You are here

Interested in studying abroad?

Check out our comprehensive guides

Top 10 Free Things to Do in Manchester

Top 10 Free Things to Do in Manchester main image

Manchester deserves its reputation as a cheeky, independent UK city with a wealth of things to see and do. Its rich industrial heritage is now the canvas for a thriving creative scene, with street art and quirky independent shops and cafes set against a backdrop of lofty, red-brick warehouses and winding canals.

Get to know the city yourself with our top ten list of things to do, all of which are completely free!

Indulge your inner nerd at John Rylands Library

While the thought of visiting a library might typically fill you with dread, the Neo-Gothic architecture at John Rylands Library is simply spectacular. Plus, it houses some of the rarest and oldest books and manuscripts in the world, including the earliest surviving writing of the New Testament, preserved on an ancient fragment of parchment.

There are free tours every Wednesday and Friday at 3pm for you to discover more about this Hogwarts-esque beauty of a building.

Pat the alpacas at Heaton Park

Heaton Park, to the north-west of Manchester, is spread over more than 600 acres and is the ideal place for city dwellers to get their nature fix.

It’s most well-known among students as the hedonistic home of Manchester’s biggest and best festival, Parklife, which takes place there every June.

Head there during the rest of the year though and you can visit the alpacas at the animal park, stroll around stately Heaton Hall and dip your toes in the boating lake.

Get hands on at the Science and Industry Museum

At the turn of the 20th century, Manchester played a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution and has since continued to have a huge impact on the advancement of science and industry, all of which is paid homage to at this brilliant, interactive museum.

Housed within five buildings in Deansgate, one of which was the world’s first inter-city train station, there is plenty to keep you busy in here.

There are 25 hands-on exhibits which will let your inner child run free. Play with giant bubbles, create a tornado or watch your own skeleton ride a bicycle!

Discover Manchester’s underworld at the Police Museum

While not as well-known as the city’s bigger museums, what the Greater Manchester Police Museum lacks in size and grandeur it makes up for in personality and uniqueness.

Housed in what was once a busy Victorian police station in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the Police Museum is staffed by enthusiastic ex-police volunteers who can fill you in on the city’s colorful criminal past.

Experience what it was like in an old crowded prison cell or don modern riot gear while learning about the city’s most notorious criminals.

Uncovered hidden gems in the Northern Quarter

Manchester’s hipster enclave, the Northern Quarter is beloved by Mancunians for its trendy drinks scene, thought-provoking street art and eclectic fashion.

Finish off the day exploring the boutique shops and street art with a trip to Affleck’s Palace, an emporium of independent retailers that’s also home to a cereal café.

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary

Not every city can boast its very own Donkey Sanctuary. On the city’s south-eastern edge, visit here to watch the rehabilitated donkeys frolic about in the paddocks playing ball and if you’re lucky give one a well-deserved scratch behind the ears.

Visiting is completely free but, if you do have cash to spare, consider adopting a donkey or donating so the staff can keep up the fantastic work.

Have some cheap laughs at the Frog and Bucket

A long-running institution on Manchester’s comedy scene, the Frog and Bucket holds a regular open-mic Beat the Frog night on Monday evening, where the city’s up-and-coming comics take to the stage.

Remember to bring your student card for entry, or you’ll have to pay £6. While here, take advantage of the cheap food and drinks deals.

Immerse yourself in the vast collections at Manchester Museum

The UK’s leading university museum and a collection of over four million artefacts, Manchester Museum is kind of a big deal.

Visit the Vivarium to witness the success of their world-renowned breeding program for critically endangered species, home to the Costa Rican Lemur Leaf Frog among others.

Also on display is the fossilized T-Rex, affectionately known as Stan, as well as 20 human mummies. The museum is undergoing hefty renovations over the next three years, so it’s a good idea to check the website for what’s on before your visit.

Travel back in time at Castlefield

The UK’s first Urban Heritage Park offers a real mix of history from Manchester’s humble beginnings all the way through to the modern era.

The Roman fort Mamucium, erected way back in 79AD and the birthplace of the city, still stands today in Castlefield. Surrounding it are winding canals and red-brick warehouses that were integral to the city’s canal and rail network throughout the Industrial Revolution.

More recently, the area has become home to quaint pubs, gorgeous houseboats and modern art galleries. 

Listen to a live, world-famous orchestra

Every year the BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the UK’s most well-respected orchestras, perform a season of concerts and you can apply for free tickets to watch them at their Salford studio, just north-east of Manchester city center.

If classical music isn’t your thing, then head to the BBC’s website to find information on other shows being recorded in the city and how to become a free audience member.    

Related categories:

Ellisse P & Lizw W saved this
Written by Chelsea D.

Want to leave a comment?

Please login or register to post
comment above our articles

0 Comment