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The best free things to do in Manchester

Our pick of the best free things to do in Manchester, from galleries and libraries to museums and more
The Lowry, Manchester
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Having a grand old time shouldn't cost an arm and a leg. And with our selection of the best free things to do in Manchester, it really won't. From museums to art galleries and libraries, there's plenty to get your cultural teeth into, all without having to even put your hand in your pocket.

Free things in Manchester

Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Chetham's Library

icon-location-pin City Centre

Astonishingly, Chetham's Library, founded in 1653, is the oldest public library in the English speaking world, still providing public access to over 100,000 books free of charge, right in the middle of Manchester. As you can imagine, it's quite something to behold. 

Museums, Military and maritime

Imperial War Museum North

icon-location-pin Salford Quays

Architect Daniel Libeskind's astonishing building, an aluminium-clad landmark on the banks of the Manchester ship canal, could easily have overshadowed the content within. Brilliantly, it does not. Sloping floors and obtuse angles inside are a deliberately disorientating attack on the senses. 

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Art, Galleries

Manchester Art Gallery

icon-location-pin Central Manchester

Slap bang in the middle of the city centre sits on oasis of calm in the grand shape of Manchester's main art gallery, housing its superb collection alongside temporary exhibitions. And what a collection it is. Nearly 13,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and other art forms, plus a similar number in the craft and design collection, all making for one genuinely world class gallery. 

Museums, Science and technology

Museum Of Science And Industry In Manchester

icon-location-pin City Centre

This inspiring museum explores how science, innovation and industry have created modern society and continue to shape it. Sound dull? It isn't. For starters, MOSI is within Liverpool Street Station, the Manchester terminus for the very first purpose-built passenger railway in the world, making it the world’s oldest railway station. Special temporary exhibitions have proven popular too, ranging from 'Dr Who – Up Close' to 'Body Worlds'.

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Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

The John Rylands Library

icon-location-pin Greater Manchester

In times of woe and in need of spiritual guidance, you could well find yourself wandering into The John Rylands Library mistaking it for a church, such is the late Victorian neo­-Gothic splendour of this magnificent building. However, inside you'd find something which could truly enrich the soul – about 200,000 books.

Art, Arts centres

The Lowry

icon-location-pin Salford Quays

LS Lowry described himself as 'a simple man' so it would have come as a huge surprise to him to see The Lowry. Like a huge glass and steel ship rising out of the once derelict docks of Salford Quays, The Lowry opened in April 2000 as the Millennium Project for the Arts and has gone from strength to strength, recently announcing a £1 million private donation to secure plans for further development.

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