Scotland’s capital has a rich history and a host of impressive museums to match. From the Renaissance masterpieces of the National Gallery to the Royal Yacht Britannia, here’s our take on Edinburgh’s must-see museums.
Scottish National Gallery
This national gallery houses Scotland’s collection of art from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Among its treasures are paintings by Velazquez, Raphael, and Cézanne, as well as Scottish greats such as Raeburn and Ramsay.
How to Visit: Travel one of Edinburgh’s hop-on hop-off bus routes, which stop at Market Street close by.
Museum of Childhood
On Edinburgh’s High Street, the world’s only museum dedicated to the history of childhood brims with toys and playthings beloved through the generations. Highlights include an 18th-century wooden doll, 1970s Chopper bikes, Steiff teddies, comics, costumes, and more.
How to Visit: Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour and alight at the John Knox House—the museum is nearby.
National Museum of Scotland
Uncover Scotland’s history and culture at this huge modern museum. It’s home to a 20,000-artifact collection that captures Scotland’s rich heritage, from prehistoric and medieval times to today.
How to Visit: Join a Royal Mile walking tour that includes the museum, or stop off on a hop-on hop-off loop.
Within a beautiful mansion off Lawnmarket, this museum tells the life stories of three great Scottish authors—Robbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott—through documents and personal objects, including Burns’ writing desk.
How to Visit: See the 17th-century mansion on a Royal Mile walking tour and return later, or get here via a hop-on hop-off bus that stops at Lawnmarket.
John Knox House Museum
History buffs will love this museum, reputedly home to the Scottish Reformation leader just before his death in 1572. Highlights include the wood-paneled upper room and ‘luckenbooths’—once rented as shops—dating from the mid-15th century.
How to Visit: Hop-on hop-off buses halt right outside, and some walking tours discuss the house and take in its exterior.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Used by the British royals for more than 40 years, this historical yacht welcomes the public. Explore its visitor center before boarding for an audio tour of its State Apartments and other areas once occupied by figures such as Princess Diana and Winston Churchill.
How to Visit: Ride a hop-on hop-off bus to Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal, or book an admission ticket and visit independently.