National Museum of Scotland, including the Royal Museum, Edinburgh

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 Reviews

Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF +00 44 (0)300 123 6789

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  • National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
    National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
    by antistar
  • The Lewis Chessmen
    The Lewis Chessmen
    by EasyMalc
  • National Museum of Scotland, including the Royal Museum
    by EasyMalc
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    Pt 2 - The Story of Scotland

    by EasyMalc Written Apr 5, 2015

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    The Story of Scotland is housed in the modern section that sits at the junction of Chambers St and George IV Bridge. It has its own entrance at the tower on the corner, but if you’ve not been here before I reckon it’s best to enter from the main entrance further down Chambers St. (See Pt 1 - Planning your visit)
    At first I found this part of the museum disorientating although it’s easy enough to remember that it runs in chronological order from the bottom up to Level 6. Having said that we arrived on Level 1 (which I suspect most people would) and it would be easy to miss ‘Early People’ which is on Level -1.
    Each level has a theme which the map, if you’ve picked one up, will explain. What I found difficult to get to grips with at first was the way around the exhibits. That could be down to me though because even though I can find my way from A to B no trouble at all, put me in a hotel corridor and I could be wandering around all day looking for what I want.
    I’m not going to explain everything that’s on offer here because a) it would be boring and b) different people like looking at different things.
    Personally I found Level 1 called Kingdom of the Scots the most interesting. It included the famous ’Lewis Chessmen’, ‘Bute Mazer’ (main picture) and ‘The Maiden’ guillotine.
    There are lifts that take you up to each level including the Roof Terrace on Level 7.
    Depending on how interesting you find Scottish history, will obviously depend on how long you’ll spend here, but if you take a leisurely stroll around and take a pit stop in the Balcony Café, Museum Brasserie or Tower Restaurant then you could quite easily spend a morning or afternoon here.
    The National Museum of Scotland, which includes this one and the other galleries in the Victorian building next door is the most visited attraction in Scotland and before you start running off to check it out remember that Edinburgh Castle is the most visited paid-for attraction in Scotland.

    Level 5 The Lewis Chessmen The Roof Terrace
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    Pt 1 - Planning Your Visit

    by EasyMalc Written Apr 4, 2015

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    Major museums can often be large and confusing places to visit and the National Museum of Scotland is definitely no exception.
    The museum was formed in its present state in 2006 when the newly built Museum of Scotland amalgamated with the Royal Museum which is housed in the Victorian building next door. Although there are two entrances I recommend that you use the main entrance if it’s your first visit. This is the one in the centre of Chambers St that leads into the former Royal Museum.
    Inside the cavernous Entrance Hall you’ll find everything you need before starting your visit. Whatever you do, make sure you pick up a map of the museum, and before rushing off like a headless chicken take a few minutes at least to ponder over the layout of the place.
    To put it simply, the former Royal Museum in the old Victorian building covers World Cultures, The Natural World, Exhibition Galleries and a Learning Centre - in other words everything except Scotland. It is also in the process of completing some new major galleries which are due to open in 2016.
    From the Entrance Hall take one of the lifts up to the Grand Gallery which is on the 1st Floor. This fantastic atrium is a great introduction to the museum. It’s just a shame that I couldn’t help stop thinking that it looked like a Victorian prison, such as Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.
    At this point a decision will have to be made on what to see. I realised that I wasn’t going to see everything today and not having been here before, I was keen to see the ‘Story of Scotland’ which is in the new Museum of Scotland Museum. This involved following a link corridor through where the new galleries are being renovated and into the modern building.
    Once you’ve got your bearings in this mixture of old and new, be prepared for a long stint in this fabulous museum - and it’s all free!

    Entrance Hall Grand Gallery Statue of James Watt in the Grand Gallery The Museum of Scotland
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    National Museum of Scotland

    by antistar Updated Nov 26, 2014

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    It's vast, it's fascinating and it's free. Scotland has an interesting history, but it's not all William Wallace and the Battle of Bannockburn. While the Scots make fearsome warriors, they've also been at the forefront of science, art and discovery. The National Museum tries to squeeze all of this history under one roof, and does a great job of it. I've spent a lot of time in museums and my biggest complaint has been how little they've changed in centuries. They still consist mostly of row after row of isolated exhibits hidden behind panes of glass and marked with tiny strings of decontextualised words.

    The National Museum of Scotland, however, is alive with interactivity. It's great for kids, but great fun for adults too. You can race a formula one race, stand in a space suit and knock down castles with catapults. You can enjoy the museum on so many levels - the architecture, the varied exhibits, the multimedia designs, the bright open spaces, and even the roof top terrace has a spectacular view of the city. And like any good museum it has a number of must-see exhibits, including the Lewis Chessmen, the stuffed remains of Dolly the clone sheep, the oldest colour television in the world and the flags raised over the Battle of Culloden.

