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National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Attractions

Scottish Museums

13 must-visit museums in Scotland

So, you're keen to visit a Scottish museum - but which one? Get an overview of some of Scotland's best-loved museums, including top museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Learn the story of people, places and past times through thousands of objects and discover something new!

1. National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

One of the UK's top visitor attractions and a 5-star free museum, it's easy to spend all day exploring this cultural institution. With exhibits on Scotland, nature, art, science and culture there's plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Find out more about the National Museum of Scotland

2. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

This beautiful art gallery and museum is set in the heart of Glasgow's west end. Designed with families in mind, entry is free so you can leisurely browse the impressive collections of art, natural history and much more in one of the best museums in Scotland. 

Find out more about the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

3. Riverside Museum

Riverside Museum

This award-winning transport museum in Glasgow, on the banks of the River Clyde, is packed full of objects and interactive displays. From Glasgow's shipbuilding history to locomotives to Stormtroopers, there really is something to keep all the family entertained.

Find out more about the Riverside Museum

4. The Burrell Collection

Burrell

Recommended by: @growing_greenfields. Read her blog on The Burrell Collection for more information
What the influencer says: “The museum itself is a purpose-built minimalist structure filled with an abundance of natural light, balanced with moodier areas dependent on the style of the objects”
What is the museum about?
The Burrell Collection houses over 9,000 pieces of the collected treasures, artworks and exotic objects of Glasgow merchant, Sir William Burrell, in Pollok Country Park. 

What makes it so special? 

  • Admission to the park and museum is free
  • The surrounding parkland has plenty of space to explore, with play areas, cycle paths and more
  • There are multiple dining options serving up tasty Scottish produce, including two coffee shops and a restaurant
  • Highlights include The Red Ballet Skirts by Degas and The Thinker by Rodin

Find out more about the Burrell Collection

5. Aberdeen Art Gallery 

Aberdeen Art Gallery Interior

Recommended by: @thelifeof hadia. Find out more about her visit on Tik Tok

Winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2020, this revitalised gallery is a must visit in the Granite City of Aberdeen. The collection includes work from Scotland's best designers and artists from Henry Raeburn to Joan Eardley as well as significant works of international acclaim.

Find out more about Aberdeen Art Gallery

6. V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee exterior sunny

Set in a purpose-built riverside building, the stunning V&A Dundee is an example of world-class architecture and holds collections showcasing the very best of both international and Scottish design.

Find out more about the V&A Dundee

7. McManus Art Gallery and Museum

Recommended by: @simplyemmablog. Read her blog on the McManus for more information and her helpful wheelchair accessible guide  
What the influencer says: “As a powered wheelchair user, I was able to move around easily and access each gallery without difficulty. The open spaces made it an enjoyable and comfortable experience to roll throughout the entire museum at my own pace. I was able to see the displays and exhibits from wheelchair height.”

What makes it so special? 

  • The Victorian Gothic building boasts eight open gallery spaces
  • There are good public transport links if you’re travelling to Dundee by bus or train

Find out more about the McManus Art Gallery and Museum

8. The Dick Institute

Dick Institute

Located in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, the stunning institute hosts touring exhibitions from the TATE, V&A, National Galleries Scotland and more. It also features a wide range of objects and exhibitions including fossils, art and local history.

Find out more about the Dick Institute

9. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Burns Cottage Alloway

Discover more about the life and history of Scotland's National Bard in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. Based in the quaint cottage where he was born, the museum is home to the world's most important collection of Burns artefacts and works.

Find out more about the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

10. The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Explore the history of Scotland told through one of the world's largest community art projects at this recently opened 5-star visitor attraction in the Scottish Borders. Created and stitched by 1,000 people from across Scotland, the Tapestry offers a compelling visual of Scotland's heritage and history.

Find out more about The Great Tapestry of Scotland

11. Shetland Museum and Archives

The Shetland Museum and Archives

The engaging Shetland Museum is packed full of information about Shetland's heritage and culture. Located on the waterfront within a restored 19th century dock in Lerwick, the gallery includes examples of everything from Shetland lace to Pictish art.

Find out more about the Shetland Museum and Archives

12. Skye Museum of Island Life

Skye Museum of Island Life

 Situated on the dramatic hilltop by Uig, let the Skye Museum of Island Life take you back in time with its authentic thatched cottages and old tools. The museum offers visitors a unique experience of what island life was like 100 years ago for 19th century crofters.

Find out more about the Skye Museum of Island Life

13. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Recommended by: @scottishbeardman. See his family’s experience at the museum on Instagram
What the influencer says: “It’s so hands-on which can only help kids and adults learn more about our ancestors and the past. We absolutely all loved getting involved, truly inspiring.”

First opened in 1826, this museum in Inverness provides a stimulating insight into the culture and history of the Scottish Highlands. From geology and archaeology to the dramatic story of the Jacobites, the museum is full of interesting exhibitions, displays, workshops and recitals.

Find out more about the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

9 Museums to Discover Near You

Step off the beaten track and discover  unique museums loved by locals and visitors alike. Here are some of our recommendations for easily accessible and exciting museums near you, with hints and tips from the locals who know them best. 

1. Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh

Recommended by: @hiddenscotland. Read more on their Instagram
What the influencer says: “This landmark really is a must see”
What is the museum about?
Once a Victorian Bath House, this beautifully-lit space now houses a world-renowned tapestry studio with exhibitions and events showcasing contemporary art, craft, design and textiles.

What makes it so special? 

