Head out on an adventure as you explore Manchester! There are so many fun and exciting things to see and experience, and luckily, you can leave your wallet at home when exploring the places on this list. If you've just landed at Manchester Airport, make a quick pit stop to see Runway Visitor Park before you head into the city. It's a great place to stretch your legs after a long flight.
Once in the city, places like the fantastic Imperial War Museum are free to explore. The Greater Manchester Police Museum is a wonderful place to learn about the history of policing in the area. Looking to learn about topics like social justice and equality? Don't miss the People's History Museum where you'll explore ideas worth fighting for.
As you can see, this terrific city is full of free history lessons! But there are also other cool places to check out, like the Portico Library, where over 200 years of literary gems live. Looking to explore this part of England at night? Don't miss strolling by Manchester Cathedral, all lit up and looking majestic after dark.
Before hitting the streets to ferret out all the great free activities and sites in Manchester, locate a Manchester luggage storage locker. Stow your large bags so you are not lugging things around the city while on your adventure. Then, get out there and have fun for free!
Check out Chetham Library's collection
Address: Long Millgate, Manchester
This is the UK’s oldest public library and was first started in 1653. Entrance to the Chetham Library is free, but it is good manners to make a small charitable donation if you are able. You can also sign up for a guided tour of the library but it does cost a small fee and you have to book the tour in advance.
The Chetham Library has around 100,000 printed books including several collections and periodicals dating back to the 14th through 17th century. Probably the best part of the library is the medieval building itself, the Belle Vue collection, and the reading room that was used by Frederic Engels and Karl Marx.
Enjoy music at Chetham School of Music
Address: Long Millgate, Manchester
Located near the Chetham Library in the heart of Manchester, the Chetham School of Music is the biggest specialty music school in the entire United Kingdom. While you will not get a free tour of the school unless you are thinking of applying for admission, you can enjoy free lunch concerts all year long.
The free concerts are held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at Carole Nash Hall, a fantastic concert hall that deserves a visit. Be sure to check their schedule, though, sometimes they move the concerts to The Stoller Hall. Be amazed as the talented young musicians wow you with their musical prowess.
Shoot a penalty in the National Football Museum
Address: Cathedral Gardens, Urbis Building, Manchester
You don’t really have to be a super fan of football, or should we say soccer, to enjoy the National Football Museum. This museum is free for Manchester residents and their guests. Stroll through the museum to see how the game has changed and evolved through the years. Learn about the great players and announcers that have been immortalized in the hall of fame.
Located inside the Urbis building in the Cathedral Gardens, the architecture of the building is worth the visit alone. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and has several interactive exhibits that will grab your attention. The red England shirt worn by Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final is on display as is the Hand of God jersey worn by Diego Maradona!
Roam through Heaton Park
Address: Middleton Road, Manchester
Plan to spend the day in the biggest urban park in Europe. Heaton Park has over 600 acres and is filled with several fun-to-do activities. While admission to the park is free, some of the activities do charge admission, so if you are looking for a totally free outing bring along a picnic and plan on exploring the nature trails.
Visit the golf courses or tennis courts, play a round of pitch and putt, or rent a boat and head out on the lake. Stroll through the decorative gardens, visit the observation decks, or check out the playground. Take part in some of the lawn games and visit with the locals as they challenge you to a game or two.
Heaton Park is also home to the Tram Museum and the Animal Center where you can saddle up and take a short trail ride. Throughout the year, the park plays host to outdoor concerts, plays, and dramas and you can even take a tour of historic Heaton Hall.
Discover the Northern Quarter
Head to the Northern Quarter, one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Manchester. While it is free to explore the nooks and crannies of this eclectic neighborhood, it will cost you to dine at one of the quaint cafes, visit the bars and nightclubs, or shop at the boutiques and independent stores. But you can certainly window shop for free!
The neighborhood extends from Piccadilly Station to Victoria Station and from Ancoats to Oldham Street near Piccadilly Gardens. This lively quarter was once home to the Victorian fishing market near the city centre and is now home to the Northern Quarter Manchester Craft and Design Center, a unique attraction you can visit for free.
Visit Lowry Concert Hall
Address: The Quays, Salford, Greater Manchester
Located on Pier 8 of the Salford Quays, the Lowry Hotel and Concert Hall was named for the famous painter L.S. Lowry. The Concert Hall is host to a variety of events such as concerts and plays. Learn more about L.S. Lowry’s life and work during one of the free daily talks held at the hotel.
While most of the performances at the concert hall are not free, you can find excellent deals on tickets. There are also free tours of the Lowry Concert Hall for those who do not have the time or money to see one of the shows. Visit the gallery that highlights several of Lowry’s art pieces as well as local artists.
