Set across two buildings—one Victorian and one modern—and featuring a collection of more than 20,000 artifacts, the National Museum of Scotland is one of Edinburgh’s top visitor attractions. The diverse exhibits cover anything and everything to do with Scotland, including natural history, art, fashion, science, and archaeology.
Many visitors arrive at the museum via hop-on hop-off tour buses and then explore independently, making a beeline for the exhibits that interest them most, whether that be the decorative arts of the Art, Design and Fashion galleries; the tyrannosaurus rex skeleton cast of the Natural World galleries; or the airy Grand Gallery, which houses a diverse collection of 800 objects from various world cultures. Visitors can download a free highlights app on their smartphone to help them navigate.
Other visitors take part in the drop-in hour-long free guided tours, which take place daily on a first come, first- served basis. Choose between an introductory Discover the National Museum tour (11am), a Scotland Galleries Highlights Tour (1pm), or a special themed tour (3pm—topics change daily).
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Museum of Scotland provides a fantastic overview of the country for first-time visitors.
- Free Wi-Fi is available at the museum.
- The museum is wheelchair accessible.
- A café, brasserie, shop, and rooftop restaurant with views of Edinburgh Castle, can all be found at the museum.
How to Get There
The National Museum of Scotland is situated on Chambers Street in Edinburgh Old Town, near Greyfriars Kirkyard. The museum is about a 10- to 15-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley station.
When to Get There
The National Museum of Scotland is busiest on weekend afternoons, especially during summer vacation and other school holidays. Come midweek or in early morning to avoid the biggest crowds. If you plan on doing a tour, arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time and meet the guide in the museum’s entrance hall.
Highlights of the Collection
The atrium of the Grand Gallery is home to some of the museum’s greatest exhibits, including the massive skull of a sperm whale; the Cockcroft–Walton generator, the machine that managed to first artificially split the atom in 1930; and the millennium clock tower, a mechanical clock sculpture that springs to life on the hour every hour. Elsewhere in the museum, view the famous medieval Lewis Chessmen game pieces and Queen Mary’s Harp at the Kingdom of the Scots exhibition, before generating energy in the giant hamster wheel and coming face to face with Dolly the Sheep in the Science and Technology galleries.