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Top 15 Free Things to Do in Manchester

Top 15 Free Things to Do in Manchester 

When you’re in Manchester, you should know that the best experiences don’t come with a price tag! Whether you’re a savvy traveller, a local on a budget, or someone who believes that the most memorable moments often cost nothing, this city has got your back.

In this guide, we’re diving deep into Manchester’s lively streets to uncover the top free gems that promise a wealth of experiences. Read on and soak in the city’s essence without breaking the bank!

Marvel at the architectural wonder of John Rylands Library

Address: 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH, United Kingdom

Contact: +441613060555


Opening Hours: Sunday to Tuesday, closed; Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM

If you’re into grand old buildings, John Rylands Library in Manchester is a must-see. Picture this: towering bookshelves, intricate stonework, and an ambiance that screams history. It’s like stepping into a different world. 

The place is a maze of knowledge, with corridors leading to hidden reading nooks. And the collection? Oh, it’s a dream for any book lover. 

Rare manuscripts, first editions, and if you’re there at the right time, some pretty cool exhibitions. Trust us, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

Fun Tidbit: Did you know that the library holds regular exhibitions and events, often highlighting unique pieces from their collection or featuring guest speakers and authors like JK Rowling? It’s a great way to dive deeper into specific topics or get a different perspective on literature and history!

Explore the wonders of science at the Science & Industry Museum

Address: Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4JP, United Kingdom

Contact: +443300580058


Opening Hours: Daily 10 AM to 5 PM

So, Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum is basically a time machine. It takes you back to the city’s golden days, from the Industrial Revolution to some mind-blowing innovations. 

The place is massive, with different buildings showcasing various facets of science and industry. You’ll see old steam engines, vintage cars, and even early computers. 

Fun Tidbit: Here’s a fun fact: the museum is located on the site of the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station! It’s not just about static displays; they often host interactive exhibitions and workshops where you can get hands-on experience with science and technology.

Immerse yourself in history at the Greater Manchester Police Museum

Address: 57A Newton St, Manchester M1 1ET, United Kingdom

Contact: +441618564500


Opening Hours: Only on Tuesday 10:30 to 4 PM

For all the crime story enthusiasts, the Greater Manchester Police Museum is the place to be. It’s not just a museum; it used to be a legit police station. 

From Victorian prison cells to an old-school courtroom, it’s a trip. And if you’re lucky, you might even get to sit in the judge’s chair. It’s a deep dive into Manchester’s crime history, and it’s fascinating.

Fun Tidbit: The museum offers guided tours led by knowledgeable volunteers, many of whom are retired police officers! They share insider stories and fascinating facts about the history of policing in Manchester, making the experience more engaging and informative.

Go back in time inside the historic Ordsall Hall

Address: 322 Ordsall Ln, Salford M5 3AN, United Kingdom

Contact: +441618720251


Opening Hours: Friday and Saturday, closed; Sunday 11:30 AM to 4 PM; Monday to Thursday 10 AM to 4 PM

Ordsall Hall is like a slice of the Tudor era right in the middle of Manchester. Imagine roaming around in a place where history whispers from every corner. 

The timber-framed mansion has been standing for over 800 years, and it’s seen a lot. They’ve got events throughout the year, from mediaeval fairs to ghost hunts. 

And the gardens? Simply stunning. Perfect for a picnic or just a lazy afternoon. And for the brave-hearted, there are rumours of it being haunted. Just saying. It’s a mix of history, beauty, and a dash of mystery.

Fun Tidbit: Speaking of ghostbusters, did you know that Ordsall Hall offers ghost cams and paranormal investigations for those interested in the supernatural? It’s a unique way to experience the hall and who knows, you might encounter something otherworldly!

Be inspired by street art in the Northern Quarter


Next time you’re in Manchester, take a walk around the Northern Quarter. The place is like an open-air gallery, full of amazing street art everywhere you look. No need for any fancy tour, just stroll around and you’ll see what we mean. 

Some seriously talented artists have made their mark there. It’s a cool way to get a feel for Manchester’s artsy side and see some incredible pieces right on the streets.

Fun Tidbit: Here’s a little secret: some of the murals and artworks are created by internationally renowned artists like Hyuro ! It’s like an open-air gallery where you can witness the vibrant and dynamic art scene of Manchester.

Uncover the mysteries of the universe at Godlee Observatory

Address: Sackville Street Building, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Contact: N/A


Opening Hours: Daily 8 AM to 9 PM

We should totally check out the Godlee Observatory on top of the University of Manchester’s Sackville Street Building. 

