The home of Manchester United Football Club and Emirates Old Trafford, Trafford is widely held as an international sporting destination, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. For adrenaline junkies Chill Factore is the ideal tourist destination, the UK’s longest and widest real snow indoor slope, at 100 metres wide and 180 metres long.
If history is what you're looking for, head to the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and the Imperial War Museum North, an extraordinary exhibition space that delivers an immersive experience documenting the voices of ordinary people of over a century of war, plus, while you're there, you can make your way over to the cobbles for a tour of the world's longest running soap, Coronation Street.
Trafford boasts history and heritage with over 200 listed buildings, including the beautiful 18th-century Dunham Massey, and is home to a plethora of outstanding nature reserves. Highlighting the natural beauty and countryside in Trafford, Sale Water Park includes an incredible 52-acre lake which is also the site of the Broad Ees Dole wildlife refuge, a local nature reserve which provides a home for migratory birds.
When it comes to entertainment, and shopping, The Trafford Centre has it all under one roof. With hundreds of stores, including the first Selfridges outside of London, a 20-screen Odeon multiplex cinema, a Laser Quest arena, Paradise Island miniature golf and a Namco Funscape arcade and bowling alley and Europe’s largest food court, it really does cater for all tastes.
Plus, Trafford comprises the towns of Sale, Stretford, Altrincham, and Urmston, meaning there’s even more to explore.
Discover Trafford: Manchester’s metropolitan borough
This in-depth guide to Trafford covers the very best things to do locally – from browsing an artisan market in Urmston to ice skating in Altrincham.
Situated to the south west of Manchester city centre, the borough of Trafford spans historic sporting grounds, over 200 listed buildings and beautiful green spaces. The home of Manchester United Football Club and Lancashire County Cricket Club, this is also the area to visit if you fancy a spot of indoor skiing or exploring an inflatable theme park. From the staggering exhibitions at IWM North through to gigs at Victoria Warehouse and films at the plush Everyman Altrincham, Trafford has no shortage of cultural things to do. Head to the independent restaurants and bars in Urmston or Stretford Food Hall for refreshments, to Dunham Massey or Walkden Gardens for an escape into nature. Trafford has it all.
It’s also an area that’s easy to navigate. The borough is bordered by the Manchester Ship Canal on one side, with the Bridgewater Way providing a walking and cycling link from the city centre through to the towns of Old Trafford, Stretford, Sale and Altrincham. Old Trafford and Trafford Park occupy the northernmost part of the borough, closest to Manchester city centre, with Urmston to the south east, Stretford to the south west, Sale below this and Altrincham towards the southern edge of the district. With train, tram and bus routes connecting the best things to see and do locally, you can cover a lot of ground in a day.
Old Trafford and Trafford Park are the borough’s sporting strongholds. Close to the Old Trafford tram stop is the world-famous home of Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford Stadium. Matches here are always electric, and you can visit on non-match days for a museum and stadium tour. See the players’ tunnel, walk next to the iconic pitch and drop into the dugouts. Hotel Football, with its rooms, restaurant and matchday hospitality, is nearby, while the similarly historic Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground is just a 15 minute walk away.
If you fancy dabbling in a spot of exercise yourself, head to the inflatable arena at Inflata Nation, or for the frozen slopes at Chill Factore, Manchester’s £31m real snow centre. The closest tram stop to Inflata Nation is Parkway, while Chill Factore is only a 15 minute walk from the new Trafford Centre Metrolink.
