Travelers don't need to visit London to discover some of the U.K. best museums. Manchester is home to several of the country's most expansive collections of art, as well as engaging museums like the National Football Museum and the People's History Museum. Most of the city's collections are free, which makes museum-hopping especially easy on your budget when traveling through Manchester. Here are 10 of the best museums in the area.
Owned by the University of Manchester, Manchester Museum showcases displays on natural history, zoology, archaeology, and anthropology, with a specific focus on Egyptology. It houses more than 4 million items from around the globe, including dinosaur skeletons, Roman coins, and mummies from Ancient Egypt. The museum is open daily, including on bank holidays, and entry is free. Regular visitor tours are offered, so check the website for updated days and times.
Manchester Art Gallery
Located in the city center, the Manchester Art Gallery houses a vast collection of art, from historical pieces to contemporary exhibitions. The museum often features special exhibits, as well as frequent events and talks, and it's free to all visitors. The opening times can vary, so check online for the current hours. The museum is notably family-friendly with child-specific activities, so bring the whole gang along to experience the art.
HOME is technically a center for international contemporary art, theater, and film, but it's also so much more. The arts complex, which opened in 2015, has several galleries, a bookshop, a cafe and an extensive calendar of performances and events, from plays to dance to independent film screenings (held in five cinemas). It's a great destination for those interested in the current art scene or who want to immerse themselves in the culture of Manchester. Stop by for a movie and lunch, or book into one of the evening performances for a night out. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, so it's a great alternative to the pricier theaters around town.
National Football Museum
Football (known in America as soccer) is the national pastime in England, but especially in Manchester, home of Manchester United. The city's National Football Museum is a great way to learn more about the history and culture of the beloved sport, including special exhibits on topics like the fashion of football shirts and women's soccer. It has a huge archive of items, with pieces that date back to the early 20th century, and it's engaging for kids as well as adults. The opening hours and dates can vary, so check online and book a ticket in advance of your visit.
Whitworth Art Gallery
Found in Whitworth Park, the Whitworth Art Gallery is part of the University of Manchester and owns more than 60,000 works of art. It was first opened in 1889 and now showcases paintings by the likes of William Blake, Thomas Gainsborough, and Camille Pissarro. There is also an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as a wallpaper collection, which includes more than 5,000 examples of vibrant papers. Admission is free, so you can stop by any time during your trip to Manchester.
Science and Industry Museum
Manchester's Science and Industry Museum is all about how ideas can change the world, focusing on inventions and innovation from the Industrial Revolution until today. In particular, the museum looks at Manchester and its surrounding areas, revealing to visitors how Northern England was part of revolutionizing transportation and industry. It's a great pick for those who love history, as well as families with kids and is free for all. You can book timed tickets online in advance. Check online for upcoming temporary exhibitions and special events.
Elizabeth Gaskell's House
84 Plymouth Grove is known now as Elizabeth Gaskell's House, a small museum dedicated to Victorian literature and life. The Grade II listed neoclassical villa was once the residence of William and Elizabeth Gaskell, Manchester's most famous Victorian writer, and the rooms have been preserved to showcase her life. There is also a scenic garden, which has been planted to detail the sort of garden the Gaskells would have had back in the day. Admission is 5.50 pounds for adults and free for kids younger than 16. Be sure to stop by the Tea Room located in the original kitchen for a snack before you leave.
People's History Museum
The People's History Museum, known as the national museum of democracy, is tasked with studying and preserving the history of working people in the U.K. It looks at the past, present, and future, and houses exhibits on "ideas worth fighting for," a particularly engaging topic for anyone invested in what's going on in today's society. The museum displays nearly 1,500 historic objects, with the largest collection of trade union and other banners in the world. It's free, with a suggestion donation of 5 pounds per visitor, and a calendar of upcoming events and talks can be found on the museum's website. For those who can't make it to the actual museum, the People's History Museum also offers online events and workshops, many of which are free.
Imperial War Museum North
Imperial War Museum North, one of five branches of the Imperial War Museum, centers on the impact of modern conflicts on people and society. Found in Trafford Park, the museum's location and building is worth the visit alone, with amazing modern architecture right on Salford Quays. The museum's main exhibition, which has free admission, looks the impact of war on our culture via 2,000 objects, photographs, and interactive displays. Items include Tolkien’s First World War revolver and a long piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The museum also features some special exhibitions and events, so check online ahead of your visit to see what's on.
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Travel a bit outside Manchester's city center to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, which is situated int heart of Peel Park. First opened in 1850, the museum features both permanent displays and changing contemporary exhibitions, with free admission for all visitors. One of the museum's highlights is Lark Hill Place, a recreated Victorian street that lets visitors experience what life was like in Victorian Salford. There are also dedicated activities for kids, including the Explorer Trail, where young visitors can interact with historical figures throughout the galleries.