The 1867-built McManus is Dundee’s main art gallery and museum. It is located close to City Square and takes visitors on a journey through 400 million years of history. The museum features exhibits and artefacts from the region surrounding Dundee as well as further afield in Central Scotland. Discover everything you need to know about The McManus with this complete visitor guide.
|Opening Hours:||Mon to Sat 10 am-5 pm
Sun 12.30-4.30 pm
|Parking:||No on-site parking. 2 disabled spaces. Paid car parks across Dundee.|
|Contact:||+44 (0)1382 307200
|Facilities:||Shop, toilets, baby change, cafe, wheelchair and pushchair access|
The McManus Museum and Art Gallery in Dundee is one of the city’s foremost tourist attractions, and it’s most notable for the beautiful building that houses the fascinating collections exploring the fields of fine art, natural history, modern industry, the local landscape and more.
While the V&A Design Museum (which you can read about in my Guide to the V&A) manages to wow crowds with its ultra-modern architecture, the McManus manages to go the other way entirely with a magnificent Victorian Gothic Revival building that oozes history from every 150-year-old nook and cranny.
Stand at the front of the building, look up, and prepare to be transported into a Harry Potter book with sculptured stone archways, dramatic conical towers, elaborate carvings and cathedral-like lead-lined windows catching your eye from every direction.
It’s like Hogwarts’ smaller Scottish cousin, and the Caledonian theme continues with a bronze statue of Dundee’s favourite cartoon character Oor Wullie sitting on the wall outside the McManus with his legendary bucket close at hand.
Suffice to say this place is as Scottish as a tartan-clothed, bagpipe-playing haggis.
The building was originally commissioned as a memorial to Prince Albert and was called the Albert Institute when it opened in 1867. After that, it slowly developed into today’s modern museum through a series of alterations, most notably in 1889 when an additional four art galleries and four museum galleries were added.
But there’s more to this attraction than beautiful architecture and stepping inside the main entrance hall will start your journey through 400 million years of history.
State-of-the-art displays depict the area surrounding Dundee from the dawn of the continent right up to modern times, and there are lots of artefacts that show how mankind shaped the region over thousands of years.
1: The MacManus Museum is much bigger than you initially think and there are enough things to look at that it will occupy a good chunk of the day. On a wet afternoon, this has to be one of the best attractions in Dundee.
2: There’s an educational element to this museum, but it never gets boring. Kids will love it.
3: The museum and art galleries are free to enter, there’s free WiFi, and the café is reasonably priced. The McManus Museum offers a cheap day out for families.
1: Visitors often forget the lovely coastal town of St. Andrews is just a 30-minute drive south of Dundee. After your visit to the McManus Museum consider exploring St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Andrews Aquarium.
2: If you come by car you’ll find car parks at Bank Street which is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the McManus.
3: Opposite the McManus is Howff Graveyard which was established in 1564 and houses one of the most historically important tombstone collections in Scotland.
In my opinion, the McManus building is so nice you should walk around it to appreciate the architecture of the place before stepping inside, so start outside the reception area in Albert Square and head off in either direction.
The opposite side of the building features a regal statue of Queen Victoria while the front is worth taking the time to snap a photo of thanks to its restored stained-glass windows and Victorian Grand Stairs. The museum was given an £8 million makeover in 2005 and it really shows. No wonder it’s now classed as a Category A-listed building.
Once back at the reception area, you’ll be offered a portable audio tour for a small fee which is well worth getting as there’s so much to see you’ll struggle to work out which route to take, but there are guides on hand on each floor to point you in the right direction in case you get a bit lost.
The reception area is home to a decent shop so you can get a memento or two of your visit and there’s a really good café next door that has outside seating in warmer weather. I have to admit the food there is pretty good and it’s a nice space to munch away on a slice of cake. Top marks for that one, McManus.
Heading through the reception area on the ground floor will take you into the Landscapes and Lives gallery and the Making of Modern Dundee gallery, both of which are fascinating and are a great way to learn about the city’s history.
I honestly felt like I had a better understanding of Dundee’s story after visiting these galleries so I suppose that’s mission accomplished for the McManus team, and I was even surprised by a few interesting facts about the city’s industrial heritage.
Did you know, for instance, that at one time Dundee had a very profitable whaling industry that continued until the 1920s? Thankfully it’s now a long-abandoned trade (in Scotland at least), but it’s a stark reminder of how much has changed in the last hundred years, especially when it comes to our attitudes to the environment
It’s great to see museums like the McManus reminding us where we came from and they’ve accomplished the task in a way that’s both interesting and educational – something that must have been a very tricky task to get right. It’s for that reason I recommend a visit if you’ve got children in tow and I guarantee they’ll find it just as interesting as you will.
Heading up to the first floor will take you through the modern galleries where 18th-century artworks rub shoulders with 20th-century pieces along with man-made objects sourced from Dundee and the far-flung corners of the world.
