What Can You Do For Free in Manchester?
The short answer: quite a lot! As the third most visited city in the UK, it should surprise no one that the city offers travellers a wealth of things to do. But what if you are on a budget? We’re pleased to report that many of Manchester’s best-loved attractions are perfectly free, and for those looking for quiet time away from the crowds, the city is also home to a range of parks and green spaces.
Join us at Manchester Bites for a list of some of our favourite things to do for free in Manchester. And if all the exploring works up an appetite, why not join us for one of our Foodie Walking Tours of Manchester, where we dive into Manchester history and culture while enjoying plenty of the delicious food served up across the city.
Travel Through Time in Manchester Museums
Manchester is home to around 50 museums and, happily, many are free to enter! The quandary that visitors will have is picking which museums they want to prioritise.
Manchester is widely known as one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and has produced a long list of revered scientists and inventors, such as Alan Turing who is credited with developing one of the world’s first computers.
The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry is located in the city centre and provides an interactive insight into the city’s past. Nearby, the People’s History Museum uncovers Manchester’s proud tradition of fighting for social justice and political equality.
Similarly, the Pankhurst Centre focuses on the groundbreaking life of Emmeline Pankhurst, who pushed Britain to extend voting rights for women.
A little outside the city centre, the Imperial War Museum North and the Museum of Transport are sure to fascinate the whole family. Centuries of human history to discover, and all for free!
Manchester’s Northern Quarter
Manchester’s legendary Northern Quarter is known for its creative energy — pubs and cafes playing good music, indie shops selling vinyl records and secondhand clothing.
Even if you don’t want to spend money, it’s worth exploring the Northern Quarter for its mix of architectural styles and to soak up the general atmosphere of the place, an atmosphere that is quintessentially Manchester. Grab a coffee and watch the world go by in this vibrant part of town.
If you are open to the idea of a little retail therapy, Afflecks is not to be missed. Describing itself as an “eclectic emporium” and a “totem of indie commerce”, Afflecks is an indoor market housing around 70 independent businesses in an evocative Victorian building.
Our Manchester Food Tour — From Canals to Canapés takes visitors around the Northern Quarter, journeying through Manchester history via 10 unforgettable tastings.
Manchester’s Historic Libraries
Manchester can lay claim to many innovations (atomic theory, league football, rail travel) and this entry will let you delve into one specifically. Opened in 1653, Chetham’s Library in Manchester is the English-speaking world’s oldest public library.
Established under the will of textile merchant Humphrey Chetham, the library was intended for the use of young scholars and it remains a free, functioning library to this day. Book a free tour online at the library’s website to experience the medieval buildings and gorgeous wood-lined interiors for yourself.
Elsewhere in the city, the neo-Gothic John Rylands Research Institute and Library is a must-see site for bibliophiles and lovers of fantasy — the shadowy interiors, stained glass windows, and rare books won’t fail to fire the imagination.
Manchester’s Parks and Walkways
If you’re in Manchester city centre and feel like taking a breather, head to the Cathedral Gardens where you’ll find a spot of quiet amongst the city’s bustle. Also in the centre, Whitworth Park and Piccadilly Park make two fine options for enjoying some time outside, watching the world go by.
If you find yourself in Manchester during a spell of sunny weather and want to spend the day outside, then head to Heaton Park, the Greater Manchester area’s largest park. Heaton Park has areas for playing sports and its very own boating lake — families can easily spend a cost-free, healthy and restorative day here picnicking on the grass (weather permitting!).
And for those who love exploring an urban environment on foot, Manchester has lots of wonderful trails crisscrossing the city. A collection of some of the most popular routes is gathered here.
Manchester’s Art Galleries
Our final recommendation is to traverse Manchester’s fantastic art galleries, many of which are free to enter. In a city most famous for its rock stars and footballing wizards, it should come as no surprise that Manchester’s love of all things creative extends to the art world, with the city hosting a plethora of galleries stacked with wonders.
Our first choice is the Whitworth Gallery, home to over 55,000 artworks and including British giants like William Blake, and classic modern painters like Van Gogh and Picasso. The Whitworth ranks among the very best galleries in the country.
The city’s main gallery is the Manchester Art Gallery, which also houses a range of masterpieces, including an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite works. Or, if you want to brush up (forgive us!) on the paintings of a local artist, visit The Lowry, which is a fascinating insight into the career of L.S. Lowry, one of the city’s famous residents.
This brings to a close our list of just some of the best things to do for free in Manchester. We hope we’ve given you some ideas for your next visit to this marvellous city. If you have any questions about this blog or our tours, please do not hesitate to contact us.