Manchester Money

12 free things to do in Manchester

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It’s incredible that you’ll be able to experience the buzz of Manchester during your studies at the University. There’s so much to do, so much to see, and the city will most probably remain the cheaper version of London!

However, whilst it might be cheaper to watch a film at the cinema up north, living in Manchester is like living in any other city – you might still want to save a penny or two during your studies.

But have no fear…you can still explore the wonders of the city for free! There are lots of things to see which won’t need a tap of your contactless card or the withdrawal of a new £20 note.

Here are our top recommendations:


1) Science and Industry Museum

Have you ever wanted to find out more about Manchester’s industrial past? There’s so much to see in the Science and Industry Museum, including Stephenson’s Rocket train, which ran on the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway (on the site of the Museum itself). The museum is found just off of Deansgate.

2) Imperial War Museum North (IWM North)

If you’re curious about Britain’s history with war, there are lots of fascinating exhibitions to see at IWM North. Mancunian poet Tony Walsh has recorded his own poem to run alongside the Big Picture Show, a surround sound and 360 degree projection which pulls together the personal experiences of conflict. Hop on a quick Metro to Salford and you’ll be at The Quays in no time!

3) National Football Museum

Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or you rarely watch the sport, the National Football Museum contains a wealth of incredible artefacts, interactive displays and lots of archival video footage. What’s great about the Museum is that you’ll be able to see the history of football through different perspectives, such as the history of women’s football. The Museum is a short walk from Piccadilly Gardens (and you definitely can’t miss the weirdly shaped building…)


4) Manchester Art Gallery

Located five minutes away from Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester Art Gallery is a hidden gem of the city. The Grade I listed building hosts a variety of exhibitions; currently, it’s showcasing the photography of the renowned photographer Martin Parr, which lets you look back to Manchester’s social past. He’s also taken photos from 2018, including a group of students in Old Moat Park in Withington (were you one of the famous faces?…)

5) Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA)

Located just off of the Arndale Shopping Centre (and near to the Northern Quarter), the CFCCA hosts contemporary Chinese art and visual culture and aims to make it accessible to everyone. The gallery has just opened an exciting new exhibition, Chinternet Ugly, which explores the realms of China’s online world. You’ll even get a chance to play with some of the artwork on show!

6) Castlefield Gallery

As Manchester’s first contemporary visual arts gallery, Castlefield Gallery hosts a wealth of thought-provoking artwork, and its ‘alumni’ includes several Turner Prize winning artists and nominees. The gallery is located just around the corner from Deansgate Locks.


7) Illuminate Festival

If you hop on a tram in the city centre, get yourself to Oldham on 22 February to see this spectacular light show. The town is completely transformed and you’ll be able to see giant handcrafted lanterns, watch the Desi Carnival, and walk through a fire garden. Words do not do it justice – check out the photos for yourself!

8) Events at the Martin Harris Centre

That’s right – there’s free events right on your doorstep! Each week, the Martin Harris Centre showcases the very best of our students’ musical talents at lunchtime. Plus, if you’re feeling musical yourself, you can get involved in the Centre’s workshops, exploring the diverse range of musical styles. Head down Coupland Street (the archway with the Manchester Museum sign) and you’ll see the Centre on your right.


9) Heaton Park

Make sure you keep an eye out for the many events happening at Heaton Park and its Grade I-listed hall. If you love your history, you can attend one of the Park’s Open Days (the next one is on 14 April). Or, if you want to push yourself, you can get involved with their regular Parkrun. Plus, there will be a big Easter Weekend celebration in April.

10) Fletcher Moss

Only a bus journey away, Fletcher Moss Park is a beautiful getaway from the business of the city. There’s a fantastic botanical garden tucked away and it’s a great place to have a relaxing stroll – a refreshing break from your studies. It’s one of the many great places which Frances enjoys in Greater Manchester.

11) Runway Visitor Park

Not quite your usual park…the Runway Visitor Park is free to anyone who travels by public transport, meaning you’ll be able to visit some of the planes on show. You’ll also get the chance to watch the hundreds of planes take off and arrive at Manchester Airport, the UK’s third-busiest airport.

12) Peak District National Park

Ok, we’re slightly cheating here…but it’s very close to Manchester! If you want a full day out, you can get a quick journey into the Peaks to take a hike around the most beautiful scenery and visit some of the UK’s most quaint villages. Take a visit to Buxton, Bakewell, Whaley Bridge, Glossop, and many more places. You can also check out what Lina got up to when she visited the Peak District. Breathe in that fresh air!

If you’d like some other advice on how you can save money, there’s plenty of advice on the Student Support website.

Plus, you can also apply for the Living Cost Support Fund, which can help you with your everyday living costs.

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