The IRA’s 1996 bomb in Manchester city centre was one of the city's darkest days. Extensive damage was done, but ultimately it served only to unleash a flurry of investment that carries on to this day. This means, of course, that there are myriad ways to spend your pennies here these days. Yet deep down, Manchester remains a city of the people, and it looks kindly on the stony-broke. On a practical note, the city centre is eminently walkable. Bring a hooded coat though (an Oasis-style parka, perhaps?) – it’s not known as the Rainy City for nothing. Here are ten ways to enjoy Manchester for free.
Explore the National Football Museum
With the monopoly that Manchester seems to have on the Premier League, it’s only fitting that they should have the National Football Museum. Located close to the site of the 1996 IRA bomb, Ian Simpson’s 2002 glass-clad building is an elegant, defiantly delicate-looking retort. Other freebie museums to check out include the Museum of Science and Industry, Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum.
Head to the Northern Quarter
This hipster-rich neighbourhood was cut off from the city core with the opening of The Arndale centre in 1976, and it now feels like an enclave all on its own – even the street names are represented in tile mosaics, locally designed and made. The absence of big chains means there’s a resolutely uncommercial feel to the district – the penniless can simply dine out on the atmosphere (look out for the metal fire escapes, for instance, that have seen the NQ double for NYC in movie shoots). Browsers are welcome at the Craft & Design Centre – a former Victorian fish market – and at the music-themed Richard Goodall Gallery on Thomas Street.
Visit the People’s History Museum
This brilliant museum champions the politically engaged and the working class in a city where they have historically been champions. Two galleries tell the story of the role played by Manchester – the world’s first industrial city – over 200 years of political radicalism. Architects Austin-Smith:Lord’s acclaimed building design looks pleasingly like a ninja mask, but check out the nearby Civil Justice Centre, too – its cantilevered courtrooms gave rise to a "filing cabinet" nickname.