Manchester on a Budget

Discover some of the best free things to do in Manchester and enjoy your weekend break without spending too much. Find the best budget hotels nearby!

“This is Manchester, we do things differently here.”
The late, great Tony Wilson played a big role in putting Manchester’s music and nightlife on the map, which is part of what makes the city so good for a cheap weekend break. There’s so much more to get stuck into in the Northern city and if you’re on a budget, you’ll be happy to discover a lot of it doesn’t cost a penny. So, what are some of the best free attractions in Manchester?  
 
With a range of permanent galleries that focus on things like Manchester’s textile heritage and industrial background, this wonderful museum also offers an ever-changing array of temporary exhibitions. As well as being a lot of fun, interactive displays, shows and workshops are great for learning, making this an excellent option for families with children, who will especially enjoy the soft play area.  
 
Whether you want to get hands-on or observe from a distance, the Science and Industry Museum is a great, free place to visit. From watching your own skeleton ride a bike, to creating tornadoes and learning about Manchester’s revolutionary past, there’s plenty to see and do.  
 
Research has found that gazing at artwork can release dopamine into the brain. That’s the hormone we associate with falling in love, and it makes us feel happy and content. So, when you’re planning your weekend break in Manchester, boost your happiness with a trip to Manchester Art Gallery.  
 
You can browse the fine art collection, which includes almost 13,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures print and photos, or visit temporary exhibitions. The gallery has even played host to drawings from Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci!  
 
If you’re bringing the kids along, check to see if there are any suitable exhibitions or events, such as sensory workshops.  
 
Part of the University of Manchester, this stunning library opened on the first day of the 20th century. It was created well over a hundred years ago as a gift to the people of the city, and has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving.  
 
John Rylands architecture alone is captivating, but there’s a lot more to it than that. There are over 1.4 million items in the library’s collection, ranging from medieval manuscripts to an ancient fragment of the Gospel of John, which is regarded as the earliest part of any New Testament writing in existence. You can take a guided tour, or check the calendar for events that are on when you're in town. 
 
(© Copyright Gerald England and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Located in Didsbury, around five miles out of the centre, this park was donated to the City of Manchester by its namesake over a hundred years ago. Fletcher Moss and his mother are responsible for much of the current layout of the gardens, which provide a peaceful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre.  
 
If you enjoy walking, you can link up with the River Mersey for a stroll by the water, or stick to the gardens to see resident birds like blue tits, wrens, tree-creepers and robins. Summer migrants include chiffchaffs, willow warblers, sand martins, swallows and blackcaps, while you may also spot colourful parakeets as you meander along past small waterfalls, ponds and ornamental trees and shrubs. It’s a little slice of paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded here in 1889.  
 
Looking for a budget hotel in Manchester? Whether you’re checking out one of the above, or planning something else for the best short weekend Manchester has to offer, you’ll want to find a comfortable hotel to stay in. The ibis budget Manchester Salford Quays hotel is only a few minutes’ walk from the nearest Metrolink station, which is a short tram ride to the city centre.  
 
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