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Manchester on a Budget | By Ryan & Ammy

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Manchester on a Budget | By Ryan & Ammy

Once upon a time back in 2015 an Australian named Ryan and an Englishwomen named Ammy spearheaded the reception team at Hatters Hostel Manchester. After spending a number of years welcoming fellow backpackers into the great city of Manchester they decided to head off on their own travels. Recently we uncovered a present *blows dust* they left for all other guests coming to Manchester in the form of a word document they saved on the reception computer.

Turns out they created a whole guide on what to do on a budget in Manchester. We thought their unique insight into the city we love was too good to keep from you all, so we decided to share it to everyone on the world wide web. Some of the places mentioned may be a little outdated now so if you have suggestions of your own, help us update this holy grail of budget travel to Manchester.

Budget Travel to Manchester | by Ryan & Ammy

We are Ryan and Ammy, two of the greatest staff members Hatters Hostels ever had. We have now moved on from Manchester but wanted to leave behind for you this guide so that you can really make the most of the city. There’s intineries to suit all budgets and you should do exactly as it says
Ryan & Ammy's guide to Manchester on a budget

Ryan and Ammy – Ex Hatters Hostel receptionists

Budget 1:

Super Cheap

If you, like us, are travelling around only to impress your old high school ‘friends’ back home and need to show off more of your voyage photos (but have put more thought into exacting psychological revenge than budgeting) then the ryan&ammy foundation is here to help!

You’re at a hostel that provides free breakfast. Eat it! And eat it good! After lining your stomach with half a loaf of bread and a bowl of cornflakes sprinkled over the top, it’s time to go outside (you’ll find instructions on the door). Now say hello to Manchester’s Northern Quarter! On Hilton St/Thomas St take a wander and gander at all sorts of street art along this road and those streets and lanes all around it (we recommend the ever-changing Stevenson Square, Stewy’s Frank Sidebottom on Oldham St and ‘The Wall’ on Church St). We’ll quickly mention 22 LeverSt because we’ve been fascinated ever since we found out that it’s the only building left in the city that hasn’t been cleaned of the soot that covered all the buildings in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. If all that street art has transported you to your youth, then the next logical step will be to hang out on the roof of a car park, our suggestion, the one on Tib St or at Shudehill Interchange where you can channel your inner hawk and gaze at those below, or your inner peeping tom and peer into people’s apartment windows.


When you’ve had enough of the dizzying heights of the carparks, come down to the dizzying bustle of Market St, buy yourself a 19p baguette, somehummusand 99p chorizo, set up your makeshift kitchen on a bench and begin your people watching(for the more experienced people watchers, you may want to dub the voices of people you are watching). For those who prefer to be watched, put a hat down and busk your way to Market St infamy (this is where Madonna was discovered!).
And that’s it. That’s all there is.

Just kidding. Haha. Toward the bottom of Market St, you’ll find the stop for the Manchester City Centre FREE shuttle bus. That’s right, they will let you drive a bus around town for free! Just kidding. What these buses will do is zig zag through the city centre eventually completing a loop and you are able to jump on and off at any of the stops. FOR FREE! Some cities don’t even let you use their toilets for free! Take a number 1, 2 or 3 (bus) and ride that bad boy til you get sick. Why not sit next to another tourist, pretend you’re a local, and give them a guided tour with completely made up facts and have them rue the day they chose to forgo ryan&ammy’s supreme information booklet. Get off at one of the city’s FREE toilets, museums, libraries or churches and learn some things about stuff (Chetham’s Library and MOSI are proper sound mate).

Manchester on a Budget

It’s time to go back outside. If you haven’t had your eyes shut this whole time, you may have realised that Manchester is made up of a mix of districts and quarters existing solely for you to explore. Don’t miss China town where you can stock up on instant noodles because you’re poor and play a game called “Does this packet have something delicious in it or dried fish?” and the Gay Village. Then you can make your way to our personal favourite, Mayfield Station, an abandoned and derelict train station. That’s all we’ll tell you about that, for liability reasons, and also because we live there.

