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15 Best Free Things To Do in Manchester


As Britain’s 6th largest city, Manchester has loads of brilliant attractions, and great things to see and do.

But what if you’re on a tight budget?  Are there any free things to do in Manchester?  

National Football Museum Entrance
National Football Museum Entrance

Can you have a great time without spending lots of cash - or will you be reduced to pressing your nose up against the windows of all the great attractions that you can’t afford to visit?

Of course not!  There are plenty of things to do in Manchester for free - and we’re here to show you some great ideas - so without further ado - let the frugal tour of Manchester begin:

Manchester Museum

Part of the University of Manchester, this museum is well loved for its collection of dinosaur fossils - especially the gigantic T Rex called “Stan”.

Stan the T Rex, Manchester Museum
Stan the T Rex, Manchester Museum

The museum has one of the UK’s best collections of Egyptian mummies and other artefacts - a must for those interested in Egyptology.

Shabti Figures, Manchester Museum
Shabti Figures, Manchester Museum

Unusually, the museum has an excellent Vivarium where you can see many species of live reptiles and amphibians including exotic lizards and brightly coloured frogs that kids will love.

Snake at Manchester Museum
Snake at Manchester Museum


http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/

Museum of Science and Industry

Fittingly in this industrial city, the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest of Manchester’s museums, and tells the story of how our modern world has been shaped by technology and commerce.

Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Science and Industry

See everything from steam engines and locomotives, printing presses, factory machinery, a printing press, aircraft, the world’s first computer and lots more.

Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Science and Industry

With displays spread over 5 different buildings and several acres, there’s a lot to explore, and lots of interactive and working exhibits to enjoy.

http://msimanchester.org.uk/

People’s History Museum

If you want to find out more about the history of working people, the trade union movement, women’s suffrage, the cooperative movement and more, then you’ll love the People’s History Museum.

Main Gallery 2, Peoples History Museum
Main Gallery 2, Peoples History Museum

Fresh from its £12.5 million redevelopment, this museum houses more than 400 trade union and political banners, 7,000 trade union badges and 2,000 political and election posters.

Conservation Studio, Peoples History Museum
Conservation Studio, Peoples History Museum

This is one of the UK’s largest collections of political artefacts.

Peoples History Museum
Peoples History Museum

Family Friendly Events at the Peoples History Museum
Family Friendly Events at the Peoples History Museum

http://www.phm.org.uk/

National Football Museum

From people’s history to the people’s game - Manchester is also home to one of the world’s top museums of football - and amazingly, it’s free to get in!

Discovery Zone, National Football Museum
Discovery Zone, National Football Museum

You approach the museum along the Football Walk of Fame which celebrates the greats of the game.  Once inside you’ll see the Hall of Fame, paying tribute to England’s greatest players and managers.

Ryan Giggs entering the NFM Hall of Fame
Ryan Giggs entering the NFM Hall of Fame

There are displays devoted to the leagues, competitions and trophies, a celebration of the fans that make the game what it is, the teams, the kit, and much, much more.

Football Plus+ offers seven opportunities throughout the museum to test your footballing skills - however there is a charge for this enhanced experience.

Trophy Cabinet at the National Football Museum
Trophy Cabinet at the National Football Museum

This museum is a must-see for any football fan.

Take a look at this video about visiting the National Football Museum:

http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/

 

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Musem North
Imperial War Musem North

Housed in an iconic aluminium-clad building designed by Daniel Libeskind, the IWM North houses several fascinating exhibitions which tell the story of how a century of wars have affected people’s lives in Britain.

The main exhibition space shows a timeline of the wars that Britain has been involved with since the First World War.

The Big Picture Show uses the latest HD projection technology to tell people’s stories of war in a vivid and captivating way.

There are also temporary exhibitions and contemporary art works on display which explore the theme of armed conflict through different mediums.

IWM, North
IWM, North

http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-north

Greater Manchester Police Museum

If you’re in Manchester on a Tuesday, then you can visit the Greater Manchester Police Museum.  Alternatively if there are 5 or more in your group, you can book a private tour.

