Manchester on a budget: the top five things to do

Jenai Laignel / 07 March 2016

The history, geography and reputation of Manchester has earned it the moniker of England's capital of the north.

With its rich cultural offerings, cosmopolitan dining scene and world class shopping opportunities, a visit to the world's first industrial city will demonstrate just how far this vibrant destination has come.

We may think of Manchester as a city for big spenders, but it's not necessarily true that you need to be flashing the cash to enjoy a break in this exciting metropolis. Take a deeper look beneath Manchester's glossy sheen and you will find there are an enticing selection of things to do in Manchester that certainly won't break the bank...


1. Explore the art galleries

Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester


Thanks to an innovative project launched a few years back called Raising the Game, Manchester is now a destination that boasts a number of excellent galleries, hosting a number of big names and styles.

One of the great success stories is the Whitworth Art Gallery (pictured) with its plethora of cultural events and exhibitions held throughout the year – most of which are free. The gallery also boasts an extensive collection of breath-taking art from historic fine art and sculpture to contemporary, prints and textiles. Explore their programme for more details.

Find out about Saga's Art Appreciation holidays


2. Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park Manchester


The first of its kind, Castlefield is a unique experience, set amongst the intricate network of canals that characterises this part of the city.

Historical sights such as a Victorian viaduct and Roman ruins take precedence over slides and swings in this park – set aside a couple of hours to walk and explore before stopping off at one of the many bars and restaurants of the area for some refreshment.


3. Visit the library

Central Library Manchester


Book lovers rejoice – Manchester offers a variety of fascinating libraries, ideal for whiling away the afternoon and discovering literary gems.

The oldest surviving public library in England can be found at Chetham's with its ancient collection of books and atmospheric dark wood decor. There is also the impressively grand Central Library (pictured), resplendent after its restoration; the architectural treasure of John Rylands Library; and the quirky Portico Library, nestled away above a pub.

Save 10% on hotels in Manchester


4. Museums galore

Imperial War Museum Manchester


From the Imperial War Museum (pictured) and the Manchester Museum with its eerie tomb-like exhibition of Ancient Egyptian archaeological finds, to the Museum of Science and Industry, exploring the roots of this fascinating city, Manchester offers plenty of options for those who like to delve into the past.

Sports aficionados won't want to miss the National Football Museum either, where armies of football fans come to worship at the altar of what is arguably Manchester's greatest claim to fame.

Related: The best museums in London


5. Chinatown

Chinatown Manchester


Fancy a taste of the exotic? Hotfoot it down to Manchester's Chinatown, allegedly one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Ornate Chinese gates mark the entrance and a variety of affordable and deliciously authentic places to eat can be found inside.

Visit at Chinese New Year for a cultural extravaganza when dancing, music and entertainment bring this part of the city to life.


Consider booking your Manchester accommodation through one of our Saga partners and enjoy great discounts when you mention our name. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.