Ranging from antiquated medicine to masterpieces of artwork to ancient coinage, Edinburgh is a hub of incredible historic and cultural museums. You’ll find some of Scotland’s most impressive national collections in the museums, including the Scottish national portrait collection and masterpieces from prominent European artists. Many museums feature new and up-and-coming artists in contemporary art and photography. Whether you’re interested in numismatics or the wonders of ancient medicine, take a look at the best museums in Edinburgh to plan your itinerary.


    Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

    See masterpieces of modern art

    The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a museum with collections of modern and contemporary art that dates back to 1900. The museum has 2 adjacent buildings that house over 6,000 paintings, sculptures, art installations, video, drawings and prints. 

    The first building, Modern One, features European art from the early 20th century and special highlights from artists like Matisse and Picasso, as well as rotating exhibitions. The second building, Modern Two, is home to world-class exhibitions of surrealism from Dali and Magritte, Dada works and early 20th-century artists and Scottish artists.

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    Location: 75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR, UK

    Open: Thursday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, closed Monday to Wednesday

    Phone: +44 131-624-6200


    Surgeons' Hall Museums

    Explore antiquated medical instruments and specimens

    The Surgeons’ Hall Museums are a collection of museums focusing on medical instruments and advancement. As the headquarters of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Surgeons’ Hall Museum is a major medical museum and attraction. The museums include the Surgeons’ Hall Museum, the Wohl Pathology Museum and the History of Surgery Museum. Some of the unique collections, including the Greig collection with drawings and photographs of skeletal abnormalities, the Barclay collection of human skeletons, an elephant skull and other specimens and the Menzies Campbell collection of dentistry instruments and specimens.

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    Location: Surgeons Hall Museums, Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DW, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 131-527-1711


    Fruitmarket Gallery

    Check out emerging contemporary artists

    The Fruitmarket Gallery is an arts and culture gallery that showcases works from the best Scottish and international artists in the contemporary space. Originally designed as a fruit and vegetable marketplace, the gallery offers a unique space to display artwork from Scottish artists like Claire Barclay, Christine Borland and Callum Innes. Some of the past exhibitions have included Night Walk for Edinburgh, Senga Nengudi, Emma Hart, Jacqueline Donachie and Jac Leirner. The gallery also hosts themed exhibitions, such as Childish Things, Narcissus Reflected and Possibilities of the Object.

    Location: 45 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DF, UK

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 131-225-2383


    photo by Chabe01 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Royal Scottish Academy

    Marvel at the works of Scottish artists

    The Royal Scottish Academy is an academy of art that holds contemporary Scottish artwork. The vast collection ranges from 1780 to present day and contains a rich archive of papers, drawings, correspondence, photographs and studio artefacts totally over 7,000 individual works. You can attend rotating exhibitions and events at the Royal Scottish Academy. Some of the past exhibitions and events including Reduct: Abstraction and Geometry in Scottish Art, Academicians in Isolation, Pictures for Spring and Calum Colvin RSA: Constructed Worlds.

    Location: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 131-624-6110


    John Knox House

    Explore the halls of an opulent historic home

    The John Knox House is a historic home that is believed to be the former home of Protestant reformer John Knox during the 16th century. The beautiful home was built in the 1490s and features incredible architectural details like a hand-painted ceiling, a wooden gallery and decorations and paintings from 1850 onward. When you visit, you can tour the home to see the period furnishings, elaborate architectural touches and more recent additions to get a glimpse into life in the past.

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    Location: Scottish Storytelling Centre, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR, UK

    Open: Friday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, closed from Monday to Thursday

    Phone: +44 131-556-9579


    National War Museum

    Learn About the Personal Aspect of Scotland’s Wars

    The National War Museum highlights the lives of Scotland’s soldiers and the influence of war on the country’s  political relationships with neighbouring countries. The museum is housed in the historic Edinburgh Castle, a spectacular attraction on its own, and you’re sure to be impressed by the surrounding architecture in the area. You should allow about an hour for your tour of the museum, but there is much more to do in the castle, so it’s easy to make a day of your trip to take in all the sights.

