The Best Free Museums in Manchester

The Sun Exhibition at Manchester Science and Industry Museum

Today we will share our favourite Free Museums In Manchester for families visiting Manchester with kids or without. Museums are great educational days for the whole family. Sometimes they are even free or only require a donation or a minimal entrance fee, making them a more affordable option for families, especially during the already expensive school holidays. 

Most towns and cities have at least one museum making them a great activity when exploring new places and holidaying in the UK. Manchester in particular has numerous museums covering a whole host of interesting subjects. Here are our top picks of free museums in Manchester suitable for the whole family.

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best family museums to visit in Manchester

The Best Free Museums in Manchester

These free museums Manchester offer, give visitors a wide range of exhibits and events. Thus making it easy to plan an affordable family day in manchester.

1. Science and Industry Museum, A Great Family Free Museum Manchester

The Museum of Science and Industry is one of one of the most popular free museums Manchester has to offer. It is situated on Liverpool Street within walking distance from the city centre and is open daily from 10 am-4 pm. 

This museum is the perfect day out for families, even those with younger children, as many hands-on experiences are available. They also offer several free activities and workshops during the school holidays, so always check the website to see what is happening. If you have a child interested in STEM, this is one to add t your list.

The Sun Exhibition at Manchester Science and Industry Museum

2. Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery is housed in a beautiful 200-year-old building on the corner of Mosley Street and Princess Street. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am-5 pm and is a great place to discover different styles of art and learn about established artists and new up-and-coming talent.

In addition to enjoying the exhibitions throughout the gallery, there are also regular opportunities for you and your children to get creative too.

Manchester art Gallery the best family museums to visit in Manchester
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Extraordinary Chaos

3. Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Salford Museum and Art Gallery is the best-kept secret regarding free museums in Manchester. The name makes people assume it is more art than anything else and won’t necessarily be child friendly, but that is untrue.

Instead, Salford Museum and Art Gallery have a whole floor dedicated to interactive learning for children. With the opportunity to get involved in different activities and even dress up for the occasion. This area is known as Lark Hill Place, and it is a life-size reenactment of a Victorian street, complete with cobbled floors and shops you can see. It feels like you have gone back in time when you step onto Lark Hill Place.

free museums in manchester

4. Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

The Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives is open Tuesdays 10.30-4 pm. It is a fascinating free museum in Manchester that opened in 1981. Here you will have the opportunity to see police memorabilia from years gone by and get a feel for how policing has changed.

 The Greater Manchester Police Museum also allows you to look at the transport gallery. Plus old police cells, a replica courtroom and even a crime room. This museum will capture the whole family’s imagination and spark numerous conversations as you feel nostalgic and your children look on in disbelief that policing was possible without wifi!

5. Ordsall Hall

Ordsall Hall is a beautiful museum set within a former manor house and comes complete with stunning gardens that you can explore on a nice day. It is a fantastic interactive museum perfect for children under ten who want to get involved and learn about the Tudors and their lives in fun and engaging ways.

 Every room has at least one activity, so set aside a few hours for your visit. For those who do not want to join in with the dressing up, role play and other interactive activities, there is still lots to see and plenty of fascinating information. 

During the holidays, Ordsall Hall often has additional activities, and although it is a free museum, these activities can be chargeable at around £2 per child; however, they are not compulsory, and you can still enjoy everything else for free.

free museums in manchester

6. The Lowry

The Lowry art gallery is named after the renowned British painter, L.S. Lowry, famous for his distinctive urban landscapes depicting working-class life. The gallery in Salford Quays houses the world’s largest collection of Lowry’s works. These include paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Visitors can explore Lowry’s artistic journey, his unique style, and the social context of his works.

In addition to Lowry’s art. The gallery hosts a diverse range of contemporary art exhibitions by local, national, and international artists. The exhibitions cover various mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, and digital art.

Lowry Family Fun Day great Museums in Manchester

Also check out the special Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, event and the Lowry.

The Lowry is partnering with Macmillan Children’s Books and Scholastic publishers to present a special exhibition honouring Julia Donaldson’s and Axel Scheffler’s renowned collaboration. 

Together, they have brought to life some of the world’s most beloved and popular children’s books. These include classics like The Gruffalo, Zog, Room on the Broom, The Smeds and the Smoos, and their latest creation, The Baddies. The exhibition promises to celebrate their remarkable partnership and the enchanting worlds they have created for young readers.

Open Tue-Fri 11 am-5 pm and Entry is Free

Sat-Sun 10 am-5 pm

Closed Mon, except bank holidays.

Closed on the 25 & 26 December and 1 January.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, event and the Lowry.
Photo Credit the Lowry

7. Whitworth Art Gallery 

The Whitworth Art Gallery is a renowned art museum in Manchester, England. Situated in Whitworth Park, it is part of the University of Manchester and is known for its extensive collection of art, its beautiful setting and innovative exhibitions.

The gallery has a diverse collection that spans different periods and artistic styles. Including paintings, sculptures, prints, textiles, and wallpapers. It houses works by British and international artists, with notable pieces from prominent figures such as J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, Pablo Picasso, and Cornelia Parker, among others.

The Whitworth Art Gallery also offers educational programs, workshops, and events for visitors of all ages, encouraging engagement and learning through art. It strongly focuses on community involvement, and its peaceful park provides a serene environment for visitors to enjoy art and nature.

Entry is free. The Whitworth is open, Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm and Thursday until 9 pm 

Closed on Mondays including all Bank Holiday Mondays. 

