24 FREE things to do in Manchester

Spent too much money on a plain black designer cap? Blown all of your pocket money on POGs? Don’t worry – there’s still plenty of things to do in Manchester that will not cost you a penny.

By Manchester's Finest | December 31st '19

Science & Industry Museum
Manchester has some of the best histories in terms of science and industry, what with the Industrial Revolution starting on our doorstep, John Dalton paving the way for Rutherford and the smashing of them pesky atoms, and of course – Alan Turing. All this and more is celebrated within the 5 buildings that make up the Science & Industry Museum; including the world’s first inter-city railway. They are also currently showcasing The Sun – all about that big ball of burning gas in the sky – which you should definitely check out.

Open Daily 10 am – 5 pm
Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP


Greater Manchester Police Museum
This is probably my favourite place to visit for free in Manchester – it’s absolutely brilliant. Open on Tuesdays, this small museum on Newton Street allows visitors a swift glimpse into some of the history and stories behind many local crimes and criminals. Once a working police station, the brilliant ex-copper volunteers take pleasure in showing you the genuine Victorian prison cells (and pictures of a fella escaping out of the serving hatch), as well as the magnificent courtroom upstairs. My favourite was being allowed to try on some riot gear and then read about some of the gruesome murders that have happened in the past in their evidence room.

Open Tuesdays 10.30am – 3.30pm
57A Newton St, Manchester M1 1ET


Weekend Walks
Here in Manchester, we are lucky enough to be a stone’s throw away from some wonderful spots for walking. Every few weeks here on Finest we do a little write up on a particular walk and in our arsenal, we’ve got Heaton Park, the historic (and definitely haunted) Dunham Massy, and Arley Hall and gardens just to name a few. Once you’ve got through these ones, keep your eyes peeled for more – especially as the days get longer and significantly warmer.


Street Art Tour of the Northern Quarter
Although this isn’t some form of official organised tour I’m fairly certain you won’t ever need one. Take just a 5-minute stroll around the Northern Quarter and you’re sure to find a wealth of wonderful street art that’s a significant step up from the usual ‘Barry shagged my wife’ that you’d find daubed on the walls round your end. A whole host of world-class artists come to the NQ to show off their skills – get them found, get them snapped for the ‘Gram and get those followers up-up-up.


The Portico Library
One of the city’s most impressive (and hidden) gems, the Portico Library is located upstairs of the Portico building, above The Bank pub on Mosley Street. I’m only telling you this because you’re more likely to know The Bank than the Portico because it’s on eye level. Go round the corner and pop through the little door at the side however and you’re transported into a stunning old-timey library, one which also runs a packed calendar of regular events and exhibitions. Well worth a visit.

Open Mon-Fri 9.30am – 5.30pm, Saturdays 11am – 3pm, Sundays Closed
57 Mosley St, Manchester M2 3HY


Free Live Music & Pool at Bunny Jacksons
Okay so it’s seriously bad form if you go into Bunny Jacksons, take advantage of their free stuff and don’t buy a drink – so grab yourself a few cheap pints at happy hour and enjoy yourself without feeling guilty. First of all, there’s the FREE American pool table upstairs which you can play to your heart’s content and then there’s the regular live music by the House Band – typically on a Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Plenty to be getting on with.

Open every day from 4.30pm – 3am.
1 Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester, M15 4RA


The Donkey Sanctuary
If Shrek was real-life then you’d definitely find the donkey out of there in one of these sanctuaries – not only did it have the misfortune of sounding just like Eddie Murphy, it also got married (and had sex) with a bloody dragon. That must have been highly traumatising for the poor fella. I should be serious though because the Donkey Sanctuary does some fantastic work and you should go down and visit (for FREE) and adopt a donkey so that they have some money to get better.

Open Monday-Friday 3pm to 5pm (last admission at 4.30pm). Closed Wednesdays. 10am to 3pm weekends
The Donkey Sanctuary, Green Fold, Abbey Hey, Manchester M18 8RJ.


