Museums in Edinburgh cover every conceivable area of interest that you might think of – world culture, medical practice, science, finance and the history of childhood. And for historical sleuths there’s an exploration of Edinburgh’s history, people and traditions. The majority have free entry and many of them are situated within walking distance of Princes Street. They’re not just for rainy days.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND
Edinburgh’s largest and most popular museum is the National Museum of Scotland which houses a range of exhibits from around the world. The galleries include:
- The Grand Gallery is, in the Museum’s own words a, “window on the world” with a whole host of treasures to explore.
- The Natural World galleries, dominated by a Tyrannosaurus rex, take a look at the fascinating variety of life on earth.
- The Scottish History and Archaeology galleries take you from the Palaeolithic period to the present day. Everything from Pictish, Iron Age and Roman relics to the story of William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots.
- The Science and Technology galleries take a look at how inventions have changed our lives.
- The Art Design and Fashion galleries look at creativity, fashion, design and style.
There are free guided tours, plenty of hands on activities for the kids to try out and a range of special exhibitions which are held throughout the year. The icing on the cake is the amazing view of Edinburgh from the roof terrace.
There’s nothing dry and dusty about this museum, it’s just a fabulous day out. Other than a few of the special exhibitions entrance is free.
MUSEUM ON THE MOUND
Located in the historic Bank of Scotland building on the Mound an artificial hill which connects Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns. On the face of it a museum about banking might sound a bit dull – on the contrary the Bank of Scotland, founded in 1695 is part of Scotland’s history. To raise the initial capital a subscription book was placed in the Cross Keys Tavern in Edinburgh. The first subscriber or Adventurer as they became known was the Marquis of Tweeddale, Lord High Commissioner of Scotland. While the Museum tells the fascinating story of its early history there is much more to find out about the Story of Money – crime, security and technology. Entry is free.
THE PEOPLE’S STORY
The People’s Story, located within the Canongate Tollbooth on the opposite side of the road from the Museum of Edinburgh tells the fascinating story of Edinburgh’s people between the 18th and 20th century.
This little museum examines working conditions, social housing, crime and leisure activities in Edinburgh and is told through a collection of photographs, personal items, work tools and household items. It’s about real people, real experiences with oral and written sources to bring their story to life. Entry is free.
MUSEUM OF EDINBURGH
For visitors to the city or locals who just want to know more, there are centuries of Edinburgh history to be discovered at the Museum of Edinburgh. On display is an eclectic range of exhibits including the National Covenant, a document first signed at Greyfriars Kirk in 1638 to mark one of the most important events in Scottish history. The collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby that little terrier who sat beside his master’s grave, an event which inspired numerous books and movies. Also, on show are items from WW1 commander Earl Haig and the plans for the James Craig inspired Edinburgh New Town.
Sitting close to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, this little museum with its bright yellow façade featured in the popular Outlander series. Entry is free.
MUSEUMS WITHIN EDINBURGH CASTLE
There are a number of small museums within Edinburgh Castle.
- National War Museum
- Scottish National War Museum
- Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum
- Royal Scots Museum
Entry is included in the price of the Castle ticket.
ST CECILIA’S HALL & MUSIC MUSEUM
Owned by the University of Edinburgh, St Cecilia’s Hall and Museum was originally designed by distinguished architect Robert Mylne in 1763. Today the building includes the concert hall, the oldest one in Scotland, four galleries, studios and other rooms. It is the only venue in the world where you can hear 18th century music in an 18th century concert hall played on 18th century instruments. It is truly unique.
The galleries house the University’s historic collection of early instruments including harpsichords and other early keyboards. Following a recent renovation, it is the most exquisite place to visit.
The surrounding area is not the prettiest part the Old Town but don’t let that put you off as what you will discover inside more than makes up for what’s outside.