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The best museums in Manchester

We've rounded up the best art galleries, exhibitions and museums in Manchester

Imperial War Museum North

There's a museum in Manchester to suit all interests. Into the history of British democracy? The recently-revamped People's History Museum is where to head. Into football memorabilia? The National Football Museum claims to have the best collection in the world. And the Manchester Museum is for you if you're interested in, well, just about anything and everything, from Egyptian mummies and artefacts to dinosaur fossils and giant Japanese giant spider crabs. Delve deep into the city's most vibrant cultural institutions and attractions with the Time Out guide to Manchester museums. And remember - most of them are free.

Manchester museums

Museums, Natural history

Manchester Museum

From archeology and anthropology to earth sciences and entomology (that’s insects to you and me), the range of exhibits in the museum is mind-boggling. There’s Stan, a reproduction of a massive T-rex fossil. There are elaborate Egyptian sarcophagi and creepy looking mummies. There’s a giant Japanese spider crab. In short, there’s a whole lot to see and do whether you're eight or 80. 

Museums, Science and technology

Museum Of Science And Industry In Manchester

This inspiring museum explores how science, innovation and industry have created modern society and continue to shape it. Sound dull? It isn't. For starters, MOSI is within Liverpool Street Station, the Manchester terminus for the very first purpose-built passenger railway in the world, making it the world’s oldest railway station. Visit the Power Hall and find out how steam, oil, gas and diesel have kept industry going, and to marvel at one of the largest collections of working steam mill engines anywhere. 

Museums, Military and maritime

Imperial War Museum North

Architect Daniel Libeskind's astonishing building, an aluminium-clad landmark on the banks of the Manchester ship canal, could easily have overshadowed the content within. Brilliantly, it does not. Sloping floors and obtuse angles inside are a deliberately disorientating attack on the senses. Like Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, the experience of the building itself establishes a state of mind that makes what you're seeing all the more effective. 

Museums, History

People's History Museum

Thanks to a £12.5 million redevelopment of an existing, smaller museum, the People's History Museum re-opened in 2010 as a centre worthy of the important legacy that it houses: the 200-year-old story of British democracy. It grew out of the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society, which started archiving and collecting as far back as the 1970s.

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Elizabeth Gaskell's House

Lovingly restored and returned to its former glory, Elizabeth Gaskell's House was, not surprisingly, the home of the famous author of the likes of Cranford, Mary Barton, North and South and many more. The house was built between 1835 and 1841 but lay in a derelict state for years. Newly opened to the public, the house features stunningly decorated period rooms, delightful gardens and a tearoom. The venue also hosts special events such as readings and exhibitions, and makes a welcome recent addition to Manchester's visitor attractions.

Museums, Sport

National Football Museum

Housed inside one of the most impressive of Manchester's modern buildings (the former URBIS museum), this four-floor monument to football boasts that it contains the greatest football collection in the world. It’s the permanent home to the FIFA collection, the Football League collection, the FA collection and many more, and it works towards the preservation and conservation of such memorabilia.

Art, Galleries

Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Close to Salford University and in the grounds of Peel Park lies Salford Museum and Art Gallery, which opened in 1850 as the very first 'unconditionally free' public library in the UK. Now, you can wander its rooms and marvel at the fantastic collection of artworks on display – it’s a real celebration of Victorian painting.

Museums, History

Greater Manchester Police Museum

In what was once a genuine Victorian police station, you really do get a feel for what it must have been like to be on either side of the law in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Having been carefully restored, all aspects of the museum – from its dingy corridors and magistrate's courroom to its hard cell beds – feel uncomfortably real.