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    Manchester’s Best Museums and Galleries To Visit

    17th July 2023
    Manchester’s Best Museums and Galleries To Visit - Victoria Riverside
    Manchester’s Best Museums and Galleries To Visit - Victoria Riverside

    Life in Manchester is never dull. Whether it’s catching a gig at one of the city’s many music venues, having a romantic dinner in one of its fine restaurants, or taking a quiet stroll along its canal system – there’s always something to do.

    When you feel like soaking up some culture, you’ll find that Manchester is a hub of creativity and the arts. The city has a thriving art scene that caters to the diverse tastes and interests of its vibrant population. 

    Here are 10 of the best galleries and museums in Manchester – by no means an extensive list, but a good place to whet your appetite for the cultural delights of this Northern Powerhouse city.

    1. The Whitworth Art Gallery

    Situated in Whitworth Park, this stately gallery showcases a stunning collection of historic, modern, and contemporary art. 

    Think innovative exhibitions, captivating installations, and a tranquil sculpture garden.

    By far one of Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit, the Whitworth is spread across several floors and the exhibitions usually focus on challenging, topical, or socially-conscious themes. Here you can take in works of art from renowned artists such as William Blake, David Hockney, and Cornelia Parker, before refuelling with a coffee in the elegant coffee shop.

    On sunnier days, you can also take a leisurely stroll through the adjoining park, immersing yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds the gallery. Whitworth Park is one of Manchester’s most treasured green spaces and hosts regular social events, ideal for summer picnics, and a great place to relax after having taken in the artistic gems of the gallery.

    Best of all, the Whitworth is just a short walk south of the city centre and surrounded by the youthful exuberance of the university campuses – so there are plenty of bars and places to eat nearby.

    2. Manchester Art Gallery

    Located in the heart of the city, Manchester Art Gallery houses a remarkable collection of over 25,000 artworks spanning an incredible six centuries. 

    Within the four walls of this Victorian architectural beauty, you’ll find a diverse range of artistic expressions, from classic paintings and sculptures to thought-provoking contemporary exhibits.

    Don’t miss the Pre-Raphaelite collection, where you can revel in awe-inspiring works by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. 

    Manchester Art Gallery is also a fantastic place to learn and grow, as it hosts regular events, workshops, and talks that allow visitors to engage with art in a more interactive and educational manner.

    The setting of the gallery itself is a work of art, with its grand facade and imposing columns, along with its sumptuously decorated rooms and ornately corniced galleries. 

    After you’ve had a wander of the intriguing exhibitions, relax in the coffee shop or browse the souvenirs in the gift shop.

    The art gallery is just a stone’s throw from the Manchester Central Library and the Town Hall, making it a great place for a cultural day out, while being located conveniently close to Piccadilly Gardens and the main shopping area of the city centre.

    3. The Lowry

    Head to Salford Quays in Greater Manchester to discover this architectural masterpiece. The Lowry houses an impressive collection of works by the renowned Salford artist, L.S. Lowry. 

    Its prime location close to MediaCityUK only adds to the prestige of this contemporary arts venue, where you can take in Lowry’s distinctive vision of urban landscapes and depictions of working-class life in industrial England at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Aside from being among Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit, the Lowry is also a space dedicated to the performing arts. Here you can enjoy theatre performances, concerts, and a range of cultural events throughout the year. 


    4. The Imperial War Museum North

    Next on the list of Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit, is the impressive Imperial War Museum North, located close to the Lowry at the canal basin of MediaCityUK.

    The imposing design of the waterfront building is the brainchild of Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind Berlin’s Jewish Museum. Its design represents a globe shattered by war, with great shards of metal reaching up into the Salford sky. The museum was fittingly erected on a Blitz bomb site and is one of the most significant cultural destinations in Manchester and the wider North of England. 

    The IWMN houses a permanent collection and hosts special exhibitions and events that consider the many ways conflict shapes society. Recent exhibitions included the stories of Holocaust survivors and the poppy installation taken from the Tower of London.

    The museum contains 2,000 artefacts, interactive displays, photographs, documents and ephemera. Some notable artefacts include a World War I revolver wielded by J.R.R. Tolkien, a piece of the World Trade Centre, and the gun that fired the opening shot of WWI. 

    Truly food for thought.

    5. The Jewish Museum

    Another thought-provoking place, and up there with Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit, is the Jewish Museum in Cheetham Hill.

    Manchester is an incredibly diverse city and hosts the second-largest Jewish community in Britain outside London.

    The Jewish Museum tells the story of Jewish migration and settlement in the city, with the help of video displays and 31,000 exhibit items. The museum annexes the 19th Century Grade II-listed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, which is the heart of the entire gallery.