CSI Open Day at GMP Museum
CSI Open Day at GMP Museum

 

Housed in an old police station, the museum gives you a chance to see how policing used to be.  As well as a collection of policing artefacts, you can visit the cells, see replicas of an old police box, and a courtroom, and lots more.

Open Day at GMP Museum
Open Day at GMP Museum

There’s a display of police vehicles through the years, and an exhibition of police uniforms - including the chance to try one on!

Police Selfie at GMP Museum
Police Selfie at GMP Museum

The museum is supported by volunteers, many of whom are retired police officers and staff, who are happy to chat - they really bring this museum to life.

http://www.gmpmuseum.co.uk

Heaton Park

Covering more than 600 acres - Heaton Park is enormous, and offers a real chance to get away from the bustle of the city and enjoy some wide open spaces.

Dower House, Heaton Park
Dower House, Heaton Park

There’s lots to do in the park, or you can simply walk around spotting the many landmarks such as the Temple, Boating Lake, Colonnade and more.

Highland Cattle, Heaton Park
Highland Cattle, Heaton Park

See the Heaton Park Tramway that operates within the park with a fleet of 3 electric trams and one horse-drawn tram.  (Visiting the tramway museum or riding on a tram is cheap, but not free).

Lion Statue, Heaton Park
Lion Statue, Heaton Park

In the old stables, there’s an animal centre where you can see chickens, goats, cows, alpacas, guinea pigs, peacocks and sheep.

Temple, Heaton Park
Temple, Heaton Park

There’s a refurbished play area, with iconic Tower Slide, and accessible play equipment including a wheelchair-friendly roundabout.

http://www.manchester.gov.uk/heatonpark

Fletcher Moss Park and Botanical Gardens

In the Didsbury area of South Manchester you’ll find Fletcher Moss Park and Botanical Gardens.

Autumn in Fletcher Moss Park
Autumn in Fletcher Moss Park

The park is famous for its amazing rock gardens, where a variety of interesting plants and shrubs thrive in microclimates within the shelter provided by the rocks.  Little waterfalls cascade down into a pond.

Poplar Sunset in Fletcher Moss Park
Poplar Sunset in Fletcher Moss Park

Through the stone arched entrance with a sculpture of an eagle lies the Parsonage Gardens with its large Cedar of Lebanon and Yew trees.  There is also an alpine house, which used to contain orchids.

Rockery, Fletcher Moss Park
Rockery, Fletcher Moss Park

A lovely park for everyone to enjoy, that keen gardeners and plant enthusiasts will particularly like.

http://www.fletchermossgardens.org.uk/

Manchester Art Gallery

Fresh from a £35m renovation, Manchester Art Gallery is well worth a visit for art lovers, and the merely curious.

Manchester Art Gallery Exterior
Manchester Art Gallery Exterior

With more than 25,000 objects in their collections, including 13,000 pieces of fine art, and another 13,000 in the craft and design collection - there’s certainly lots to enjoy.

The Fine Art collection is known for its pre-Raphaelite paintings, and also contains British and European art from the 1600s right through to the 21st century.

Manchester Art Gallery Entrance
Manchester Art Gallery Entrance

The Craft and Design collection has glass, metalwork, furniture and ceramics including a fine collection of 17th century silver and an exciting range of contemporary lighting and furniture.

Manchester Art Gallery Detail
Manchester Art Gallery Detail

There is also a gallery of costume with more than 20,000 items telling the story of clothes from 1600 to the present day.  A must-see for lovers of fashion.

http://manchesterartgallery.org/

Whitworth Art Gallery

With an eclectic collection that includes historic fine art and contemporary art works, a fine collection of textiles from across the world, sculpture, prints, wallpaper and more, there’s lots to enjoy at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Cornelia Parkers  Exhibition, Whitworth Art Gallery
Cornelia Parkers Exhibition, Whitworth Art Gallery

A highlight of the fine art collection is work by famous pre-Raphaelite artists including Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Millais and others. 

Whitworth Art Gallery
Whitworth Art Gallery

You can also see paintings by Turner and Gainsborough, and there are many excellent British watercolours from the early 20th century.

