If you want to immerse yourself in Scottish art and culture during your next visit to Edinburgh, one landmark you shouldn’t miss is the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA). Founded in 1826 by eleven artists, the RSA is Scotland’s longest-running fine art institution, promoting contemporary Scottish art and artists for almost 200 years.
Housed in an impressive neoclassical royal institution building on The Mound, the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh features a rolling exhibition program showcasing work by emerging artists and honorary members. Mediums range from painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture, and design. Some past exhibitors include revered Scottish artists Sir Henry Raeburn, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, and John Bellany.
If you’re already a lover of Scottish art or are just looking to discover new artists, visiting the Royal Scottish Academy promises an inspirational Scottish cultural experience. Our complete guide has everything you need to know before planning your visit!
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Important Details to Know
Here are the important details you should keep in mind before visiting the Royal Scottish Academy:
The Royal Scottish Academy building is maintained by the National Galleries of Scotland. The academy works with them to ensure the building has several accessibility options available on-site, including the following:
- The building is fully accessible, with wheelchair access throughout. Wheelchairs can be borrowed free of charge.
- The gallery has accessible toilets, including baby changing facilities.
- Guide dogs and assistance dogs are warmly welcomed at the RSA. There are also outdoor toilet areas for assistance dogs.
- The RSA provides a large print guide detailing the layout of the building and the location of facilities. Audio descriptive tours can be pre-booked, and Braille scripts are also available.
- There are accessible parking spaces for blue badge holders, and parking is free for disabled visitors.
The Royal Scottish Academy is open Monday to Saturday, from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 pm. The gallery has special opening times during holidays, and you can find these times on their website to avoid disappointment.
Admission to the Royal Scottish Academy is free for all visitors. However, select temporary exhibitions may carry an entrance fee. Disabled visitors can obtain concession tickets to these exhibitions.
How to Get There
Wondering how to get to the Royal Scottish Academy of Art the fastest way? Here are the most popular ways to reach the Royal Scottish Academy building using public transport:
There are multiple buses that take visitors directly to the Royal Scottish Academy from locations across Edinburgh, including any city centre or Princes Street bus.
If you’re travelling from further out, disembark at Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket stations and walk a few minutes or take a short tram or bus ride to the RSA galleries.
The Royal Scottish Academy is located in a prime spot in Edinburgh’s city centre, making it very walkable for visitors staying nearby. The scenic route through Princes Street Gardens takes roughly 5 to 10 minutes from Princes Street and the west-end hotels.
The Royal Scottish Academy Attractions
With the essential details sorted, it’s time to highlight what to see and do at the Royal Scottish Academy. We’ve outlined the top attractions for immersing yourself in the fine arts while here:
Explore the Royal Scottish Academy Galleries
The highlight of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture is its vast collection of works by leading eminent artists and Academicians — both historic and contemporary. Venture into the gallery to explore works by renowned Scottish painters like Sir Henry Raeburn, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, and John Bellany. These historic pieces provide a journey through 19th and 20th-century art.
This Scottish national gallery also maintains a year-round programme spotlighting artist opportunities and related educational talks supporting creatives at every career stage. Exhibitions, events, awards, and open calls support artists’ talents by giving them visibility and connections to propel their artistic development.
Some past exhibitions held by RSA include John Byrne’s Selected Prints, Conversations with Paolozzi, and Borders Art Fair, featuring artworks by Academicians like George Donald, Kate Downie, and Joyce W. Cairns.
Visit Upcoming Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitions
The Royal Scottish Academy has an exciting lineup of upcoming exhibitions celebrating renowned Scottish artist William Gillies. A major touring exhibition in 2024 and 2025 showcases William Gillies’s work across nine venues over two years, with each presentation having a distinct focus.
Discover how Gillies captured essential qualities of Scottish life and landscape by checking out this exhibition.
View the RSA Annual Exhibition
Each year, between May and June, the Royal Scottish Academy of Art holds an expansive annual exhibition that spotlights the latest creations by contemporary Scottish artists from the past year.
So, if you plan on visiting Edinburgh during that period, stop by and indulge in quintessential Scottish art at this Royal Scottish Academy open exhibition.
Indulge in New Contemporaries
In addition to their current exhibitions, the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture hosts an annual New Contemporaries programme, which aims to support artists with that important first step into the competitive art world.
Some Royal Scottish Academy artists highlighted in upcoming New Contemporaries exhibitions include Natasha Bucheit from Edinburgh College of Art, Moira Downie from the University of Highlands and Islands, and Frankie Ashworth from Glasgow School of Art.
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: National
- National Galleries Scotland: Portrait
- Pier Arts Centre
- Stills Gallery
- Talbot Rice Gallery
- The Burrell Collection
- The Fruitmarket Gallery