What are the hidden gem museums in Manchester for art lovers?

11 June 2024

In the heart of England, nestled amongst the hustle and bustle, you'll find a city steeped in history and culture. Manchester is not just a city known for its thriving music scene and football prowess, but it also houses some of the most enriching and awe-inspiring art galleries and museums. This article aims to guide you through a selection of the city's hidden gems. These establishments are treasure troves filled with art collections that span centuries and continents, offering a unique way to spend time and explore Manchester's vibrant art scene. Whether you're a Manchester resident or a visitor, these places provide enriching experiences that are free and readily available for everyone to enjoy.

Manchester Art Gallery

The Manchester Art Gallery is one of the city's most beloved cultural landmarks. This gallery is known for its extensive collection of British and European art pieces spanning over six centuries. With a vibrant programme of temporary exhibitions, there's always something new and exciting to discover. The Manchester Art Gallery offers free entry, making it a budget-friendly option for art enthusiasts.

The permanent collection at the gallery includes works by renowned artists such as Turner and Constable, as well as pieces by influential Manchester-born artists like L.S. Lowry. The gallery is also home to a significant collection of decorative arts, including ceramics, silver, and glass, providing a comprehensive overview of Manchester's artistic history.

The Whitworth Art Gallery

Next on our tour of Manchester's hidden gems is the Whitworth Art Gallery. This place is part of the University of Manchester, and it's located in the picturesque Whitworth Park. The gallery offers a diverse collection of art, including modern and contemporary, prints, textiles, and a significant collection of wallpapers.

One of the striking features of the Whitworth is its connection to nature. The building itself is designed to blend with the park, and many of its artworks are inspired by the natural world. The gallery's programme also includes outdoor art exhibitions, drawing sessions in the park, and other nature-focused activities. Like the Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth is free to visit.

The Lowry

Situated in Salford Quays, The Lowry is a stunning, modern building that houses not just an art gallery, but also a theatre. The Lowry is named after L.S. Lowry, the famous Manchester-born artist known for his unique, matchstick-men style of painting. The gallery boasts the world's largest public collection of Lowry's work, making it a must-visit for fans.

Beyond Lowry's paintings, the museum also hosts a changing programme of temporary exhibitions and activities. Some of these feature works by artists who have been inspired by Lowry's style, while others explore different themes and artistic movements. Entry to The Lowry is also free, although you might need to book tickets for some exhibitions and shows.

Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum is another hidden gem that art lovers should not miss. Unlike the other galleries mentioned, this museum's collection is not limited to art. Instead, it offers a wide-ranging collection of artefacts from natural history, archaeology, anthropology, and of course, art.

With over 4 million objects in its collection, the museum provides an opportunity to explore the world's history and cultures. The art collection includes works from different eras and regions, including Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Asia. The museum is free to enter, but it's recommended to book your visit in advance online.

The John Rylands Library

Lastly, we recommend a visit to The John Rylands Library. While not a conventional art gallery or museum, this library is an architectural masterpiece that can be considered a work of art in itself. This neo-Gothic building houses a collection of books, manuscripts, and documents that are centuries old.

The library regularly hosts exhibitions which often feature artworks from its collection, including medieval manuscripts and early printed books. It provides a unique intersection of art, history, and literature. Entrance to the library and its exhibitions is free.

In conclusion, Manchester offers a wealth of hidden gems for art lovers to explore. These museums and galleries provide an opportunity not only to appreciate world-class artworks but also to learn about Manchester's rich cultural history. So, whether you're a resident looking to spend a weekend immersed in culture or a visitor looking to explore the city's art scene, Manchester's museums and galleries are waiting to welcome you. Enjoy the tour!

Greater Manchester Police Museum

When it comes to hidden gems within the Manchester art scene, the Greater Manchester Police Museum often goes overlooked. Housed in an old Victorian police station, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of policing, crime and punishment in the Greater Manchester region.

While it may not be an art gallery in the traditional sense, the museum's collection of historical artefacts, photographs, and uniforms serve as a kind of social history art, reflecting the changing society and its views on crime and punishment. The museum also contains a range of restored features, including original cells and a Victorian courtroom, which are works of architectural art in their own right.

One of the most significant aspects of the museum is its photographic collection, documenting the changing face of the police force and those they served. These photographs provide a visual history of Greater Manchester's past while capturing some truly remarkable moments and characters.

The museum is open every Tuesday and Thursday, and because it runs on donations, entry is free. However, for those who want to delve deeper into the history, tours tickets can be booked in advance. Tours are led by former police officers, offering a unique perspective into the world of historical law enforcement.

Bury Art Museum

For art lovers looking to venture outside the city centre, the Bury Art Museum in the Northern Quarter is well worth the short trip. The museum is home to an impressive collection of local and international art, with a particular focus on Victorian art and contemporary British work.

The museum's permanent collection includes pieces from well-known artists such as Turner and Constable, as well as works by local artists. Alongside these, the museum also hosts a rotating schedule of temporary exhibitions featuring contemporary artists, offering something new for repeat visitors.

Another unique feature of the Bury Art Museum is its Text Art Archive, which focuses on works of art that incorporate text. This collection includes pieces by artists like David Hockney, making it a must-see for typography enthusiasts.

Entry to the Bury Art Museum is free, and its opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4.30 pm. Tours tickets for special exhibitions can be purchased at the museum or online, with free cancellation up to 24 hours before your visit.


The city of Manchester is steeped in a rich artistic heritage that is beautifully and diversely displayed across its many museums and art galleries. Each of these hidden gems, from the greater Manchester Police Museum to the Bury Art Museum, offers a unique perspective into this vibrant city's cultural identity. Whether you're a local or a visitor, taking the opportunity to discover these lesser-known attractions can provide an enriching and enlightening experience. So why wait? Book your tours tickets now and embark on your artistic exploration of Manchester! And remember, to fully appreciate the art, take your time, absorb the beauty, and let the art speak to you. After all, art isn't solely for viewing but is a dialogue between the artist and the viewer. With free cancellation and opening hours designed to fit around your schedule, there's no reason not to immerse yourself in Manchester's thriving art scene.

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