People's History Museum - © Ben Rowe/Time Out
Reopened in 2010 after a £12.5 million development, Manchester's only national museum is dedicated to telling a 200-year tale of British democracy. Dry and dusty it isn't: interactive exhibits bring political history to life, while a brand-new wing, fused to the Grade II-listed Pump House and complete with a sunny riverside café, lets light flood inside.
In 2010, after a £12.5 million development that included the construction of a new wing and the overhaul of the Grade II-listed Pump House, the People's History Museum reopened, its stated aim to tell the story of the 200-year march towards British democracy. So far, so worthy, right? Not a bit of it. This is a museum that handles political reform lightly, bringing historical fact to life via a range of unusual exhibits, from a Clarion Club café hidden inside a cupboard to a table where you make up flat-pack boxes - and then work out how little you'd be paid if you were a 19th-century homeworker eking out a living this way.
The museum building itself is a showstopper. Made of Corten steel, its striking rusted façade provides a contrast to its shinier glass-and-steel neighbours. And form follows function: the museum's windowless upper floors are wrapped in steel to provide the climate-controlled home for a collection that includes the world's largest assemblage of political protest banners.
The ground floor is, however, glass-fronted, enticing passers-by inside and providing the building's hub (this is where you'll find the riverfront café, for example). The Museum has doubled in size, allowing more of its collection to be on display, while temporary and permanent exhibitions trace a path through two centuries of political campaigning, from the Suffragettes to the Trade Unions.
Manchester is rightly proud of the museum - this is a city that has seen more than its fair share of political reform, and the story of British politics is often a Mancunian one (the city is the birthplace of socialism, universal suffrage and the global co-operative movement; it's also where Marx and Engels drafted the Communist Manifesto).
Discover just how far Britain has travelled in 200 years, or at the very least sample the wartime-inspired menu and (possibly) the city's largest selection of home-made cakes in its café - either way, democracy never tasted so good.