Besides being the city of sport, Manchester proudly presents its history in the many museum and art galleries scattered across the city and its outskirts. Visitors from all over the world are welcome to see some of the most fascinating art collections, special exhibitions, science inventions, hat works and learn about the history and culture of Greater Manchester through a friendly and knowledgeable staff and interactive activities.
Before you make your way to visit some of the best museums in Manchester, make sure to drop your belongings with one of our partners for secure luggage storage in Manchester. Most museums do not allow large bags to be brought inside.
This is a quirky award-winning museum that people might not think to visit at first, but it is pretty cool. There are two floors of interactive exhibits that delve into the history of Stockport's once-booming hatting industry. Take a step inside the museum and be transported back in time to the hatting industry's meek beginnings and the height of its production in the early 19th century.
You will find twenty rescued and restored Victorian-style machines on the museum's recreated hatting factory floor. It houses a collection of over 400 hats from around the world, but only 250 are on display at one time. This a museum that is good fun for everyone, no matter the age.
Hours: At the time of writing, the museum is under renovations. But you can visit the gift shop from Wednesdays to Fridays from 10:00 am - 4 pm
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Near the Salford University, the Salford Museum and Art Gallery is a fantastic blend of past and present. With a wonderful collection of Victorian fine and decorative art, you will also find contemporary touring and temporary exhibits. But the most interesting and fun section to visit is Lark Hill Place.
Lark Hill Place is an excellent recreation of an old Victorian street with cobblestones, gas lights, shops, and houses that you can have a look into. You will even hear the sounds of horses and carriages, and children laughing and playing in the street. If that doesn't make you feel like you are standing in another time, you can really get into it and get dressed up in Victorian-style clothing.
And after the visit, you can have a picnic or take a stroll through Peel Park located beside the museum.
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 9:30 am - 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11:30 am - 4 pm
This is a museum that is more than just an art gallery, it is also a theater. Located just outside the Manchester City Centre in Media City, the Lowry is best known for the constantly changing exhibitions from beloved British artist LS Lowry. It also showcases paintings, sculptures, and photography from national and international artists.
The theatre portion has two stages, The Lyric and Quays. Both offer an amazing variety of incredible entertainment like Broadway-style musicals, live bands, big-name comedians, and world-class dance and opera. The art gallery areas are free and the theatres don't cost as much. It's good to know that Manchester on a budget is entirely possible!
Hours: Gallery - Tuesday to Friday 11 am - 5 pm, Weekends 10 am - 5 pm
Theatres - Monday to Sunday in line with performance times
National Football Museum
In the United States, football (soccer) is not as big as it is in most of the world. The National Football Museum shows why it has been the world's best-loved sport in so many countries and cultures. You will find an incredible collection of memorabilia such as shirts, trophies, films, and photographs from as far back as 1863.
Even if you are not the biggest fan of the sport, just looking at the stunning architectural design of the former Urbis building is worth the visit. The National Football Museum also has great rotating interactive events and exhibitions that allow you to test your own football skills. And if you are not an athlete, there is a fantastic collection of retro arcade games to play.
You might be told this is a free museum but that is only true if you live in certain areas of Manchester.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
The largest university museum in the UK, the Manchester Museum houses over four million objects to explore, including a lifesize T-Rex skeleton. Originally founded as a natural history museum, it has expanded its collections to include archeology and anthropology.
The Manchester Museum has four floors of great exhibits from ancient Egypt, animals, insects, and a vivarium that contains some of the rarest and deadliest amphibians. Learn about Alan Turing, Charles Darwin, and the history of money.
The Manchester Museum will be closed for a time, but all of the exhibits and special programs can be accessed online.
Science and Industry Museum
Located on Liverpool Road in Greater Manchester, the Science and Industry Museum is easily one of the best museums in Manchester. Housed in the world's very first passenger railway station, and railway warehouse, it is loaded with relics of the industrial revolution, fighter planes, and old steam engines.
The Science and Industry Museum is dedicated to bringing science to life with great interactive exhibits and displays that children of all ages will love. Showcasing the importance that Manchester played in the industrial revolution with 250 years of world-changing innovations make for a pretty interesting visit. You will see the first computers, historical buildings, and you even get to be digitally integrated into sculptures. How cool is that?
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am - 5 pm during term time, Monday to Sunday 10 am - 5 pm during school holidays.
Greater Manchester Police Museum
The Greater Manchester Police Museum takes a look at the seedier side of Manchester's history. You see what it was like for prisoners of the Victorian age, sleeping on wooden pillows if they were lucky enough to get a bed. You can even test your sleuthing skills in a section dedicated to the masterminds of law and disorder.
The small museum surrounded by heavy iron riot gates gives you a look inside at how policing has changed through the decades. Staffed with extremely knowledgeable staff that will answer questions and delight you with dark tales of the past, this museum is surely not to be missed. You can also peruse official and personal records or check out the police cars and uniforms.
Hours: Tuesday 10:30 am - 4 pm for general admissions but you must book online. Wednesday to Friday private bookings only.