Also closed on 24th, 25th, 26th December and 1st January. 

8. The Manchester Museum

 Located at the University of Manchester. The Manchester Museum is a prominent museum with a diverse collection covering archaeology, anthropology, natural history, and Egyptology. It houses over four million objects, including an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. 

The museum offers interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, and engaging displays, allowing visitors to explore global cultures, history, and the natural world. 

The Manchester Museum also actively promotes knowledge, research, and public engagement through educational programs and community collaborations. It is a cultural hub in the city, hosting lectures, performances, and activities. 

Overall, the Manchester Museum provides visitors with a captivating and immersive experience, celebrating the wonders of the world’s cultural heritage and scientific knowledge.

The Manchester Museum is free to visit, although there are fees for special exhibitions. And is open, Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am– 5 pm except, Wednesday: 10 am – 9 pm and Saturday: 8 am – 5 pm.

9. The People’s History Museum, And Educational Free Museum Manchester

The People’s History Museum in Manchester is dedicated to working people’s social, political, and cultural history in Britain. It offers engaging exhibitions and displays on democracy, labour movements, and women’s suffrage. 

The museum promotes inclusivity and encourages visitors to reflect on social movements and the ongoing fight for equality and justice. Through events and workshops, it fosters dialogue and community engagement. The People’s History Museum serves as a reminder of the struggles and achievements of working people, making it an important destination for understanding and appreciating the history of social change.

 The museum is free to visit ( But does ask for a donation) And is Open: from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm every day except Tuesdays. Closed: 24, 25, 26 December & 1 January

10. The John Rylands Library

First opening in 1900, The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Ryland in tribute to her husband, John, who was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. A stunning neo-Gothic building, the library houses a vast collection of rare books, manuscripts, and archives. The John Rylands Library in Manchester is a historic and prestigious library known for its extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts. Founded in 1899, it showcases remarkable items such as medieval manuscripts and the Gutenberg Bible. 

The library’s architecture is grand and Gothic, creating a beautiful and scholarly environment. It provides services for researchers and the public, including exhibitions and events. The John Rylands Library is a cultural landmark that celebrates the preservation of knowledge and offers a unique experience for visitors and scholars alike.

The John Rylands Library is free to visit but best to book and is open Wednesday to Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm

11. Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North is a striking museum in Trafford, Greater Manchester. Dedicated to exploring the impact of modern conflicts on people’s lives. Its unique architecture reflects the theme of war and its aftermath. 

The museum offers thought-provoking exhibitions that cover a wide range of war-related topics. Showcasing artefacts, personal stories, and interactive displays. It engages with the community through educational programs and events, promoting understanding and reflection. Imperial War Museum North provides a powerful and immersive experience, reminding visitors of the human cost of war and the importance of peace.

The Imperial War Museum is free to visit, but booking is recommended and is open 10 am to 5 pm daily.

Museums With A Small Entry Fee In Manchester

12. National Football Museum

The National Football Museum in the heart of Manchester on steps from Manchester Arndale is a dedicated museum showcasing football’s history and cultural significance (soccer). Located in the city centre, it offers a range of exhibits and interactive displays covering various aspects of the sport. 

The museum houses a vast collection of football memorabilia and artefacts, including jerseys, trophies, and photographs. Visitors can explore the origins and development of football, iconic players and teams, and the impact of the sport on society and popular culture. The museum also provides educational programs, workshops, and events for all ages. It is a must-visit destination for football enthusiasts and those interested in learning more about the sport.

Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm (last admission 4 pm)

Closed: 24-27 December 2022 and 1-2 January 2023

A Family Saver Ticket (2 adults, two children) costs £33.00 if you book online in advance.

National Football Museum, Best Museums in Manchester
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Extraordinary Chaos

13.  Chetham’s Library Manchester

If you are a fan of books, Chetham’s Library, based in Chetham’s School, is a hidden gem in the heart of Manchester. It’s simply stunning and the oldest public library in continuous use in the English-speaking world. Established in 1653, it was founded by Humphrey Chetham as a space for learning and intellectual pursuits. 

The library holds a diverse collection of over 100,000 books, manuscripts, and documents, including rare and valuable items. It offers visitors a glimpse into its rich history with its preserved historic interior and hosts events and exhibitions to promote engagement with literature and the arts. Chetham’s Library is a significant cultural landmark, symbolizing the enduring value of libraries and knowledge preservation.

You can book a guided tour of Chetham’s Library from Monday to Friday at a cost of £5 to £11 plus a booking fee (under 12s are free) which goes towards supporting and maintaining the music school. This is not one for small children, but older children who adore books will be in awe of the library. It almsot has a Harry Potter vibe.

Chetham's Library Manchester, best museums in Manchester
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Extraordinary Chaos

More Things to Do in Manchester

  • Visit Manchester Cathedral
  • Heaton Park and take a boat out on the Boating Lake 
  • Shopping and Cinema at the Trafford Centre 
  • Visit  Manchester United at Old Trafford
  • Or Manchester City and the Etihad Stadium

If you are looking for things to do in Manchester then be sure to add some of these free museums to your list as they will be sure to keep the whole family interested.

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Sarah Christie is a craft, food, cruise, and family travel blogger Extraordinary Chaos, Cruising For All and Mini Travellers. Known for her unique perspective and ability to find beauty in chaos, Sarah designs and creates craft projects as well as creating recipes for people who want to cook from scratch the easy way. Whilst also exploring family travel and how to navigate it.

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