Portraits in the Whitworth Art Gallery
Portraits in the Whitworth Art Gallery

The modern art collection forms a timeline leading from works by Van Gogh, Degas and Gaugin, via Picasso and Klee to Moore, Bacon and Hockney.

Whitworth Art Gallery
Whitworth Art Gallery

The textile collection tells the story of fabrics through the ages, with garments worn in Egypt from 300-900AD through to contemporary textiles.

http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/

The John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library is part of the University of Manchester. As well as being home to one of the world’s best collections of rare books and manuscripts, the victorian building itself is very beautiful and well worth visiting for lovers of fine architecture.

John Rylands Library
John Rylands Library

With frequently changing exhibitions and activities, there’s always something new to see.

John Rylands Library
John Rylands Library

The centrepiece of the library is the cathedral-like Historic Reading Room which has a quiet ambience of study and reflection.

Reading Room, John Rylands Library
Reading Room, John Rylands Library

There’s also an interesting Introductory Gallery which tells the story of John and Enriqueta Rylands and how they came to build this magnificent library.

http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/

Chetham’s Library

Chethams Library
Chethams Library

Founded in 1653, Chetham’s is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world!

The lovely sandstone building in which it is housed dates from 1421.

Entrance to the library is free, but a voluntary donation of £3 is suggested.

There are many highlights of the Chetham’s collection including more than 40 medieval manuscripts, and illuminated manuscripts made for royalty.  

There’s a book of prose and poetry that contains letters by Ralegh and Bacon, and a copy of Prosper of Aquitaine bound in white deerskin for Henry VIII in 1539.

Chethams Library Reading Room
Chethams Library Reading Room

 

http://library.chethams.com/

Lunchtime Concert at Chetham’s School of Music

Staying at Chetham’s but turning to music - a real treat for music fans on a budget:

String Quartet, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts
String Quartet, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts

Every weekday lunchtime during term-time, there’s a concert given by students at the world-famous Chetham’s School of Music - and it’s free!

Concerts can be a full-length solo recital, or consist of shorter pieces.  Vocalists, instrumentalists and chamber ensembles all give performances on different days.  You can take a lucky dip and just turn up, or look for programmes announced about a week in advance.

String Quartet, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts
String Quartet, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts

Concerts are in the Carole Nash Hall in the New School building - starting at 1:30pm and lasting about 45 minutes.

Violetta Strings, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts
Violetta Strings, Chethams Lunchtime Concerts

With Chetham’s reputation for turning out the top professional musicians of the future, it goes without saying that the standard of performance is very high indeed.

http://chethamsschoolofmusic.com/

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

You can walk along the canal, through the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park on your way to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Admire the old industrial buildings, soak up the atmosphere of the canal, and see how Manchester used to be in years gone by.

There are plenty of information boards to keep you informed.

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

The re-creation of a Roman gate gives visitors a glimpse into a much earlier period in the history of this area.

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park
Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Manchester Cathedral

Manchester’s magnificent Cathedral dates back to 1421 when a royal charter was granted by Henry V.

Since then it has survived wars, bombings, the Reformation and more.

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

The Cathedral has a long and interesting history.  It was extensively damaged by bombing during World War II - the medieval lady chapel and the chantry chapel were destroyed.  Repairs took over 20 years.

Also destroyed were all the Victorian stained glass windows.  They have been gradually replaced with new designs, most recently in 2004 when the Healing Window by Linda Walton was installed to commemorate the Manchester IRA bomb in which the cathedral was also damaged.

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

You can pick up a guide booklet in the Cathedral, and guides will be able to answer any questions you have.

There are also free taster tours on Monday to Saturday from 10:30 to 15:30 that last about 30 minutes, and provide lots of interesting information about this wonderful building.

http://www.manchestercathedral.org/

 

As you can see, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy a break in Manchester.  There are loads of interesting places to visit and things to do that won’t cost a single penny.

So don’t let finances put you off exploring this wonderful city - you’ll have a brilliant time.

Check out our other articles on Manchester:

Romantic Things to do in Manchester

Things to do in Manchester

 

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