Manchester is often credited as being one of the UK’s biggest cultural hubs, and for good reason! The city is home to some of the best museums, art galleries and tourist attractions in the North, with most of them offering up their knowledge for a small admission fee. In this article however we’ve listed the spots where even the most curious of tourists can quench their thirst for knowledge without spending a penny!
1. The University Of Manchester Museum
It opened to the public 1890 its impressive archive of over six million items attracts thousands of locals and tourists every year.
The museum features a varied program of temporary exhibits in addition to it’s permanent ones such as the popular Egyptology exhibit that boats “one of the largest and most important collections of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the UK.”
The museum is also home to a variety of live amphibians and reptiles in their award-winning vivarium. Other than choosing to take a pit stop at the on site café or to buy a souvenir in the gift shop entry to the museum is completely free but donations can be made to help with running costs.
(Closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan)
2. The Whitworth Gallery
After a massive 15 million pound refurbishment it has doubled in size.
Among its collection of over 55,000 pieces visitors can expect to see a variety of collections including historic fine art, modern and contemporary art, textiles, prints, wallpaper and sculptures.
The refurbishment also saw the gallery expand to integrate with the surrounding park to feature unique new exhibitions such as the art and sculpture garden that showcases the beautiful combination of art and nature.
Monday to Wednesday: 10am-5pm
Friday to Sunday: 10am-5pm
Aside from its impressive exterior beauty (which warrants a visit itself!) those who venture inside will be treated to a staggering collection of 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items making it the third largest academic library in the UK.
The library is a bookworm’s nirvana but those who visit the library will come for the literature but will stay to marvel at one of the best examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in Europe.
Visitor Opening Hours
Mon:12noon to 5pm – Tues-Sat:10am to 5pm – Suny:12noon to 5pm
4. Free Manchester Walking Tour
Despite its efficient transport links one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see the sights of Manchester is on foot.
Most of them charge a small fee but for sightseers on a tight budget Free Manchester Walking Tours provide a free guided service that begins in Sackville Gardens by the Alan Turing Memorial and ends in Exchange Square, by the Oyster Pub.
The 3-hour tour aims to tell the story of Manchester, stopping off at many of the cities key landmarks and points of interest. The friendly guides will provide fun and interesting anecdotes and facts on all the locations and will be available to answer any burning Manchester questions you may have!
Although officially free the tour runs on a tip basis to keep it running and participants are asked to donate only what they can afford.
The tours run on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday starting at 11:00am
5. The Museum Of Science And Industry
Packed full of informative exhibits the museum also features many interactive attractions such as the “Experiment!” exhibition where guests can “stare into the mirror of infinity, create a tornado, and watch your own skeleton ride a bicycle!”
10am to 5pm every day except 24 to 26 December and 1 January.
For those who like their knowledge direct from brains of leading professors and public speakers then attending one of the UOM public lectures and seminars will provide you with just that!
UOM’s website lists a broad range of engaging and thought provoking talks, many of which are free of charge but may require advance booking.
Note that some of the talks are only available to students so make sure to check the audience on the website, ones available to the public will be clearly listed.
7. The National Football Museum
As our city is home to two of the biggest football teams in the premiership Manchester’s passion for football is undeniable.
Located inside the sleek & modern Urbis Building, the museum holds the world’s finest collection of football artefacts and archives. Football fans young and old can marvel at the large collection of historical football paraphernalia including Billy Wright’s 1958 England cap and early Pin football games from the 1950’s.
The museum also offers guided tours and various one off and special events throughout the year, details of which can be found on their website.
Monday – Sunday 10am-5pm Cafe opening hours, until 23 Dec;
Monday – Saturday 8am – 5.30pm, Sunday 9am – 5.30pm Extended shop opening hours
26 Nov – 23 Dec: 9am – 5.30pm
8. The Lowry
Technically in Salford, The Lowry’s famous free art gallery is well worth the trip over the bridge from Manchester City Centre.
Home to the largest public collection of paintings and drawings by LS Lowry in the world, the iconic local artist from whom the gallery gets its name.
The gallery features unique one of exhibitions and events such as the Lightwaves digital light show – five large scale digital light sculptures that can be seen between the 9th and 10th of December.
Sun – Fri 11am; Sat 10am. Close: Closing times daily 5pm.
9. The People’s History Museum
The museum’s collections tell the story of the history of working people in Britain.
The museum features many political exhibitions including early political pamphlets, the world’s oldest trade union banner, exhibits relating to the Peterloo Massacre and the desk on which Thomas Paine wrote The Rights of Man.
The focus on the history democracy and the struggle for workers equality makes the People’s History Museum a must see for Manchester knowledge seekers.
Daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm,
10. The Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art
One of Manchester lesser-known galleries and a real hidden gem!
Located in the Northern Quarter the gallery celebrates a diverse range of Chinese art and artists.
On the first Saturday of every month visitors can take part in “Mandarin Corner” for those interested in learning more about Mandarin language and broader Chinese culture.
Closed Mondays and Bank Holidays
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