National Museum of Scotland

A visit to Scotland is not complete without a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. Located in Edinburgh the museum is a combination of the Museum of Scotland and Royal Scottish Museum. The focus of the museum is world cultures and natural history. Admission is free and it is well worth the visit for anyone coming through Scotland.

What is The National Museum of Scotland?

The Museum of Scotland began around 1780 when the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland brought in their collection of archaeological treasures thought it wasn’t until 1858 that the government of Scotland made it the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland.

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the most visited places in Scotland. Every year around 2,227,773 visitors come to the museum to gaze at over 800 artifacts from around the world. The galleries are named for their time periods and for the types of objects they containing including the Remarkable Scots Gallery and the Discoveries Gallery.

The architecture of the National Museum of Scotland

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

The museum is two buildings that have received extensive upgrades since their initial construction in 1861. Built-in the style of the Venetian Renaissance, it is a stark contrast to many other buildings constructed during this time period.

The buildings cover 1400 square meters and received major overhauls in 1930 and 1998. This even involved lowering the building downy 1.2 meters to create more room for exhibits and add handicapped accessibilities like lifts and escalators.

What’s in the National Museum of Scotland?

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

The gallery arrangement includes a historical arrangement. The lower levels include prehistoric times and early medieval times. Winding up to the upper floors brings a visitor to the later Victorian times, natural histories and cultures around the world.

As a visitor traveling through time periods, you will see historic treasures including St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Celtic brooches, Union and Scottish flags, and the Migdale Hoard. Many traveling exhibits pass through the museum regularly so planning ahead means the possibility of seeing and learning about treasures that will travel on to other countries.

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

The Art, Design and Fashion galleries include pieces of decorative art of various time periods along with pieces from everyday life. One of the exhibits includes fashions from various periods carefully preserved and on display behind glass. The natural history section includes a giant skull of a sperm whale while the historical Scottish exhibit treasures include Queen Mary’s Harp.

There are also intricate embroideries that hang throughout the galleries done by skilled hands that show nature and the life of the times. There are even displayed pieces of crystal and china that royal families and significant people in time used including the tea service used by Napoleon during his time and travels as Emperor.

Planning your visit

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

When you are planning your visit to the National Museum of Scotland, be aware of any special tours or exhibits that the museum is hosting. Exhibits change frequently so planning ahead means being able to see national treasures from other cultures.

If you are traveling with children, there are plenty of hands-on activities for them to work with. There are exhibits for schools to take part in. if you are traveling with your family; there are package deals where you can get discounts on several of the museums around Scotland including this one.

 The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is open daily for visitors. Entrance is free though donations are welcome. There are select days for reduced visitation, but the usual hours of operations are 10 AM to 5 PM. There are tour bus stops right outside the museum which makes this an easy visit if traveling around.

The Museum of Scotland does have free Wi-Fi available and the museum is wheelchair accessible. There are several tours available for the various galleries with start times throughout the day. The guided tours are free for all visitors to the museum.

Food, Coffee, and Treats

The museum does have an onsite café and rooftop restaurant for those that need to bite to eat after spending time in the museum. The view from the restaurant includes an excellent one of Edinburgh Castle.

If you are looking for food outside of the museum, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants just beyond the steps of the museum including the Ronaq Restaurant, The Revolution Bar, and Divino Enoteca. They serve excellent food and always welcoming for visitors.

Sites near the National Museum


There are many exciting things to see in Edinburgh if you are here for an extended visit. Around the National Museum of Scotland, you can see many historic sites and recognizable landmarks including:

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh

This is the most visited place in all of Scotland. It has been home to royalty both Scottish and English for centuries. The castle is loaded with treasures from the Scottish nobility including the Scottish Crown Jewels. The castle is open for tours throughout the year and is worth the trip if you are near the National Museum of Scotland.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile – Edinburgh

The Royal Mile runs down the main drag of the city center down from Edinburgh Castle. This is where the nobility lived and played. Today there are little museums scattered down the lane along with little boutiques and cafes to enjoy.

The Scotch Whiskey Experience

This is a stop on the Royal mile where you can learn about food and whiskey. Their restaurant is excellent and they provide tours and masterclasses about cooking and the right way to age whiskey.

Final Thoughts

The National Museum of Scotland is a place where you can find the past history of Scotland surrounded by the life of the City of Edinburgh in the here and now. Planning a visit takes time and getting reservations for any of the numbers of amazing sites. There are plenty of things to see and do. It is also a city of food so enjoy what you can of Scotland.

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