Manchester on a Budget

Get a Metrolink Travel Card

Great things to do in Manchester on a budget

Even if you take no other piece of advice from this article, take this piece. Manchester’s Metrolink is an exceptionally well-run transport system that will get you around the city and beyond, on time, and for a really reasonable price.


For £5.80 you can get a weekend travel card that offers you unlimited travel on all Metrolink tram services.

Get Stuck Into a Manchester Tart

things to do in Manchester on a budget

The Manchester Tart is a traditional little pudding that comprises of a shortcrust pastry shell filled with raspberry jam and custard, with desiccated coconut and a cherry on top (how desiccated coconut is a traditional Mancunian ingredient is neither here nor there).


When in Manchester, eat a Manchester tart. When eating a Manchester Tart, make sure you eat one that’s been baked by Robinsons.


They are a family craft bakery who have been making Manchester happy with their baked goods for 152 years, so it’s safe to say they have their signature tart perfected by now.


They’re based in Failsworth which is a little outside the city centre, but they have a regular stall in Piccadilly Gardens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday all year, except January – check their Facebook page for updates.


You could make the pilgrimage to the bakery too, it’s worth a visit. Tarts cost £1.80 each or three for a fiver. I’m not saying you definitely should buy six of them with your tenner, I’m just saying it’s possible. And delicious. And you definitely should.

Do the Free Walking Tour

Manchester on a budget

As usual, we are championing the wonderful invention that is the Free Walking Tour. Manchester’s is great, and it covers two important periods in Manchester’s history; the industrial era and the post-industrial era (when ‘Madchester’ happened).


You’ll see all the city’s most famous sights and some of its lesser known quirks, while your guide regales you with stories and secrets from Manchester’s colourful, musical, fascinating past.


As usual with these free tours, you pay what you can afford and what you think it was worth – be nice to your guides!


Tours depart from the Alan Turing Memorial at 11am on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They last for three hours (including a coffee stop), and they run in all weather, so dress appropriately!

Wander in the Northern Quarter

Great things to do in Manchester on a budget

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is where it’s at in Manchester for quirky shops, weird and wonderful people, beautiful street art, and great nightlife.


Lose yourself here for at least half a day, but before you lose yourself, make sure you find Afflecks Emporium. It’s a wonderland full of vintage clothing, peculiar decorations and curios, delicious fudge, rare records, and much, much more.


Lady Gaga herself has patronised this establishment, and really what more ringing an endorsement could you ask for? I challenge you NOT to spend a tenner here. It’ll never happen. There’s too much cool stuff.

Visit the John Ryland Library

Things to do in Manchester on a budget

The Jon Ryland Library is one of the most popular, interesting and recommended attractions in Manchester.


You don’t have to be a bookworm to appreciate this one; the architecture alone makes it worth a visit and makes you feel as though you’ve just entered Hogwarts… but their collection of books is pretty incredible too.


Entrance to the library is free, and you can even jump onto a free guided tour of the place. If you have a tenner burning a hole in your pocket, you can spend it on afternoon tea at Café Rylands.


Do that, and you get an awesome attraction, a guided tour and a succulent selection of cakes, scones and sandwiches – all for the princely sum of £8.50. Do it.

The Police Museum

Manchester on a budget

This one is an all-rounder, but it is particularly good for families and children. The Police Museum is situated in an old police station, and it provides a genuinely interesting look at the history of policing in the city.


You can see uniforms, vehicles, and weapons, learn about the changes in policing over the years, and even visit a court room as well as the old cells where they used to hold suspects (spoiler alert, they are pretty dark, pretty grim, and used to hold up to twelve prisoners at a time, somehow).


The Museum is run by volunteers and as such it can’t be opened every day, but it is open on Tuesdays from 10:30am-3:30pm, or if you have five or more people in your group, you can arrange to have a private tour. Find out more here.

Heaton Park

Great things to do in Manchester on a budget

Heaton Park is a huge, beautiful park that you can easily get to from the city centre (especially with one of those  Metrolink tickets).


As parks go this one ticks all the boxes – beautiful open spaces, big old trees everywhere, a lake with row boats for hire (£8.50 for up to four people, so it’s within a tenner budget), an animal centre, a beekeeping centre, a tram museum, and much more besides.


Even if the weather’s not great it’s worth seeing, but if the sun is shining on Manchester when you’re there, you really couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

Visit the Outhouse

Things to do in Manchester on a budget

There is an abandoned, permanently out of order public toilet in the Northern Quarter. Its design can only be described as ‘brutalist’ – basically, a big, obnoxious grey block of concrete.


At least until 2010, when two artists from the area – Tasha Whittle and Ben Harrison – decided to use it as a blank canvas, prettying it up with some lovely public art.


The toilet block’s now repainted with new artwork every three months, and the public ‘gallery’ has extended beyond the toilet where it all began.


If you like art and awesome community projects that make the world a more beautiful place, you should take a wander to the Out House. Don’t forget your camera.

Eat on Curry Mile

Manchester on a budget

There’s a part of the Wilmslow Road in Manchester that is more commonly known as the Curry Mile, and is without doubt the spiciest stretch in the city.


Here you will find a frankly staggering concentration of take aways, restaurants and kebab houses that serve up delicious Indian, South Asian and Middle Eastern food.


It’s cheap, cheerful and tasty, and you can easily have a good feed along here for under a tenner. One particularly good, casual spot is Jaffas, where you can get a really really good chicken shawarma for £4. Top it up with a few of the £2 mezze and you’re laughing. Bon appetite.

Cloud 9? Try Cloud 23...

Great things to do in Manchester on a budget

Cloud 23, truth be told, is not a ‘budget’ bar. It’s swanky, and the decor is beautiful and you won’t get a cocktail for under ten quid.


But you can enjoy a cold beer, and while it might cost more than in other bars around Manchester, none of those offer you the chance to sip it on the 23rd floor of the Beetham Tower, while you gaze down over the city’s skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows.


You’re not just paying for the beer here, and it’s worth splashing out on.


Flights to Manchester


- Dee Murray