10 Best Art Galleries Manchester

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Lady standing on a white bench inside a gallery looking at 9 paintings of varying sizes on a grey wall
UnSplash: Klaudia Piaskowska

Manchester’s creative scene is legendary. Home to some of the most iconic musicians, fashion designers and artists it’s no wonder National Geographic included this great Northern city in its Best of World 2023 selection and Lonely Planet listed it in its Best in Travel 2023 list because of its learning and cultural developments. The only UK city to make it into the list! Manchester can be rather humble about its creative prowess, and there’s a lot to celebrate, so we thought we’d shine a spotlight on culturecalling.com’s pick of the best from across the city.


Whitworth Art Gallery

The front of the Whitworth art gallery showing a glass-walled cafe space overlooking the green garden
Whitworth Gallery

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER

The Whitworth is a fabulous statuesque, Victorian building on Oxford Street.  It’s part of The University of Manchester and proudly stands amongst University buildings and large student population.  It was founded in 1889 as The Whitworth Institute and Park in memory of the industrialist Sir Joseph Whitworth for 'the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester' and continues this mission today.  It’s a wonderful contemporary gallery space which is home to over 60,000 works of art, textiles, and wallpapers.  Some of the textiles are nearly 2000 years old.   There are some outstanding exhibitions and events, including Silent spaces in the morning to after hour socials, throughout the year and entry is free!

The Whitworth’s large glass-walled gallery space over-looking Whitworth Park is definitely worth a visit. It serves up some freshly cooked dishes and is a calming space away from the buzz of the city.

To follow the Whitworth’s schedule, click here


Manchester Art Gallery

2 dark pink walls inside the Manchester art gallery focusing on one large painting of a red and yellow face and smaller painting in the background.
Manchester Art Gallery

Mosley St, Manchester M2 3JL

This looks like Manchester’s National Gallery in London – an imposing, columned building which has stood on the corner of Mosley Street and Princess Street for nearly 200 years.

Like the National, Manchester Art Gallery is free, and its mission is to be inclusive for all and let everyone benefit.   Aside from an ever-changing exhibition schedule, the gallery runs a packed events schedule of events including: discussion on the artworks, supporting people who’ve lived with trauma, unpicking couture, what the museum should be collecting for future generations and much, much more. It’s a great gallery if you want to get involved beyond spectating.

You can check out the gallery’s What’s on page here


The Lowry

Image of the front of the Lowry arts centre - made of grey concrete with the lights on inside
The Lowry

Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ

The Lowry takes its names from the infamous Salford artist, LS Lowry, whose work is strongly associated with the city, and you can see a permanent collection of his artwork in the main space.  The Lowry is a more than a gallery, classing itself as an arts centre that presents a diverse programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, music, and comedy.  It puts on a diverse range of gallery exhibitions for people of all ages. The Andrew and Zoe Law Galleries are free and display new exhibitions throughout the year.   There’s also the option to book on a gallery tour daily which costs £10.

You can check the full programme of events here


People’s History

Inside one of the gallery spaces showing flags and large banners depicting signs of democracy
People's Museum

Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER

The People’s History Museum is the national museum of democracy telling the story of its development in Britain, past and future.  The main idea behind the museum is to create a fairer world for everyone.  Its collections and stories are curated to show a wide range of authentic narratives, and most are free to the public.    Each section of the gallery has a different background colour, for example: red for courage, green for reform, blue for loyalty, pink for peace etc.   As you’d expect, their stories are varied. You can switch from learning about the Peterloo Massacre, the growth of the trade union movement to our main political parties.   We think it’s a worthy museum and definitely one that’s worth a visit.


HOME

Outside shot of HOME events space. Glass fronted with yellow HOME sign against a grey sky.
Home

2 Tony Wilson Pl, Manchester M15 4FN

HOME is a popular arts centre, cinema, and theatre complex in central Manchester.  With five cinemas, two theatres and 500 m² of gallery space, it is one of the few arts organisations to commission, produce and present work across film, theatre and visual arts.  It attracts some big name artists and has a packed events and exhibition agenda across the year.   We like their Open Exhibition Season which takes places every two years and is a big celebration of Manchester’s creative talent and brings paintings, print, photography, sculpture, ceramics, video and audio under one roof.

You can check the full programme of events here


Factory International AKA Aviva Studios

Outside the Factory International white and concrete space reflecting in the water and people standing outside it
Factory International

Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ

This brand new arts and culture space, the largest in Europe, occupies a prime site sitting on the edge of the canal, in Spinningfields.    It’s a big space and covers all manner of arts and culture events and prides itself on doing things differently, bringing types of art together. This is innovative Manchester after all!  So whether you’re into music, dance, performance, theatre, exhibitions or gaming, they’ve got something for you.   Every two years they run the amazing Manchester International Festival (MIF) – the festival of brand new artistic known world-over, has animated and captivated the city since 2007.

You can check the full programme of events here


Castlefield Gallery

Inside the Castlefield Gallery. White walls covered in paintings

Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester M15 4GB

Castlefield Gallery is a contemporary art gallery and space for artists built over 40 years ago.

It’s dedicated to the development of emerging talent within contemporary art. They run a diverse range of shows and events throughout the year where you can purchase artwork. The Castlefield Gallery New Art Spaces are unique pop-up project spaces and artist studios situated on highstreets in towns across Greater Manchester and the North West.

You can check out the full programme of events here


Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Inside Salford art gallery. Family of 4 standing viewing a large fish in a glass frame
Salford Art Gallery

This Victorian legacy was first opened to the public in 1850. It has reconstructed street, Lark Hill Place, which contains thousands of museum objects to recreate the feel of a Salford street in the latter part of the Victorian era.

Our permanent art display in the Victorian Gallery has recently been re-hung and now contains over a hundred works of art exhibited in the style of a Victorian gallery. It’s open to the public daily and is free.

You can check out the full programme of events here


easa Contemporary

Inside the gallery. Image shows 2 white gallery walls, one with a TV screen on and the other with 4 hung paintings - green, red, yellow and blue and a larger painting.
esea Contemporary

This award winning building is located in the centre of the hip Northern Quarter area. esea Contemporary was once the Centre for Chinese Contemorary Art.  Today, it's the only gallery that presents artists and art practices that identify with and are informed by East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) cultural backgrounds.  It now has a diverse events and gallery schedule throughout the year showcasing work from well-known to emerging ESEA talent.  It also hosts hands-on workshops regularly plus a series of engaging after-hours talks. 

You can check out the full programme of events here


Portico Library

Image of dark book shelves inside the library
Portico Library

The Portico Library is Manchester’s original 19th-century home of literature and learning.   It was built in the height of British colonialism and the Industrial Revolution as a centre for reading and learning.  The library houses over 25,000 books and runs an eclectic range of fantastic public events, from talks and performances to exhibitions, awards and workshops.  They have a really packed schedule of book talks and exhibitions and you'll spot that there's always a connection between the books on the shelves and art on display. 

You can check out the full programme of events here