Imperial War Museum North
There’s not much I can say about the Imperial War Museum to do it justice really. As part of the wide network of museums around the country, IMWN has access to vast collections of war artefacts and stories, all of which will aid in the study and understanding of the history of modern war and the ‘wartime experience’. I strongly suggest their ‘Yemen: Inside a Crisis’ exhibition of documentary photography- on until 26th January 2020.

Open Daily 10am – 4.30pm
The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ


Frog and Bucket
Manchester institution the Frog and Bucket offer a free night of comedy on Monday nights (if you have a student card – although it’s only £6 if you don’t). Beat the Frog is a night for brand new comics to try and stay on stage for 5 minutes; most likely telling jokes about non-existent girlfriends or Donald Trump.It’s remarkable fun, all held together by compare Dan Nightingale and a couple of well-established acts to get the ball rolling. Add some bunce-saving food and drinks deals, and you can have a brilliant evening for next to nothing.

Open Monday – Saturday til late
102 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LJ


The Manchester Museum
I once went to the Manchester Museum and they had a load of manky little bugs crawling about on people’s arms and that. It was disgusting – especially the huge black millipede that my girlfriend let walk on her hand. This was a Saturday when there seems to be plenty going on to entertain kids and keep their parents sane. At all other times, the museum is home to a vast collection of artefacts, fossils and live specimens covering the whole of the Trivial Pursuit board. They also have little chameleons too – which are brilliant.

Open Daily 10am – 5pm
Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PL


Runway Visitor Park
My mate Eggy is so obsessed with planes that his bedroom back at his mam and dads is full of those little plane models that you can buy at duty-free. He has also been known to take girls on a first date to the airport Runway Visitor Park to show off his knowledge of fuselage designations and Rolls Royce jet engines.

As one of the busiest airports in the UK, this isn’t such a bad idea, with the visitor park offering a great place to view the hundreds of flights travelling down the runways. Add to this a picnic area, a restaurant, and a selection of real planes to have a gander around; I just can’t understand why Eggy wasn’t more successful with the ladies. Perhaps it was his breath.

Open Daily 8am – 6pm
Sunbank Ln, Altrincham WA15 8XQ


National Football Museum
I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not into footy much at all. Sure, I know who Cantona is and how many goals Roger Palmer scored for Oldham in the 89-90 season, but I don’t really care about it as much as most people do. Saying this though, I did enjoy myself in the National Football Museum when I visited. Located in what used to be Urbis, the Footy Museum has 4 levels dedicated to the ‘beautiful game’ including a huge array of kits, trophies and even plenty of interactive games and experiences to keep you interested.

Open Daily 10am – 5pm
Cathedral Gardens, M4 3BG


The Pankhurst Centre
With the unveiling of the Emmeline Pankhurst statue in St Peter’s Square recently, and the dire state of the world at the moment, the story of the suffragettes has experienced a significant resurgence in the public psyche and thus a visit to The Pankhurst Centre should certainly be a must.

Exploring the story of the Pankhurst family and the suffragette campaign for votes for women you can sit in the parlour where their first meeting took place, have a stroll in the garden or just chill in the brilliant little cafe.

Open Thursdays from 10am-4pm, and on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month from 1-4pm.
The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester, M13 9WP


People’s History Museum
From the outside, it’s hard to pin down what the People’s History Museum actually contains. It describes itself as “the national museum of democracy” and aims to “engage, inspire and inform diverse audiences by showing ‘there have always been ideas worth fighting for’”. After a massive £12.5m refurbishment, the museum re-opened its doors a couple of years ago and has had some brilliant exhibitions exploring these ideals. Currently, you should catch ‘Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest’ – on until 23rd Feb 2020.

Open Daily 10am – 5pm
Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER


Manchester Art Gallery
It’s a building with loads of art in it. If you like art – go. If you specifically like Pre-Raphaelite paintings then you’re in for a treat. If you like other stuff, they have it too. If you like newer, contemporary art – they have that too. If you don’t like art – don’t bother. Cheers.

Open Daily 10am – 5pm (Open til 9pm on Thursdays)
Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL


The Romans quickly recognised Castlefield as a pretty sound place and decided to erect the fort Mamucium here in 79AD, beginning the slow progress of what is now this great bloody city. The Roman fort is still there today and the surrounding area of Castlefield is a great place to visit and have a look around.