    In addition to the big-picture history of battles, the museum focuses on the personal experiences of the war as told by soldiers. You’ll stroll through 400 years of history shown through artefacts such as weapons, armour, paintings of famous battles and personal effects and letters from soldiers. The museum is sure to be fascinating to anyone with an interest in Scottish or war-time history.

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    Location: Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.45 am to 5.45 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)3001 236789


    The People's Story Museum

    Travel back through Edinburgh’s past

    The People's Story Museum tells you the story of the people of Edinburgh from the 18th century right through to the present day. The museum itself is grand to see, being housed in a converted 16th-century prison just down Canongate.

    The museum hosts a really interesting tour, starting with the daily struggle people would have had 300 years ago. There are some gruesome details on how criminals were treated. As you move up the floors you travel forward through time, passing through the wars of the 20th century, to our (relatively) easy modern-day life.

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    Location: The Royal Mile, 163 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)13 1529 4057


    Scottish National Portrait Gallery

    Browse the national collection of portraiture

    The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is an art museum that’s home to national collections of portraits, mostly by Scottish artists. The museum also has the Scottish National Photography Collection. Housed within a red sandstone gothic revival building, the museum’s vast collection includes over 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 38,000 photographs and 25,000 prints and drawings dating back to the renaissance. Some of the prized pieces include portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, and 10 aristocratic portraits of Sir John Baptist Medina.

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    Location: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD, UK

    Open: Sunday–Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm, closed Wednesday to Saturday

    Phone: +44 131-624-6200


    Stills Gallery

    Discover the art of photography

    The Stills Gallery is a gallery space that showcases photography and themed exhibitions for movements in the art or up-and-coming photographers. Located in Old Town, the Stills Gallery offers exhibitions, production facilities, and creative showcases to help artists develop their skills. The Stills’ tutors offer a wide range of workshops for all fields of photography, lens-based arts and digital media. The gallery also has a library with rare monographs and books for research and learning, as well as a photography community for graduate-level photographers.

    Location: 23 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1BP, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 11 am to 9 pm, Friday–Monday from 11 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 131-622-6200


    Scottish National Gallery

    Peruse fine art exhibits from the renaissance

    The Scottish National Gallery is the national art gallery of Scotland and home to incredible works of fine art from the renaissance period to the 20th century. Part of the National Galleries of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery is housed within an incredible building that’s reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple. Inside, you’ll find masterpieces by Van Dyck, Jacopo Bassano and Giambattista Tiepolo. Other highlights include works by Titian, Canova’s sculptures and work from several artists at the Glasgow School.

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    Location: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 131-624-6200


    Mary King's Close

    Unravel the tales of the haunted close

    Mary King’s Close is a historic close beneath the Royal Mile named for Mary King, a merchant burgess from the 17th century. The close has experienced damage over the years and was close to the public at a point, creating many myths and legends about ghosts and murders. The rumours of hauntings date back to the 17th century and the site has been frequented by paranormal investigators. You can experience the lore of the close yourself on a guided tour.

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    Location: Warriston's Close, 2, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PG, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 190-426-1262


    photo by -JvL- (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Museum on the Mound

    Learn above ancient tokens and coinage

    The Museum on the Mound is a fascinating numismatics museum that focuses on money, coinage and economics of Scotland. Located in the Bank of Scotland’s Head Office building on the Mound, the Museum on the Mound boasts a massive collection of artefacts that includes barter pieces, Scottish coinage and paper money, ancient tokens, and historic banknotes from the Bank of Scotland. It’s also the home of the Bank of England £1 million note, a rare piece that’s kept as an exemplar of a high-denomination note that was currency backing for Scottish banks.

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    Location: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 1 pm to 5 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +44 131-243-5464


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