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Matt & Phreds | © Phil Long / Flickr
Matt & Phreds | © Phil Long / Flickr

The Best Free Things to Do in Manchester, UK

Picture of Emma Lavelle
Updated: 24 February 2017

The best things in life are free, and there are certainly a wide range of free activities to enjoy in and around Manchester. Most of the permanent exhibits in the city’s museums and galleries are free to explore, and the city is surrounded by luscious green countryside and rolling hills, ideal for long weekend strolls. If you’re looking for something a little bit different but are on a tight budget, here are six suggestions of the best free things to do in Manchester.

Enjoy an Art Picnic at Whitworth Art Gallery

If admiring the collections of art on display at the Whitworth has got your creative juices flowing, why not pick up a free picnic hamper filled with arts materials and supplies for an afternoon creating your own art works. Make yourself comfortable in one of the gallery spaces (or in the sculpture garden during the summer) and seek inspiration from the current collections or the architecture of the building.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Whitworth Art Gallery | © John Lord / Flickr

Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester +44 161 275 7450

Listen to a Lunchtime Concert at Chetham’s

Music lovers will be thrilled to learn that the students of Chetham’s School of Music put on concerts every lunchtime during term time, which are free to attend. Hosting in the Carole Nash Hall, concerts start at 1.30pm every weekday and can be attended by anyone, no booking necessary. If you have specific tastes, check out their programme to see what is upcoming, otherwise simply turn up on the day to be surprised by a variety of solo recitals, vocalists or classic ensembles.

Chetham’s School of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester +44 161 834 9644

Discover the Northern Quarter’s Street Art

Take a wander around the Northern Quarter’s maze of alleyways and back streets to discover some of the city’s most interesting street art. Urban art enthusiasts can easily spend a few hours seeking out the most detailed and colourful displays painted onto the sides of buildings including the infamous Space Invaders and the ever-changing artwork in the middle of Stevenson Square. Take your camera and get snappy, documenting your favourite pieces that you stumble upon, as chances are that they won’t remain untouched for long, as the graffiti is constantly evolving.

Northern Quarter Street Art

Northern Quarter Street Art | © Aero Pixels / Flickr

The Northern Quarter, Manchester

Watch live jazz at Matt & Phreds

If you’re seeking more free music but prefer a dark and cosy ambient setting, head to Matt & Phred’s jazz club during the week for free entry to a range of performances. Tables can be reserved whether you’re planning to sample one of their famous pizzas or simply sip a couple of drinks, but there’s nothing stopping you from simply strolling in off the street for a boogie at the front. Keep your eye on the listings page on their website to find a night that’s suitable for your personal taste, whether that’s laid-back and ambient or upbeat and danceable.

Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib Street, Manchester +44 0161 831 7002 

Visit the National Football Museum

Anyone with a passing interest in football should pay a visit to the National Football Museum, housed in the impressive contemporary structure previously known as Urbis. Guided tours are available for a small charge and anyone donating £6 to enter receives numerous perks, but the entire museum is accessible for free. As well as permanent collections and a brand new exhibit dedicated to England’s 1966 World Cup win, pop-up events include the chance to play on retro arcade games, football skills lessons and regular discussion events.

National Footbal Museum

National Footbal Museum | © David in Lisburn / Flickr

National Football Museum, Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens, Todd St +44 161 605 8200

Look at the stars at Godlee Observatory

Home to the Manchester Astronomical Society and located in a tower at the top of a building belonging to the University of Manchester, Godlee Observatory is a little known gem in the heart of the city centre. Potential star gazers can arrange to attend several sessions of the society’s regular Thursday evening meetings for free, prior to deciding if they would like to officially join the society. Being based in the city centre, conditions aren’t that great for star gazing, but each week there is the opportunity to peer into the abyss through one of their dual-mounted telescopes.

Godlee Observatory, Sackville Street Building +44 161 306 4977