Here’s Your Guide to Free Fun Things To Do In Manchester, England
Nestled in the hilly industrial conurbation that bisects the North of England, Manchester has a well-deserved reputation as a rough-and-tumble town. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a hub of the country’s economic explosion and even today is known more for dank pubs and industrial relics than art galleries and family entertainment. Nevertheless, the city has made remarkable strides in recent years, slowly shedding its seedy reputation and quietly establishing itself as an affordable destination for international tourists. If you are traveling on the cheap, you’ll want to check out some of these free, quintessentially Mancunian attractions.
1. The Museum of Science and Industry
Upon walking into this grandiose Neoclassical edifice, American tourists might be forgiven for thinking they were back in Chicago or Detroit. Having a world-class industrial museum befits Manchester’s economic history, of course, and the institution has proven itself indispensable to the city’s cultural life since its opening. In addition to hands-on, family-friendly exhibits like a walk-in sewer, the Museum of Science and Industry also has in-depth exhibitions that treat specific locals’ contributions to engineering, chemistry, and other scientific disciplines.
As long as you are willing to walk a little, Castlefield offers unfettered access to various life-sized artifacts from Manchester’s storied history. This urban playground is constructed around the city’s old canal network and features an old Roman fort, some of the oldest railway viaducts in the world, and an array of beautifully-restored industrial buildings. It’s known around the world as the first designated Urban Heritage Park in the UK.
3. City Airport
Truly great cities differentiate themselves with attractions and institutions that can’t easily be replicated elsewhere. Manchester’s City Airport is a textbook example of just such an attraction. As one of the oldest airfields in the world, it’s built a bit differently than modern jetports: It has an Art Deco control tower, bumpy earthen runways, and a tourist-friendly beer garden guaranteed to shuttle you back to the glory days of modern aviation.
4. Heaton Park
If the novelty of an old airfield isn’t quite your speed, Manchester also has a world-class urban park that rivals New York’s Central Park in scope. In some respects, the park is like a city within a city: It’s home to an Industrial Age mansion and an accompanying farm, a bowling and astronomer’s club, an extensive network of walking and cycling trails, and a series of waterways with ample recreational options. As one of the city’s most kid-friendly destinations, Heaton Park is a must-visit if you have the whole family in tow.
5. The People’s History Museum
The local arts society spent 12 million pounds on a major renovation of this ambitious museum and still, somehow, managed to keep it free for the viewing public. The institution houses artifacts that played a pivotal role in the development of democracy and other social movements, like Thomas Paine’s desk and the prototypical trade union banner. It is also one of the principal anchors of Manchester’s up-and-coming “Left Bank” cultural district.
Like other industrial cities, Manchester is unfairly maligned as grimy and past its prime. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the city has developed into northern England’s cultural capital and boasts more free attractions than its more expensive European peers, like London, Paris and Rome.
About The Author: Harley Sinclair lives in England, where he writes travel reviews and tips. If you are interested in visiting Manchester, you can find information on a wide range of Manchester hotels here and make a reservation.