Great accessible UK weekend breaks: Manchester
27th June 2018
Manchester is one of the most exciting places to visit in the UK right now and whilst it is a modern city, it is also full of history as it is known around the world for being the birthplace of the industrial revolution.
The city-centre is full of unique restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and attractions that can make it difficult for visitors to decide what they want to do.
Emma Campbell, who runs the What Emma Did blog, says Manchester is a thriving city that accommodates people with all tastes and mobilities.
“Manchester is such a thriving city, with something to accommodate everyone's tastes. It's a city full of theatres, shopping centres, activity attractions, a fantastic dining and drinking scene, plus lots of beauty spots in and around Greater Manchester. There is guaranteed to be a place in Manchester to attract different types of people. Plus, the city is known for it's friendly Northern folk, and polite attitude!
“A lot of the major shopping centres, theatres, and activity attractions seem to offer alternatives to make it easy for anyone with mobility problems to still enjoy themselves. This is normally around lifts, ramps and trained staff at all main venues who are able to assist. You'll also find Manchester's transport - the Metrolink, bus services and trains - are all tailored to make travelling super easy, which is great for anyone in a wheelchair or with mobility issues.
“A lot of Manchester's hotels, restaurants, bars, gyms and cafés ensure there are lifts in place as an alternative for stairs, making even those ultra-modern establishments suitable for mobility problems. The city is always keen to suit and attend to everyone's needs, and you can always check with the venues before attending just to double check.”
Those with mobility problems don’t need to worry about visiting Manchester as people who struggle to get around and need to use stairlifts at home can expect accessible transport, shopping, restaurants, attractions and tours of the city. Here’s a guide to the most accessible places you’ll want to visit in Manchester.
Best accessible attractions to visit
When it comes to attractions, Manchester is home to some of the most accessible attractions that are definitely worth visiting.
The Imperial War Museum North is set inside an iconic building inspired by the idea of a conflict-shattered world.
It is recommended that visitors allow at least two-hours to explore the museum, which is located on The Quays. During a visit people can walk through a timeline of history from the First World War to the present day.
There are more than 2,000 objects being displayed at the museum and the award-winning 360-degree cinematic Big Picture Shows is definitely worth seeing.
The museum has six manual wheelchairs available for those with mobility issues to use, lifts to all floors, accessible toilets throughout and 16 designated parking spaces for people with disabilities.
The Intu Trafford Centre
Just west of Manchester city centre is where the Intu Trafford Centre is located. This indoor centre is a shopper’s paradise with brands such as Selfridges, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Victoria’s Secret, Primark and Khaadi.
There is also an Odeon IMAX cinema, an aquarium, Legoland Discovery Centre and a Laser Quest all located within the Intu Trafford Centre. There’s also a staggering 60 restaurants located at the centre, so visitors can enjoy a rest to break up their shopping trip.
The Trafford Centre boasts lots of facilities to help visitors who have mobility problems as there are nine speaking lifts located around the centre, accessible toilets and a Shopmobility Centre where electric wheelchairs and electric scooters are available to use.
People’s History Museum
This People’s History Museum looks at the development of democracy in the UK and what could happen in the future.
Visitors can learn about equality, social justice and co-operation as the museum collects items of national importance from the last 200 years related to British labour and politics.
In fact, the museum has the largest collection of political material in the UK and it houses more than 95,000 photographic images related to the UK’s labour history.
The museum can be visited all-year round and is fully wheelchair accessible with lift access to all galleries and floors. Blue badge holders can park close-by to the museum and staff are on hand to help people around the museum.
Best restaurants in Manchester
Manchester is well-known for its cuisine and here are the best and most accessible eateries in the city that people should feast their eyes on.
The Pasta Factory
This little Italian eatery is regarded by many as the best place to try Italian cuisine in Manchester and as diners walk in they will notice a deli section stocked with freshly made pasta and sauces, which is a luxury here in the UK.
The Pasta Factory is renowned for using traditional family recipes for its pizza, pasta, fish and steak dishes. Instead of lasagne and carbonara, customers can try Reginette al Barbera con ragù di cervo and ravioli di prosciutto alla toma di Lanzo.
There is also a wide-ranging drinks menu with many of them imported from Italy, like the San Paolo IPA.
Royal Nawaab Restaurant Manchester
The Royal Nawaab Restaurant Manchester is a five-star Asian restaurant that combines a relaxed setting with food crafted from fresh ingredients.
