The best museums in Manchester

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Covering themes including the history of war, industry, football, and politics, Manchester is home to some of the UK’s best museums

Visit Manchester and you’ll have a vast array of activities on your doorstep, including a variety of fantastic museums. Here we dive into a few of the very best.

Whether you’re interested in the history of transport, the city’s industrial heritage, modern art or even football, there’s more than likely a museum in Manchester that you'll enjoy. So next time you pay a visit to the UK’s second city, consider paying a visit to one of these exceptional institutions to make your trip even more memorable. 

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For the engineers…

Science and Industry Museum

museum of science and industry manchester

As the city at the heart of England’s industrial landscape, it’s fitting that Manchester should be home to the excellent Science and Industry Museum (located on the site of the world’s first railway warehouse). This cutting-edge institution features a variety of fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions that celebrate the history of science, innovation and industry. Explore the Power Hall, where you can learn about how steam, gas, and oil fuelled the industrial revolution, the Air and Space Gallery, which includes a variety of air and spacecraft exhibits and the Revolution Gallery, filled with interactive displays– you’ll be hard-pressed to see it all in a day.

For the artists…

Manchester Art Gallery

manchester art gallery

Located right at the centre of the city, the exceptional Manchester Art Gallery is a haven of tranquillity among bustling streets. Housing a superb permanent collection comprising almost 13,000 drawings, photographs, paintings and sculptures, the work on display here is truly world-class. With paintings by the likes of Lowry, Waterhouse and Grayson Perry alongside important Pre-Raphaelite works, there are hours of inspiration for lovers of both classical and contemporary art just waiting to be discovered. 

For the footballers…

National Football Museum

national football museum

The world’s largest (and some would say best) museum of the great game, the National Football Museum is a must-visit for lovers of the sport. Spread across four floors, this museum is the permanent home of the FIFA, FA and Football League collections and more memorabilia than you can shake a yellow card at. There are also loads of interactive opportunities for both kids and adults, too; from the discovery zone, which allows under-fives to try out their favourite kits, to Football + where you can test out your reaction times and ball control skills before having your photo taken with a tournament trophy and having a go at professional commentating. 

For the activists…

People’s History Museum

peoples history museum manchester

Home to the largest body of political material held anywhere in Britain, the People’s History Museum chronicles the fascinating story of democracy in the UK. Originally founded as the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society, the museum today features a huge selection of objects and print material chartering the fight for the right to vote, and the parties that grew alongside this struggle. While it might sound dry, this museum is captivating in its coverage of topics such as war and the working class in an insightful and illuminating way. 

For the trainspotters…

Museum of transport

historic tram manchester

An essential stop on a tour of Manchester for any transport enthusiast, the Museum of Transport features a collection of vintage vehicles that’s up there with the best the UK has to offer. Home to more than 70 vehicles including historic trams, buses and trains (many of which you can climb inside and look around) the Museum of Transport offers a window into the history of getting out and about in the UK. Delving as far back in history as 1890, when horse-drawn carriage trams ruled the city streets, there’s plenty here to keep the whole family occupied for an afternoon (or two!).

For the history buffs…

Imperial War Museum Manchester

imperial war museum north

An award-winning museum in a purpose-built building that’s an architectural attraction in its own right, the Imperial War Museum North is in equal parts an unnerving and fascinating experience. Featuring immersive exhibitions covering all the facets of the history of war, the museum pinpoints important historic moments of conflict like the onset of WWI and the 9/11 attack on New York’s World Trade Centre. Sobering yet inspiring, the Imperial War Museum is a more introspective experience than others on this list, but not one that you would want to miss. 

For the all-rounders…

Manchester Museum 

the manchester museum

Rounding off our list is the city’s largest and perhaps most impressive institution, the Manchester Museum. The largest university museum in the country, the Manchester Museum is located in an arresting neo-gothic building designed by the architect behind London’s Natural History Museum. Home to several internationally renowned archaeological, anthropological and natural science collections, the range of animals and artefacts on display here is truly mind-boggling. From taxidermied sea creatures and a giant T.rex fossil to spooky mummies and intricately decorated Egyptian sarcophagi, there’s more than enough here to keep you occupied on a rainy day.

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