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Edinburgh has a great selection of museums and exhibitions that cater for all ages and tastes.
Whether you are into science, medicine, world culture, history, or even economics there is a museum in Edinburgh that will be right up your street. Whether you want to just kill some time or you looking to hide away from a downpour you will be pleasantly surprised at how much fun you will have and what new things you will learn.
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF Open daily from 10.30 to 16.30 Free to enter, donations welcome
Arguably Edinburgh’s largest and busiest museum, the National Museum of Scotland has a range of exhibits from around the world, showcasing the Natural World, World Cultures and Scottish History and Archaeology.
Before you explore the exhibits on display, take a moment to take in the striking architecture of the Grand Gallery, a beautiful example of Victorian design with soaring high pillars, large windows and a magnificent glass ceiling that floors the gallery with light. From here you can walk through to the more contemporary Museum of Scotland building, dedicated to telling Scotland’s story through fascinating displays and artefacts.
Make the most of your trip by taking a free guided tour. The museum runs a programme of free tours which run most days, including a general overview of the exhibits to get your bearings, as well as specialist tours to help you develop an in-depth understanding of the many exhibitions on display. Check out the website for the latest schedule.
If the weather is good, make sure you take the trip up to level 7 of the Museum of Scotland building and explore the rooftop terrace for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
Found in the iconic bright yellow Huntly House, The Museum of Edinburgh is a must-visit for anyone who wants to discover the story of our city. Take a look at the collar which once belonged to Greyfriar’s Bobby, see James Craig’s original plans of the New Town, get lost in a spectacular collection of silver and read the historically significant National Covenant.
There’s also plenty to keep the kid’s amused, with a fantastic dressing-up area and free to use arts and crafts zone.
Make your way through to the back of the museum and discover the secret outdoor courtyard. Recently reopened in 2015, this quiet and charming space features some fascinating artefacts which date back as far as the 16th century.
Surgeons’ Hall Museums
Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DW Open 10am to 5pm daily Adult: £8, Students, NHS staff and children under 16: £4.50, under 5’s go free.
If you are fascinated by the wonders of the human body, this museum is a must-visit. Owned by The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Surgeons’ Hall Museums consist of the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection. The museums reopened in 2015 after an extensive refurbishment, making the collections more engaging and accessible than ever before.
The Wohl Pathology Museum is one of the largest collections of pathological anatomy in the world, with rows of cabinets filled with well-preserved specimens that give a fascinating insight into the human body. Go across the hall to The History of Surgery Museum and explore Edinburgh’s significant contribution to surgical practice across the globe, including some of the more grisly details (keep an eye out for the pocketbook which is said to be made out of the skin of bodysnatcher William Burke), and learn about dentistry through the ages in The Dental Collection.
Museum of Childhood
42 High Street, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1TG
Open 10am – 5pm Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12pm – 5pm Sunday
Explore the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood.
With five galleries to explore throughout which you will find fascinating and rare objects from childhoods past, including toys, games, clothes, books and dolls, dating from the 1800s to the present day, this is a treat for visitors both young and old, and a firm favourite with many Edinburgh residents.
Top tip: Don’t miss the interactive exhibits in Gallery One which explores a child’s life at home, at school and at play.
St Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum
50 Niddry Street, Cowgate EH1 1NQ Open Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays, 10.00 to 16.00 Free to enter
Discover one of the world’s most important collections of musical instruments and visit Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall.
With over 400 objects across four stunning galleries, you will explore the stories behind musical instruments dating back to the sixteenth century along with the characters behind their creation.
In addition to gallery exhibitions, they host a lively and engaging programme of events from concerts to talks, workshops and tours.
Don’t miss the most famous harpsichord in the world in the Binks Gallery – the Taskin 1769.
Museum on the Mound
The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ Open Tuesday – Friday, 10.00 – 16.00 and Saturdays and bank holiday Mondays, 13.00 – 16.00 Free to enter
Take a fresh look at money in the Museum on the Mound. Located in the beautiful iconic building of the Lloyds Banking Group headquarters on The Mound, this museum gives a fascinating insight into the world of economics and money. Have a go at cracking open a safe, see Scotland’s oldest banknote and get an idea of what one million pounds actually looks like.
Unfortunately they don’t give away free samples, but this is still a fantastic day out for anyone who has an obsession with coins, notes, and everything in between.
The People’s Story
Canongate Tolbooth, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8BN Open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am – 5pm; Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Free to enter, donations welcome
The People’s Story museum is located in the Canongate Tolbooth, which is a historic landmark in itself built in 1591. It provides visitors with a realistic and fascinating look at what life was like for Edinburgh citizens in days gone by. Explore displays that range from crime and punishment to a night out at the cinema, the suffragettes to Leith docks, advertisements for work at breweries to figures of 1980s punk. This is the perfect place to get a glimpse into the Edinburgh of everyday people – from the 18th century to recent times.
The Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court
Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2PA Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am – 5pm; Sunday 12pm – 5pm Free to enter, donations welcome
Celebrate the lives of Scotland’s greatest writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson at the architecturally enthralling Lady Stair’s House built in 1622. At the Writers’ Museum you can see Robert Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott’s Waverley novels were produced and many more. Upon leaving the museum be sure not to miss the quotations carved in stone celebrating Scottish writers.
National War Museum
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG Open daily, 09:45 – 17:45.
Entry to the museum is free. (Historic Environment Scotland charges for admission to Edinburgh Castle where the National War Museum is located).
Discover the story of Scotland at war by exploring over 400 years of conflict through a unique collection of military objects, artwork and personal stories, all located within the majestic setting of Edinburgh Castle.
53 High Street, South Queensferry EH30 9HP Free Entry. Donations Welcome.
Queensferry Museum showcases the past and traditions of historic Queensferry and neighbouring Dalmeny. As well as permanent displays, the museum hosts a room dedicated to temporary exhibitions, curated by community groups.
With stunning views out onto the Firth of Forth and the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Forth Bridge, whether your interest is social history, folk traditions or civic engineering, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
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