Best galleries to visit in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is regularly voted as one of the prettiest cities in Europe, the inspiration of many famous works of art. Scotland’s capital, rich in history and culture, boasts a large number of galleries to impress any art lover. In order to help you choose which ones to visit during your stay, we have listed the galleries that should be on your list, all with easy walking distance (or bus) of our comfortable accommodation.

Scottish Gallery of Modern Art
This is THE place to go for modern and contemporary art in Edinburgh. There is so much to see here that it is split into two large buildings across the road from each other. The award winning lawn at the front of one of the galleries, with its stepped winding mounds and pools of water, was landscaped to a design by Charles Jencks. There are continuous exhibitions moving through both buildings throughout the year, as well as guided tours and workshops. This, combined with a couple of superb cafes and a nice shop, make for a great morning or afternoon soaking up some fascinating contemporary art. With so many exhibitions running throughout the year, it’s worth checking what’s on before planning your trip.
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National Portrait Gallery
With the most extensive collection of portraits in the world, the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street should definitely be on your list to visit. This gallery covers everything from Tudor and Elizabethan portraits from the 15th Century through to modern day photos of the UK, covering a vast array of portraits and styles. With 11,000 portrait paintings, drawings, miniatures and sculptures, 250,000 photographs dating as far back as the 1840s and 80,000 portrait prints, silhouettes and caricatures, there really is something for everyone. As per the Gallery of Modern Art, touring exhibitions visit the National Portrait Gallery throughout the year, and are always worth visiting. They also run occasional late night openings with a DJ and drinks at a pop-up bar. Keep an eye on which events and exhibitions are taking place during your next trip.
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Scottish National Gallery
Situated in the heart of Edinburgh, on The Mound (at Princes Street Gardens) sits the Scottish National Gallery, specialising in fine art. The gallery displays some of the greatest art in the world, including masterpieces by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and many more. There is also a vast collection covering the history of Scottish painting with works from the likes of Ramsay, Raeburn and Wilkie. The award-winning Scottish Café and Restaurant is located at the gardens level entrance looking out onto the picturesque Princes Street Gardens towards Waverley Bridge. The gallery shop is well-stocked with a range of contemporary books and gifts made by local designers and jewellers, you’re sure to find a gem or two here. For more information and to find out about current exhibitions, you’re best to check their website.
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City Art Centre
Another gallery in the heart of the city (directly opposite Waverley train station), the City Art Centre displays historic and contemporary art with a Scottish focus. Again, they rotate their vast collection throughout the year, with a mix of Scottish paintings, photography and contemporary arts and crafts. Sprawling out across six floors (accessed by escalators and a lift), this is an impressive collection and well worth a visit. With such a rich, diverse collection, you could lose yourself for hours in this gallery. Located on the ground floor is Mimi’s Bakehouse, an award winning café serving all-day brunch and lunch dishes, but they are best known for their amazing cakes and tray bakes. Entry to the City Art Centre is usually free, although there may be an entry charge for some exhibitions.
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The Queens Gallery
Situated at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, this gallery is one of 15 in the UK that houses the Royal Collection, the largest private art collection in the world. This is a fascinating record of the personal tastes of kings and queens over the past 500 years, comprising decorative arts, drawings, watercolours, paintings and photographs. Those that have made contributions to the collection over the years include Frederick Prince of Wales, George IV, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary. In addition to the Royal Collection, as per the other galleries, the Queen’s Gallery hosts exhibitions throughout the year. The gallery shop offers a range of gifts inspired by the Royal Collection. The Café at the Palace offers a great selection of fresh, home-made dishes and can even offer afternoon tea.
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