So, it’s that time of year again. We’re heading towards the final few weeks of the semester, and suddenly all those shots at the SU bar and taxi rides around town during Freshers seem like less of a brilliant idea when you check your bank balance. Gulp!

Never fear though – being low on funds doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! There is a whole host of places you can visit in Manchester and Salford that won’t cost you a penny – and can still provide hours of entertainment! Here are my top picks:

Manchester Art Gallery:

Far from the pretentious afternoon jaunt that it may appear to be, Manchester’s Art Gallery, right next to the St Peter’s Square tram stop, is home to some brilliant exhibitions and events – and entry is free (though visitors are encouraged to leave a small donation if they wish). Current exhibitions include ‘Trading Station: How hot drinks shape our lives‘, perfect for the coffee connoisseur; as well as ‘And Breathe…‘, which explores the relationship between interacting with art and taking care of our mental health – a topic that becomes even more important with the added stress of end-of-term deadlines fast approaching! And with a brilliant three-way ping-pong table in the interactive space that simply begs for a chaotic tournament, there are hours of fun to be had exploring this historic cultural space.

Runway Visitor Park:

Manchester Airport welcomed 29 million passengers this year alone, but you don’t have to be jetting off somewhere exotic to enjoy the sights and sounds of this somewhat unusual day out! The airport’s Runway Visitor Park is free entry if you take the tram out, and it’s well worth the trip for the chance to watch the aircraft take off and land from the best seats in the house! If you did have a little extra cash to spare, you can also book a tour of some of the world’s most famous aircraft, including the flagship of the Concorde fleet, which flew the Queen across the Atlantic! Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to £15 to wander around Concorde, the other planes on display are well worth a visit!

Levenshulme Market & Lowry Maker’s Market:

Fancy yourself as a bit of a Del Boy? Or just on the look out for some highly reduced Christmas gifts? Manchester’s central Christmas Market may well be in full swing by now, but venture a little further outside the city centre, and you could come across some brilliant bargains! Levenshulme Market runs every weekend between March and December, so get your skates on if you’re looking for that elusive Christmas present for a family member; alternatively, the Maker’s Market in the piazza outside the Lowry Outlet in Media City is a lovely place to wander around on the last Saturday of every month! Even if you don’t crack open the purse strings, getting out and talking to some of the characters in the markets can be some of the most fun you can have on a cold winter weekend!

National Football Museum:

Manchester is famous the world over for its pro-footballing connections, and nearly half a million tourists are drawn here every year to experience a slice of football history at the National Football Museum. Until January, entry is free: from then onwards, entry is free for Manchester residents, so get yourself down to Urbis while you can! The exhibitions cover everything a football fanatic could hope for, from a display of some of the sport’s most prestigious trophies, to the history behind huge footballing moments, and currently an exhibition on the history of football kit, which may even entice those whose tastes are more focused on fashion than football!

Chetham’s School of Music – Lunchtime Concerts:

Fear not, musos, because there’s something for you too! Chetham’s School of Music host free lunchtime concerts every weekday, where students from a range of musical backgrounds can showcase their repertoire. Why not indulge in some calming classical music to de-stress at the end of a busy week of deadlines?

Photo Credit: Day Out With the Kids

Heaton Park:

Most famous perhaps as being the location for ParkLife festival every summer, Heaton Park can still provide a lovely afternoon’s entertainment, even when not populated by streams of awestruck Gallagher brothers fans! Take it back to your childhood at the Animal Centre; register for one of the free 5K Park runs on a Saturday morning; or gather together some mates for a football tournament on one of their three football pitches; all for free! Getting out into nature is something that seems remote when attending university in a city, but with the tram service out to Bury stopping a 15-minute walk from Heaton Park, it couldn’t be easier!

Bonus tip: Don’t fancy the walk from Deansgate to Piccadilly in the chilly wind? Looking for a free way to travel around the city centre? The Metroshuttle bus service is the easiest way to travel for free around Manchester city centre! With four routes connecting all the key sites in the centre of town, getting from Spinningfields to the station is as easy as that! Check out the bus routes below:

So whatever you’re into, and whatever your budget, there are plenty of exciting activities to do in and around Manchester without cracking open your wallet! So, what are you waiting for?