A day out in the city does not need to be costly, especially a city as diverse and accessible as Manchester. Whether you are looking for ideas for a frugal February or simply want to embrace some of the best sites Manchester has to offer, then look no further. Here’s our top 10 free things to do in Manchester.
Museums and Galleries
Manchester has some incredible resources available free to the public that celebrate the history and culture of the city. While some groan at the idea of a museum (school trips have a lot to answer for) it is a great way to spend a day inside and out of the weather while also brushing up on your local knowledge.
1) Museum of Science and Industry
It is well known that Manchester was the hub of the industrial revolution and lots of the architecture in and around the city attest to its productive past. The Museum of Science and Industry looks into the historical advances (it is based in the world’s oldest surviving railway station) that helped Manchester to make its mark allowing visitors to explore a Victorian sewer or experience what it was like to work inside a cotton mill. The Museum also journeys into the current time with more recent discoveries courtesy of its 4D cinema. This is a great experience for every age group thanks to the diverse and interactive exhibits.
2) National Football Museum
Football is beloved by Brits but it does not mean you have to be a die hard fanatic to enjoy what The National Football Museum has to offer. While the museum allows football nerds to indulge in every sporting fantasy, it also delves into the social history and culture of football and looks at how the sport has shaped our nation’s psyche. It is another interactive museum, letting visitors try out their physical skills such as penalty kicks as well as practicing for a career in commentating. This museum is free to Manchester residents and kids under 5 (proof of residency is necessary).
3) Manchester Art gallery
The Manchester Art Gallery has one of the finest collections in the UK and offers a diverse range of exhibitions throughout the year that ensure the art is accessible to everyone. Their permanent collections cover a range of disciplines, including traditional fine art from British and European masters (17th century to present day), costumes and craft such as silverware. Their seasonal exhibitions also appeal to a variety of audiences, with projects based around mindfulness, Leonardo Da Vinci’s work as well as locally centered work such as Martin Parr: Return to Manchester. The gallery also houses two cafes and a large shop.
4) Chetham’s Library
Founded in 1653, Chetham’s Library is the oldest public library in the English speaking world. Though officially free, they do suggest a £3 donation, however it is worth it for some of the literary treasures this beautiful building holds. Home to the desk of Karl Marx, a first edition of Paradise Lost and a map of London from 1746, Chetham’s Library holds a collection of National and International importance. For those interested in local history. it also has a vast array of diaries from the north alongside its medieval manuscripts for some historical insight.
5) Barton Swing Aqueduct
For the amateur engineers and boating enthusiasts among us, The Barton Swing Aqueduct is a valuable piece of Mancunian engineering history. In an effort to keep The Ship Canal accessible to larger vessels, The Barton Swing Aqueduct was created with movement in mind and this feat of Victorian engineering was the result. You can still see the Grade II listed Aqueduct in action today!
6) Manchester Cathedral
Despite its more modern appearance, there has been a church on this site since Saxon times and the evolution of the building offers some interesting quirks and insights, so a visit here has more to offer than the religious element. From the Angel Stone that is thought to date to about 700 AD, to the Misericords (carvings that convey a moral message to the stained glass windows, Manchester Cathedral is a perfect escape from the city bustle to surround yourself with majesty.
7) Chetham’s School of Music – Lunchtime Concerts
Take a break from the weekday humdrum and leave your packed lunch at the office to revel in some breathtaking music courtesy of the Chetham School of Music. Starting at 1:30 PM every weekday during term time, these budding professionals can offer full length recitals or a variety of shorter pieces, all absolutely free. A programme goes up about a week before, but there is no need to book, just head over to the modern New School Building and soak up a bit of culture between your nine to five.
8) Piccadilly Records
Number 43 on The Vinyl Factory’s ‘World’s Best Record Shop’ list, Piccadilly Records has become a Manchester institution and a mecca for music lovers. Founded during the post punk scene, Piccadilly Records is a flagship for the alternative music scene. This all helped along with friendly and knowledgeable staff who will happily give opinions and insights on the industry. In an age of downloads and Spotify, Piccadilly Records is a nostalgic slice of the past that we are clinging to with both hands.
Afflecks is as unusual on the inside as it is on the outside. The exterior of the building, with is mosaics and iron work makes sure you won’t wander past, but head inside for something different to the generic high street shops. Art, accessories and apparel are all represented along with tattoo parlours, piercing studios and henna artists (for the less brave). Moseying through Afflecks lets you peer into Manchester’s alternative scene and offers you an opportunity to find something extraordinary.
10) Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden
The perfect site for a summer picnic, it is also a wonderful place to wander through at every other time of year. These beautifully kept gardens are thanks to Fletcher Moss, a Manchester philanthropist who left the gardens to the people of the city in 1919. The Croft House that was previously owned by Robert Williamson, was also the site of the first meeting by an organisation that was later to become the RSPB.