Weather not playing ball while you’re staying in one of our Manchester hotels? It needn’t spoil your big day out. Manchester’s packed with indoor attractions to keep you entertained and dry - one of its finest is the National Football Museum.
A fitting museum for a city that’s so fanatical about its sport, it’s free to enter this temple to the beautiful game, founded to preserve important collections of football memorabilia. Originally opened in Preston, it relocated to Manchester in 2012 and contains over 2,500 fascinating objects, from vintage boots to the ball used in the first ever World Cup Final.
Even its staff list reads like a who’s who of sporting legends - the museum’s president is Sir Bobby Charlton, its vice presidents include Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Trevor Brooking and Match Of The Day favourite Mark Lawrenson is a special ambassador.
Fans will be in heaven poring over the artefacts in the display cabinets, but even die-hard football phobes will find something to cheer about among the interactive Football Plus+ exhibits. Although these cost a small extra charge, who can resist the challenge of commentating on a game or testing their skills in a Wembley penalty shoot-out? And to get the ball rolling on your National Football Museum visit, why not check into the nearest Premier Inn? Our Manchester Arena/Printworks hotel has comfortable beds to sink into, as well as great breakfasts to wake up to - and it won’t cost you a Premier League player’s wages, either!
With four floors crammed with exhibits, step through the turnstiles to a treasure trove of footballing history.
The museum plays host to an ever-changing programme of temporary exhibitions, linking football to diverse and interesting topics such as art, fashion and history. Past events have included an exhibition of the life of Pele told through artworks and artefacts, and a display of the letters George Best wrote home to his parents while at Manchester United. There are also frequent Match Attax swapping sessions for collectors of the football cards.
Alongside the fascinating vintage boots and balls, you’ll find everything related to football, and it’s all displayed in a way that really helps you build up a complete picture of the game, as well as its importance in the UK and abroad. There are magazines and programmes, merchandising and mascots, floodlight bulbs and player contracts, as well as a large range of trophies. You’ll even find the sheepskin coat worn by John Motson on cold winter days.
Football Plus +
There are seven Football Plus+ exhibits spread throughout the museum, and they’re particularly popular among young footie fans. They can learn some new showboating skills in the On The Ball game, prove they can pass with accuracy in the game of One-Two or test their reflexes as they try to save a goal. You can also get some photos to take home of you (or the kids) lifting the FA Cup - great for playground bragging rights!
Find out more about the objects on display and watch an exclusive short film called 'Our Beautiful Game', by taking part in a guided tour. Available every day during the school holidays and every weekend throughout the year, they take place at 11am and 3pm and cost £3.50. Run by friendly tour guides, they’re extremely popular, so advanced booking on the museum website is advised if there are ten or more of you wanting to take part.
If you’ve arrived and found the museum to be busy with coach tours, take the lift up to the fourth floor and work your way down from the top instead.
Located in what was the Urbis exhibition centre, the National Football Museum is the epitome of a modern museum, perfectly designed for both young and old.
You’ll find the National Football Museum at Cathedral Gardens, Urbis Building, Manchester M4 3BG and its phone number is 0161 605 8200. It’s open seven days a week between 10am and 5pm, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day. There are no cloakroom or locker facilities, so only take with you what you can comfortably carry.
Admission is free, but if you donate £6, not only will you be supporting the museum, you’ll also get a visitor guide, two Football Plus+ credits and the chance to have your photo taken with one of the famous trophies. If you want more Football Plus+ credits, they cost £6 for three - or you can get an Unlimited Day Pass for £25. Worth it if you’re accompanied by footie-mad kids.
Perfect if you’re here with little ones, you can take your pushchair to all floors, or just park it on the ground floor if you’d prefer to do without it. There’s a baby changing toilet on the ground floor, a Discovery Zone on level 2 that’s just for the under 5s and plenty of pocket money toys available in the gift shop. Watch out for Pickles The Dog, the museum’s mascot, who appears in the school holidays.
The National Football Museum is accessible to all, with automatic doors at its main entrance, a staffed lift to all floors and ramps to raised areas. Wheelchairs are available on request if you call ahead and book them, plus there’s disabled parking on both Todd Street and in the nearby NCP car parks. You’ll also find accessible toilets on the ground floor and the first, second and fourth levels.
With its central location, the National Football museum is perfectly placed if you wanted to take in some of the city’s other great attractions.
A short stroll from the museum’s front door takes you the Printworks, an urban entertainment centre with a real buzz about it. Busy both day and night, There’s an IMAX cinema for thrilling showings of the latest Hollywood Blockbusters, great restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe and late night bars to enjoy well into the early hours.
You’re also only half a mile away from another free attraction - the Greater Manchester Police Museum. Dating back to 1879, you’ll find original uniforms and truncheons on display, and it’s all staffed by retired officers who’ll answer any questions you may have. Great for adults and kids alike, you’ll all love sitting in the original police cells and pretending you’ve been locked in for the night.
Take a breather from all the football history by stopping for a bite to eat. The museum has its own cafe or you could venture further afield and see what’s on offer just outside.
A joint venture by former Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, the new Cafe Football on the ground floor of the National Football Museum serves a selection of comfort food dishes and they’ve all got names inspired by the beautiful game, from The Special One piri piri chicken to the Nicky Butty (actually a panini). Feeling healthy? Pick something from the Eat Like A Pro menu for high protein performance food.
While not officially part of the museum, on levels 5 and 6 of the building you’ll find the Rabbit In The Moon: Run by Michelin-star chef Michael O'Hare, it offers Asian fusion food with a space-age theme. There’s no menu - the tasting plates simply show up at your table, like the little crispy rabbit ears dusted with chilli and lime salt, served on a moon crater filled with edible soil. At around £75 per head it’s pricey, but the food is out of this world.
If you’ve come to the National Football Museum with the kids, you’ll want somewhere family-friendly to eat. Luckily, the Corn Exchange is very close by, and it’s packed with old favourites like Pizza Express, Pho and Wagamama’s. But why not go for something a little different? At Banyan Bar and Kitchen there are kids’ skewers and roasts on offer, while at Salvi’s, children can make their own pizzas at the table.
Huge portions, reasonable prices and all served to a soundtrack of Northern Soul classics - Northern Soul Grilled Cheese is a Manchester institution. These are cheese toasties like you’ve never seen before. Try the Cuban Pete which comes with roast ham, pulled pork and dill pickle, or go for a pot of mac and cheese with all the trimmings. Non-cheese lovers will be pleased to hear they do soups and shakes too.
As one of Manchester’s most popular attractions, the National Football Museum is easy to find - it’s well-signposted no matter where you are in the city.
From the M60 Manchester orbital motorway, follow the brown tourist signs to the National Football Museum. Parking-wise there’s the Q-Park Deansgate North just a few minutes’ walk from the museum, with 450 underground spaces available.
The nearest stop to the museum is on Corporation Street and many city centre bus routes call here. The free city centre Metroshuttle service number 2 stops at the museum and links directly to Deansgate and Oxford Road train stations.
The nearest train station is Victoria, right next door to the museum. If you’re arriving into Piccadilly, hop on the Metrolink tram to Victoria. From Oxford Road or Deansgate stations you can catch the free Metroshuttle bus service which stops outside the museum.
It’s easy to get to the museum by Metrolink tram. The nearest stops are Victoria Station and Exchange Square. If you’re coming from further afield, like Bury, all services stop at Victoria, as do trams from the city centre towards Oldham.
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