    It's a good day's worth of wandering and it's all free.

    National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh View from National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

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    National Museum of Scotland

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Mar 16, 2013

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    Set in an old Victorian era exhbition hall, I can't say enough about this museum! It has a great collection of artifacts on Scottish history from prehistoric to modern times. The museum also has large wings on natural history and world cultures. Definitely a must see for museum lovers!

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    Amazing Insights - The National Museum of Scotland

    by JessH Updated Apr 7, 2012

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    I am not a museum-fanatic... I'm not one of those people that *has to* visit every single museum when they travel. But if I stumble across one that is truly interesting, I could spend hours and hours inside... the National Museum of Scotland is such a place.

    We came here on a rainy, grey afternoon... what a great way to stay dry and still enjoy the day :-) As with many museums in Scotland, there is no admission fee so it's also a great budget travelling tip!

    The entire history of Scotland is displayed and its story told over 5 levels, with the early beginnings and Pictish history on the ground floor, further up the stairs with relics from the time of William Wallace, then onwards to Mary Queen of Scots, and ending up with recent popular culture in Scotland on the top floor (with Jackie Stewart, Sean Connery and many more). There is also an extensive collection of relics from around the world (e.g. Egypt). The displays are not boring, dusty or stagnant: this museum is inviting, interactive and really does captivate your attention!
    Children will have fun as many areas are based on a learning by playing: we saw children playing with models of trebuchets, fantastic video documentaries, and best of all: "living" displays, which were actors dressed in the clothes of the time, telling you about life in Scotland during "their day"... fantastic!

    We only spent about 2 hours here on our last visit, but I'm already planning an extended visit during our next trip to Edinburgh. Even if you don't usually like museums: if you are interested in Scotland's history and its path from cantankerous and rugged tribes to a modern, industrial and thriving nation, you simply have to spend a few hours here.
    Opening Hours: Daily 10:00am-05:00pm.
    Admission: FREE (donations are welcome)

    --> In the year 2011 (on July 29th to be precise) the museum re-opened after a period of major renovation, rebuilding and expansion.

    TIP: From the roof terrace you can get some fantastic panoramic views (and photos )over the city.

    TIP: For food & drink, you can either visit the museum's informal Cafe Delos on the ground floor.
    For a higher level (excuse the pun) of culinary enjoyment, there's the award-winning and celebrity-favoured Tower Restaurant at the top. Reservations are essential.
    -

    A Replica of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots The National Museum of Scotland (from brochure) Location, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
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    Visit the National Museum

    by slothtraveller Updated Feb 28, 2012

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    This huge museum is a great place to spend a few hours while in Edinburgh. Spread out over 8 floors, you really would struggle to see everything here in one visit, in fact you probably wouldn't want to- it would be too exhausting!
    On entering the museum, my advice would be to pick up a leaflet with a map of the museum and plan to visit the things that really interest you. For example, there are galleries on 7 separate floors detailing Scottish history from the early Scots through the industrial era to the present day.
    If Scottish history isn't really of interest, the other half of the museum has exhibitions subjects as varied as Science and Nature, Egyptology and European Sculpture. We particularly enjoyed the Animal World section where I weighed myself and discovered that I weigh as much as a chimpanzee! There are lots of other interactive sensory exhibits and the museum is very child-friendly too.
    I was really exhausted after trekking around Edinburgh so we left the museum only seeing about half of what we could. I didn't mind though as this gives me an excuse to go back one day and see more.
    Admission to the museum is free.

    The entrance of the National Museum of Scotland
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    Royal Museum

    by Nemorino Updated Jan 27, 2012

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    Adjoining the new Museum of Scotland is a fine old Victorian building which houses the Royal Museum, with collections of Decorative Arts, Science and Industry, Archaeology and the Natural World.

    Since this museum is FREE you can simply walk in and take a look at one or another of the departments anytime you feel like it. It's an interesting museum, but parts of it are somewhat dated, so they are planning "a major development project for 2008-2012 which will reinvent the Royal Museum for the twenty-first century."

    Open Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm, Tuesday 10am - 8pm, Sunday 12 noon - 5pm.

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    Royal Museum

    by JennJenn Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    An absolutely AMAZING museum. I visited here nearly every other day when I lived in Edinburgh and always saw something different. Natural history, geology, artifacts from around the world, science. It is a huge and amazing museum. One of my favorites in the world.

    Plus there was this really cool clock in the foyer with a big reflective pendulum.

