entertainment, culture, and sport; it’s worth lingering after your visit to soak up the scenery.
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