Roam around Castlefield
Address: Castlefield, Manchester, Lancs
One of the most important conservation sites in Manchester, Castlefield is a true marvel to explore when you are in the city. Bordered by the Medlock and Irwell Rivers, Castlefield has been around since the Romans occupied England.
Take a walk down to the oldest canal in Manchester and explore Mancunium, a historic Roman fortress. Admission to the fortress is complimentary but special exhibits and events do usually charge a fee. There are some free events held at Castlefield. The MFA Museum of Art is also located at Castlefield, admission to the museum is not free but is also not pricey.
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art
Address: Market Buildings, Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester
Located in the lively Northern Quarter of Greater Manchester, the Center for Chinese Contemporary Arts (CFCCA) has free admission so everyone can come and enjoy all the museum has to offer. This unique gallery explores the Chinese culture through art and leads you on a journey through the history of the country.
This really is one of the hidden gems of Manchester. The CFCCA is a small museum which will not take long to explore but it is still worth the time to visit. Located near the Chetham School of Music, you can visit the school for an afternoon concert and then spend an hour or so at the museum.
Visit the Museum of Science and Industry
Address: Liverpool Road, Manchester
This fantastic museum is spread out over five buildings making it one of the best ways to spend a lazy afternoon. One of the buildings is an old train station that was converted into a home and then turned into part of the Museum of Science and Industry. As you wander through, you will learn about Manchester’s role during the Industrial Revolution.
Museums are always a great activity and this one is no different. The museum is filled with galleries displaying inspirational and interesting collections as well as plenty of interactive and hands-on exhibits to keep you and the kids interested in learning more and more. Admission is without charge, but special exhibits do have a fee.
Take a walking tour
There really is no better way to get to know a new city than signing up for a walking tour. You will discover parts of the city that you may have never known existed without the help of an experienced tour guide. There are several self-guided tours where you simply download an app and there are also several free walking tours with a knowledgeable guide.
Listen to your tour guide as they regale you with funny and interesting stories of times gone by and the history of the area. Several of the free walking tours start at the Alan Turing Memorial in Sackville Gardens which is located near Canal Street and the Manchester Town Hall. Even though the tour is on the house, remember to give your tour guide a small tip when the tour is done.
Take a trip to Afflecks
Address: 52 Church Street, Manchester
Formerly known as Affleck’s Palace, now it is simply Afflecks, a rather quirky market located in the Northern Quarter at the junction of Tib Street and Church Street. This indoor market is filled with must-see independent shops and vendors offering everything from vintage clothing to interesting housewares.
It is free to visit Afflecks and do a little window shopping. You may want to bring along some pocket change and grab a bite from one of the delectable street vendors that set up shop here. You may even be able to haggle the price down on some amazing items if something catches your eye while exploring the market.
Visit the Whitworth Art Gallery
Address: Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Manchester
Affectionately called The Gallery in the Park by locals, the Whitworth Art Gallery is a fantastic Manchester art gallery that showcases fine art, textiles, prints, and even a space dedicated to historic wallpapers. This rather interesting and unique attraction filled with decorative art is the 2015 winner of the Art Fund and offers free entry.
Be sure to check out the calendar of events for indoor and outdoor special temporary exhibitions, some that are complimentary to the public while others do charge an admission fee. The Whitworth Gallery first opened its doors in 1889 and is probably best known for its sculpture terrace and art garden.
Explore the Levenshulme Street Food Market
Address: Levenshulme Rail Station Car Park, Stockport Road, Manchester, Lancs
Run by volunteers, the Levenshulme Market is one of the best places to find tasty street food. The market is open Monday through Friday from March through December at the rail station car park and every Tuesday at the Manchester University. Enjoy live music and great activities that will make you want to keep coming back for more.
Dine on hot and cold street foods ranging from sandwiches to hot plate specials. It is free to visit the market and listen to the live music, but if you are wanting to grab a treat or two, you will need to bring along your wallet. The third Friday from March to December you can take part in a fantastic night market party and sample delicious Manchester food.
Enjoy Queens Park Heywood
Address: Queen’s Park Road, Heywood
Located not far from the Manchester Airport, Queen’s Park Heywood has an excellent kids playground complete with benches for tired parents to sit back and relax while the kids run and play. The park first opened in 1879 and is a favorite go-to spot for young families in Manchester.
Enjoy the outdoor theater where live concerts and dramas are held, try out the tennis courts or BMX track, or just take a stroll through the park. The outdoor gym has breathtaking views of the lake and state-of-the-art gym equipment. The bowling greens are so picturesque and the lake just sparkles in the sun.
From Manchester's history to an urban heritage park
Manchester is brimming with free attractions including a Roman fort, country park, botanical gardens, and even a donkey sanctuary. Figuring out what exactly you want to see when your budget is stretched thin has never been easier. Leave your wallet at home and check out some free museums, snag complimentary tickets to the theater, and stroll through Fletcher Moss Park.