There’s more to this area than sport, however. The OT Art Trail, funded by Arts Council England, has seen the walls in a triangle of streets east of the cricket ground decorated with murals. Trafford Ecology Park is a beautiful green oasis close to the ship canal, open to the public most weekdays and available to book for corporate volunteering, environmental training and outdoor learning activities. Easily reachable from both the Old Trafford and Pomona tram stops, Victoria Warehouse is an events venue and hotel all under one roof, host to gigs, exhibitions and sporting fixtures, while Sea Life Manchester transports its visitors into an incredible underwater world. The aquarium is based at the Trafford Centre, a one-stop shopping and leisure destination, and now on the new Metrolink tram line that leads back into the city centre. Also with its own Metrolink stop is IWM North, a national museum reflecting on conflict and its impact. Winner of multiple awards and home to J.R.R. Tolkien’s revolver from the Battle of the Somme, IWM North is recognised as one of the top four Large Visitor attractions in the country.
Urmston is to the south of the Trafford Centre, and has been undergoing a bit of a revamp in recent years. In the town centre, there’s a highly rated pub and beer shop Prairie Schooner Taphouse, as well as wine bar and shop Kelder Wines and The Steamhouse, a pub in a refurbished station building. Urmston’s Eden Square shopping complex is a hub of high street stores, while the monthly Urmston Artisan Market brings street food, vintage and crafts to the Golden Hill car park, just six minutes’ walk from the town’s train station. For a slice of green space with a miniature railway, Abbotsfield Park isn’t far – alternatively, head to either Davyhulme Park Golf Club or Flixton Golf Club to spend a pleasant few hours navigating the green.
Best reached on the tram from the city centre, or by following the Bridgewater Canal on foot or by bike, Stretford is to the east of Urmston. The town centre is at the crossroads of a major junction, with Stretford Mall on one side and Stretford Public Hall on the other. Stretford Mall is home to a Food Hall, complete with street food stalls, a craft beer bar and coffee counter, as well as The Longford Tap, a popular bar in Stretford selling craft beers, cask ales, wine and spirits. The monthly Stretford Precinct Market also takes place here on the last Saturday of the month, bringing fresh produce, crafts, gifts, food and more to the town centre. Stretford Public Hall, meanwhile, hosts classes, activities and events in a community-owned, multi-purpose building.
Sale is south of Stretford, the next stop on the Metrolink and only an 11 minute cycle via the Bridgewater Canal. The Square shopping centre in this already popular town is about to undergo a £70m transformation – but for now there’s still plenty to make a visit worthwhile. The Waterside arts centre has long been host to fascinating exhibitions, events and theatre, and is classed as an important regional hub for both performance and visual art. Look out for the monthly Makers Market in Stanley Square, or you might want to pair a circular walk to Sale Water Park, where there’s a lake, woodland, meadows, eateries and the Trafford Water Sports Centre, with a meal at The Bridge Pub and Dining. Walkden Gardens, in the opposite direction, would work equally well for a stroll: this small but beautiful series of gardens is occasionally host to performances and special events.
Another four stops on the tram is Altrincham: here, shops, restaurants and bars radiate out towards Altrincham Market, occupying a mixture of buildings both modern and historic. Opened in 2014, the market itself helped to drive the transformation of the town centre. With incredible food traders occupying a beautiful market building and outdoor stalls to one side, Altrincham Market gets very busy, but is always worth the wait. One street away is the Everyman Altrincham cinema, where there’s plush armchair seating and waiter service during the screenings, or a short walk away is the Planet Ice skating rink. Explore the town’s bustling Stamford Quarter, and stop by Gran T’s Coffee House for sandwiches and freshly-baked pastries. The town’s two theatres, the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse and Altrincham Little Theatre, both a little way out of the centre, are also well worth a visit.
Finally, no guide to Trafford would be complete without mentioning Dunham Massey, a beautiful garden and treasure-filled house situated within an ancient deer park. This National Trust property is a joy to explore: around an hour’s walk south from Altrincham, the estate is a short diversion from the Bridgewater Way by bike. This handy map outlines the walking route and bus stops nearby.
Situated to the south west of Manchester city centre, the borough of Trafford spans historic sporting grounds, over 200 listed buildings and beautiful green spaces. The home of Manchester United Football Club and Lancashire County Cricket Club, this is also the area to visit if you fancy a spot of…