Best Museums in Edinburgh
1 hide detailHistoric fortress with breathtaking views and opulent riches inside.
Information from Historic Scotland.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a stop at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock. First erected in the 12th century, the fortress sits on top of an extinct volcano and is the most breathtaking part of the city's skyline. Within the castle walls you see impressive views of most of the New Town, including the Princes Street Gardens, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags, the famous Balmoral Hotel and more. You can also explore the various rooms, chapels and compartments of the fortress and through interactive displays discover what living and working there might have been like during the medieval era.
The highlight of any tour of the castle is the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels), on display in the Crown Room of the castle's Royal Palace (built in 1617). These include the ancient crown, sword and scepter, which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Here you can also see Scotland's most prized treasure: The Stone of Destiny, otherwise known as the Coronation Stone. This has been used in the crowning of Scottish and English monarchs (much to dismay of many Scottish nationalists) for hundreds of years.
Be sure to arrive before lunch, so you can watch the master gunner fire the castle's canon at 1pm (except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.); it is a tradition that dates back to1861 when the firing of the gun was used to signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith.A popular visitor attraction and a World Heritage Site, Edinburgh Castle is now proud host to modern day events including rock gigs and the famous Edinburgh Tattoo.
(aged 16 to 59)
(aged 5 to 15)
Concession: £10.40Opening times:
(aged 60 and over, unemployed)
Child under 5: FREE
9:30am - 6pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep
9:30am - 5pm
1 Oct - 31 Mar
2 hide detailThe history of the Scots from the Stone Age to modern times.
The National Museum of Scotland is an excellent museum that describes the history of Scotland from the Stone Age to modern times. This museum is a must visit for those interested in the early Celtic and Pictish history of the country.
3 hide detailA work of art
The National Gallery of Scotland is housed in a striking neoclassical building situated at one end of Princes Street Gardens. With works by Da Vinci and Van Gogh represented within the National Gallery of Scotland's collection this is an essential part of any tour to Edinburgh city. Temporary exhibitions are frequent here and tickets can be booked in advance from the website.
4 hide detailNational Gallery's neighbour
The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA), is the home of contemporary art in Scotland.
Since 1826, the Academy has occupied William Henry Playfair's magnificent landmark building on the Mound, Edinburgh. Following a period of relocation due to the major restoration of the RSA building by the National Galleries of Scotland, the RSA returned to its home in spring, 2003.
The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture has a wide-ranging collection of art and associated objects, archives and published material that have been acquired since the academy's foundation in 1826.The core element of the collections is the Diploma Collection, which comprises a single work by each full member of the academy which he or she must deposit as a representation of his or her L'uvre. Coming directly from the artist, and requiring the approval of the rest of the full membership, the Diploma Collection maintains a direct link between artist and collection.
5 hide detailFandabidozi nostalgia trip
Our Local Expert Says:
This museum is a favorite with people of all ages, children can enjoy seeing toys and games throughout the ages and adults can feel nostalgic on their youth. There is a great gift shop to take home a souvenir of the past.
The Museum of Childhood is a fun day out for the whole family. Young people can learn about the children of the past and see a fantastic range of toys and games, while adults enjoy a trip down memory lane.
Its large collection is full of colour and variety. Visitors to the Museum can see optical and construction toys, cars from Dinky miniatures to child-size pedal cars, toy soldiers, puppets and dolls' houses. The Museum explores all aspects of growing up, so toys and games sit alongside items such as books, medicines and clothing.
Young people and adults will enjoy finding out about growing up through the ages, from toys and games to health and school days. Hands-on activities, including a puppet theatre and dressing up area, together with the fantastic museum shop, help to make your visit a memorable one.Opening times:
Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm;
Sunday 12pm - 5pm.
(The shop closes at 4:45pm each day.)
Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
6 hide detailMuseum Dedicated to Poets
Our Local Expert Says:
Enjoy this exhibition celebrating great Scottish writers and learn a bit about their personal influences.
The Writers Museum celebrates the lives of three great Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Visitors can see portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns' writing desk, the printing press on which Scott's Waverley Novels were first produced, and Scott's own dining table and rocking horse. The museum also has Robert Louis Stevenson's riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with the name 'Tusitala', meaning 'teller of tales'. There is also a plaster cast of Robert Burns' skull, one of only three ever made. Even if you're not a bookworm, it's well worth a visit.
7 hide detailA Morbid Affair
For a formaldehyde fresh take on an educational trip, visit the Playfair Pathology Museum located within The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Marvel at the specimens of human remains in jars, learn the history of Edinburgh's infamous body snatchers Burk & Hare and discover the progression of surgical operation throughout the ages. It is best to see this display on an empty stomach.
