16 Best Museums And Galleries In Manchester

Aside from its close ties - past and present - with the beautiful game of football, people often don't often consider Manchester as somewhere to visit for history and culture. They'd be very wrong, of course. Among the towering Victorian and art deco buildings, converted industrial spaces, and network of canals and rivers, there are plenty of cultural things to do. But what would we recommend? This list of the very best Manchester museums and galleries, spanning famous paintings, 130-year-old sperm whale skeleton and the birthplace of the suffragette movement.


Science And Industry Museum

Museums in Manchester city centre aren't all quite as famous as the Science And Industry Museum, which is found in between Castlefield and Spinningfields. Open from 10am to 5pm daily, this pick has totally free entry, taking you through 250 years of innovations that were born in Manchester and then went on to change the world. Think hands-on science experiments, gaming stations, steady hand buzzers, spinning planets, textiles demos and more.

Please note: The Power Hall and the 1830 Station and Warehouse are temporarily closed for renovation works until summer 2025 as part of the museum's decarbonisation project.

Science And Industry Museum Manchester | DesignMyNight

If you're after entry to free museums in Manchester, pop this place on your list.

Whitworth Art Gallery

With an ever-changing lineup of exhibitions and gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows in a seasonal cafe, Whitworth Art Gallery has every angle of your visit nailed. While closed on Mondays, the space is open from 10am to 5pm all other days of the week - apart from Thursday nights, where late closure means you can stay until 9pm instead. Founded in 1889 as a space for the University of Manchester and people of the city to convene, this history continues across a collection of 60,000 artworks, including historic prints, textiles, wallpaper and modern greats of the 20th century.

Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester | DesignMyNight

Visit one of the best art galleries in Manchester with tickets to Whitworth. It's free.

Salford Museum And Art Gallery

Having opened in 1850 as the Royal Museum and Public Library, Salford Museum and Art Gallery champions the history of the area, as well as Victorian art and architecture. Open Tuesday to Sunday until 4pm and totally free to visit, the venue has exhibits like a fully reconstructed Victorian street called Lark Hill Place, a world-famous collection of Pilkington’s pottery, immersive spaces with historical characters like Mr Tomlinson’s Sweet Shop, and the Langworthy Gallery for more contemporary art from emerging and established artists. Plus, a visit here means you can also explore Peel Park behind the museum.

Salford Museum And Art Gallery | DesignMyNight

Whether Victorian sweet shops or ceramics are more your thing, there's something for you here.

Manchester Art Gallery

46,000 objects of fine art, decorative art and costume wait at this destination just off St Peter's Square, promising everything from a vast collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings to early twentieth century British art. One of the most famous paintings at Manchester Art Gallery is Work by Ford Maddox Brown, a street scene representing the Victorian shift from rural to urban society and industry. Further works from Brown also feature, as well as Henry Edward Tidmarsh's watercolours of Manchester's Victorian streets.

Manchester Art Museum | DesignMyNight

The ticket price of Manchester Art Gallery doesn't hurt either; spoiler, it's free.

Manchester Museum

Archaeology, anthropology and natural history come together at this location within the University of Manchester on Oxford Road. As well as the Golden Mummies of Egypt in the Exhibition Hall, you can also expect The South Asia Gallery (in partnership with the British Museum), The Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, fossils and dinosaurs, and a display of natural history specimens that's been watched over by a huge sperm whale skeleton for the last 130 years. Prefer your animals a little more animated? The Vivarium also holds critically endangered species of live amphibians and reptiles. Aside from Monday closures and late night opening until 9pm on Wednesdays, it's open until 5pm the rest of the week. Topping it off? The Manchester Museum ticket price is a very reasonable: zilch.

Manchester Museum | DesignMyNight

Manchester Museum tickets are completely free too.

National Football Museum

As the home of two of the finest Premier League teams, there could really be no other place for the National Football Museum than Manchester. Head to the Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens near Victoria station to find this choice, which first opened in Preston in 2001 but moved to Manchester in 2012. It's home to the world's largest collection of football objects and archives, with 2,500 on display at any one time including shirts, the oldest FA cup trophy and even the latest in VR experiences. Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Trevor Brooking and Sir Geoff Hurst remain firm supporters of this museum, which is open between 10am and 5pm daily. Tickets cost £14 per adult and grant entry for a whole year.

National Football Museum Manchester | DesignMyNight

After the best museums in Manchester for lovers of football? Here's your pick.

People's History Museum Manchester

Collecting the history of the UK's working people is no mean feat, yet those over at the People's History Museum have done just that. Visit this free-entry museum in Left Bank, Spinningfields between 10am and 5pm every day (except Tuesdays), so you can uncover all there is to know about the national museum of democracy. Home to extensive Labour Party archives, political posters, banners and even commemorative ceramics, this venue creates a narrative of people coming together, united under a common cause.

People's History Museum Manchester | DesignMyNight

Explore the history of democracy in the UK here.

