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Top 5 Museums in Edinburgh

When I was living in Edinburgh, one of my favourite thing to do was discover the museums. As a North American, I’m always fascinated that museums here are free. How amazing that they make art, history and culture so accessible!  

The beauty of Edinburgh is also that most of the museums are within walking distance of each other. You could spend a day visiting 2-3 museums if that’s what you really wanted. The other great thing about the Edinburgh museums is the variety they offer. From traditional painting, to interactive galleries, to books and objects on display, there is something for everyone. 

Today I’m sharing my top 5 museums in Edinburgh:

1. Scottish Portrait Gallery

The Scottish Portrait Gallery is one of my personal favourite museums in Edinburgh. It offers exhibition both the traditional and the modern. Not only can you look at painted portraits from back in the day (and by back in the day I mean the 1700s) or you can catch photo exhibitions from around the world. Those are usually my favourite. There are often sculptures and visual arts projects as well, which are great to discover.

top museums in edinburgh portrait gallery

The Scottish Portrait Gallery is situated at 1 Queen Street, just behind St Andrews Square / bus station. Admission is free, though there are paid exhibitions. 

2. Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum is the most hidden of museums in Edinburgh in my opinion. It’s in the middle of town but often people overlook it. This museum, as the name highlights, focuses on writers, and more specifically on three of the most iconic Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. As an English major, I found it fascinating. It talks about their lives and about their books. I highly recommend it for any book lover.

top museums in edinburgh writers' museum

The Writers’ Museum is situated in Lawn Market, by Lady Stair’s Close. You can find it going up the Mound, then North Bank Street and then cutting through Lady Stair’s Close (a little alleyway).  Admission is free.

3. Scottish National Gallery & The Royal Scottish Academy

The Scottish National Gallery is a fantastic find for those looking for history. It holds some amazing paintings and art from across the different eras of Scotland. The Gallery in itself is grand and majestic, it feels like stepping straight into a movie. You can also visit the Royal Scottish Academy which has had some of the best paid exhibitions I’ve ever been to in Scotland! 

national gallery edinburgh

top museums in scotland royal academy

The Scottish National Gallery is situated on the Mound, right off Princes Street. You won’t miss it! Admission is free, though there are paid exhibitions. 

4. National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is probably the biggest and most varied of Edinburgh museums. It offers different themed wings, so you can visit those that tickle your fancy and fit within your schedule. There is a Scottish History section for those interested in the history of this country specifically. There is also World Cultures, Science and Technology, National World, Art and Design, and the Grand Gallery (pictured below).

National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh inside

The other bonus about visiting the National Museum is that if you go up to the not-so secret viewing deck, you can catch amazing views over the city, for free!

view from the national museum in edinburgh

The National Museum of Scotland is situated on Chambers Street, and you really can’t miss it. Just walk south on George IV Bridge until you see it. Admission is free.

5. Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery is the only one on my list that is actually paid – go figure, right? Anyhow, it’s truly a lovely gallery that offers some great exhibitions. It is a much more traditional gallery so phones, drinks and food aren’t allowed in, but it’s worth it as it’s never too crowded.

top museums in edinburgh queen's gallery

The Queen’s Gallery is situated at the east end of the Royal Mile, right by the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Admission is at £6.70 for adults, and you can also buy combined tickets to visit the Gallery and the Palace for £16.90.

What is your favourite museum all about?xx

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