With its industrial heritage, sporting history and illustrious inhabitants, it’s not surprising that Greater Manchester has plenty of museums, covering everything from the campaign for social justice to the history of football.
One of the world’s leading travel authorities, Lonely Planet is known for its in-depth guides to destinations around the globe.
Now, they’ve put together a guide to what they consider to be the best museums in Manchester.
So what’s on the list?
Manchester’s most enlightening museum
Manchester’s most enlightening museum is The Pankhurst Centre, says the guide.
Saved by, rebuilt by, and run by women, the Pankhurst Centre celebrates the importance of women’s campaign for the vote, and the power it has to inspire action today.
“It’s probably one of the most significant museums in Manchester, not least because it was also the former home of Emmeline Pankhurst,” says the guide.
Emmeline and her family lived at number 62 Nelson Street from 1898 until 1907, and the first meeting of the movement that became known as the suffragettes took place in the parlour of the house, which is now home to the museum.
Visitors can see for themselves where meetings were regularly held in the Pankhurst Parlour, and learn about the Suffragettes’ struggle to secure the right to vote.
Manchester’s best museum for fine art
The best place for admirers of fine art, meanwhile is Manchester Art Gallery, which houses everything from historical collections to international contemporary art.
“Its grand facade, complete with six ionic columns, makes it an unmissable sight on Mosley Street,” says the guide.
Initiated in 1823 by artists, the gallery’s collection of fine art, exquisite sculptures, and detailed ceramics “has been built up over 150+ years and has helped elevate it to one of the best galleries in Manchester.”
There are over 25,000 artefacts in total, including a number of Pre-Raphaellite paintings, while the “ever-changing temporary exhibitions of modern art rarely disappoint, either.”
Manchester’s best museum for football fans
Located in the Urbis building in Cathedral Gardens, the National Football Museum features four full floors dedicated to the history of the beautiful game.
The world’s biggest and best football museum is “unmissable” if you’re a fan, says the guide, offering the opportunity to view George Best’s football shirts up close or examine photographs of key players at matches from the past 40 years.
City of Manchester residents get free entry, otherwise it’s £10.50 for adults and £5.50 for kids.
Manchester’s best museum for social justice and democracy
Located inside a Grade II-listed former pumping station, the displays at the People’s History Museum “are brilliant reminders of Britain’s unwavering fight for fair pay, voting rights, and other democratic issues,” says the guide.
You’ll find political posters, personal letters, trade union materials, and other memorabilia which help tell the story of the past, present and future of democracy in Britain.
Visitors can also learn about the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, which took place less than half a mile away in what is now St Peter’s Square.
Manchester’s best museum for families
With its “interactive exhibits and intriguing live demos”, it’s easy to see why the Science and Industry Museum is considered the best museum for kids in Manchester, says Lonely Planet.
Housed on the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, the museum is all about ideas that change the world, from the Industrial Revolution to today and beyond.
The Textile Gallery, with its original Victorian machinery, gives you insight into the “often harsh realities of the city’s profitable cotton industry”, says the guide, while visitors can also explore an entire room dedicated to sensory science experiments for children.
Manchester’s best museum for wannabe historians
“It’s easy to forget that Manchester had a past before its mills earned it the nickname ‘Cottonopolis’,” says the guide, which suggests Manchester Museum is “the best place to learn about the city – and indeed the world’s – more ancient secrets”.
It is currently closed until February 2023 while it undergoes a £15 million transformation project, but new galleries when it reopens will include a stunning Exhibition Hall, which will host the internationally successful Golden Mummies of Egypt.
Throughout the closure, the museum is holding online and pop-up events, and the collections are available to explore online.
Manchester’s best museum for true crime enthusiasts
The Greater Manchester Police Museum “often falls off the radar” due to its unassuming location on Newton Street in the Northern Quarter, says the guide – but “the fact it’s set within a former (and rather eerie) Victorian police station” should be reason enough to seek it out.
Founded in 1981 and funded by Greater Manchester Police, the museum collects and preserves archive material and objects relating to the history of policing in Greater Manchester.
It “leaves nothing to the imagination” with its history of the city’s law enforcement that’s “graphically retold through old photographs, police records, and various vintage weaponry,” says the guide.
Manchester’s best museum for modern exhibits on global conflicts
Telling powerful stories of over a century of war, the Imperial War Museum North near MediaCityUK was designed by Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind Berlin’s Jewish Museum.
Visitors can “uncover unknown tales from the Cold War” and view objects with “huge historical significance, including the gun that fired the opening shot of WWI.”
Plus there are plenty of fun immersive displays ideal for children, too.
Manchester’s best museum for fans of vintage vehicles
Greater Manchester had the first purpose built canal in 1761, the first bus service in the UK in 1824, the world’s first public passenger carrying railway in 1830 and one of the first extensive tramway networks in Britain.
The Museum of Transport is “jam-packed with vintage vehicles and authentic memorabilia – including ticket stubs and colorful travel adverts – from bygone eras,” says the guide.
A particular highlight, says Lonely Planet, is the free heritage bus rides that run on certain weekends throughout the year and during the Heritage Open Days in September.
Manchester’s best museum for literature lovers
Manchester has long been known as a hub of creativity, and home to many great writers.
This includes Elizabeth Gaskell, best known for her novels Cranford and North and South, who lived in the city during the height of her career.
Her former home, a Grade II-listed villa on Plymouth Grove built between 1835-1841, is now known as Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, a museum which tells the story of her life and literary works.
“Strolling around, it’s not hard to picture Gaskell writing in her study or sipping tea in the handsome drawing room with prolific literary acquaintances such as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë,” says the guide.