Edinburgh: top 7 museums

Explore the best places for museum-goers in Edinburgh!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Everybody knows how amazing and moody Edinburgh can be any time of the year! St Giles’ Cathedral with its amazing Thistle Chapel, iconic Royal mile, the Elephant Castle cafe and Greyfriars Kirkyard with Harry Potter’s connections…

But there is even more to see in Edinburgh museums! Scroll down for my top 7 landmarks for museum lovers and read about our stay at the Glasshouse hotel! 



Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is not only a mighty historical fortress the majority of which dates to the 16th century (some buildings are much older!). Edinburgh Castle isn’t just a tourist attraction famous for its Great Hall, Scottish National War Memorial, birthplace of James I Stuart and Honors of Scotland aka Crown Jewels.

Apart from being a museum per se, Edinburgh Castle is home to a few smaller museums such as The National War Museum, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum and The Royal Scots Regimental Museum. A real gem for those who are into history and military – and the most authentic experience is guaranteed!


National Museum of Scotland 

The National Museum of Scotland is a must – see if you’d like to quickly refresh your knowledge about the natural history, science and technology  and to gain some new one too! Once it used to be two museums – Museum of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Museum, but now they are merged into one.

Enormous skeletons, modern machines and their ancestry with the working mechanism broken down into steps, collections showcasing art and culture from prehistoric times, the most famous scientific breakthroughs (Dolly the Sheep is among the exhibits)  and so much more. Besides that, the architecture of the Museum – especially its Grand Gallery – is amazing!


Writers’ museum

The Writers’ Museum hiding in the yard close to the Royal Mile is dedicated to three Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s tiny but is filled with artefacts (books, portraits, furniture, personal belongings etc), and the story of each character allows visitors to clearly envisage how the writers lived, how they rose to fame, what were the stories behind their masterpieces and how they became the most famous Scottish writers. 

Museum occupies several floors linked by a spiral staircase. The building dates back to 1622 and is called ‘Lady Stair’s House’ after its former owner Elizabeth Dalrymple, Dowager Countess of Stair. 


Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia is a real Yacht used for 43 years by the British Royal Family until 1997. Once you get to the museum, audio guide walks you through the functions and stories behind each part of the shop – they will include not only Her Majesty the Queen and her family, but also Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Frank Sinatra and Liz Taylor.

You start your voyage in a shopping mall ashore where the entrance to the museum is located, explore all the parts of the Yacht berthed at the Ocean Terminal and go back to land. Be prepared to get an overdose of cuteness by all the toy corgi – and pop into the Royal Deck Tea room too!


John Knox House Museum

John Knox House Museum has a reputation of being quite popular among tourists – it’s a historical house of John Knox, pastor and one of the leaders of Scottish reformation. Some parts of it date back to the late 15th century! Although this place is worth a visit, it’s also worth noting that actually it was not a house of John Knox.

There is a possibility that he briefly lived there, but he permanently resided at another location in Edinburgh. Moreover, it’s most likely that a Catholic priest or a goldsmith who was a catholic occupied this building during Knox’s lifetime making them religious opponents!



Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace is not generally considered a museum because it is the residence of the Queen where she spends one week every summer. But trust me – once you get there, you’ll certainly feel the museums vibes, not the place where someone lives!

While walking through halls, chambers and stairs, you have a chance to explore precious pieces of furniture, tapestries, tableware, masterpieces of art and even temporary exhibitions. Sadly, you cannot take photos inside. Don’t miss the ruins of the 12th century Abbey and the gardens!



Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a fun two – in – one museum. You start your visit from the 165 year old Camera Obscura on the very top of the building (btw, the view from the terrace is terrific!) and then go down exploring visual illusions of all kinds. It was fun for us – and I hope you’ll enjoy it too! 



don’t get upset if you’ve already visited all these museums – there are many more of them  in Edinburg such as the Museum on the Mound, National Museum of Flight, Royal Scottish Academy, the Museum of Edinburgh, Surgeons’ Hall Museum, the Museum of Childhood and Our Dynamic Earth and a few galleries too!


Our stay at the Glasshouse hotel in Edinburgh


We were kindly hosted by the 5-star historical Glasshouse Hotel, Autograph collection, during our last visit to Edinburg. Don’t be fooled by the gothic facade – once it was the Lady Glenorchy Church founded by the Viscountess Glenorchy in the 18th century.

Now it hides the most stylish and modern interior with an artistic touch that won’t leave you indifferent – the recent refurbishment took place in 2018. Our room was opening up to the rooftop garden with the most instagrammable chairs ever.

We also had a whiskey tasting experience with some snacks at The Snug – their selection of Scotch whiskies  reaches almost 100 different kinds! What can be more authentic and what else you could wish for after spending a day exploring the city under its usual (aka not very warm and sunny) conditions – and add an extra point for the fireplace too?

The hotel is located a short walk from Waverley Train Station, Edinburgh’s main rail station.




Hope you enjoyed my blog!




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