There are lots of fantastic museums spread throughout Edinburgh, these are ideal for those who want to have a cheap day in Edinburgh or for those “rare” rainy days in the city. In this post I decided to head out into the city to visit every free museum in Edinburgh, fortunately they are all in fairly close proximity to each other but even although you could technically see all of them in a day its best to just choose a maximum of 2 or 3.
The Museum of Childhood
This museum is one of numerous museum options on the Royal Mile, as the name suggests it is themed around childhood and in particular how childhood has evolved over the years. It is a popular option with children as there is a fair amount of hands on sections in the museum such as a rocking horse, dress up section and some lego blocks. It is also good for adults of various generations with games and toys from throughout different eras which include some of my favourites such as snakes and ladders and my former favourite subbuteo. It is quite interesting to see the evolution of childhood from the pre to post digital and no matter your age there will be something familiar to see.
There are a few levels to explore and lifts are available if required, it is fairly easy to get around and each room has its own theme which includes a room filled with dolls which is either amazing or creepy depending on your love of dolls. I would recommend at least an hour to get fully round and more if you are playing with any of the interactive sections.
The Peoples Story Museum
Another museum on the Royal Mile, this museum focuses on the people who made Edinburgh and how the various roles and occupations have evolved and disappeared over the years in the city. There are a few levels to navigate and there are dozens of different professions listed from fishermen and the rise and fall of the fishing trade to the beginning of the hospitality trade which started from the second half of the 18th century as an alternative to inns and taverns and grew from there as the popularity of the city increased.
There are a number of exhibits which give you a glimpse into what life was like and capture the changes through the industrial revolution, second world war and the punk culture. If your feet get weary from walking around the museum there is a video of Alexander Hendry who was a well respected and sought after rifle maker which lasts 5 minutes and is located on the top floor. Also look out for the donation box on the way out, it is one of the most unique donation boxes i have ever seen!
The small little museum is hidden away in Lady Stairs Close which is just of the Royal Mile at the castle end and it is dedicated to three famous literary figures which have an association with Edinburgh. There are three main floors to the museum and each on is dedicated to a different writer, the first floor you come across is dedicated to Robert Burns who is the national poet of Scotland, one of his famous works was Auld Lang Syne among many others.
The floor above is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott the renowned novelist who wrote popular novels such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy and again there is information on his life and some artifacts which were formerly owned by Scott such as a quill that he formerly used and also the printing press which was used to publish the novel waverly which is located on the top floor. The final floor located on the bottom floor, down the stairs from the entrance is dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson the author of Treasure Island, the sechibit takes you through his early life and early works all the way through to his death.
Museum of Edinburgh
This museum is also on the Royal Mile and it is only a few meters from the Peoples museum on the other side of the road, highly visible with the yellow brick exterior. The museum is larger than it looks with exhibits located over a couple of floors telling the story of Edinburgh through the development of the new and old town and local industries such as glass making which was once thriving in Leith.
A few highlights here as you walk through the creaky wooden floors of the museum are a huge silver collection and upstairs a sizable glass collection from the past glass industry which used to exist in Edinburgh. There is also a costume section if you feel like dressing up and some artifacts from Edinburgh past including an explanation of the phrase gardyloo for anyone who is interested!
Museum on the Mound
I admit that i must have passed this museum dozens of times without noticing it existed, many people will pass it as they walk from Princes Street to the Royal Mile but it is worth a detour. The museum is actually only around a hundred yards from the writers museum and it is housed inside the same building as the scottish headquarters of the Bank of Scotland and there are a total of 7 rooms to explore inside. There are also some great views from the museum as it stands towering over princes street and the gardens, especially on a sunny day.
The displays take you through the creation of the first Bank of Scotland through to the development of money in scotland, early counterfeiting prevention and the how co-ops were founded. It is quite interesting to find out how money developed its value as it something we all take for granted these days and you can see some early coins and banknotes on display. There is also the chance to see a million pounds on display, although no free samples are given. It does not take long to go through the museum, probably around an hour is more than enough time for your visit but it is one of my favourite options in the city.
Museum of Scotland
The largest museum in Edinburgh and the most visited attraction in Scotland (as of 2018) this is a massive place with seven levels and thousands of exhibits to explore, you can easily spend half a day or more in here. It is easy to get lost as you you explore the many rooms and levels of the museum, make sure you pick up a map on the way in so that you know where you are going and where you are. There is everything from learning about the development of communication technology from telegrams to iPhones to fashion changes through the decades. There are also plenty of interactive elements here to keep kids and adults happy, whether that involves programming robots or testing your reactions with a reaction timer which everyone seems to get really committed with!
Another highlight to be sure not to miss is on the 7th level where there is an observation deck which overs some terrific views of the city including a great view of Edinburgh Castle. It can be tricky to find but there is a lift close to the entrance of the Scotland changing nation exhibit and if you are a little impatient there are stairs on the 5th level, there is also a rooftop fine dining restaurant on the top floor which serves some fine food along with great views. If you only visit one museum in Edinburgh, this place should be top of your list, it is one of my favourite museums in Scotland.