    FREE

    Royal Museum Clock
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    National Museum of Scotland

    by iaint Written Mar 9, 2011

    As the name suggests, the country's national museum.

    It is located in a modern purpose built building on 7 levels (top one just being a roof terrace). Entry is free. Donations are welcomed (as ever).

    I went round with a friend in March 11. First time I'd been in the new building - my only previous incursion had been during schooldays (a while back, now). It is impressive, and being free, you can pop in and out as often as it suits you.

    The Tower Restaurant has a good reputation.

    The old & the new
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    National Museum of Scotland

    by Andrew_W_K Updated Nov 21, 2009

    This is a great place to spend a few hours. It's just off the Royal Mile, there is ample parking outside, it has a nice cafe inside, a wide range of things to see, you can take some great panoramic photos from the roof and it's FREE!
    Seriously, this is a great museum with a good mix of Scottish and international exhibits to keep you interested.
    The areas of most interest for me were the Formula 1 cars from the now defunct Stewart Racing Team, the Egyptology section and the exhibits known as Arthur's Seat coffins which Ian Rankin also used as a basis for one of the Rebus novels.

    Egyptology Stewart F1 car 1950's scooter Inside the museum Edinburgh skyline from the roof
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    National Museum of Scotland

    by kit_mc Written Apr 5, 2008

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    The NMS is a massive museum over several floors giving the history of Scotland, land and people.

    It's an impressive museum, in terms of its building and the artefacts within. The museum has been undergoing great change and it's recent history probably reflects political changes in Scotland in terms of identity and parliamentary devolution.

    The main problem here is one of size and organisation. It's a very difficult place to navigate and you do get the sense of feeling slightly lost and overwhelmed by its vast contents. Secondly it's difficult to know what narrative the place is trying to tell. The phrasing of text is also very significant in terms of the construction of Scottish identity and does lead me to doubt the museum's objectivity in terms of historical interpretation.

    This museum has a lot to work with in terms of Scottish social history and the number of available objects on display and is clearly evolving but seems unsure as to what its purpose actually is. Definitely worth a look, but be prepared to feel a bit overwhelmed and confused.

    Entry is free. Open 10.00 to 17.00.

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    The Royal Museum

    by clivedinburgh Updated Mar 22, 2008

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    This stunning victorian building houses a variety of exhibits in over 30 galleries. There are several types of organised tours and lectures. Access to the exhibits and tours is free but some lectures require pre-booking and a charge.

    Cafe Delos si located in the main foyer and is a great spot for people watching. The Soupson is an above your average canteen that has a good selection of delicious soups and freshly made rolls.

    There is a Museum Shop in between the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland.

    The Royal Museum
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    National Museum of Scotland

    by Tripack Updated Oct 3, 2007

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    A gold mine of information about Scotland. You could easily spend hours in this knowledge temple. In fact the museum is divided in two interlinked buildings:
    - Museum of Scotland Building: Discover the rich Scottish history from early people, the Kingdom of the Scots to Modern Scotland. The displays are shown on 6 levels in an interesting and brillant architectural way with multiple rooms which let me think a great maze.
    - Royal Museum Building: science, culture and natural worlds are displayed.

    Children will have fun too as many areas are based on a discovery principe by playing.

    Roof terrace will give you also some nice view on the city and surroundings.

    Special exhibition gallery, cafe Delos are on ground floor.

    Admission is free and donations are welcome ;-)

    Daily 10:00 -17:00

    Main hall and the Millenium Clock Early people area Wylam Dilly Locomotive (1813) Reflection in the Millenium Clock A cultural fortress
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    National War Museum of Scotland

    by monkeytrousers Written Apr 16, 2007

    Good museum situated inside the castle which has on display lots of weapons, armoury and artefacts from Scotland's military past. Has an interesting 10min video on Scotland's and Edinburgh's military past and tradition on loop near the entrance.

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    Museum of Scotland

    by monkeytrousers Written Apr 16, 2007

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    This museum was vast and interesting but it could have been so much better. I think it must have been newly built or been moved recently as the building it was situated in was really modern looking and nice. The museum is filled with relics and objects from Scotland's past which varied from Andy Murray's tennis racket to samples of rocks that made up Scotland when it was first formed on Earth. It has 7 floors which take you on a journey through time as you go up the floors before arriving at the top which is a nice rooftop garden with great views over the city and of the castle (see photo).

    Although the collection is huge and there is a free audio tour to go with it at times it feels more like a collection of objects that happened to be found or used in Scotland rather than being intrinsicately linked to Scottish heritage. There could have been for example details about the different Scottish clans and thier history and perhaps details and information on the politics through history of being ruled by England to modern times.

    View from the top of the museum

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