The Pankhurst Centre

Once the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, and so the birthplace of the suffragette movement in 1903, The Pankhurst Centre sits in the Victorian villas of Nelson Street; reminding us that it has only been just over 100 years since women were first allowed to vote. While the first meeting of the movement took place here, today it serves as both a museum and as the headquarters of Manchester Women’s Aid. Open Thursdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm, the exhibitions here explore the extraordinary achievements of the Pankhurst women in changing the course of women's rights and democracy.

The Pankhurst Centre Manchester | DesignMyNight

The Pankhurst Centre is a must-visit. You must book timed-entry slots but tickets are free.

Imperial War Museum

Featuring over 2,000 objects depicting the history of our warring British Empire and conflicts since, the Imperial War Museum North awaits on The Quays in Salford - and with free entry, too. Think The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Ukraine, The Cold War, WWI and WWII - including a famous display of cascading, hand-crafted ceramic flowers called Poppies. Every hour, you can also be immersed in the 360-degree cinematic Big Picture Show, where surround sound and 27-foot-high projections reflect the immediate impact and after-effects of war across a poignant piece.

The Imperial War Museum Manchester | DesignMyNight

From whole canons to digital displays, the museum here uses lots of different mediums to show the history of Britain at war.

Elizabeth Gaskell's House

Another museum celebrating one of Manchester's important female figures, Elizabeth Gaskell's House celebrates the life and literature of the woman herself - a key figure in Victorian writing and British literary history. Historic period rooms and a Victorian-style garden give you an insight into the life of Elizabeth Gaskell and her family, with £7.50 admission during opening hours (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 11am to 4.30pm). Collection highlights include a Keats poetry book with a gift inscription from husband William to Elizabeth, Elizabeth Gaskell's diary, and the family wedding veil passed down the generations.

Elizabeth Gaskell's House | DesignMyNight

This key literary figure is worth celebrating.


An independent cinema, theatre and art gallery, HOME has become a pillar of the community here in Manchester; working with artists both locally, nationally and internationally to create a varied programme of events and exhibitions. Located roughly between Oxford Road and Deansgate train stations, on Tony Wilson Place, First Street, the venue's exhibitions are all free-entry. There are regularly changing exhibits, as well as permanent fixture Intervention - a collaborative film in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

HOME | DesignMyNight

More free-to-enter gallery space can be explored at HOME.

esea contemporary

Previously known as the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, esea contemporary is an art gallery that can be found in Manchester's Northern Quarter, with free admission for all. Ever-changing exhibitions explore topics from cultural identity to loss and community across multi-media artworks, including sculpture, moving-image archives, music and more. Jane Jin Kaisen's Halmang is the current feature, exploring gendered histories and alternative community.

esea contemporary | DesignMyNight

Contemporary art galleries in Manchester don't get much better than this.

Manchester Jewish Museum

An essential historical pick on our list is Cheetham Hill's Manchester Jewish Museum. Housed in a Grade II listed former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue (the first Sephardi synagogue in Manchester) dating back to 1874, the restored building holds a rich history that reflects one of the city's most diverse areas. It's both a performance space and a museum featuring over 20,000 photographs, as well as objects and 530 oral history testimonies - including 138 recorded interviews with Holocaust survivors and refugees.

Manchester Jewish Museum | DesignMyNight

Check out the vast lineup of community events here, otherwise standard museum entry is £8 per adult.

Museum Of Transport, Greater Manchester

A top pick of Greater Manchester museums is the Museum of Transport, another Cheetham Hill venue. Tickets are £6 per adult and cover your entry to the 1930s bus garage, which holds vintage vehicles, objects and displays - spanning from horse and carriage to the current metro system. While the space itself is open Wednesdays, bank holidays and weekends between 10am and 4.30pm, you can also nab free rides on heritage buses to complete the experience, which run on selected dates throughout the year.

Greater Manchester Museum of Transport | DesignMyNight

Grab a vintage bus ride at the Museum of Transport.

Castlefield Gallery

Out of all the art galleries in Manchester city centre, Castlefield Gallery on 2 Hewitt Street is a popular and contemporary pick established in 1984. Having paved the way for artist development in the city for over 40 years, you can rest assured that the carefully curated exhibitions here are worth a look - and for free admission too. The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, between 12 and 5.30pm for your visits to see paintings, audio landscapes, sculpture and more from national and international artists.

Castlefield Art Gallery | DesignMyNight

Get a load of the latest contemporary pieces making waves on the art scene here.

The Lowry

Sitting on the waterfront of MediaCityUK in Salford, The Lowry might be better known as a theatre but the Andrew and Zoë Law galleries are equally worth a visit. Open until 5pm all days other than Monday (excluding bank holidays), this free-to-enter space houses a permanent exhibition that's also the largest collection of LS Lowry works in the whole world. Local man Lowry was famous for his mill scenes and industrial landscapes after his 1939 London exhibition gained national fame.

The Lowry | DesignMyNight

See this famous Manchester artist's largest collection of works.

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