Welcome to the National Museum of Scotland, found in the heart of Edinburgh‘s city centre along the Royal Mile! Avid science fanatics, lovers of Scotland’s history, or those who want to spend an afternoon with their friends and family will love the ample attractions available in this national museum! You can explore several of Scotland’s most unique and fascinating exhibitions, from engineering to biology and everything in between.
Those entering into this historic Victorian building can look forward to landmark collections of Scotland and the rest of the world under one roof, as well as cultural galleries covering Scotland’s fashion and art. As far as national museums Scotland offers, the National Museum of Scotland is one of the best that you can look forward to seeing during your time in Edinburgh.
We’ll cover everything you need to know, from the important details to the top attractions to look forward to while you’re there.
In This Post
Important Details to Know
Choosing one of Scotland’s top national museums to visit is an exciting prospect, especially if you love Scottish history, the natural world, and culture.
Before entering the multi-level national collections, read through these important details to come fully prepared to make the most of your day.
How to Get There
The National Museum of Scotland sits in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, near the University of Edinburgh and opposite the Greyfriars Kirk. The National Museum is easily reached by bus, car, or train! Here are the specifics you need to know to get here:
Bus stops that stop near Chambers Street, or close to the George IV South or North Bridge are your closest drop-off points if you’re planning to reach the National Museum of Scotland. Ensure your bus stops by these stops before you board!
The National Museum of Scotland’s closest train station is Edinburgh Waverly, which sits about a 10-15 minute walk away from the Museum.
Multiple signs through Edinburgh’s Old Town lead you to the National Museum of Scotland. Parking near the museum can take time; your best bet is to find a spot near a nearby National Car Park.
The National Museum of Scotland is accessible throughout the year between 10:00 and 17:00 every day. These times may be altered depending on the time of year, with the museum closed on holidays like Christmas Day.
The best time to visit the National Museum of Scotland is in the early morning and later afternoon. Avoid busy times between 12:00 and 14:00.
National Museum of Scotland tickets aren’t just inexpensive, they’re free! Of course, donations to the museum are welcome, but the museum’s entry and tours are free. Tours are subject to availability, make sure to check out their website for more valuable information.
Attractions to See at the National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland grants you a fascinating look at a number of exhibits, each tackling a unique aspect of Scottish culture and history. Here’s what guests can look forward to as they enter the entrance hall and find themselves overcome with collection after collection:
As the first major exhibit housed in the National Museum of Scotland, the Grand Gallery needs to make an impression — which it does. The elegant, soaring pillars and high windows bask the room in an angelic glow that will knock your socks off. The dramatic display is appropriate for the objects, from a 19th-century lighthouse lens to a 12-foot-long South Pacific feast bowl.
The Grand Gallery boasts four stories of unique items, specimens, and art from all over the world for you to see, setting the tone for the rest that the National Museum of Scotland has to offer. While we can’t list all 800 items that show off the vast collections of this national museum, here are some exhibitions within the site you need to check out:
Window on the World
The Window on the World is the main exhibit at the Grand Gallery and allows you to see the diverse and extraordinary global cultures through a collection of items, artwork, or structures. The diversity of Window on the World is simply astounding.
Immerse yourself in culture by exploring the Window on the World while at the National Museum of Scotland.
Collecting Stories is an homage to the blood, sweat, and tears put into retrieving the National Museum of Scotland’s immense collections. This exhibit takes you through 200 years of acquisition stories up until the present day, including its processes and a few unique exhibitions.
Art of Ceramics
The Art of Ceramics offers you a fantastic insight into the art of creating ceramics. Learn the creative ways that cultures from all over the world have made their ceramics utterly unique and stunning to behold.
The Art of Ceramics takes their exhibition one step further and covers the science and technology of ceramics, how they’ve been used, and their rich history as a historic trading item.
From the skies to the seas, the National Museum of Scotland’s Animal World offers an unparalleled look at our planet’s strange and beautiful creatures. Several interactive exhibits let you redefine your understanding of the animal kingdom, like how much you weigh compared to a chimpanzee.
