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Top 19 Free Museums in Manchester

Top 19 Free Museums in Manchester

Exploring the vibrant city of Manchester can feel like stepping into a captivating story, where history, art, and culture come alive, right before your eyes. And guess what? You don’t have to break the bank to experience the richness of this city. 

Here, we’re about to venture on an exciting trail through the best museums in Manchester you can visit without spending a dime. Buckle up, because it’s time to soak in the Manchester culture, one fascinating museum at a time!

Museum of Science and Industry

Location: Liverpool Road, Manchester

Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 330 058 0058


Ever wondered where the steam engine was birthed or where the nucleus of the industrial revolution took place? Well, your answer lies in the heart of Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry. 

Honestly, if I had a pound for every time someone found their inner scientist here, I’d probably own a museum myself! This place isn’t just a treasure trove of Manchester’s rich industrial history, but a vibrant space where inventions come to life. 

As you walk through, you’ll encounter exhibits that showcase the innovations that propelled us into the modern era. It’s not all steam engines and machinery though, there’s a sprinkle of contemporary science too. 

Pro tip:
Make sure to check the schedule for live demonstrations – they are incredibly engaging!

The Manchester Museum

Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Sun –  Mon 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sat 8:00AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 275 2648


Oh boy, are you in for a treat! Picture this: a quiet afternoon spent mingling with the majestic creatures from the past and the mysterious beings from different parts of the world. No, it’s not a new blockbuster movie; it’s your next visit to The Manchester Museum! 

With rooms filled with artefacts from every conceivable era and region, it’s like taking a stroll through the annals of time. Seriously, where else can you meet a gigantic T-Rex named Stan in the morning and be awed by the intricate details of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the afternoon? 

This place is a joyride through history and a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. Grab your most comfortable shoes; you’re going to want to explore every nook and cranny.

Pro tip: 
The living collection at the vivarium is an absolute must-visit. Trust me, the vibrant displays here are simply fascinating.

Location: Mosley Street, Manchester

Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 235 8888


Ah, the revered Manchester Art Gallery. Think of it as your personal gateway to exploring art from the mediaeval period to the contemporary era. In my book, this is where art comes to dazzle and inspire. 

It’s not just a gallery; it’s an immersive experience that allows you to connect with artists and their creations across centuries. From awe-inspiring pieces of the old masters to thought-provoking works from modern artists, it’s a place that encourages reflection and appreciation. 

And if you’re someone who loves to dive deep into the stories behind the art pieces, then you’ll find the descriptions and information available here nothing short of a feast. 

Pro tip:
Try visiting during a weekday for a quieter and more personal experience with the art pieces.

Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

Location: Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Tue  10:30 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Thur 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 856 4500


Okay, fellow mystery enthusiasts, if you’re anything like me, you find the world of forensics and criminal investigations fascinating. The Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives doesn’t disappoint in this regard. 

Imagine stepping back in time to a period where the police force operated very differently than what we’re accustomed to now. 

Dive deep into the corridors of history and explore the intricate network of rooms, each narrating a different chapter from the thrilling annals of Manchester’s policing history. 

Don’t miss out on the original Victorian courtroom where you can almost hear the gavel hitting the wood in a room filled with tales of justice served.

Pro tip:
Book a guided tour for an in-depth and highly engaging trip through the museum

Location: Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Tue – Fri 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Sat – Sun 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 778 0800


If you have a soft spot for both history and art, then a visit to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery should be at the top of your Manchester to-do list. 

When you step into this place, you’ll feel like stepping into a living painting, with the rich hues of history blending seamlessly with the vibrant strokes of contemporary art. 

The Victorian street, Lark Hill Place, is like a slice of history served on a platter, taking you back to a bygone era with its authentic ambiance. Not to forget, the gallery is an ode to art lovers, showcasing a mesmerising array of artworks that can keep you engaged for hours.

Pro tip:
The on-site cafe is a hidden gem, offering delightful snacks to refuel during your visit.

Location: Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Tue – Fri 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
  • Sat-Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 343 208 6000


Art lovers, here’s another jewel for your crown of Manchester experiences. Nestled within a stunning waterside building, The Lowry Art Gallery combines modern architecture with an exhilarating display of artworks. 

Trust me, this place is a true testament to the vibrant cultural scene of Manchester. With a dynamic blend of both temporary and permanent exhibits, every visit here feels fresh and new. 

From the beautiful paintings by L.S. Lowry to the awe-inspiring visual art installations, this place is a canvas depicting the beautiful interplay between art and life. A visit here is not just a feast for the eyes, but nourishment for the soul.

