Edinburgh: Museums and Galleries

Renowned for its history and heritage, Edinburgh has many museums and galleries worth visiting. In this article we’ve put together a list of must-visit Edinburgh Museums and Galleries, including our favourite!

National Museum of Scotland

Situated less than 500m from the Royal Mile and St Giles’ Cathedral, The National Museum of Scotland is great for visitors of all ages. Its collection includes everything from Formula One vehicles and Industrial Revolution machinery to prehistoric artifacts and Celtic tombs. Not to mention the famous Dolly the sheep! The museum is designed to be interactive and engaging for children, and there is plenty to entertain the little ones.

The main gallery is the highlight of the museum. Constructed in 1861, it features a light-filling glass roof. With its four-story height it’s a great example of nineteenth century iron architecture.

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

museum space

Scottish National Gallery

Nestled between Edinburgh Castle and the New Town, the Scottish National Gallery is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. The building, reminiscent of ancient Greek temples, houses an impressive permanent collection featuring Italian Renaissance masterpieces, Spanish baroque paintings, examples of Impressionism and Realism, as well as Scottish art.

If you’d like to discover the treasures of the Scottish National Gallery, join our Full Day Edinburgh Walking Tour!

Explore the Scottish National Gallery

Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum is Edinburgh’s hidden gem, tucked away in a small house just off the Royal Mile. It pays tribute to Scotland’s three most famous writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Through personal items, illustrations, and texts, this museum offers a glimpse into the lives and works of these writers.

museum entrance sign

Discover the Writers’ Museum

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Despite being one of the city’s lesser-visited galleries, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street is one of the most fascinating. Opened between 1885 and 1889 with the aim to preserve Scotland’s cultural heritage, it’s the first gallery in the world built for this purpose. The architecture, inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and its extensive collection of paintings and sculptures, make it a captivating visit.

Visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Museum of Childhood

Often dubbed “The noisiest museum in the world,” the Museum of Childhood is a delightful journey through time for families. Adults can reminisce over toys from their childhood, while kids discover playthings predating today’s technology. The collection spans from the 18th to the 21st century.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Located near the Dean Village, in the West part of the city, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in two historical buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, and boasts a vast collection of modern and contemporary art.

Modern One

Once the John Watson’s orphanage of the 19th century, Modern One features early 20th-century European art, post-war international artworks, and an impressive array of sculptures in its grounds, including the “Landform Ueda” by Charles Jencks.

Modern Two

Originally an orphanage designed by Thomas Hamilton, Modern Two was transformed in 1999 to showcase the works of sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and an extensive collection of Dadaist and Surrealist art.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Surgeons’ Hall is Scotland’s leading museum of medical history. Located on Nicolson Street, it offers insights into forensic medicine, surgical advancements, and some darker elements of Edinburgh’s 19th-century history.

Anatomical Museum

One of the more elusive museums, located within the Old Medical School on Teviot Place, the Anatomical Museum boasts around 12,000 items detailing the teaching of anatomy over the past 300 years at the University of Edinburgh. Not for the faint of heart!

Learn more about the Anatomical Museum

The People’s Story Museum

Situated in the historic Canongate Tolbooth, The People’s Story Museum chronicles Edinburgh’s working-class history from the 18th century to the present.

More about The People’s Story Museum

old building and museum entrance

Museum of Edinburgh

Although not the most visited, the Museum of Edinburgh is pivotal for understanding the city’s history and essence. Delve into artifacts like the collar of Greyfriars Bobby and the National Covenant of Scotland. There is also a family learning space where kids can use worksheets, explore replica objects, and play with textures and art materials.

Museum on the Mound

Located atop the artificial mound connecting Old and New Town, this museum sits in the historic Bank of Scotland branch. Known also as the “Museum of Money”, it invites visitors to explore Scotland’s financial history, including a chance to see a million pounds or the oldest banknote from a Scottish bank.

Museum on the Mound

Recommendation

While most museums in Scotland are free, it’s customary to leave a donation. Contribution boxes are typically placed at museum exits to support the preservation of Scottish culture.

Experiencing Edinburgh

The Real Mary King’s Close

One of the city’s most famous attractions, The Real Mary King’s Close tour takes you through the narrow streets buried beneath the City Chambers. It focuses particularly on the devastating Black Plague of 1745 and the story of the plague doctors.

Visit the Real Mary King’s Close

Have fun exploring Edinburgh museums and galleries!

Leave a comment