8 hide detailTenements to view
Huntly House comprises three tenements that were amalgamated in 1570. It was dubbed "The Speaking House" by a Victorian antiquarian, in reference to the Latin inscriptions on its facade. Informative displays inside tell the history of Edinburgh, from prehistoric times through to the nineteenth century. Visitors are able to see collections of colourful shop signs, pottery and Edinburgh silver and glass. The tenements themselves are the real attractions here. Check for details of temporary exhibitions of art and artefacts. Admission: free.
9 hide detailSurreal experience
The Dean Gallery's world-class collection of Dada and Surrealism is shown in the Roland Penrose Gallery and Gabrielle Keiller Library. Their outstanding collections were in large part acquired by the Gallery in the 1990s and feature important works by Dalí, Miró, Ernst, Magritte and Picasso.
Also in the Dean Gallery is The Stairwell Project, a large-scale, permanent work by 2009 Turner Prize winner Richard Wright. Comprising several thousand individually hand-painted forms, the piece sits as Wright's most complex and ambitious work to date in Britain.
10 hide detailScotland's modern art collection
Home to Scotland's outstanding national collection of modern and contemporary art, the Modern Art Galleries include the Gallery of Modern Art and the nearby Dean Gallery.
Works from the Gallery's collection, plus special loans, are presented here. The early part of the collection features French and Russian art from the beginning of the twentieth century, cubist paintings and superb holdings of expressionist and modern British art. Special highlights include paintings by Matisse and Picasso.
The Gallery also has an outstanding collection of international post-war work and the most important and extensive collection of modern Scottish art. The post-war collection features art by Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud, with more recent works by artists including Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
11 hide detailVictorian display
A name for one part of the National Museum of Scotland, where you can trace Scotland's history from its prehistoric origins to modern times through the museum's 36 galleries. This is a great stop for any person keen on Scottish history and children will enjoy the war and ancient artifacts. This is simply a stunning museum and a must visit for any tourist.
The Royal Museum is currently closed while a £46 million refurbishment, The Royal Museum Project, is undertaken.
12 hide detailHistory, art and photography
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is currently closed while it undergoes a major refurbishment. The Gallery will re-open in late 2011.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery opened to the public in 1889, and is the first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is home to Scotland's national collection of portraits and currently also houses the National Photography Collection. Its origins can be traced to one enthusiastic collector, the mildly eccentric David, 11th Earl of Buchan. His collection of portraits of famous Scots, assembled in the late eighteenth century, formed the foundation of the national portrait collection in its first conception. To this day, the Gallery continues to collect works that are portraits of Scots, though not necessarily made by Scots. It aims to add portraits of those missing in the collection, as well as to bring the collection up to date. Since 1982 there has been a policy of commissioning portraits of living Scots by contemporary artists.
When the Gallery re-opens in late 2011, the way in which the collection is displayed will also be transformed. The portraits will be shown within the context of various historical and thematic exhibitions, bringing to the foreground the fascinating stories behind the sitters and the artists. Much more photography will be on display, and there will be a strong focus on Scottish art.
While the Portrait Gallery is closed, a selection of portraits from the collection will be on display at the National Gallery Complex, the Modern Art Galleries and exhibitions across the country.
13 hide detailTalent show
Edinburgh College of Art has an international reputation as one of the most successful independent art colleges in Europe, offering a range of programmes across art, design, architecture and landscape architecture at undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree level. Founded in 1907, but with a history dating back to the 18th century, the College is now home to around 1,700 full-time students who enjoy a learning environment that is supportive, challenging and international in outlook. The College is known for its creativity, its friendly students and staff, its track record of awards successes and its stunning location at the heart of the beautiful city of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh College of Art run a full year-round programme of events and exhibitions. Key events include the annual fashion show in May and the degree show in June.
14 hide detailThe best art in Scotland
Generally accepted as Scotland's best gallery for contemporary art, the Fruitmarket Gallery aims to make contemporary art accessible, without compromising art or under-estimating audiences. The Gallery presents world-class, thought-provoking and challenging art made by both Scottish and international artists in an environment that is welcoming, engaging, informative and always free.
Originally built as a fruit and vegetable market in 1938, The Fruitmarket Gallery has been operating as a visual arts space since 1974. Rescued by the Scottish Arts Council from threatened demolition, the building was initially shared between the Scottish Arts Council, the New 57 Gallery and the Printmakers Workshop. At the end of 1983 the Scottish Arts Council relinquished management of the building, and in Spring 1984, The Fruitmarket Gallery became an independent space with the continued support of the Scottish Arts Council.
Open seven days. Always free
Mon—Sat 11am—6pm, Sun 12—5pm