Five free things to do in Manchester

Beetham Tower, Manchester's tallest building, dominates the city's landscape.

Beetham Tower, Manchester's tallest building, dominates the city's landscape.

Manchester has a constantly growing reputation as one of the most popular cities in the United Kingdom.

Affectionately known as ‘Cottonopolis,’ the city is creeping ever closer to taking the ‘second city’ title from Birmingham.

And why wouldn’t it be, when there’s plenty to see and do?

Whether it’s taking in a game of football at the home sides of Premier League football clubs Manchester United and Manchester City, looking over the city and having a tipple at Beetham Tower’s Cloud 23, or getting messy chowing down on an Almost Famous burger, the Warehouse City has more than enough to keep visitors and locals occupied.

But for those on a tighter budget, is there much on offer?

Why, yes, yes there is. Check out five of the best free things to do in Manchester below.

1) Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum North as seen from the banks of MediaCityUK. The viewing platform can be seen sticking out of the roof.

The Imperial War Museum North as seen from the banks of MediaCityUK. The viewing platform can be seen sticking out of the roof.

Whilst technically being just outside the city limits, Imperial War Museum North is definitely worth the journey down to Salford Quays for.

It may seem like a strange location for such a big and appealing attraction, yet as you’ll discover inside it stands on a site heavily bombed by the Germans in World War II.

Visitors can try on real warfare equipment. One of the interactive exhibits that the IWM has.

Visitors can try on real warfare equipment. One of the interactive exhibits that the IWM has.

If its quirky look isn’t enough to draw you in, then the interesting exhibits, including the Horrible Histories’ ‘Blitzed Brits’ exhibition – which is aimed at kids but fun for all ages – as well as the main room which acts as a timeline starting with World War I going right through to the present day.

Entry is free, though a ticket to the shard viewing platform cost an extra £1.20 for adults and 60p for concessions. The views of the surrounding quays, nearby Old Trafford and of Manchester city centre in the distance are worth the meagre outlay.

The view from the Imperial War Museum North's shard viewing platform. The Manchester weather is in fine form, as per usual.

The view from the Imperial War Museum North's shard viewing platform. The Manchester weather is in fine form, as per usual.

2) John Rylands Library

The exterior of The John Rylands Library which can be found on Deansgate.

The exterior of The John Rylands Library which can be found on Deansgate.

Located on the edge of Spinningfields, one of the city centre’s more modernised areas, stands John Rylands Library.

John Rylands Library was constructed by, Enriqueta, the wife of the man who it’s named after, as a gift to the people of Manchester following the passing of her husband.

Opened in 1900, the library has remained well preserved and is known for its gothic architecture. Not only is it free, it’s also the city’s highest-ranked attraction on travel review website TripAdvisor.

John Rylands Library has some stunning architecture, and is one of Manchester's most fascinating attractions.

John Rylands Library has some stunning architecture, and is one of Manchester's most fascinating attractions.

It could be described as Manchester’s answer to Hogwarts as some of the hallways and stairwells look like they could have been takes right out of the movies.

3) Heaton Park

The Temple at Heaton Park. Image credit: Adam Bruderer/Flickr

The Temple at Heaton Park. Image credit: Adam Bruderer/Flickr

Another free thing to do, just beyond the city limits is a trip to Prestwich’s Heaton Park, which is home to over 600 acres of green space.

One of its most prominent features is the concrete mass better known as the Heaton Park BT Tower, but don’t let that ruin your fun as there is also an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a boating lake, animal petting farm, a driving range, woodlands, ornamental gardens, an observatory, and adventure playground and a volunteer-run tram system and museum.

Going on a nice day weather-wise is advisable, and it’s probably best to avoid going on either the first or second weekend of June, because that tends to be when popular festival The Parklife Weekender is held.

Heaton Park in its Parklife setup in June 2015.

Heaton Park in its Parklife setup in June 2015.

4) National Football Museum

The Urbis building used to contain a Manchester-themed museum before the National Football Museum moved there from Preston North End's Deepdale stadium.

The Urbis building used to contain a Manchester-themed museum before the National Football Museum moved there from Preston North End's Deepdale stadium.

One of the most comprehensive collections of any museum in Manchester belongs to the National Football Museum.

With many artefacts and items of memorabilia from teams and games all over the globe, there’s a lot to be learned inside the old Urbis building.

Its interactivity will not only be a hit with football fans, but should also draw in those less keen on the beautiful game.

A selection of silverware and memorabilia on display on the first floor.

A selection of silverware and memorabilia on display on the first floor.

Entry is free, but quite a few of the machines you’ll need to pay for if you want to use them.

Currently, the National Football Museum is playing host to temporary exhibit Pitch To Pixel until June 2016, which delves deep into the past, present and future of video games.

Pitch To Pixel at the National Football Museum.

Pitch To Pixel at the National Football Museum.

There are plenty of consoles to have a go at, such as the SEGA Mega Drive and Dreamcast, the PlayStation 2 and the iPad, which feature games including FIFA International Soccer, UEFA Dream Soccer and Football Manager.

5) Watch a television show recording

The Studios (pictured just off-centre in this image) where television shows like A Question of Sport are now filmed.

The Studios (pictured just off-centre in this image) where television shows like A Question of Sport are now filmed.

At MediaCityUK at Salford Quays you’ll be able to find the BBC, ITV and The Studios – where television shows for both corporations are filmed.

Shows such as A Question of Sport, The Jeremy Kyle Show, The Voice and Mastermind call Salford home, and they also dish out free tickets to be in the audience.

Me at a Jeremy Kyle recording, the third from the left. It was A LOT better than I expected. In fact, I'd highly recommend going.

Me at a Jeremy Kyle recording, the third from the left. It was A LOT better than I expected. In fact, I'd highly recommend going.

Usually tickets are in high demand, and require a brief application process, so you can’t hang your hat on them like you can with the other ones.

But if you try MediaCityUK's official website, BBC's ticket website and SRO Audiences, you can browse through the show calendars and apply for whatever tickles your fancy.

They aren’t guaranteed, but you’ve got to be in it to win it.