It has now become one of the North West’s most beloved and visited restaurants with its curries and Asian cuisine attracting people from across the area to eat here.
The restaurant is accessible with a disabled ramp allowing wheelchair users access to the entrance and there is a lift allowing visitors with mobility problems access to the banqueting facilities located on the first and second floors.
Sticking with the international theme, diners at Australasia can try modern Australian cuisine that combines Pacific Rim flavours and European cooking.
There is a blend of Indonesian, Southeast Asian and Australia’s strong ties with Japan throughout the menu as diners can try premium Australian fillet steak or duck breast, grilled carrots with wasabi and watercress puree.
The restaurant is accessible for those with mobility problems as there is an entrance at the back of the restaurant for those who might be able to manage the stairs at the entrance of the restaurant. Once inside, the restaurant is spacious enough for visitors with wheelchairs to manoeuvre around.
Best accessible tours
Manchester is really easy to get around as there are lots of accessible tours available and here are some of the best.
City Centre Cruises
City Centre Cruises offer three-hour cruises for visitors at weekends with Sunday Lunch or Afternoon Tea and a commentary as they sail.
Based in Castlefield, Manchester the ship sails through a lock onto the Manchester Ship Canal and then returns to Castlefield. During the voyage, visitors can enjoy drinks from a licensed onboard bar with a full waitress service.
The cruise is very accessible as there are only three steps up and down onto the boat with handrails and crew on both sides to assist, but there is no wheelchair access.
Manchester Sightseeing Tours
Manchester Sightseeing Tours offer a range of city sightseeing activities within Greater Manchester and a selection of day trips by train or coach to the wider region.
Speaking about the accessibility of their different tours, Manchester Sightseeing Tours said they have a number of tours that are led by blue or green badge certified professionals.
“We offer a range of guided tours in the city centre led by Blue or Green Badge certified professional Tourist Guides that give visitors an insight into Manchester’s rich history. There is a daily Discover Manchester tour that departs at 11 am from Manchester Central Library or the Manchester Highlights tour that departs every Saturday at 2 pm from Piccadilly Gardens, or we can even organise a tailored private tour. All of these tours are accessible for those with mobility issues as the pace is leisurely. The buildings included on the tours, such as the Midland Hotel, the Royal Exchange, and the Free Trade Hall, all provide access facilities.
“For football fans, we offer tours of both Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Both stadiums are access-friendly with lifts between floors, so mobility-impaired visitors can enjoy tours of the world-famous clubs and the facilities used by the global superstars of both United and City.”
Visitors using mobility scooters may have to make use of wheelchairs provided at the attraction and people wanting to go on tours will need to book online.
New Manchester Walks
The New Manchester Walks brings this 21st-century city alive and visitors will not only get to see the latest attractions in the city but will also take tours to historical attractions too.
From the Gothic architecture and cotton palaces in central Manchester to the new dockside towers of Salford Quays, visitors will get a great insight into the old and new ways of life.
During tours, visitors can see the Town Hall, the cathedral, Chetham’s, Art Gallery, John Rylands library, underground tunnels, the canals and learn about the music scene and the cotton industry.
The tours are accessible for those with mobility problems or wheelchair users, but there are also coach tours on offer to visitors who worry that the walking may be too much. The coach tours around the city include Panoramic Manchester, The Story of Manchester United and the Northern Powerhouse.
Watch a game at Old Trafford
It’s not called the Theatre of Dreams for nothing!
Old Trafford, home to Manchester United, is one of the most iconic and most-visited attractions in Manchester and visitors heading to the North-West should try to catch a game.
Those with mobility issues won’t only be able to see the likes of Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and other world stars, but can enjoy one of the most accessible venues in the UK.
There are 306 dedicated seats for supporters with special requirements or mobility issues, including 120 wheelchair spaces. Friends and family are also able to sit in the wheelchair bay of the North East and North West Quadrants of the venue.
The stadium also has the Ability Suite, a match day lounge designed for supporters in certain areas of the ground who have disabilities or access requirements.
Head to Heaton Park
Covering more than 600 acres, visitors will not be able to see everything in Heaton Park.
The park is accessible and visitors can not only enjoy a number of attractions but will be able to learn about this historic area on the edge of Manchester.
For older people with grandchildren, there are play areas and an animal centre, while the tram museum will give a little insight into the history of Manchester.
There is a boating lake, bowling greens and an events programme that takes place each year, including outdoor concerts, dramas and plays.
Image credits: Neil Turner
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