Along the shores of Canal St (in the Gay Village), you’ll find a path that follows the canals all the way back to the Northern Quarter (please be careful and do not use this path after dark #thecanalkiller #slipperywhenwet #itisrightnexttowatersoitisalwayswet). Keep on this path until you reach Urban Exchange and jump a few fences that could just as easily be walked around – but you’re on an adventure dammit! At the Urban Exchange shopping centre, head indoors to GoOutdoors. Look at all them tents. Pretend to have a barbecue and ask your pretend tent neighbours if they have any salt for your pretend burgers. Now go next door to Aldi and buy some real food (we don’t work for them, but that’s where we met and fell in love and got married and tried to conceive our first child). Use the kitchen at the Hatters to whip together your meal and discover that the packet did in fact contain dried fish snacks, which are pretty nice actually.

budget manchester canal street

Canal Street

After making heaps of friends with your fish snacks, take some time to yourself at a free meditation class at the Buddhist Centre on Turner St. Welcome to your new higher state of consciousness, you should now not care about what your friends back home think of you. If you still do, take a selfie in a yoga position and move on.

Each weeknight, Hatters has it’s free hostel activities and our 100% mentally secure host will be more than happy to make sure you have a top night from here on out.

At weekends, get on board the Bar Crawl and see the citizens of the city you’ve fallen in love with transform into their super hero alter egos: Captain Perfect-judgement-after-10-pints and Heels-are-my-only-weakness Girl.

For the adventurous and student-level budgeters, head to the undergrad ghetto of Fallowfield with a case of beers and roam around until you find a house party. You’re Adam’s friend if anyone asks.

Now get to bed ya little rascal.

Budget 2:
Average Joes

If you, like us, are completely average in every respect and writhe in discomfort at the thought of being even one quarter of a standard deviation away from the mean, then the Ryan & Ammy foundation is here to help!

On average, a person will have 1.134 breakfasts in a typical morning, so enjoy your accurately measured start to the day at Fresh Loaf on Oldham Street, where 12 items from the breakfast menu will set you back only £5. Crazy! On the same street is the independent and eccentric Affleck’s Palace. Release your inner child in this maze of dreamcatchers, bongs and costumes and pick up a souvenir for your 2 parents and 1.4 siblings and a new facial piercing for your employer. Now strut! Strut your way around the Northern Quarter (and not just the obvious places) and poke your head into record stores like Piccadilly Records, vintage vendors that include Cow, art supply suppliers a la Fred Aldous and a shopping trolley’s worth of book, sex and everything else shops.

Afflecks palace budget manchester

Outside Afflecks Palace

When ready, whet your whistle canal side on the aptly named Canal St in the Gay Village with a treat from Chinatown’s Wong Wong Bakery after to get that essential carb boost. Further down is Town Hall, the Central Library and the Midland Hotel, each so grand in aesthetic appeal that they were spared from bombing in WWII (that’s true by the way). You can run around inside Town Hall if you act like you’re important enough. Also, remember to look up as you walk around the city, that’s where the beauty is. Continue with your strutting (hopefully you have been strutting this whole time, it’s actually considered culturally insensitive not to) to the John Rylands Library which houses the oldest piece of the New Testament in the world. The newest, as yet unreleased piece is a word file saved onto our computer and is another project the ryan&ammy foundation has taken upon themselves to complete.

Did someone say lunch? Probably. As someone with an average budget, you’re riddled with choices in Manchester. There’s £5 curry at no frills This-n-That, often hailed as the city’s best, premier pies at Pieminister, vegetarian at Earth Cafeand all of the Arndale Food Market, especially Viet Shack. Did someone say lunch? Probably. But you should have eaten enough by now. Get a kick start in the Northern Quarter with a coffee from Takk, the pay-for-how-long-you-stay Ziferblat, West Corner, Nexus Art Café, Blue Daisy, Eastern Bloc, Sugar Junction or Manchester Coffee Co.

How have we come this far without mentioning football though? The National Football Museum will fill you in on all there is to know about football and footballs. What are they? Why are they round? What’s the highest one has ever bounced? What’s the most efficient way to get one back that has been kicked over your neighbour’s fence? You probably want to go see a match by now. Well getting tickets to a United or City match can be harder than grating the last bit in a block of cheese. Take a tour of the stadiumsif you can’t find a match ticket (you even get discounted prices if you book through Hatters) and recall your inner child again by pretending you have imaginary friends with you watching imaginary players. Don’t forget, Greater Manchester is home to plenty of other professional football teams such as Oldham Athletic, Rochdale AFC, Altrincham FC and Bury. Tickets to these games will be easier and cheaper to get and you’ll get to see more of Manchester!

budget travel to Manchester National Football Museum

Inside the National Football Museum

Did someone say boom boom? Let me hear you say ayo! If you don’t mind an early dinner Evuna on Tib St does 3 tapas for £9.99 from 12-6pm. You can get pizzas with gluten free options at Dough, ridiculous burgers at the famous Almost Famous and traditional English fayre at The Old Wellington. But don’t forget yourHatters check in voucher scores you 50% off at the generous (in price and portion size) Odd. Keep that voucher out because of course you’ll want to wash your meal down with some beers at Holdfast in the Hatters basement where you’ll get discounted prices just because you’re a guest! Special mention also goes to the nearby Port Street Beer House.

