Discovering Edinburgh: Must-Visit Museums

Fascinating Museums in Edinburgh

When your city is built in the shadow of a towering castle atop a mighty volcanic rock, you can bet it has many fascinating stories to tell. Like anyone who has walked the cobbled streets of our city knows, Edinburgh is a veritable fortress of history and heritage. And it’s home to some of the best museums in the world. So, here are some of our favourite museums in Edinburgh for you to explore on your next visit. 

Museum of Edinburgh

Yellow and red Huntly House on Royal Mile

The Museum of Edinburgh is an absolute must for anyone who wants to learn more about the story of our city. Located in the iconic bright yellow Huntly House, on the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile, you can’t miss it. The museum is a treasure trove of historical objects from Edinburgh’s rich and vibrant past. Take a look at the beloved Greyfriars Bobby’s collar and bowl. Or see the original plans for Edinburgh’s New Town. Dress up as some of Edinburgh’s favourite historical characters and bring our city’s past back to life.

Visitor Tip: Don’t forget to visit the secret outdoor courtyard at the back of the museum. Reopened in 2015, this charming little nook has some fascinating artefacts that date back to the 16th century.

The Museum of Childhood

Lots of toy cars

Staying on the Royal Mile, make your way to the Museum of Childhood and behold a fascinating display of toys and games that span generations. Set in two historic buildings straddling South Gray’s Close, this was the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood. A treat for visitors both young and old, don’t let the name fool you. For children, the museum is a wonderful window into the times and toys of the past. But for adults, it is an unforgettable trip down memory lane. 

Visitor Tip: Pop some pennies into the Penny Machines in the welcome hall and watch some of the exhibits come to life.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Surgeons Hall Museums in Edinburgh

For something completely different, visit the Surgeons’ Hall Museums in the campus of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Not only is it one of the oldest museums in Scotland, it is one of our favourite museums in Edinburgh. It’s actually three fascinating museums in one. The Wohl Pathology Museum, The History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection. These museums house collections from as far back as 1699 when ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ were publicly sought. Originally established as a medical teaching resource, the museums display one of the largest and most historic pathology collections in the world.

Visitor Tip: In the History of Surgery Museum, keep an eye out for a pocketbook made from the skin of William Burke – a notorious body snatcher who made a killing (quite literally) selling corpses to be studied.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia docked in Leith

Climb aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and follow in the footsteps of Royalty. This luxury yacht was once the holiday home of the Queen and Royal Family. It’s now a floating museum, berthed in Leith Docks, Edinburgh. Here, you can learn what life was like for its residents, both guests and staff, during its time at sea.  Starting at the Bridge, you can explore the State Apartments, Crew’s Quarters and Engine Room. 

Visitor Tip: For a special treat, visit the Royal Deck Tea Room. Enjoy some delicious tea and cake and soak in the stunning view across the water.

The Writer’s Museum

Old books and papers on writing desk

The Writer’s Museum is home to some of the most well kept artefacts belonging to Scotland’s most famous writers, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. With items ranging from shoes to hats to personal notepads owned by these three gents and more, you can really dive into their lives and learn a lot about them and the inspiration behind their works! Take the exciting journey back in time to see how life worked for these creative minds!

Visitor Tip:  Look out for RL Stevenson’s wardrobe, which the infamous Deacon Brodie made. Brodie lived a double life as a furniture maker by day and criminal by night. And he was perhaps the inspiration for Stevenson’s novel, The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

So there you have it. Some of our favourite museums in Edinburgh. To find out more about the fascinating history of our city, take a look at our fabulous Edinburgh Guide. Then, why not book a stay at Parliament House Hotel and explore it for yourself?