The Wildlife Panorama is one of the major highlights at Animal World and presents a mind-boggling number of fauna, including rare specimens like the Scottish Wildcat and Ching Ching the Panda Bear. The Animal World Gallery has five floors and dives deep into the unique biology of wildlife, where you can learn about their senses, how they survive in harsh climates, and even the potential beyond our worlds.
For a closer look into the natural history of Scotland and beyond, Animal World is a must-see part of the National Museum of Scotland. Children, especially, will love the variety of animal species to see!
Fashion and Style Gallery
Celebrate the exquisite innovation of the fashion industry at the National Museum of Scotland with the Fashion and Style Gallery. Within this expansive gallery, you’ll be able to see gorgeous renditions of how contemporary designers have revolutionised the textile industry. There are gems from famed designers like Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Jean Muir, and the Pringle of Scotland!
Why not try to create your own digital design at the Fashion and Style Scots Gallery? You can unlock your inner fashionista and ignite a passion that will have you starring within. On Level 3, you’ll be able to learn precisely how suits and dresses are made at the Making and Creating gallery.
Finally, on Level 5, you can experience fashion from the interior design lens and see historic furnishings and styles as they were throughout the centuries. If you love art and fashion, this collection will be right up your alley.
National Museum Cafe
On Level Access 3, the irresistible smell of baked goods and freshly made coffee calls to everyone who wants a place to sit and relax after a lengthy visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Visitors, especially families, will find the space a restful solace where they can order sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Kids can even enjoy a selection of delicious lunch boxes filled with delicious and healthy snacks in case they are hungry throughout the day.
Actually, you’ve grown bigger, that’s just the Mini Museum within the National Museum of Scotland! Explore a great museum built entirely in miniature by the brick artist Warren Elsmore. Explore a National Museum of Scotland built as a Lego brick model replica, including the beautiful Victorian building and the spectacular Grand Gallery in its centre.
While not the biggest attraction at the National Museum, the Mini Museum is well worth visiting.
History of World Cultures
Discover the history and culture of Scotland and the rest of the world’s cultures, too! At global exhibitions like Patterns of Life, Facing the Sea, Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, and Exploring East Asia, you’ll immerse yourself in the diversity that our world has to offer.
Celebrate our global differences at the Performances and Lives gallery, which shows the responsibility we have to ensure that global traditions are kept alive through dancing and music. Exploring the gallery and discovering how country and rural life evolved into modern societies is fascinating.
Dolly, the Cloned Sheep
Did you know that the National Museum of Scotland is home to a highly famous resident — or at least a copy of one? Dolly the Sheep claimed fame as the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell. You can take photos of Dolly the Cloned Sheep at the Explore Gallery within the National Museum, which you should absolutely do to keep as a souvenir of the entire experience.
Speaking of souvenirs, the National Museum of Scotland Shop is filled with unique trinkets, baubles, and gifts to take home with you and remember your trip by. The Gift Shop has just as large of a variety of things to purchase as the National Museum itself, with items for children and adults alike.
Play on your own Lewis Chess Set, give your child their own toy archaeology dinosaur or puzzle kit, or leave the National Museum of Scotland with a commemorative piece of jewellery. No matter if it’s for yourself or someone who couldn’t make the trip, grabbing them a present is a fantastic way to make everyone part of the experience.
More Scottish Museums to Visit
- Black Watch Museum
- Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
- Edinburgh Writers Museum
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Highland Folk Museum
- Museum of Childhood
- Museum of Edinburgh
- Museum of the Isles
- Museum on the Mound
- National Mining Museum
- National Museum of Flight
- National War Museum
- People’s Palace
- Riverside Museum
- Royal Yacht Britannia
- Scottish Maritime Museum
- Shetland Museum & Archives
- St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
- Surgeons’ Hall Museum
- V&A Dundee