The National Football Museum is set over four levels of the Urbis building near Manchester Victoria station with extensive football-related exhibits. Some of the museum’s exhibits include the first ever rulebook (from 1863) and a shirt from the first international football match (between England and Scotland). There are also exhibits about the development and history of the game, football stadiums plus exhibits about football clubs, players and fans.
This building was formerly home to Urbis, a museum about inner-city life in Manchester and around the world, but was closed in 2010 and reopened in 2012 as the National Football Museum (which was previously located in Preston, Lancashire).
What to see at the National Football Museum
There are over 2,500 artefacts on display in the museum with most exhibits located on the lower two floors of the building.
Level one is the museum’s largest floor with displays that include the first football rulebook (dating from 1863), a shirt from the first ever international football match (between England and Scotland), a ball from the first ever World Cup final, the ball from the 1966 World Cup final when England beat West Germany 4-2 and the Argentina shirt worn by Diego Maradona in the 1986 Mexico World Cup quarter-final against England and a replica of the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy. This level also has exhibits on football stadiums (including original seats and turnstiles from the old Wembley Stadium) and players plus a small cinema that shows a 10-minute film showcasing a month in English football.
The first level also has artwork on display that includes Going to the Match (1953) by LS Lowry and the Art of the Game (1997), Michael Browne’s Renaissance-style painting of Eric Cantona.
Level two features more interactive displays including some interactive games that visitors have to pay for. It also features interactive screens that explain the original rules of the game, a space where you can listen to audio clips from football managers and an exhibit about football injuries and a display of football-related games and toys.
The museum’s third level is a space that hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions.
Visiting the National Football Museum
The National Football Museum is located at the northern end of the city centre between the Arndale Centre and Manchester Victoria railway station. It is only a two-minute walk to the Arndale Centre, less than five minutes to the Central Retail District and a 10-minute walk to the Northern Quarter or Spinningfields. Manchester Victoria railway station is only a five-minute walk from the museum and Manchester Piccadilly station is around a 15-minute walk away. The Exchange Square Metrolink tram stop is just a couple of minutes from the museum entrance.
Admission to the museum is free of charge although there is a charge for some of the interactive games on the second level.
The football-themed Cafe Football has a branch on the museum’s ground floor and a casual dining menu with a focus on burgers and pizza.
Despite the museum’s narrow focus, it is a comprehensive museum and football fans can easily spend 2–3 hours in here. However, your visit would be much shorter if you only have a passing interest in the beautiful game.
For the full Manchester football experience, you can also take a tour of both Manchester City and Manchester United’s stadiums and stay at Hotel Football, which is right next to Old Trafford football stadium.