    This museum weaves an engrossing tale of Manchester’s Jewish history through oral testimony, photography and collected objects. The friendly and informative museum curators are happy to guide you around the museum, providing extra details and answering any questions you may have.

    The venue also hosts community events such as jazz sessions, immersive theatre performances and poetry readings.

    After you’ve wandered through the museum and taken in the ambience, relax in the cafeteria with some delicious homemade kosher treats.

    6. The Manchester Museum

    Owned by the University of Manchester, this is the UK’s largest university museum and is located on campus on Oxford Road.

    Following a £15 million transformation, the Manchester Museum reopened in February 2023 and has come back bigger and better than ever, with new displays and collections.

    The striking neo-Gothic edifice of the museum was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed the Natural History Museum in London. The building contains an extensive collection that spans natural history, archaeology, and anthropology. 

    There are some evergreen favourites among visitors, including the ancient Egyptian exhibition with its mummies, and the unique ‘Living Worlds’ exhibition, which delves into the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world. 

    Don’t miss Stan the T-rex fossil, the museum’s giant Japanese spider crab, and a lion preserved using taxidermy.

    7. The Pankhurst Centre

    One of Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit is undoubtedly the Pankhurst Centre.

    What makes it so powerful is its inspiring testament to the world-changing legacy of the suffragette movement, which was born in Manchester.

    The museum is named after Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, who were pivotal figures in the suffragette movement, and the building itself was once the home of the Pankhurst family and served as the birthplace of the suffragette movement.

    A visit to this museum means immersion in the victories and struggles of the Pankhurst women, as they campaigned for women’s rights (women’s suffrage’) at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Artefacts, photographs, and documents work together to tell the story of the movement, highlighting the determination and resilience of the suffragettes. You can see the personal belongings of the Pankhurst family, as well as banners used in protests and the handwritten correspondence of the Pankhursts.

    One of the best history museums to celebrate women, Manchester, and the fight for equality in all its forms.

    8. The People’s History Museum

    If you’re into the history of workers’ rights and trade unions, then you will love the People’s History Museum.


    Social history and activism are the order of the day here, as the museum details the various democratic and working-class political movements in Britain, particularly those which were conceived in Manchester.

    Lodged inside a Grade II-listed former pumping station, exhibitions cover topics such as women’s suffrage, gay rights, the birth of the labour movement and trade unions, alongside landmark occurrences such as the Peterloo Massacre.

    The stories of the UK’s most prolific reformers and activists are told via political posters, personal letters, trade union materials, and other memorabilia.

    The museum also hosts thought-provoking talks and workshops all year round and is ideal for anyone passionate about creating a better society.

    9. The National Football Museum

    Located in the heart of Manchester, the National Football Museum is a must-visit for sports enthusiasts and football fans. 

    The uniquely designed Urbis building in Cathedral Gardens cuts a striking figure against the Manchester skyline and makes a fantastic home for the National Football Museum, with four full floors dedicated to the rich history and prestige of the game in England.

    The museum showcases memorabilia such as 140,00 boots, trophies, balls, programmes, paintings, postcards and ceramics. Don’t miss football legend George Best’s football shirt at close quarters, and test your skills on the field in the Play Gallery.

    You can also get interactive with some exhibits and engaging displays. Discover the origins of the sport, explore iconic moments in football history, and immerse yourself in the passion and culture surrounding the ‘Beautiful Game’. 

    Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious about the sport, the National Football Museum offers an exciting and informative experience.

    Once you’ve got your fill of the museum, take a breather in the cafe or look for gifts in the souvenir shop.

    10. The Science and Industry Museum

    Last but not least on our list of Manchester’s best museums and galleries to visit: the Science and Industry Museum. This museum focuses on the history of the Industrial Revolution, a period of history which was very heavily influenced by Manchester’s innovations and contributions to the cotton trade.

    The ‘Ideas That Change the World’ exhibition showcases cars and other inventions connected to the Industrial era.


    This industrial museum also hosts interactive exhibits to live demonstrations, and you can explore steam-powered engines, and learn about Manchester’s global impact during the Industrial Revolution.

    The museum’s biennial Manchester Science Festival is a highlight of the Manchester cultural calendar.  

    The museum itself is hosted in listed buildings, in what was once the world’s first inter-city passenger railway line and railway station. You can even take a short ride on one of the old steam trains to get a taste of what transport was like back in the Victorian era.

    And if public transport is your thing….

    Bonus option: you’ll love the nostalgia of the Museum of Transport, a trip to the past of Manchester’s transport history. Think retro buses from the 1930s onwards, trams from the early 1900s, vintage signs, furniture and artefacts that were used during the filming of ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’!

    Manchester’s cultural scene is a vibrant tapestry of creativity, offering a varied selection of museums and art galleries. Best of all, they’re all within easy reach of your new Victoria Riverside home!

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