33 Free Things to See and Do In Manchester

This week is English Tourism week. In our (very-biased) opinion, there is no greater English city to visit than Manchester so, to celebrate, we have put together a list of things you can explore for free in and around the city. We’ve also included lots of links so even if you can’t get about at the moment, or you don’t live near, you can still explore the heritage and culture of this pioneering city.


Imperial War Museum
  1. Greater Manchester Police Museum

Located in a former police station in the Northern Quarter, the museum is open every Tuesday and covers the history of policing and crime in Greater Manchester.

  1. Hat Works – Museum of Hatting

Can a museum about hats be that exciting? Yes! The museum takes you through a journey through the history of Stockport’s once-thriving hatting industry, from cottage craft to mass production.

  1. Imperial War Museum North

IWM North explores war through the eyes of ordinary people. The purpose-designed exhibition space allows for a multimedia experience and showcases objects from WW1, through to conflicts in our lifetime.

  1. Museum of Science and Industry

Dedicated to the development of science, technology and industry, particularly in Manchester. Its exhibitions include transport, manufacturing, computing and many more- there’s also an exciting experiment section!

  1. National Football Museum

Not just one for football fans, the museum seeks to explain the wider cultural and historical significance of football in England.

  1. People’s History Museum

PHM describes itself as “the national museum of democracy”, providing opportunities for people of all ages to learn from and be inspired by social issues worth fighting for. It definitely has true Mancuian spirit!

  1. The Manchester Museum

Displaying works of archaeology, anthropology and natural history, the museum is reportedly one of the largest university museums in the UK.


“And if you’re looking for history then yes, we’ve a wealth. But the Manchester way is to make it yourself”

– Tony Walsh, This is the Place


Art, Literature and Architecture

John Rylands Library


  1. Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art

Exhibiting a diverse range of contemporary Chinese art, the CFCCA seeks to explore and questions the notion of ‘Chineseness’.

  1. Chetham’s Library

The UK’s oldest public library!

  1. HOME Art Galleries

One of Manchester’s most creative venues, HOME’s main gallery and gallery walls feature new commissions by artists from all around the world.

  1. John Rylands Library

This place is worth visiting purely for the breath-taking neo-Gothic architecture alone. Proper Hogwarts vibes!

  1. Manchester Art Gallery

From historical collections to contemporary art, Manchester Art Gallery is a perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon.

  1. Manchester Cathedral

What’s a city without its cathedral? With a history dating back to 1421, this is a Manchester landmark that’s seen it all.

  1. Manchester Central Library

The recent-renovated library is well worth a visit, with its iconic curved walls, extensive book collection, engaging exhibitions and impressive archive area on the ground floor with lots of interactive displays.

  1. Portico Library and Gallery

Known for its selection of 19th century travel writing, biographies and historical texts, this is an often-overlooked cultural gem. Whilst only members can borrow from rarest of the collection, the public is free to browse the rest and entrance to the gallery is free.

  1. The Lowry Exhibitions

Home to the largest public collection of paintings and drawing by Salford artist LS Lowry. His work is renowned for its distinctive ‘matchstick men’ style and its depictions of industrial life in the North West.

  1. The Whitworth Art Gallery

The Whitworth embraces its beautiful location in Whitworth park, featuring an art garden, sculpture terrace and an orchard garden. The exhibition spaces show works from all over the world, in all sorts of artistic disciplines.

  1. Manchester Town Hall

The Town Hall is closed for renovations until 2024 (!) However, we’ve kept it on the list because the building itself is worth having a look at. Built in 1877, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture in the UK.


“For Manchester is the place where people do things… ‘Don’t talk about what you are going to do, do it.’ That is the Manchester habit. And in the past through the manifestation of this quality the word Manchester became a synonym for energy and freedom and the right to do and to think without shackles.”

-Judge Parry


Parks and Natural Spaces

Chorlton Waterpark on one of our Walk and Talk Events!
  1. Chorlton Water Park

A regular location for our Walk and Talk events, the local nature reserve features a lake surrounded by beautiful woodland.

  1. Didsbury Park

A small but popular park, particularly in summer!

  1. Etherow Country Park

Situated in Compstall in Stockport, Etherow offers a mix of pretty scenery, lakes and waterways and lots of wildlife to spot (it also has a nice café!). Entry to the park is free but parking is Pay and Display (£1 for 2 hours, £2 for 4 hours, £3 for all day).

  1. Fletcher Moss Park 

A botanical wonderland in the middle of bustling Didsbury.

  1. The Edge, Alderley Edge

Not technically in Manchester, but easy to get to via train, the Edge offers impressive views over the Cheshire plain towards Manchester.

  1. Wythenshawe Park

109 hectacres of open parkland, with woodlands, meadows and a working farm complete with a very friendly goat!


Manchester’s got everything except a beach.”

-Ian Brown


Other Points and Places of Interest

Image Credit: Skittledog on Flickr (Creative Commons)
  1. Abraham Lincoln statue

What is the link between the American president and Manchester? Courage.

  1. Afflecks

Self-described as “an emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce in Manchester’s Northern Quarter”, this is arguably the best place to window shop.

  1. Alan Turing Memorial

Find the visionary sitting on a bench in Sackville Park.

  1. Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Discover Manchester’s industrial heritage in Britain’s first Urban Heritage Park. Featuring Roman ruins, canals and probably some great-named houseboats, this inner-city conservation area is the perfect place for a picnic.

  1. Emmeline Pankhurst Statue

Created by Hazel Reeves, this sculpture of Moss-Side born suffragette is only the second statue of a woman in the city after Queen Victoria.

  1. Engels Statue

Artist Phil Collins salvaged this unwanted statue of Engels, a German socialist philosopher and honorary Mancuian, the from the Ukraine.

  1. Mr Smith’s Dream – Manchester Craft and Design Centre

This tiny piece of art built into the brickwork is inspired by the many pet shops that once filled the Northern Quarter (The Craft and Design Centre is also worth checking out!)

  1. Northern Quarter

This is cheating a bit but, with its collection of eclectic shops, cafes and bars and striking street art, the whole area is great to explore!

  1. Vimto Monument

A large wooden statue pays homage to the drink at the site of its production.


“Manchester is in the south of the north of England. Its spirit has a contrariness in it – a south and north bound up together – at once untamed and unmetropolitan; at the same time, connected and wordly.”

-Jeanette Winterson, Why be Happy When You Can be Normal?



Have you been to some of these places? Do you have any more recommendations? Let us know!

Jodie x



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