Just because your average doesn’t mean you have to have an average night. Night time is when everyone has the chance to exceed their potential (given that the person passing judgement on that potential has had enough to drink), so see what’s happening at the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club, Dead Cat Comedy or what local improv comedy troupe Comedy SportzUK are up to (the latter two can be found by their Facebook page). Take in some jazz at Matt and Phreds then hit the nightclubs to break down some barriers (mental barriers that is, clubs don’t like it when you barge your way to the front of the queue and disregard their barriers). has the most comprehensive night life listings, of course it’s down to your personal choice, but we’ve never had a bad night at Sankeys, Sound Control, Gorilla, Antwerp Mansion, Soup Kitchen, South, Deaf Institute and anything that says it’s being held in a warehouse or secret location.

If live music is more your thing, have a browse through and find an artist that suits your tastes, or just see what’s happening at the Castle, Gullivers, Bayhorse, Kraak, Night and Day, Dry, Bandonthewall or The Royal Northern College of Music.
You should be back in time to get the free breakfast. And 3…2…1…sleep.

Budget 3:

Big Spenders


If you, like us, occasionally wear a tuxedo and cocktail dress to go to an estate agent and ask to view their grandest property just so you can feel a little warmer inside because the gas is out at yours, then the ryan&ammy foundation is here to help you see the higher end of Manchester.

Free breakfast? Not on fancy day. Sleep in and get a full English at one of the Northern Quarter’s quality cafes. Our top pick is Home Sweet Home, serving a moon-sized plate of all the random things English people demand in order to deem their breakfast a full one (breakfast potatoes?!), waffles and bottomless coffee. Honourable mention also goes to Trof.

Waddle your way to Exchange Square where you’ll be surrounded on all sides by Selfridges, Arndale, Corn Exchange, Harvey Nicholls and Manchester Cathedral. Pay your respects to your respective Gods. For those in search of a more fulfilling experience, make the pilgrimage to the Trafford Centre, the UK’s 2nd largest shopping centre!

Take a break from your retail workout with a cheat meal at Ginger’s Comfort Emporium in Affleck’s Palace. As your personal trainers and life coaches, we suggest you get your fix of the Chorlton Crack ice cream. Be warned, trying Chorlton Crack even once can lead to lifelong dependence. If potentially life ruining ice cream isn’t your thing, how about chocolate? If chocolate isn’t your thing, then you’re an idiot. Just kidding. But not. BonBon Chocolate Boutique off Thomas St stocks a range of artisan chocolates; fancy day calls for fancy snacks. Pop some in a box and go see a matinee at one of Manchester’s theatres making sure that the actors can see you eating them so as to inspire some real emotional depth. The Royal Exchange, where the Queen Elizabeth I was traded in for Queen

Elizabeth II, is the city’s premier play ground. Have a look on for all Manchester’s listings or grab a paper copy of the Skinny magazine at Hatters.

Being the big spender that you are we can appreciate thatyou deal only in bank notes and credit cards. So if you don’t have a coin on you, you need to ask passers-by on the street for some change, because it’s decision time! Flip your coin. The result will send you to either the Northern Quarter or the equally impressive Castlefield/Spinningfields districts. If your coin has determined that you will keep to the NQ, munch on some lunch at Solita (try their Big Manc burger) and follow it up with a coffee at North Tea Power. If on the other side of the coin you’re prancing in the ‘fields’ at the opposite end of town, The Wharf has you covered for lunch, and a short stroll to Grindsmith on Deansgate for a coffee will set you in good stead for the evening.

Track down the stranger who gave you their money and return it to them. Wherever you are now, it’s time for some art at the Manchester Art Gallery (or even try The Lowry at Salford Quays). Inquire at the information desk on how to go about buying one of their arts. They will tell you it’s not possible and maybe look at you funny but at least they’ll know you’re a person of means.

Track down the stranger who gave you their coin before and ask to borrow it again (they’ll know you’re good for it at this point). Flip it and head to either the Northern Quarter or Casltefield and Spinningfields. In the NQ, winner on some dinner at TNQ, or at the opposite end of town take a table at Don Marcos.