  • You can see the weavers at work in the open studio where crafters have been working for over a century 
  • Its programme of exhibitions always features interesting and engaging talks with experts and artists 
  • The café is run by Edinburgh caterers, Hickory and offers healthy and delicious treats 
  • The gift shop is carefully curated and is the perfect place to pick up a special gift for art-loving friends and family 

Find out more about Dovecot Studios

2. The Museum of Edinburgh, Edinburgh 

Recommended by: @mylittlewildlings. Read her blog on Edinburgh Museum for more information
What the influencer says: “It’s the kind of place you can get lost in…”
What is the museum about?
Nestled on the historic Royal Mile, soak up the atmosphere and explore the history of Edinburgh through quirky objects, exhibitions and tales. 

What makes it so special? 

  • The museum is full of hidden gems, nooks and crannies
  • Its central location makes it an ideal spot for accessing from other cities, just a short walk from the train station
  • Admission is free

Find out more about the Museum of Edinburgh 

3. Edinburgh City Art Centre, Edinburgh

Recommended by: @exploringedinburgh. Read more about her visit on Instagram
What is the museum about?
This central attraction is home to over 4,500 works by significant Scottish artists from the 17th century onwards.

What makes it so special? 

  • As well as its impressive collection, the museum affords some of the best views of the city 
  • The museum is easily accessible via public transport, located right next to Waverley train station
  • The café is run by one of Edinburgh’s favourite bakeries, Mimi’s Bakehouse
  • It’s dedicated to being as accessible as possible and provides a full access guide on their website

Find out more about Edinburgh City Art Centre 

4. Discovery Point, Dundee

Discovery Point

Recommended by: @johnpow1. Find out more on his Instagram
What the influencer says: “It must have been great to see [RSS Discovery] in full sail on her adventures with Scott, Shackleton and the other Antarctic explorers.”
What is the museum about?
The museum tells the dramatic story of Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton’s famous voyage of exploration aboard the RRS Discovery, now back where it was first made in Dundee’s shipyards.  

What makes it so special? 

  • This five-star visitor attraction brings the voyage to life with real artefacts that belonged to Scott and his crew 
  • It has amazing views across the Tay from its waterfront home
  • It’s just a short walk from the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s impressive design museum

Find out more about RRS Discovery Point 

5. The Hunterian, Glasgow

The Hunterian

Recommended by: @girlsaroundscotland. Find them on TikTok
What is the museum about?
From scientific curiosities to ancient Roman artefacts, The Hunterian houses an extensive collection of objects from the personal collection of Glasgow’s Dr William Hunter. 

What makes it so special? 

  • The museum can be found amongst the beautiful university buildings in Glasgow city centre
  • Ancient Roman objects from the Antonine wall tell the story of Romans in Britain
  • The collection boasts the largest single holding of the works by famous Glasgow architect and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Find out more about The Hunterian

6. Fairfield Heritage Museum, Glasgow

Click on the arrows for more photos from @hiddenscotland

Recommended by: @hiddenscotland. Read more on their Instagram 
What is the museum about?
This community museum tells the story of Govan’s historic role in the international shipbuilding industry. 

What makes it so special? 

  • The museum is accessed by a community-run ferry that takes you across the river 
  • The walking route to the museum is equally lovely, which takes you past Glasgow’s artisan coffee shops and eateries
  • Fairfield Heritage is housed in the old headquarters of what was once the greatest shipbuilding enterprise in the world
  • You can also explore The Riverside Museum and The Tall Ship nearby

Find out more about Fairfield Heritage Museum 
Please note that the ferry is not operating in summer 2022 due to building work

7. The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Stirling

Click on the arrows for more photos from @hiddenscotland

Recommended by: @hiddenscotland. Read more on their Instagram 
What is the museum about?
This museum has been telling the story of Stirling’s heritage, art and culture since it opened in 1874. 

What makes it so special? 

  • It’s very family friendly – kids can dress up in costume as they explore
  • There is a rolling programme of events and exhibitions exploring the gallery’s collections
  • The museum is accessibility friendly, with ramps and level access for visitors with limited mobility
  • Admission is free

Find out more about The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum

8. Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth

Click on the arrows for more photos from @hiddenscotland

Recommended by: @hiddenscotland. Read more on their Instagram 
What is the museum about?
One of Scotland’s oldest established museums, Perth Museum & Art Gallery is a free space to discover more about Perthshire. 

What makes it so special? 

  • There is a huge range of objects on display from portraits to meteorites
  • Find out more about Miss Ballantyne’s famous salmon – the largest rod-caught in Britain!
  • Take a pause with a delicious coffee served in the museum foyer
  • Accessible facilities are available throughout the museum

Find out more about The Perth Museum & Art Gallery

9. Carnegie Birthplace Museum, Dunfermline

Click on the arrows for more photos from @exploringedinburgh

Recommended by: @exploringedinburgh. Read more about her experience on Instagram
What is the museum about?
Housed in the humble cottage where Carnegie was born, this museum is dedicated to one of Scotland’s most famous sons and his incredible legacy as a philanthropist. 

What makes it so special? 

  • Learn more about how Andrew Carnegie made his fortune as a steel tycoon in the 19th century
  • Discover more about what it was like to emigrate to America in the 1800s
  • Find out more about the incredible impact Carnegie had on the world, such as funding over 2,800 public libraries around the world!
  • It’s close to many of the other gems that Scotland’s newest city has to offer, including Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline Palace and Abbey and the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries

Find out more about Carnegie Birthplace Museum