Two of these galleries in particular are pretty spectacular. The first is the Dundee and the World gallery housed in the stunning Albert Hall. You’ll find the standard collection of interesting objects in glass display cases like you would in most museums, but it’s the room itself that really impresses you.
Look up and you’ll see stained-glass windows and a vaulted wooden roof that wouldn’t seem out of place in a cathedral.
But equally attractive is The Victoria Gallery with its bright and airy glass ceiling, ornate plasterwork and beautiful collection of oil paintings that date from the mid-1700s through to the early-1900s.
They’re a bit like mini versions of the Scottish National Museum and the National Galleries in Edinburgh, which is high praise because those two attractions are among the best places to visit in Scotland.
By the way, don’t forget to take a look at my guide to The 25 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh for more suggestions for places to visit in Scotland’s capital city.
After you’ve meandered around the exhibits and artwork you might like to pop up to the first floor which is home to a gallery that showcases ceramics, oil paintings from the 20th century, and a Creative Learning Suite where the museum team offer hands-on activities and workshops.
Things to Do
Exploring Scotland’s Natural History: Step back in time and explore Scotland’s natural history. The McManus Museum houses an array of fossils, minerals, and wildlife exhibits that paint a vivid picture of the country’s past. You’ll have the opportunity to see animal exhibits, understand Dundee’s geology, and learn about Scotland’s ancient tribes, making it a perfect activity for both children and adults.
Learning Scottish History: Dive into Scotland’s vibrant history and culture through McManus Museum’s eight galleries. Explore the fascinating tales of the people who lived and shaped Scotland from the prehistoric era to the present day. Each gallery is filled with fascinating artefacts, artworks, and interactive displays.
Participating in Art Workshops: Unleash your creativity with the museum’s Creative Learning Team. The McManus Museum regularly hosts workshops where you can learn various art techniques from skilled artists.
Attending Special Events and Exhibitions: The McManus Museum isn’t just a museum, it also serves as a venue for various cultural events throughout the year. Be sure to check their event schedule and catch a lecture, film screening, or special exhibition.
Admiring the Victorian Architecture: The building itself is a masterpiece. Spend some time admiring the stunning Victorian Gothic architecture of the building which is renowned for its intricate stone carvings, grand staircases, and beautiful stained glass windows. The building is as much a part of the experience as the collections it houses.
Things to Do Nearby
V&A Dundee. 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee DD1 4EZ. 11-minute walk.
The main design museum in Scotland is open for public viewing at no charge, though certain exhibitions are paid-entry only. There are galleries on the upper level and a shop and café on the floor level.
Dundee Law. Law Rd, Dundee DD3. 32-minute walk.
This is a historic natural landmark overlooking Dundee with scenic views from the top and a variety of nature trails. A monument at the summit stands where an ancient fortification once stood over 3,000 years ago.
Mills Observatory. Balgay Park, Glamis Rd, Dundee DD2 2UB. 40-minute walk.
Britain’s first public-built observatory is situated in a scenic woodland. Visitors can watch stars and planets through the telescopes and there is a gift shop on site. Entry is free.
Dundee Museum of Transport. 10 Market Mews, Market St, Dundee DD1 3LA. 21-minute walk.
A museum dedicated to Scotland’s transport history. A range of exhibits cover trams, rail, shipping and cars and many of the displays can be interacted with.
D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum. Carnelley Building, University of Dundee DD1 4HN. 13-minute walk.
A natural history museum founded in the 1880s that is part of Dundee University. The museum is open to the public on certain days only. See the university website for details.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are dogs allowed in the McManus Dundee?
The McManus Dundee’s policy is to not allow dogs, except for assistance dogs.
What is the history of the McManus Museum Dundee?
The McManus Museum was originally constructed in the 1860s as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s late husband, Prince Albert. Its initial name was ‘The Albert Institute’ and it was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott.
The museum was officially opened to the public in 1867, but due to structural problems, it had to be rebuilt and was opened again in 1873. Over the years, the building served multiple purposes as a library, a museum, and an art gallery.
In 1983, it was renamed ‘The McManus Galleries’ in honour of Maurice McManus, a former Lord Provost of Dundee. Then in the early 2000s, the museum underwent significant renovations and refurbishments, reopening in 2010 as ‘The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum’.
How many museums are there in Dundee?
Museums in Dundee include:
V&A Dundee – This is the first ever design museum in Scotland and the only other V&A museum anywhere in the world outside London.
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum – This is a Gothic Revival-style building, offering a collection of fine and decorative art as well as a natural history collection.
Dundee Museum of Transport – The museum houses a collection of vehicles and models spanning 200 years of transport history.
Verdant Works – A popular visitor attraction which tells the story of Dundee’s industrial textile heritage.
HMS Unicorn – One of the six oldest ships in the world, and Scotland’s only preserved warship, housed in a dock in the city.
When is the McManus Museum open?
The McManus Museum is open:
Mon to Sat 10 am-5 pm, and Sun 12.30-4.30 pm.
The last entry is 15 minutes before the gallery closing time.