Surely you’ll be in need of a drink by now and lucky for you whichever end of the city centre you find yourself, you’ll have plenty of options. On a back lane in the Northern Quarter there’s Cord,behind Hatters is the kool Kosmonaut and in Stevenson Square is the hidden speakeasy, Dusk til Pawn. In Spinningfields check out the sorcery at Alchemist, the gated community at Neighbourhood and cocktail heaven (not actual heaven, but it is on the 12th floor) at Manchester House.

Now back to Hatters where our loving night staff are waiting to greet you and keep you secure.

Quick food:


Late night near the hostel, the only option is Leos (10% off when you use your Hatters voucher)….or Burger King. Vegetarians should seek out V Revolution and 8th Day Café and for those with Gluten free diets, try Tea 42.

Other things to do

Craft centre, Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art, People’s History Museum, Imperial War Museum North, Chill Factore, Coronation Street studio tours, Salford Quays, Pub Quizzes, Karaoke in Chinatown, Curry Mile, Go Karting, Breakout Manchester,Manchester wheel, Airport Runway Park, Whitworth Art Gallery and the many other free museums and galleries, Heaton Park, Didsbury and Chorlton.

Day Trips

What? Manchester not good enough for you? Well if you, like us, just can’t cope with how bloody good Manchester is, then there’s some truly stunning places only a short distance away that are worth seeing.

A hourly direct train is available that will take you to Edale, a great base for seeing the Peak District and if you want to get away from it all you can walk to Scotland from here along the Pennine Way. Be sure to pack more than just a packet of crisps. Not recommended for those with a phobia of sheep that stand in one place and eat grass.

Alderely Edge
You can get a train here to, but then it’s a short-ish walk to the actual edge. You’ll pass houses on the way that you could park 3 busses in, and I’m sure one of these houses does in fact have a room just for their luxury busses, “Jeeves, would you fetch me one of my busses from the bus room, I want to drive it down the hall to the kitchen, where you will prepare me a meal.” Run around the woods like you’re a dog off it’s leash and gaze over the edge at Manchester.


Liverpool canal link

Liverpool Waterfront

Spend multiple days here if you want. Book at Hatters Manchester for Hatters Liverpool and you’ll get 10% off. But Manchester is better, and when you check into the Liverpool Hatters, you should gaze around and proclaim, “You know…I was just at the Manchester Hatters and it is better” (But seriously the Liverpool Hatters is situated in an amazing building).

This one takes a little longer to get to, but if you like beaches, this is a good’n. There’s huge sand dunes, and when we were there, we found two sharks although they were 2 foot long and dead (or they were very good and very smelly pretenders) and which we were going to sell to the shop but there was no shop.


Another apex destination in the Peak District. Let’s just take a minute to reflect on that genius play on words. Okay. Rolling hills, caves, a castle, quaint BnBs and a restaurant with a Man vs Burger challenge, Castleton has something for everyone. Take a train to Hope and then you’re two miles from everything you pictured England to be (before Harry Potter came out, now days it’s all owls this, flying cars that).

Adlington Hall
The beauty of this one is that it’s literally right next to the train station (Adlington Station); you’ll quiver with terror as the train shoots past. This is a manor. There’s heaps of them in the UK, and this one is close by and pretty impressive. We don’t think you can go inside, and it might be trespassing to go on the grounds, but hey, at least you’re doing something with your life. Tatton Park is worth a mention too. This one, just past the airport, takes a tad more planning to get to, but you can go inside and it’s bigger!

Windermere and the Lake District

Buttermere Lake in the Lake District

Buttermere Lake in the Lake District

The lake district has a special place in our hearts. Ever since we frolicked naked on the turret of a castle that overlooked Lake Windermere and then ambled into the woods to spend the night, we’ve not been allowed back. There is a reason this place has inspired so many poets, and it is easily overlooked. Get the train to Windermere then hitchhike your way around.

Other Places
Manchester is situated in such a great location, with even better rail connections, that there are really too many places that you could make a day trip to. Look on Google Maps (satellite view) and pick a place that looks nice, ask a local where they grew up, or just turn up to the train station and spin around with your eyes closed and aim for whatever platform you land on (we don’t advise spinning near the tracks). There’s York, Leeds, all of Greater Manchester and you can use the 10% discount to book your place at Hatters Liverpool or Hatters Birmingham and see what those cities have to offer.

And lastly, should you come across anything or place noteworthy on your travels of Manchester, let Hatters reception know what you thought of the place and they can pass on your recommendation.

Enjoy Hatters (the staff here really are top folks), enjoy Manchester (chat to the locals they’re mint) and enjoy everything else etc.

Ryan and Ammy

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