Where’s the best place in Manchester to stay if you’re here on a city break? From the hipster enclave of the Northern Quarter to the glitzy suburb of Spinningfields, each area has its own unique flavour, making it a tough decision when it comes to choosing the location of your Manchester hotel.
But districts don’t come much more beautiful (or futuristic) than MediaCityUK. Just three miles west of the city centre, its gleaming glass towers, sparkling waterside location and trendy bars and restaurants make it the perfect place for a stroll or a spot of sightseeing. In fact, step off the tram at MediaCityUK’s Metrolink station amid some of the UK’s most beautiful modern architecture and you may find it hard to imagine that just 10 years ago, none of it even existed. Once a derelict brownfield site next to the Manchester Ship Canal, this 200-acre area is modelled on similar media clusters in Dubai and Singapore.
Key to its success was the BBC’s decision to move its headquarters here from London in 2011. MediaCityUK’s biggest tennant, the BBC employs around 2,700 people, all hard at work producing shows such as Match of the Day, Blue Peter and Mastermind.
With new creative businesses and glitzy bars opening here on a regular basis, MediaCityUK keeps going from strength to strength. Plans for a £1bn expansion have just been approved, and the site is expected to double in size over the next few years.
Whether you’re here for a studio tour or just doing a spot of celeb spotting, a great way to experience the buzz for yourself is by booking into the Premier Inn Manchester Salford Media City hotel. Not only is it right at the heart of the action, it also has some fantastic views of this fascinating area.
Many people come to MediaCityUK just to marvel at the architecture, or enjoy a bite to eat in one of the new bars and restaurants, but that would be missing out on some fabulous attractions. Here’s a look at what else is on offer.
BBC studio tour
Catch a glimpse of what it would be like to work in television on a fabulous behind -the-scenes BBC studio tour. There’s both an adult-focused tour and a CBBC tour (which visits the same places, but is geared towards children aged between six and 11). All tours are run by knowledgeable guides and give you the chance of getting in front of the cameras yourself by making your own bulletins in the interactive studio.
TV show tickets
MediaCityUK is home to some of the nation’s best-loved television shows, including ITV’s The Voice, Channel 4’s Million Pound Drop and the BBC’s A Question of Sport - and you could be in the audience! Although you’ll need to book (especially for the Jeremy Kyle Show where tickets are booked for months in advance), being part of a TV studio audience at MediaCityUK is usually free of charge.
MediaCityUK is a lively place, and chances are something will be on when you visit. In the past its open piazzas have played host to Gok Wan’s Clothes Show Live, the CBBC Sportarama and it even had its own ice rink at Christmas time. It’s also famous for its sport, with regular fun runs, open water swimming in the docks (if you can brave the chilly water) and the yearly MediaCity Triathlon held in the late summer.
Blue Peter garden
The Blue Peter garden moved to MediaCityUK and, amazingly, it’s open to the public - you’ll find it outside the BBC’s Dock House. Look out for the bronze statue of Petra, the show’s first pet, and the handprints of 1978 presenters Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Simon Groom. And don’t miss the Blue Peter Walk of Fame - a walkway of golden stars bearing the names of people who’ve appeared.
Travelling by tram at dusk is also the best way to see the modern architecture of MediaCity, when all the buildings are lit up and cast their reflections on the waters of Salford Quays. Cameras at the ready!
Help your visit to MediaCityUK go smoothly and get the most out of your day out, with all the information you need.
If you’re visiting MediaCityUK, head to the Open Centre in the Piazza to find tourist information and visit the public toilets on the ground floor of the building. The nearest cash points are at the Lowry Outlet mall - there are toilets available here, too.
All streets and open areas of MediaCityUK are paved and well-lit, although there are a few steps and slight slopes. The whole of the BBC site is wheelchair accessible and wheelchairs can be hired when you book a studio tour.
At just 200 acres, MediaCityUK is actually quite compact and perfect to stroll around, but head further afield and you’ll stumble upon some of Manchester’s top attractions.
A few minute’s walk over a footbridge will take you to the Imperial War Museum North, a free museum with excellent audio and visual presentations that tell the story of conflict in engaging ways.
If you feel like stretching your legs even further, a 25-minute walk can take you right to the Theatre of Dreams - the Old Trafford stadium. Even if you’re not there on a match day, there are stadium tours and a fascinating museum, plus the official Manchester United Megastore to grab a red souvenir to take home.
Make sure you bring your appetite with you when visiting MediaCityUK - the area is a foodie’s dream! But if there’s nothing on-site to tempt your tastebuds, a quick stroll to Salford Quays will reveal some not-to-be-missed gems.
No trip to MediaCityUK would be complete without a visit to The Alchemist. You can’t miss it - the golden roof of this futuristic building stands out a mile! Cocktails are a speciality here - try the Colour Changing One, which lists ‘magic’ as an ingredient, alongside vodka, briottet apple, lemonade and citrus. Food-wise, it’s a great place to come and brunch on American waffles and bacon - or head here for dinner where you can eat a huge steak, cooked to perfection.
At Ziferblat, everything is free -once you’ve paid by the hour! It's located on the ground floor of the Tomorrow building and inside it’s very light and bright, with a selection of squashy armchairs. Drawing an arty crowd, there’s a whole shelf full of games to play and free Wifi. You do have to make your own food - whether that’s by grabbing some bread and cheese and making a toastie, or whipping up your own granola out of a range of yummy ingredients.
From sit down meals to grab-and-go, all tastes and appetites are catered for at the Lowry Outlet shopping mall. Just a stone’s throw from MediaCityUK, there’s a whole host of familiar names, from Burger King and Subway to Pizza Express and Cafe Rouge. It even has its own cocktail bar, Lime, if you fancied something special. And if you love jacket potatoes, a visit to Fat Jackets is a must, for properly cooked spuds with a range of toppings.
Pasta made fresh and cooked al dente from the moment you order? No wonder Vero Moderno has recently been entered into the Good Food Guide. So good people happily jump in a taxi from the city centre just to come here, there are daily ravioli specials, sharing meat platters and delicious homemade focaccia served with fresh dips. Star of the show, though, has to be Bepe, the owner who puts his heart and soul into ensuring all diners are looked after.
If you’re coming from the city centre, your best bet is to jump on a Metrolink tram - it takes you right into the heart of MediaCityUK and gives the best views of the area. But there are other options available, too, whether you want to take the car or public transport.
MediaCityUK is just a two-minute drive from the Greater Manchester motorway network and there’s a link road that takes you directly to the M602. You’ll find parking available at the multi-storey car parks at the Lowry Outlet mall and at MediaCityUK.
Onward bus connections to north and south Manchester can be made in Manchester city centre. It takes 25 minutes to get to Piccadilly Gardens on the x50, or 20 minutes to get to Salford Crescent Station on the CityConnect50.
If you’re travelling by train to Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria or Deansgate, you can take a Metrolink tram. Salford Crescent Station is also directly connected to MediaCityUK via the CityConnect50 bus service.
Trams run to and from Manchester city centre every 12 minutes, and to and from Broadway on the Eccles line every 12 minutes, too. The tram stops in the heart of MediaCityUK and it takes just 15 minutes to get to Manchester Piccadilly or ten minutes to get to Eccles Station.
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