Following an extensive expansion and rejuvenation, this gallery today is the proud owner of one of the best and most prestigious art collections in the north of England. Literally doubled in size, the gallery displays works that are wide-ranging -- from the pre-Raphaelites to old Dutch masters, from the land- and seascapes of Turner to Lowry's industrial panoramas.
Designed by Sir Charles Barry, this gallery has been a landmark since 1882. Today's fine collection is also noted for its paintings by Ford Madox Brown and Holman Hunt. The gallery's decorative art collection is one of the finest outside London, especially in its 17th- and 18th-century pieces, its metalwork, and porcelain. The silver, in particular the Assheton Bennett collection, is especially distinguished.
If you're here between Easter and September, consider a visit to Heaton Hall (tel. 01617/731231; www.manchestergalleries.org), the museum's annex, 6.5km (4 miles) to the east. It's the centerpiece of 263 hectares (650 acres) of rolling parkland and accessible via the Metrolink tram (get off at Heaton Park). Built of York stone in 1772 and filled with furniture and decorative art of the 18th and 19th centuries, it is open only between Easter and September. Opening hours may vary; however, they are generally Thursday to Sunday 11am to 5:30pm. Call the Manchester Visitor Centre to confirm. Admission is free.