Later becoming the centre of canal and rail networks for vast quantities of goods during the Industrial Revolution and more recently the UK’s first Urban Heritage Park, there’s plenty of waterways, warehouses and bridges to explore and learn about Manchester’s history.



Whitworth Art Gallery
The Whitworth Art Gallery won ‘Museum of the Year’ in 2015, probably due to their immense collection of up to 55,000 watercolours, sculptures, textiles and paintings. They’ve got 7 William Blake’s here, and even a few Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s. They’ve furthermore got a brilliant exhibition on at the moment about the legendary Reno Club in Moss Side – well worth the entrance fee I’d say. Oh, it’s free. Good stuff.

Open Daily 10am – 5pm (Open til 9pm on Thursdays)
Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6ER


BBC Philharmonic Studio Concerts
This section once explained that you can go see Jeremy Kyle for free down at the ITV studios at Media City but since that has been rightly axed I’ve updated everything and gone much more upmarket.

Located right next door to the old Jeremy Kyle studios is the BBC Philharmonic Studio – where you can bag yourself FREE tickets to watch this world renowned orchestra play all sorts of tunes – usually live to broadcast on the radio. The season doesn’t kick off again until September but there’s concerts pretty much every week from then on.

BBC Philharmonic Studio, Salford M50 2EQ


The Lowry
The Lowry opened up in 2000, as part of a massive project to renovate Salford Quays for the new century. Since then the BBC and ITV have set up shop here and added even more glass and chrome to the waterways. It holds a large gallery of Karl Pilkington’s favourite artist, as well as other temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Also expect plenty of films, talks and workshops on the top geezer himself.

Open Sunday – Friday 11am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ


John Ryland’s Library
Quite possibly the most beautiful building in Manchester, the John Ryland’s is probably enough to give even a Ghostbuster the shivers. Once inside you will find a library containing a dazzling array of rare books and manuscripts dating from the beginning of human history it seems – most famous of which are the papyrus fragments containing some of the earliest depictions of bible stories. Just don’t try and find the new Dan Brown novel in here you savage.

Open 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12pm – 5pm
150 Deansgate, M3 3EH


Matt and Phreds
The Northern Quarter’s Matt and Phreds offer a massive range of free Jazz gigs between Monday and Thursday to get involved in. They also have a cracking Happy Hour including 2-4-1’s and FREE pizzas.

Open Monday to Thursday 6pm til late (Friday and Saturday £5 entry)
64 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LW


Central Library
After what seemed like 50 years of refurbishments (and adding a wholly unnecessary greenhouse-type thing to the side), the Central Library is now open again in all of its Gladiator-esque splendour. Libraries are not just for books nowadays, and the Central Library takes this further by offering a load of things for you to see and do for free. On top of the countless copies of fist-stained Fifty Shades paperbacks, the library is also home to the British Film Institute’s Mediatheque. This ridiculously named service allows you to choose from more than 2,000 British films and TV shows from the BFI archives to watch for free.

Additionally ,there is a jam-packed diary of author readings, talks, writer workshops, gigs, film nights, live performances, open-mic evenings and creative courses as part of the Library Live programme – pretty much all for free.

Open Monday – Thursday 9am – 8pm, Friday & Saturday 9am – 5pm, Closed Sunday
Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, M2 5PD


Manchester Cathedral
Hidden round the back of the Corn Exchange, Manchester Cathedral may not be the biggest or most impressive Cathedral in the UK, but it is definitely well worth a visit. Once you get over the fact that you don’t believe in God and that you won’t instantly be struck by lightning for having those mucky thoughts about your mum’s best mate when you were 13 – the Cathedral can fill an afternoon with its stunning architecture, rich history and beautiful stained glass windows.

Open Daily
Victoria St, Manchester M3 1SX


The Royal Northern College of Music
The RNCM on Oxford Road offers free lunchtime recitals for anyone who is interested in classical music. I don’t have a bloody clue what ‘Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No 99 in E flat major Hob I:99’ is or even means, but if you do – get yourself down there and get listening to some old skool tunes.

124, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9RD