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annabelbenton
11th February 2023

Lifestyle Loves: Manchester for free

We’re showcasing some of the best free things to do in Manchester as being a student on a budget can often feel restricting, but it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t enjoy your city
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Lifestyle Loves: Manchester for free
Photo: Annabel Benton @ The Mancunion

Want to get the most out of your city but are stuck on a budget? Here is our list of recommendations for the best things to do and places to go in Manchester – completely for free!

1. Manchester Art Gallery

Mosley St, M2 3JL

Being free, Manchester Art Gallery is a great city centre stop-off, whether for a full visit, to view a couple of collections, or even just to browse their lovely gift shop. Upon visiting, it is clear that the team of curators have put real thought into the exhibitions, aiming to prompt conversations and questions about how we view, display, and interact with both historical and modern art.

Current collections include Dandy Style, How Hot Drinks Shape Our Lives, and Climate Justice, alongside the gallery’s more permanent displays of artists such as L.S. Lowry and Ford Madox Brown. Other galleries in the city such as The Whitworth are also free to enter, so there’s no excuse not to get cultural.

2. Bunny Jackson’s

1 Jack Rosenthal St, M15 4RA

In Bunny Jackson’s, an American-style dive bar, there’s plenty of free entertainment- such as live music every Sunday, or, on more special occasions (such as every payday), from the house band. You can also challenge your friends to a free game of pool or darts, and the sister bar Junior’s in the Northern Quarter even houses a karaoke machine.

It’s generally frowned upon to go into a bar without ordering a drink, but you can still get yourself a good deal during Happy Hour, which runs every day from 10 pm (or from 5 – 8 pm at Junior’s). The bar is also home to 25p chicken wings, so although a night there may not technically be free, it’ll still be ridiculously cheap for central Manchester.

3. The Blue’s Kitchen

13 Quay St, M3 3HN

On Fridays, Deansgate’s Blue’s Kitchen hosts a completely free club night, Manchester Got Soul. DJs play classic soul music from 9 pm, with a live band hosted on the top floor stage from around midnight until closing time at 2 am. The music is varied, and the atmosphere in the crowd is always great – no one is afraid to let go and have a proper dance.

Despite free entry and surprisingly short queues, drinks at Blues are certainly not cheap. However, you could definitely enjoy a sober night out at this venue; the live music is more than enough entertainment to substitute for a few pints or shots.

You can read more about Blue’s Kitchen in our guide to alternative nights out in Manchester.

4. John Rylands Library

150 Deansgate, M3 3EH

Often thought of as one of the most iconic buildings in Manchester, the Neo-Gothic John Rylands Library makes a great day trip. Found in busy Deansgate and surrounded by modern architecture, the Victorian building is a perfect example of the fusion between old and new in the developing city centre. The library is open to visitors from Wednesday to Saturday, and, as part of the University of Manchester’s many study spaces, it’s definitely worth taking a visit.

If you are wanting to complete your university work in this grand setting, beware that no food or drink is allowed inside the building. Alternatively, the Central Library on St Peter’s Square is also free to visit if you’re wanting to study off-campus for the day, or just hoping to browse some books.

5. Manchester Museum

Oxford Rd, M13 9PL

Manchester Museum, which has been closed for the last few years for refurbishment, is set to reopen on February 18. Tickets are free and the location on the University of Manchester’s main campus makes it a convenient place to visit. Upcoming exhibitions include: the Golden Mummies of Egypt, a showcase of around 100,000 fossils, and an entomology collection of over 2.5 million insects, so you will be spoilt for choice.

In fact, many other museums in Manchester are also free to enter, such as the Science and Industry Museum, the Pankhurst Centre, and the People’s History Museum. So, whatever your interests, there’s sure to be an informative, free museum day trip waiting for you in the city.

If you’re wanting more inspiration for what’s on in Manchester, you can check out more of our Lifestyle loves series here.

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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