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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Not just one for football fans, the museum seeks to explain the wider cultural and historical significance of football in England.
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!
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
Exhibiting a diverse range of contemporary Chinese art, the CFCCA seeks to explore and questions the notion of ‘Chineseness’.
The UK’s oldest public library!
One of Manchester’s most creative venues, HOME’s main gallery and gallery walls feature new commissions by artists from all around the world.
This place is worth visiting purely for the breath-taking neo-Gothic architecture alone. Proper Hogwarts vibes!
From historical collections to contemporary art, Manchester Art Gallery is a perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon.
What’s a city without its cathedral? With a history dating back to 1421, this is a Manchester landmark that’s seen it all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Parks and Natural Spaces
A regular location for our Walk and Talk events, the local nature reserve features a lake surrounded by beautiful woodland.
A small but popular park, particularly in summer!
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).
A botanical wonderland in the middle of bustling Didsbury.
Not technically in Manchester, but easy to get to via train, the Edge offers impressive views over the Cheshire plain towards Manchester.
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.”
Other Points and Places of Interest
What is the link between the American president and Manchester? Courage.
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.
Find the visionary sitting on a bench in Sackville 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.
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.
Artist Phil Collins salvaged this unwanted statue of Engels, a German socialist philosopher and honorary Mancuian, the from the Ukraine.
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!)
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!
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!