When I went to Edinburgh last summer, it was a last-minute trip to get away from someone I was traveling with who ended up being a nightmare on the road.

Because I spent most of my August travel budget on getting away from a bad travel situation, I had very limited funds to enjoy Edinburgh.

Thankfully, the U.K. offers tons of free museums, including a handful in Edinburgh.

Between the city’s free museums, and finding some affordable shows at Edinburgh Fringe, I could turn my impromptu solo trip into a fabulous one.

Below is everything you need to know about hitting up all the free museums in Edinburgh.

History and Significance of Free Museums in Edinburgh

History and Significance of Free Museums in Edinburgh

If you’re looking for a way to explore the rich history and culture of Edinburgh on a budget, you’re in luck because Edinburgh has quite a few free museums.

In fact, free museums in Edinburgh have a long and rich history, dating back to the early 19th century. The first free museum in the city was the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, which opened its doors in 1827.

Since then, the city has become home to a wide range of museums and galleries, each of which offers a unique insight into Edinburgh’s rich cultural heritage.

Top Free Museums to Visit in Edinburgh

1. Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery displays Scotland’s art from the Renaissance to the 19th century..

Because it’s in the center of the city, it’s easy to work into your itinerary, plus it’s free entry which everyone loves.

I actually just stumbled upon it my first afternoon exploring and was able to walk in with no reservation.

There are tons of classic works to see, including some from Botticelli, Raphael, Raeburn and Ramsay to explore.

Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, United Kingdom

2. Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood is easily the most unique museum on this list.

Anyone who’s interested in the history of childhood and children’s toys will absolutely love checking it out this free museum on the Royal Mile.

It showcases the history of childhood from the 18th century to the present day, with exhibits ranging from dolls and teddy bears to board games and video games.

I haven’t been yet, but assume it would be a fun place to take children.

Address: 42 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1TG, UK

3. National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and is easily one of the most popular free attractions in the city.

It’s home to a massive collection of artifacts, with everything from the Lewis Chessmen to Dolly the Sheep.

There’s also some interactive exhibit, natural history displays, and even a Millennium Clock.

It’s a great place to spend a rainy or chilly afternoon in Edinburgh.

Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom

4. Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery features tons of portraits.

Mostly of famous Scottish people like Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Walter Scott.

There are also have temporary exhibitions showcasing contemporary Scottish artists.

Address: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD, United Kingdom

5. Museum on the Mound

The Museum on the Mound is in the Bank of Scotland’s former headquarters on the Mound and is free to enter.

The museum takes you through the history of currency and banking in Scotland, complete with exhibits on ancient coins and interactive displays on modern banking.

There’s even a display on the history of the Bank of Scotland’s headquarters building.

Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ, UK

6. The Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum is all about the lives and works of Scotland’s literary greats.

The museum features exhibits on Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.

Plus, a replica of the Makars’ Court, a courtyard dedicated to Scotland’s poets.

Address: Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Cl, Edinburgh EH1 2PA, United Kingdom

7. People’s Story Museum

The People’s Story Museum focuses on the history of working-class residents of Edinburgh.

It’s got exhibits on the lives of ordinary people, including clothing, tools, and household items.

And even interactive exhibits and displays on the history of the Canongate Tolbooth, a former courthouse and prison.

Address: The Royal Mile, 163 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN, United Kingdom

8. St Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum

St Cecilia’s Hall is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall and is home to a collection of historic musical instruments.

The museum focuses on the history of music in Scotland, with displays on bagpipes, harpsichords, and other instruments.

They also hold regular concerts, and events held in their concert hall.

Address: 50 Niddry St, Edinburgh EH1 1LG, United Kingdom

9. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is in the Dean Village and is free to enter.

The gallery has outdoor installations, and a sculpture park.

And the museum features exhibits on contemporary art, including works by Eduardo Paolozzi and other modern artists.

Address: 73 & 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

10. Edinburgh City Art Centre

The Edinburgh City Art Centre is another popular free museum in Edinburgh.

The gallery has exhibits on fine art, with works by Scottish and international artists.

There’s also a temporary exhibition showcasing contemporary art and photography.

Address: 2 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE, United Kingdom


Are All Museums Free in Edinburgh?

Are All Museums Free in Edinburgh

Most of the museums in Edinburgh are free to enter. The most popular ones are the National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Museum of Childhood.

Fair warning though, some special exhibitions may require an admission fee.

It’s always a good idea to check the museum’s website before you visit to see if there are any fees that go with the exhibits you want to see.

Can You Visit Edinburgh Castle for Free?

Can You Visit Edinburgh Castle for Free

Unfortunately, you cannot visit Edinburgh Castle for free.

The good news is there are some ways to save money on admission.

For example, if you buy your tickets online in advance, you can save up to 20% off the regular admission price.

If you’re visiting during the winter months, you can take advantage of reduced winter rates.

Either way, book early, especially if you’re visiting in August.

Are All UK Museums Free?

Are All UK Museums Free

No, not all museums in the UK are free. However, many of the national museums are free to enter, including the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum.

Some museums also offer free admission on certain days of the week or month.

It’s always a good idea to check the museum’s website before you visit to see if there are any fees associated with the exhibits you want to see.

Final Thoughts

Ally in Holyrood House Edinburgh Scotland Aug 2022

I hope you’ve found the perfect free museum in Edinburgh to fill your itinerary.

Let me know in the comments below which place you’re most looking forward to checking out while in Scotland.


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