Manchester was described as the 8th best city in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in 2016. Its reputation as a wet industrial city has been replaced with one of shiny modern glass buildings sitting alongside the wonderful Victorian architecture. Many of the older buildings have been cleaned up and given a new lease of life. Some have been turned into swanky hotels, cafes and clothes shops, but Manchester’s most fantastic architecture and attractions are free for you and your family to enjoy!
A great free service for visitors is the city centre Metro shuttle buses that you can hop on and off. It connects you to the railway stations, shopping areas, and car parks. So whether you arrive by car or on the train, you can take advantage of it to get around.
1 – Art and architecture
Manchester has some fantastic public architecture and squares, all within its very compact city centre. Albert square sits at the heart of the city, and is fronted by the amazing gothic Town Hall Manchester and Town Hall extension. You can visit the sculpture hall and take in the magnificent statues of old Manchester greats.
Manchester Central library, around the corner from the town hall, has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment. Resembling a giant wedding cake on the outside, inside, it has a spectacular interactive visitors centre, and in the basement a children’s library they can spend hours in.
A short walk from the city centre you’ll find the fantastic Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery. Recent winner of England’s gold prize for “large visitor attraction of the year”, you will love the art gallery that sits in a park. There are stunning exhibitions, an amazing café that floats among the trees, and new gardens. Take a picnic and have some time outdoors too.
2 - Science and sport
Budding historians and scientists should visit the Museum of Science and Industry. Nestled in the city’s historic Roman quarter, it is housed in old industrial warehouses. Here you can see the first passenger railway station and exhibited steam trains. Watch how cotton was made, and helped forge the industrial revolution, which started in and around Manchester.
In contrast, the National Football Museum, next to Victoria station, is in a glass modern building that looks like a giant iceberg. It contains some fantastic memorabilia of the great game and anyone who loves sport and football will have a great time here.
3 - A tram ride to the docks
The River Irwell divides Manchester and Salford. See both cities by catching a tram from Deansgate tram station. If you get off at Media City, you’ll be able to get a great view of the old docks and waterways where you can enjoy a day of fantastic attractions.
Media City, the home to BBC and Granada TV, sits around a fantastic water setting in futuristic looking buildings. If you plan your trip, why not apply to be part of the audience of a TV programme as part of your day out.
Across the water, you’ll see The Lowry theatre and gallery, exhibiting the work of Salford’s most famous artist L S Lowry. His work depicts the lives of everyday people and his famous style of matchstick people is world known.
Further across the River Irwell, the striking Imperial War Museum is also free for the whole family. It has live projection shows every day and some fantastic and memorable exhibitions.
Now you’ve read our guide you can start planning your fantastic day out in Manchester. Remember, all attractions mentioned here have free entry. From time to time, there may be some special exhibits you can choose to see which do carry an admission charge.
Planning a trip to another UK city this summer? You can read all about days out in London here.