Museums and galleries in Edinburgh itinerary

View across Linlithgow Loch and the palace
72 hours in the Lothians ››

Spend three days in the Lothians discovering the history of aviation, exploring a country park and more.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Free attractions ››

There's a wide choice of fantastic indoor and outdoor attractions in Edinburgh that won't cost a penny.

Looking over Edinburgh's skyline including the extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat
72 hours in Edinburgh ››

Make the most of your trip to Edinburgh with this 72 hour itinerary covering some of the city’s most visited attractions.

Spend a day exploring some of Edinburgh’s fascinating museums and galleries which tell stories of great writers, artists and poets from both Scotland and around the world.

  • Looking over daffodils to the National Galleries building
    National Galleries
  • The lawn looking over the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Two
    Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Two
  • The Animal World Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland
    The National Museum of Scotland
  • The Scottish National Portrait Gallery
    The Scottish National Portrait Gallery
  • The exterior of the Writers' Museum as seen from Makars' Court located off the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town
    The Writers' Museum in Edinburgh's which celebrates the works of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns

If you’re up early you should be able to visit them all in a day but you can also spread them out over several days to spend hours gazing at great works hanging on the walls of Edinburgh’s finest buildings. Timings are approximate, as you may wish to spend more time in one of these great museums and galleries in Edinburgh.

Start the day with a visit to the Writers' Museum located on Lady Stair's Close just off the Royal Mile. This treasure house of portraits, relics and manuscripts celebrates three of Scotland's great writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Visit time - 1 hour

Make your way up to Chambers Street to the grand National Museum of Scotland, which has 20,000 exhibits across 36 galleries from whales, dolphins and Tyrannosaurus Rex to the fascinating exhibitions. You're bound to find something new here as thanks to the million-pound refurbishment, 80 percent of objects are on display for the first time.

Visit time - 1 - 2 hours

Turning left down The Mound and further down the Playfair steps will take you to the National Gallery Of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy, which has a subterranean link between the two galleries, and a Galleries Restaurant which offers stunning views out across East Princes Street Gardens.

Visit time - 2 hours

Skirting east along Princes Street past the 200 ft spire of the Scott Monument, built in tribute to the novelist Sir Walter Scott, turn left down Leith Street and marvel at the statue of Sherlock Holmes, whose creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, studied medicine at Edinburgh University. Turn left along York Place to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery where you can view portraits of famous Scots from the 16th century to the present day.

Visit time - 1.5 hours

Not far from here, look out for the plaque on the wall which tells passing visitors that 17 Heriot Row is the birthplace of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Head west along Queen Street, Queensferry Street and Belford Road to take in some modern art at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art and its sister, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two, which houses a permanent collection of work by the Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, born in Leith, but of Italian descent.

Visit time - 2 hours

From the mound, take a walk down Market Street to Edinburgh's City Art Centre which contains six exhibition galleries and is home to the city's own art collection.

Visit time - 1 hour