Pro tip:
Don’t skip the performances at The Lowry Theatre adjacent to the gallery; they often host a fantastic array of shows.

Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Fri – Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Thur  10:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 275 7450


Art aficionados, gather around, because the Whitworth Art Gallery is where you’d want to anchor next. In my humble opinion, it’s like stepping into a realm where art gracefully dances with nature. 

You see, this gallery isn’t just about what’s hung on the walls; it has an intriguing relationship with the park that surrounds it, offering an invigorating blend of art and nature. 

From modern art to historic prints and textiles, the Whitworth holds an expansive collection that promises to ignite your artistic flair. And hey, if you’re a fan of sculptures, the array here is nothing short of impressive.

Pro tip:
Do take a leisurely stroll in the adjoining Whitworth Park to fully appreciate the gallery’s connection with nature.

The People’s History Museum

Location: Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester

Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 838 9190


History buffs, this one’s for you! The People’s History Museum is kind of like taking a heartfelt journey through the lives, loves, and struggles of the ordinary people who shaped Britain’s social history. 

Personally, I find it incredibly moving to witness the unfolding narratives of worker’s rights, equality, and social justice through a rich collection of artefacts and exhibits. It’s a vivid reminder of the resilience and spirit of the people. 

Every time I visit, I feel a deeper connection with the tapestry of stories woven through time that are represented here.

Pro tip:
Plan to spend a good few hours here, as the museum has a knack for drawing you into the stories and keeping you engaged.

Imperial War Museum North

Location: Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester

Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 836 4000


Ready to embark on a journey through conflicts and wars that shaped our world? The Imperial War Museum North is not just a museum; it’s an experience that takes you through the heart-wrenching yet brave narratives of war times. 

As someone who values the tales of courage and resilience, I find this place to be a stark yet necessary reminder of the realities of war. The architecture of the building itself is a masterpiece, symbolising a world shattered by conflict. 

Inside, you’ll find a powerful collection of war artefacts, personal narratives, and audio-visual installations that provide an immersive experience.

Pro tip:
The 360° Big Picture Show is an experience you shouldn’t miss; it provides a powerful and immersive view of the stories housed within.

Ordsall Hall

Location: 322 Ordsall Ln, Salford, Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Mon – Thur 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Fri – Sat Closed
  • Sun 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM 

Contact: +44 161 872 0251


Here’s a little secret gem nestled in the heart of Salford – Ordsall Hall. This place is like a captivating novel that takes you back to the Tudor times with every step you take. 

Can I just say, the timber-framed building itself is a sight to behold, giving you that ‘stepping into a history book’ kind of vibe. And let’s not even get started on the gardens — they are an absolute treat for anyone who loves a bit of greenery combined with history. 

Pro tip:
Keep an eye out for their events calendar; they host some incredibly engaging workshops and activities throughout the year.

Museum of Hatting

Location: Wellington Road South, Stockport, near Manchester

Opening Hours: Thur – Fri 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 

Contact: +44 161 3557770


If you’ve ever had a fascination with hats or just fashion history in general, then you’re in for a treat at the Museum of Hatting. Situated a bit outside of Manchester in Stockport, this place is a haven for fashionistas and history enthusiasts alike. 

From the intricate process of hat making to the evolution of styles over the years, this museum offers a unique glimpse into the world of hats. It’s sort of like stepping into a time when hats were more than just accessories; they were statements of style and class. 

Personally, I find the personal stories and histories attached to some of the exhibits quite engaging.

Pro tip:
Don’t forget to check out their shop, where you can snag a stylish hat as a keepsake from your visit!

Museum of Transport

Location: Boyle Street, Cheetham, Manchester

Opening Hours:

  • Wed 10:00 AM –  4:30 PM 
  • Sat 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM – 4.30 PM 

Contact: 0161-205 2122


The Museum of Transport is like a grand tribute to Manchester’s public transport history. Trust me, you’ll be surprised to see how buses and trams have evolved over the years. 

It’s not just about showcasing vintage vehicles (which, by the way, are incredibly cool!), but it’s also about narrating the story of the city’s development through its means of transportation

As someone who has a penchant for vintage aesthetics, I find the collection of old buses and trams here simply delightful.

Pro tip:
If you plan your visit during one of their themed events, you might even get to ride one of the historic vehicles!

Rochdale Pioneers Museum

Location: 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Sun – Tue Closed
  • Wed – Sat 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM 

Contact: +44 1706 524920


Let’s talk about the cradle of the cooperative movement – the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. Nestled in the historic heart of Rochdale, this museum holds the tale of a revolution that changed the way we do business today. 

