The best free museums and galleries of Swansea

26 April 2022

Swansea may well be known for having gorgeous beaches, a 100-year-old university, and (arguably) the best ice cream in the UK, but there’s so much more to the city-by-the-sea than that.

So next time you visit, make the time to explore some of the (free) museums and art galleries that the city has to offer and learn about some of its history and culture.

The National Waterfront Museum

The National Waterfront Museum tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales and how things have developed over the last 300 years.

The stories are told through all sorts of different interactive exhibits, with buttons to press, viewfinders to look through, and digital displays to learn from.

As you make your way around the museum you discover tucked-away rooms and little nooks and crannies holding fascinating bits of information about industry in Wales.  From tiny artefacts to full-size coal wagons, there’s something new to find round every corner.

The National Waterfront Museum is fully wheelchair accessible, and a small number of wheelchairs are available for visitors to use.  There’s also a chill-out room for anyone to use if they need a bit of time out during their visit, as well as a quiet hour every month for people who prefer to visit when the museum is less crowded.

The museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm.

Swansea Museum

Swansea Museum has been a little bit overshadowed by the National Waterfront Museum but it is absolutely worth a visit.

It’s the oldest museum in Wales and has a brilliantly eclectic mix of treasures to discover.  Possibly the most famous exhibit there is the Mummy who was gifted to the museum in 1888. 

The other permanent displays at Swansea Museum include a lifesize replica of an old Welsh Kitchen, lots of interesting items from wartime Swansea, and fascinating finds from around Swansea and Neath.

Once you’ve made your way around the museum you can head to the nearby marina to see two of the boats that the museum has in its collections - the lightship Helwick and a tugboat called Canning.

The main entrance to Swansea Museum is up several steps, but there is flat access at the side and back, and lifts to the upper gallery, making the museum accessible for wheelchair users.

Swansea Museum is closed on Mondays and Thursdays, but open every other day from 10am to 3pm.

The Dylan Thomas Centre

The Dylan Thomas Centre near Swansea Marina and the River Tawe is, surprise surprise, a museum dedicated to the Welsh poet.

It’s home to a collection of manuscripts, artwork, photographs, original sound recordings, and books all about the life and work of Dylan Thomas.

It was opened by Jimmy Carter in 1995 and is well worth a look around for anyone interested in learning a few things about Thomas and his work.

The centre is accessible to people with mobility, hearing, and visual needs.

It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

If art is more your thing than history, then you’ll want to head to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea city centre.

The Gallery holds a wonderful mix of historical, modern, and contemporary exhibitions, so there really is something for all art-lovers to enjoy.

The building itself is a beautiful 1911 Grade II Listed building, with a modern extension that has made the gallery fully accessible for wheelchair users.

The Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 4pm.

The Attic Gallery

The Attic Gallery in Swansea Marina was first opened in 1962, making it Wales’ longest established private gallery.

The gallery aims to celebrate contemporary Welsh artists, with a range of paintings and sculptures to enjoy.

There is a step up to the entrance of the gallery, with a portable ramp available for anyone who needs it.

The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Mission Gallery

Mission Gallery is another really unique space to visit and view more beautiful art.  Based in a Grade II listed building in the marina, it’s somewhere really special to spend a bit of time.

The gallery offers Welsh artists, both new and established, the chance to display their work for the public to enjoy, so there’s always a real mix of styles and mediums to explore and learn more about.

The entrance to the gallery is up a step, and a portable ramp is available to anyone who needs it.  All the exhibition spaces (and the shop) are accessible on the ground floor of the gallery.

Mission Gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 3pm to 4pm and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm (closed for lunch between 1 and 2).

The Egypt Centre

Hidden away on Swansea University’s Singleton campus, the Egypt Centre is well worth visiting.

The centre is the largest museum of Egyptian antiquities in Wales, with over 5000 items to explore.  It’s split into two galleries - the house of life and the house of death - and between the two you can learn all about the ancient Egyptians.

There are volunteers at the centre who are on hand to share their knowledge, and if you’re lucky they’ll give you a hands-on demonstration of the mummification process.

The Egypt Centre is fully accessible to wheelchair users with ramps and lifts and they have some great features in place for visitors with autism, including sensory maps and ear defenders that can be borrowed for a £10 deposit.

The centre is open Tuesday to Friday from 3pm to 4pm, and Saturdays from 10am - 4pm (closed between 1 and 2 for lunch).