In the heart of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery offers one of the largest collections of historical and classical artworks from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The prestigious gallery looks at not only international art from savants like Van Gogh, Raphael, Vermeer, and Botticelli but also famed Scottish artists.
This page will focus on the Scottish National Gallery. Still, we’ve covered the modern and contemporary art of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the stunning portraits of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, too!
This national gallery was first opened in 1859 by William Henry Playfair at The Mound in Edinburgh, just off Prince Street. It boasts a neo-classical architectural style that boomed during the 18th and 19th centuries. The National Gallery also sits close to the Royal Scottish Academy Building, and the two institutes often work closely on projects.
If you’re interested in paying a visit to the National Gallery during your stay in Edinburgh, then make sure to read through our complete guide, which includes essential details to know, how to get there, and the top attractions to see. Let’s jump right into it!
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Important Details to Know
Before you plan your visit to the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, ensure that you remember these important details before you do so:
Here are the Scottish National Gallery’s accessibility options available to guests:
- The National Gallery has ample wheelchair accessibility, with wheelchairs available on site. There are also accessible toilets within the gallery as well.
- Baby changing facilities and changing place toilets are also on-site for visitors.
- There is seating throughout the gallery’s outstanding collection to rest as you explore the gallery.
- Lockers are available within the building but are limited in space. Renting a locker space also costs £1/£2.
- There are BLS introductions available, introducing the gallery and collections open to see at the National Gallery.
For further accessibility requirements and enquiries, please contact the National Galleries before your visit.
National Gallery Scotland Opening Hours
The National Gallery is open daily between 10:00 and 17:00.
This national collection is free entry for everyone! You don’t need to pay a penny to explore the gallery’s collection.
How to Get There
The gallery sits in Edinburgh’s city centre, making it easy to reach! Here are the top ways to travel to the Scottish National Gallery:
Scottish National Gallery sits in the heart of Edinburgh, close to other major attractions like St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, and Palace of Holyrood House. Here’s how to get there from Edinburgh Airport:
Drive down Fairview Road from Edinburgh Airport and take Eastfield Road to Hanover Street in Edinburgh (about 20 minutes). Then, continue down Hanover Road to The Mound; the National Gallery will be on the left.
Throughout Edinburgh, visitors can hop onto Edinburgh’s robust bus routes to reach several attractions within minutes. The closest bus station to the Scottish National Gallery is on Prince Street, from which the gallery is only a minute’s walk.
The X18, X38, X55, and 100 bus lines will stop at the Prince Street bus station, but double-check your local schedule before you board.
The closest station to the National Gallery is Waverly Station. The gallery is only six minutes from the station, past Scott Monument and on the Mound. Several train routes within Edinburgh and from other major Scottish cities stop at Waverly, making taking the train a flexible option if you’re planning to reach the attraction from outside the city centre.
Attractions to See
Once you’ve prepared your camera and know how to reach the Scottish National Gallery, be sure to keep an eye out for the following attractions during your visit. If you did, you’d be missing out on some of the gallery’s highlights!
Explore Artworks by Scottish Artists
Out of the three national galleries of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery is the best place to see fine Scottish art. Their new Scottish galleries capture the art world as it was from 1800 to 1945, with spectacular artworks from renowned artists like William McTaggart, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Charles Rennie MacKintosh and even the Glasgow Boys.
The Scottish Gallery is one of the new galleries on display here, covering one of the most influential times of Scottish art. The Glasgow Boys and Glasgow Girls were two groups of Scottish men and women who changed how Glasgow artists were perceived in the 18th and 19th centuries, and their art is yours to find throughout the many exhibitions.
Our two candidates for must-see pieces (although the list was long) are “The Storm” by William McTaggart, which evokes brewing feelings of anticipation and “Reverand Robert Walker Skating on Dudingston Loch” by Sir Henry Raeburn — the skating minister is one of the country’s most well-known pieces.
See Fine Arts from the Greats at the Scottish National Gallery
In addition to fine art from some of Scotland’s greatest artists, the National Gallery has several pieces of historical art from international savants. You can experience artworks through paintings and sculptures on the top floor, including works from Van Gogh, Joseph Crawhall, Alberto Giacometti, El Greco, and Titian.
Artists throughout history have provided a unique perspective on the events around them, making the gallery’s displays one of the best ways to learn about the Renaissance in an atypical way!
The National welcomes anyone who wants to learn about the beautiful displays of the gallery, so remember to stop by when you get the chance!
Pick up a Bite to Eat at the Gallery Café
Need a quick break before looking at more amazing galleries at the National Gallery? Why not stop by the Scottish Cafe & Restaurant? The Cafe & Restaurant are open daily at the same time as at the National Gallery, although final orders need to be placed before 16:00.
The Cafe & Restaurant has a delicious selection of sandwiches, soups, and traditional Scottish snacks for you to recharge yourself before exploring the rest this Edinburgh art gallery offers. The Cafe & Restaurant is committed to sustainability, and its menu is made from locally sourced ingredients from over 70 Scottish artisanal suppliers.
The Restaurant can get quite busy, with both visitors to the Scottish National Gallery and walk-ins frequently packing up the tables, so if you’re planning to enjoy food here, then be sure to book in advance!
Don’t Miss the Temporary Exhibitions
Discover a rotating selection of fine art and sculptures with the National Gallery’s set of temporary exhibitions. Throughout the year, the Gallery is home to impressive works worldwide, spotlighting an artist or cause that visitors can support. It makes visiting the Scottish National Gallery a delight even on a second or third visit, as there’s always something new to see.
Temporary exhibitions of note that have graced the National Gallery have included “National Treasures | Vermeer in Edinburgh” from the lens of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and “The MacDonald Sisters & Macintosh”. Don’t miss famed artworks visiting this national gallery the next time you’re in Edinburgh!
Attend National Gallery of Scotland Events
In addition to an excellent selection of rotating galleries throughout the year, visitors to the Scottish National Gallery can also look forward to some exciting events and community projects that are undertaken each year! Workshops held by the Scottish National Gallery and their partner, the Royal Scottish Academy, are top-notch too.
Families can enjoy Family Trails through the museum and gallery, showing off a curated selection of artworks that open youngsters’ imaginations — and are an absolute blessing if you’re short on time. On Fridays, especially, the Scottish National Gallery comes alive with fun activities aimed towards young visitors to play and learn as they go from exhibition to exhibition.
Adults can look forward to activities as well, with lectures and talks discussing famous works like the National Gallery Scotland Rembrandt exhibit that was on display. Neurodivergent and dementia tours are also available throughout the year, as well as BLS tours.
Leave with a National Gallery Edinburgh Gift
One of the best ways to remember your trip to this national gallery and also support and research conducted is to pick up a stylish memento from the National Gallery Shop! The National Gallery Building is filled with sublime art, and you can find a version to take home with you within the shop’s fantastic collection.
Pick up something for yourself or friends and family back home from books, clothing, limited edition prints, and exclusive products you won’t find anywhere else. And if you have some FOMO about a print you missed purchasing during your visit, you can always visit the Scottish National Gallery online shop.
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: Modern
- National Galleries Scotland: Portrait
- Pier Arts Centre
- Royal Scottish Academy
- Stills Gallery
- Talbot Rice Gallery
- The Burrell Collection
- The Fruitmarket Gallery