It’s this awesome spot where we can look up and get lost in the stars. But it’s more than just stargazing; it’s about feeling that connection to the universe, you know? 

The best part? On Thursdays, the Manchester Astronomical Society opens it up for us to explore and learn a bit more about what’s up there in the sky.

Fun Tidbit: Did you know that the observatory is one of the oldest in the country, and it’s operated by a dedicated group of amateur astronomers! They’re passionate about sharing their knowledge and often organise talks and presentations about the wonders of the cosmos.

Get up close with planes at Runway Visitor Park

Address: Runway Visitor Park, Sunbank Ln, Altrincham WA15 8XQ, United Kingdom

Contact: +441614893932


Opening Hours: Daily 8 AM to 6 PM

At Runway Visitor Park, you get this unreal experience of being super close to massive planes. It’s a total hit for kids and anyone who’s into aviation. 

Plus, sipping on a drink with planes zooming by? Unique, right? They’ve even got some iconic aircraft like the Concorde G-BOAC and the Nimrod from the RAF days. 

Fun Tidbit: The park offers guided tours of the retired aircraft, giving you a rare opportunity to see the interiors and learn more about aviation history. It’s a treat for aviation enthusiasts and curious minds alike!

Enjoy the tranquillity of Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden

Address: 18 Stenner Ln, Didsbury, Manchester M20 2RQ, United Kingdom

Contact: +441614341877

Website: N/A

Opening Hours: Daily 8 AM to 5 PM

Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden is Manchester’s green escape. Picture wandering through pathways lined with vibrant blooms, each step taking you deeper into nature’s embrace. It’s the kind of place where you can lose track of time, just soaking in the serenity. 

And the variety? From exotic plants to local favourites, it’s a living tapestry of colours and textures. 

Whether you’re there for the botany or just a peaceful moment, Fletcher Moss delivers. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some local wildlife making the most of this urban oasis.

Fun Tidbit: Here’s a tip: the garden is home to a variety of rare and exotic plants, making it a paradise for botany enthusiasts! It’s a living encyclopaedia of flora where you can learn about plant species from around the world.

Experience the vibrant culture at HOME

Address: 2 Tony Wilson Pl, Manchester M15 4FN, United Kingdom

Contact: +441612001500


Opening Hours: Per event basis 

So, if you’re looking for the heart of Manchester’s artsy side, you’ve got to check out HOME. It’s this cool spot where everything artsy happens— think of films, theatre, visual art, the works. 

Every time you pop in, there’s something new going on, from edgy exhibitions to indie film screenings. It’s like the epicentre of Manchester’s creative buzz, always fresh and always surprising. 

Fun Tidbit: HOME also has a bustling restaurant and bar where you can grab a bite or a drink and discuss the latest exhibition or performance with fellow art lovers! It’s a place where the cultural community comes together.

Delve into literature at The Portico Library

Address: 57 Mosley St, Manchester M2 3HY, United Kingdom

Contact: +441612366785


Opening Hours: Sunday, closed; Monday to Friday 10 AM to 5 PM; Saturday 12 to 4 PM

There’s this secret spot above The Bank pub on Mosley Street— The Portico Library. It’s like stumbling into a book lover’s dream. Not just any library, but one that’s steeped in Manchester’s literary vibes. 

Beyond the books, they’ve got all these events and exhibitions happening. It’s the kind of place where stories jump off the pages, and you can just lose yourself in all that literary goodness. 

If you’re ever in the mood for some old-school charm and a deep dive into literature, The Portico is the place to be.

Fun Tidbit: Fortunately, the library also offers membership options, granting you access to a wealth of resources and exclusive events. 

Joining The Portico Library comes with a range of perks, with annual subscriptions ranging from £70 to £223. 

Members gain access to a vast collection of over 25,000 books from the Georgian and Victorian eras, along with contemporary works, over 40 magazines, and five daily newspapers. 

Revel in the beauty of Heaton Park

Address: Middleton Rd, Manchester M25 2SW, United Kingdom

Contact: +441617731085


Opening Hours: 24/7

Heaton Park is like Manchester’s backyard. During the day, it’s all about those lazy walks by the lake or maybe diving into a bit of history with those old buildings. And if you’re feeling active? Perfect trails for jogging. 

But if you’re more about that chill vibe, just grab a spot under a tree with a good book. It’s the city’s slice of nature, where every corner has its own little story. Whether you’re there for an adventure or just some downtime, Heaton’s the spot.

Fun Tidbit: The park also offers a variety of recreational activities like boating (heaton park boating lake), golfing, and even has a small zoo! It’s a versatile space where you can be active or simply relax and enjoy the scenery.

