The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is an essential stop for visitors coming to Scotland’s picturesque capital city. Housed in two adjoining buildings just west of Edinburgh’s city centre, this gallery boasts one of the UK’s finest collections of modern and contemporary art. Since opening in 1960 as the country’s first museum dedicated entirely to modern works, it has expanded both its facilities and collection, which now spans over 6,000 works ranging from iconic 20th-century greats to emerging new talent.
Art lovers can spend hours wandering its light-filled galleries and sculpture courtyards. Designed by William Burn, the neoclassical Modern One building contains various post-war painting and sculpture styles. Next door, the converted Modern Two site features special exhibitions from the likes of Salvador Dalí, Roland Penrose, and Eduardo Paolozzi alongside installations, videos, and other boundary-pushing contemporary pieces.
Keep reading to discover key tips for navigating the gallery spaces, info on past/upcoming exhibits, and Edinburgh nearby attractions to pair with an inspiring day at the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh.
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Important Details to Know
Here are the important details you should keep in mind before visiting the Scotland National Gallery of Modern Art:
The Modern One and Modern Two buildings have several accessibility options available onsite, including:
- There is wheelchair access to all galleries and facilities within Modern One and Modern Two. Visitors can borrow wheelchairs free of charge from the front desk in the Modern One building.
- Both galleries provide disabled parking spots close to the entrances for convenient accessibility.
- There are accessible toilets in both buildings, including baby-changing facilities and an adult-changing places restroom at Modern One.
Guide and assistance dogs are welcome inside the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- For visually impaired visitors, large print labelling is available for all special exhibitions held in Modern One and Modern Two.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers free general admission to all visitors. However, some special exhibitions may have an admission fee. Ticket prices for these exhibitions vary and are set per event.
Concessionary rates are offered to disabled visitors and carers for these paid exhibitions.
How to Get There
Here are the most popular ways to reach Edinburgh’s Modern Art Gallery:
If you’re close to the gallery, start from the West End of Princes Street and walk along Shandwick Place. Then, turn right onto Palmerston Place, continuing until you reach Belford Road.
Cross the bridge on Belford, and you’ll see the museum entrance is a short walk further down the road.
If you’re coming from further out to the Edinburgh Gallery of Modern Art, the nearest train station is Haymarket, which is just a 15-minute walk to the gallery.
If you’re travelling by car to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art via the A8, follow the A8 for approximately 14 minutes until you reach the Murrayfield Ave exit in Edinburgh.
Take the Murrayfield Ave exit until you reach Ravelston Dykes. Turn right onto Ravelston Dykes and drive for another two minutes until it turns into Belford Road.
Stay on Belford Road until the entrance to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s car parks appear on your right.
Modern Art Gallery Attractions
Now that you’re equipped with the key details and directions to reach the gallery, it’s time to discover the Scottish and international art this world-class museum offers. We’ve outlined the main attractions to immerse yourself in during your visit to the Modern Gallery in Edinburgh:
Wander the Modern Art Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art holds an expansive collection of over 6000 post-1900 artworks representing significant moments in modern and contemporary creative practice. The galleries showcase one of the finest assemblies of post-war British painting and sculpture in the world.
Explore Modern One to admire iconic works by Leslie Hunter, David Hockney, John Duncan Fergusson, Francis Bacon, and other 20th-century masters. A popular past exhibition held at Modern One is Alberta Whittle: Create Dangerously.
Also, the vast exhibition spaces within Modern Two host a rotating calendar of critically acclaimed shows. Some past exhibitions by other major artists at Modern Two include Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life and Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance. Must-visit attractions at Modern Two are the Reading Room and Gabrielle Keiller Library — which holds an archive of books dedicated to art history. An upcoming exhibition to look forward to at Modern Two is Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970–1990.
With such an extensive permanent display and temporary collection, it’s easy to immerse yourself for hours within the two sites that comprise the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Discover Conversations with the Collection at Modern One
On the top floor of Modern One, you can view an innovative exhibition concept called Conversations with the Collection. Rather than a typical display, this interactive program creatively connects viewers with the museum’s trove of national artworks, spanning sculpture, photography, painting, and more.
Artists featured in this outstanding collection include Jackson Pollock, Carole Gibbons, and Anish Kapoor. No interpretations are pushed on viewers — instead, the galleries encourage you to reflect and chat about your revelations on the collection.
Explore Paolozzi at Modern Two
On the first floor of Modern Two, visitors can explore two exhibitions celebrating renowned Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi.
- Paolozzi at 100: This vibrant show commemorates 100 years since Paolozzi’s birth. You can view over 60 artworks spanning his most popular prints, textiles, ceramics and more here. The dynamic galleries give insight into Paolozzi’s creative vision.
- Paolozzi Studio: Step inside a meticulously recreated version of the artist’s studio at this National Gallery in Scotland. See the actual furnishings, collected items, and plaster casts that inspired Paolozzi’s avant-garde sculptures and prints.
Together, these adjoining exhibits at the Modern Art Museum in Edinburgh provide an illuminating glimpse at how Eduardo Paolozzi left a bold, eclectic mark on Scottish visual culture.
Meander Through the Sculpture Park
Once you’ve explored the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, walk through the beautiful Sculpture Park for fresh air and sunshine and discover even more artworks dotted throughout this extensive parkland.
These artworks are drawn from the national collection and represent renowned artists like Barbara Hepworth, Richard Long, George Rickey, and Nathan Coley.
There are also grassy areas to have a picnic or simply sit and reflect between galleries.
Stop for Lunch at Café Modern One
After visiting the National Galleries of Scotland and its grounds, refuel at Café Modern One, located right onsite. This contemporary eatery spills out into a peaceful stone terrace tucked within the museum’s walled gardens. The lush outdoor seating or the chic interior décor equally provide a perfect backdrop for a meal.
The café’s talented chefs have an ever-changing menu focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Dishes to try include colourful salads, aromatic soups, hot mains, gourmet sandwiches as well as a pastry case brimming with scones.
More Scottish Galleries to Visit
- Aberdeen Art Gallery
- An Lanntair Arts Centre
- Compass Gallery
- Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries
- Gallery of Modern Art
- Hunterian Art Gallery
- Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
- Jupiter Artland
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
- Kirkcudbright Gallery
- McManus Art Gallery
- National Galleries Scotland: National
- National Galleries Scotland: Portrait
- Pier Arts Centre
- Royal Scottish Academy
- Stills Gallery
- Talbot Rice Gallery
- The Burrell Collection
- The Fruitmarket Gallery