People's History Museum
The People's History Museum is all about fighting, fighting for people's rights that is. This "radical" museum is one of the most inspirational and educational museums you will visit. Charting the change of the British political system and human rights over the last 200 hundred years, from the right to vote and social justice to women's liberation.
Within The People's History Museum you will find around 1,500 items which include the most extensive collection of trade union and political banners in the world. It does more than just show you how history changed for the common person; it promotes continuous change with exhibitions and special series of events.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am - 4 pm
Imperial War Museum North
War has affected all of our lives in some way and the Imperial Imperial War Museum North shows how in a most poignant way. You might suspect that it would be a very depressing museum to visit but on the contrary. While it does hit home how devastating war is it also reveals the resilience of the human spirit.
The museum holds an emotional perspective on Britain's conflicts since WWI. It shows how technology, science, and the involvement of women have affected the way in which wars are now fought. With over 2,000 pieces on display, like the gun that fired the first shot at the Western Front for the UK in WWI, plus films ad photos, the Imperial War Museum North provides a moving and uplifting experience.
The museum is limiting entrance so you will need to book space on their website before you go.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
Museum of Transport
Are you a lover of trains, train stations like Manchester Piccadilly, or any form of transportation? Located in close proximity to Manchester city center, this museum will take you back in time with some of the most fascinating vehicles Britain had in the past, starting from a Victorian horse-drawn bus. You get to learn about Greater Manchester's public road transport history by browsing through two halls filled with buses from the 1930s and trams, all restored or being restored. See how people of Greater Manchester traveled to get to work or shopping.
Expect to also see old ticket machines, uniforms, an old brewery lorry, and other equally fascinating vehicles from the past. This is one of the best museums in Manchester where the entire family can have fun for a good three hours of the day.
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am - 4.30 pm
Elizabeth Gaskell's House
Elizabeth Gaskell is Manchester's renowned Victorian artist. If you want to see where and how she lived, then head down to the city center (this guide can tell you what form of transport to use), where you can step inside her 180 years old Victorian middle-class house for a hands-on experience. Knowledgeable staff will take you back in time around the restored house to learn about Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, and the history of other famous artists.
Don't be fooled by the looks. This place is great for the entire family. With interactive activities and fascinating period rooms, a Tea room, a cafe with delicious cakes, and a nice villa garden, a day spent here with the kids, is a day well spent. The entrance fee in this historic house is nominal and you have to pre-book your visit beforehand. Expect to spend two hours in this house.
Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday from 11 am to 4.30 pm
The Pankhurst Centre
This small museum located close to Manchester Royal Infirmary is full of information about the history of the Suffragettes. Learn about their struggle and efforts by watching a video of the events and demonstrations, going through photos, and even looking at real objects from the time. At the end of the visit, you can buy gifts books and postcards to take home.
This was once the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and the place where the first meeting of the Suffragette movement in the UK took place. Today it is run by friendly and informed volunteer staff. There is a little area for dressing up and face painting too, that kids may enjoy.
The entrance is free, but you can pay what you wish to help keep the small museum going. Tickets need to be booked online in advance, but you can walk in if the space allows. They may let you wait outside in their garden until there is an open spot for you to get in.
Hours: Thursday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm
What are the best free museums in Manchester?
When looking for a free museum you don't have to look far. Pretty much all the museums in Manchester and all of Great Britain are free. Most are founded by government resources, but even though they are free, they do ask for donations.
When it comes to being able to go to a free museum most will pick one of the big ones with lots of sciency things. But if you want to be unexpectedly surprised and inspired then the choices are easy. The funky little Hat Works is just plain fun, and at The Pankhurst Centre you can't help but be uplifted by the spirit of the Suffragette movement and volunteers that work at the museum today.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Manchester?
What is considered the best museum really depends on what you are into for instance modern art, social justice, or natural history. But for the money (which in this case there is none because they are free) the top of the list has to be the Science and Industry Museum and the Manchester Museum.
Being able to experience the amazing exhibitions and displays, not to mention all the wonderful interactive attractions they both have right in the heart of Manchester is incredible. These museums offer so many different attractions that you will have to come back again and again.
Are there any cheap museums in Manchester?
Even though most of the museums in Manchester are free, there are some that you will have to pay to get in, fortunately not a lot. The National Football Museum is a definite must for not just a football fan but any sports fan, and even if you are not it is still an incredibly beautiful building to admire. And it doesn't cost much to check out, who knows maybe it will make you a fan of the game.
Although the gallery areas of The Lowry are free, the theatres do cost, but again not much. Ask any Mancunian (a person from Manchester) and they will probably tell you how inexpensive it is. Where else can you go in this present day and find one of the world's best galleries and get great stage entertainment in one building? Well ok, it is two buildings but they're connected.
Wonderful museums in Manchester
Now when you know which museums to visit on your culture trip to Manchester and where to find them, you can plan your days easily. With all these museums and art galleries to check on your stay in Manchester, spending time in the city solo or with the family will always be exciting!