I must say, the story of the Rochdale Pioneers is nothing short of inspiring. As someone who appreciates a good underdog story, I find the journey of the 28 working-class people who started a movement deeply motivating. 

The exhibits beautifully encapsulate their struggle and success, offering a glimpse into a pivotal moment in history.

Pro tip:
If you’re a history buff, the guided tour is highly recommended for an immersive experience.

Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum

Location: Maclure Road, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Sun – Wed Closed
  • Thur – Sat 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 

Contact: +44 1706 341219


Ever wondered about the heroes who brave the flames to save lives and property? The Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum is here to quench your curiosity. Situated in a former fire station, the museum offers a stirring journey through the evolution of firefighting in Greater Manchester. 

I’ve always had a profound respect for firefighters, and this place only deepened that sentiment. It’s like stepping into a world of bravery and innovation, where you can witness the incredible advancements in firefighting techniques and equipment.

Pro tip:
The old fire engines on display are quite a spectacle; don’t miss out on snapping a few photos with them!

Saddleworth Museum

Location: High Street, Uppermill, Saddleworth, near Oldham

Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Contact: +44 1457 874093

Nestled amidst picturesque surroundings, the Saddleworth Museum is a treasure trove of local history and culture. The minute I walked in, I could feel the strong sense of community that embodies the spirit of Saddleworth. 

It’s like embarking on a nostalgic journey through the region’s history, where you can explore a rich tapestry of stories spanning industry, art, and community life. The artefacts and exhibits narrate a beautiful story of the area’s evolution, which I find incredibly heartwarming.

Pro tip:
After your visit, take a leisurely stroll in the nearby park to soak in the beautiful surroundings. It makes for a perfect ending to your museum visit.

Clayton Hall Living History Museum

Location: Ashton New Road, Clayton, Manchester

Opening Hours: First and third Saturday of each month from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Contact: [email protected]


If the walls of Clayton Hall could talk, they’d have tales aplenty from the Tudor times to share. This vibrant living history museum, ensconced amidst a picturesque park, lets you journey back in time without a DeLorean! 

Walking through the hall feels somewhat like wandering through a living historical novel, with rooms decked out in period-appropriate style. Personally, I enjoy the live demonstrations where you get to see glimpses of daily life from bygone eras.

Pro tip:
The Victorian-themed garden is an absolute must-see; it adds a delightful touch to the whole historical experience.

Portland Basin Museum

Location: Portland Place

Opening Hours: 

  • Tue – Sun 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Mon Closed

Contact: +44 161 342 5480


Prepare yourself for a wonderful time travel expedition at the Portland Basin Museum. Located at the junction of the Ashton, Peak Forest, and Huddersfield canals, it’s a rich hub of industrial heritage. I have to say, the location is as captivating as the museum itself. 

Inside, you are greeted by vibrant displays that narrate the tale of Tameside’s industrial and social history. For me, the 1920s street is a highlight, where you can peek into different shops and get a sense of the vibrant community life during that period.

Pro tip:
Don’t forget to explore the picturesque canal-side setting outside the museum; it makes for great photographs.

Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre

Location: Moss Street, Bury, Greater Manchester

Opening Hours: 

  • Sun – Mon Closed
  • Tue – Fri 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
  • Sat 10:00 am – 4:30 PM

Contact: +44 161 253 5878


Alright, art enthusiasts, brace yourselves for an inspiring visit to the Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre. This place is like a canvas that portrays a beautiful blend of the old and new, celebrating both classic artworks and contemporary sculptures. 

I always find myself marvelling at the rotating exhibitions that showcase the works of local and international artists. And, of course, the sculpture centre is an awe-inspiring space where you can witness creativity in three dimensions.

Pro tip:
If you’re a budding artist or an art student, keep an eye on their workshop and events schedule for some insightful sessions.

The Pankhurst Centre

Location: 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester

Operating Hours:

  • Thur 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Sun 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Contact: +44 161 273 5673


Step into the very heart of the suffragette movement at The Pankhurst Centre, a beacon of women’s rights and activism. 

I must confess, visiting this place always leaves me a bit awestruck, knowing that I’m standing where Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters once strategized to champion women’s suffrage. 

The centre not only offers a glimpse into the lives and efforts of these incredible women but serves as a current-day space for community and feminist organisations. Every time I visit, I feel this tangible connection to history and a powerful sense of inspiration.

Pro tip:
The small garden at the back is a quiet space for reflection, allowing you to absorb the magnitude of the movement and its impacts fully.
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