The National Museum of Scotland holds some of the most significant historical treasures from the country, ranging from natural finds to ancient excavations. Located in the middle of Edinburgh Old Town, it’s one of the inner city’s main attractions. This legendary institute, which occupies a multi-storey building resembling a Victorian-style shopping arcade, receives a staggering 2 million visitors annually. As the National Museum of Scotland houses such a varied collection, it’s a superb choice for a day out with the family.

    After the building was completed in 1866, it was baptised as the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art. In terms of design, the iconic museum is the brainchild of Francis Fowke, an engineer who also designed the sensational Royal Albert Hall in London. Both the in-and outside of the renowned gallery are very scenic and worth your time and attention.

    National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh - one of the highlights of 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh and 10 Things to Do in Edinburgh off the Beaten Track (Read all about Edinburgh here)

    What are the highlights of the National Museum of Scotland?

    The National Museum of Scotland has vast collections of Scottish treasures, along with artefacts from abroad. Scotland’s Precious Seas is an exhibition about the marine life in the coastal waters. It also showcases how sea creatures are at risk of extinction due to plastic pollution and the ocean’s rising temperature.

    Watch many species of invertebrates in the museum and learn how conservation efforts are made by various organisations. More animals can be found on display in the Animal World department, while World Cultures tells you all about ancient Pharaohs and old African civilisations.

    The Legacies of Empire exhibit displays curious items collected from various battles with the British Empire over the centuries. Whether they’re taken after a victory or received as a diplomatic gift, each of the pieces in this museum department has a beguiling story to tell.

    photo by Magnus Hagdorn (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    A brief history of the National Museum of Scotland

    Behind the flamboyant façade of the National Museum of Scotland hides a long story of cultural preservation and archaeological collections. In 1780, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was established to collect precious archaeological items from Scottish soil. From 1851, the artefacts and research were passed into public ownership as they became part of the original acquisition of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland.

    The collection continued to grow exponentially and was moved several times, with the current location only chosen in 1998. This dazzling, 19th-century Victorian structure was found to be a perfect pick to store the 12 million items this institution managed to collect over the centuries.

    Until today, the National Museum of Scotland remains one of the authorities on research and conservation of natural and cultural treasures found in Scotland. Therefore, the museum is worth visiting for anyone interested to dive a bit deeper into Scotland’s past.

    Good to know about the National Museum of Scotland

    The National Museum of Scotland’s is in the old quarter of Edinburgh, which makes it very accessible via public transport. There’s a bus stop in front of the building, with buses running through the historic city centre. Travelling from other destinations in the UK? Edinburgh Waverley train station is less than half a mile (about a 10-minute walk) from the museum.

    Entrance is free for the National Museum of Scotland, making it a budget-friendly stop in your Edinburgh itinerary. If you’re out on a full-day adventure through town, you can combine the national museum with heaps of other nearby sights. See contemporary artworks in the Talbot Rice Gallery, admire the majestic St Giles' Cathedral, or wander around the breathtaking Edinburgh Castle. If you’re down for a shopping spree, Princes Street has plenty of boutique shops and warehouses.

    photo by Nachosan (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

    Location: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)3001 236789

    Huub Lakerveld | Contributing Writer

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