Meet the animals at Heaton Park Animal Centre

Meet the animals at Heaton Park Animal Centre

Image credit: Spotted by Locals 


Heaton Park isn’t just a beautiful green space; it’s also home to the Animal Centre, located in the old stables. 

It’s a great place to take the kiddos with you, where you can meet many common farmyard animals and more exotic species like alpacas and Sulcata tortoises— some of everyone’s favourite domestic animals! 

To us, it’s more than just a park; it’s a place where you can connect with nature and learn about different species. 

Fun Tidbit: The centre organises educational programs and activities like animal welfare and endangered species programs, making it an integral place to conserve wildlife. There are also zoology lessons that come with these events that makes this an informative place for kids and families to learn about animal care and conservation!

Discover the wonders at the revamped Manchester Museum

Address: University of, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Contact: +441612752648


Opening Hours: Monday, closed; Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM; Wednesday 10 AM to 9 PM; Saturday 8 AM to 5 PM

Guess what? The Manchester Museum has had a major makeover, and it’s now a shiny, new space filled with wonders and discoveries! 

With the support of Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and The University of Manchester, the museum has expanded with a brand new two-storey extension. 

More room for amazing exhibits means more adventures waiting for you! It’s the perfect spot to satisfy your curiosity and learn something new about the diverse civilizations and the natural world. 

Fun Tidbit: Did you know that the museum’s extensive collection includes rare and valuable artefacts from various civilizations, offering insights into the diverse cultures and histories of our world? It’s a treasure trove of knowledge waiting to be explored!

Learn about women’s rights at The Pankhurst Centre

Address: 60-62 Nelson St, Manchester M13 9WP, United Kingdom

Contact: +441612735673


Opening Hours: Thursday and Sunday 11 AM to 4 PM

The Pankhurst Centre is a symbol of the suffragette campaign for votes for women— one we hope all of us are in line with our beliefs. 

When you’re here, you can explore the story of the Pankhurst family, sit in the parlour where their first meeting took place, and even chill in the brilliant little cafe. 

Entry is free as well (yipee!), but they also work on a pay-what-you-can donation to help keep the centre open to the public. 

Fun Tidbit: Here’s a handy piece of advice: the centre also provides a variety of educational resources and workshops designed to increase awareness of women’s rights and empower people to effect positive change!

Walk through football history at the National Football Museum

Address: Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, Manchester M4 3BG, United Kingdom

Contact: +441616058200


Opening Hours: Daily 10 AM to 5 PM

Are you a football fan? Then the National Football Museum (national football museum) is your paradise! Located in Urbis on Cathedral Gardens, it’s free to visit for Manchester City Council taxpayers. 

Once inside, you’re in for a treat with impressive exhibitions all about ‘the beautiful game’ and its impact on society, communities, and people. 

It’s a journey through the history of football, with interactive games and experiences to keep you entertained. 

Fun Tidbit: The museum features a Hall of Fame, celebrating the achievements of football legends and contributors to the sport like Pele and Lionel Messi! It’s a place where you can relive the glorious moments of football history.

Attend diverse events at The Den at M8

Address: St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH, United Kingdom

Contact: +441618339833


Opening Hours: Per event basis

The Royal Exchange Theatre (royal exchange manchester) brought its eco-friendly mobile theatre, The Den, to the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Cheetham Hill and Crumpsall. It’s a unique pop-up theatre hosting a range of exciting events from family fun-days to community shows, theatre, dance, and art. 

Most events are either free or just £1— incredible deal, right? It’s a hub of cultural exchange and artistic expression, offering something for everyone. 

Fun Tidbit: Did you know that The Den also collaborates with local artists who are also contributors to murals in the Northern Quarter and communities to create a diverse and inclusive program? It’s a space where creativity flourishes and new ideas are born!

Wander through The Irwell Sculpture Trail

Wander through The Irwell Sculpture Trail

Image credit: Creative Tourist 


Looking for some artistic inspiration? The Irwell Sculpture Trail is the largest public art scheme in England, featuring 28 art pieces from regional, national, and international artists. 

It’s a 30-mile footpath filled with creative expressions, stretching from Salford Quays through Bury into Rossendale and up the Pennines above Bacup. 

It’s not just a walk; it’s an artistic journey, offering a unique way to experience art in the great outdoors. 

Fun Tidbit: The Irwell Sculpture Trail winds from Bacup to Salford Quays and features over 70 artworks by artists renowned locally, nationally, and internationally. 

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