Two students looking at paintings on a wall

Art and Museums

In a city that’s immensely proud of its history and heritage, you won’t have to go far to find art and culture being celebrated. Manchester is full of stunning art galleries and superb museums; many of them won’t cost you a penny to look around either!

Whether you prefer contemporary, traditional or experimental, you’ll find art installations to suit your tastes. You won’t always need to go inside either, with plenty of outdoor street art on show. If you’re wandering around, don’t forget to check out those blue, red, black and green commemorative plaques either; we’ve got hundreds of them!

Manchester Art Gallery is right in the centre of the city and hosts an exciting calendar of visiting art & photographic exhibitions alongside the work of local legends like LS. Lowry and Pierre Adolphe Valette. To see the biggest collection of Lowry’s work in the world, pay a visit to The Lowry in Salford Quays. Or if you like your galleries to be both award-winning and surrounded by a beautiful park, the Whitworth Art Gallery is for you.

Manchester’s history is easily learnt in fun and interactive ways at its various museums, scattered right across the city. Start at MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, for a focus on innovation and the Industrial Revolution that won’t cost you a thing. You’ll get to go underground, see where the first ever steam train made its maiden journey, and press lots and lots of buttons! Then head over to the People’s History Museum to explore working class life in the city.

The National Football Museum has multiple floors dedicated to a love of the game, whilst the Manchester Museum, which received a £15m refurbishment in early 2023, is the place to go if you want to look at mummies, dinosaur bones, live reptiles, and a huge collection of artefacts from the natural world. You can explore the human cost of war at the Imperial War Museum in Salford, learn how cotton transformed the area at Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, or discover the history of headwear at the Hat Works in Stockport!

There’s some stunning architecture to be seen in and around Manchester, and it’s always worth looking up wherever you are, with many unassuming shops housed in superb examples of Victorian era warehouses! Stop by the Town Hall, which often doubles as the Houses of Parliament for film and TV, admire the exquisite Manchester Cathedral, stroll through the incredible John Rylands Library, or wander the shelves of the oldest surviving library in the English speaking world over at Chetham’s.

Our festivals are another great way to see some incredible art, photography and performances, so be sure to make the time to visit. The Manchester International Festival takes place biennially, showcasing the works of dozens of artists from all over the world. Other festivals to check out include the Manchester Jazz Festival and Manchester Literature Festival, held in July and October respectively.