4.5km Inspiring Edinburgh Art Museums Walk
Our first stop is the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.
The National Galleries of Scotland: Portrait is free to enter. See contemporary portrait pieces like that of Billy Connolly, Emeli Sande and Tilda Swinton as well as historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Burns. Not only will you see framed art, but the building and architecture are something to marvel at too.
Exiting the gallery, turn right down York Place then right into Leith Street then continuing on to Calton Road.
Continue along Calton Road until you reach The Queen’s Gallery. It is placed just across from the circle at the end of the Road.
The Queen’s Gallery part of Holyrood Palace is built across from the Scottish Parliament building. Each letter above the entrance was carved from individual pieces of stone, doors of oak, gilded bronze hinges, and of course decorated with the Scottish lion and unicorn. The exhibitions change showing different pieces from the Royal Collection. As you walk into the gallery, a complimentary audio guide is available for you, detailing some information about the different art pieces. Your ticket can easily be converted into a one-year pass when you book on the website here.
Exiting The Queen’s Gallery, walk to the left of the circle onto Canongate then turn right into Jeffrey Street
Jeffrey Street becomes Market Street just after the Bridge. A little way ahead you will see the City Art Centre on your left.
The City Art Centre, with free entry, displays art on a rotating basis on all six floors. Amazingly, the City of Edinburgh’s art collection includes over 4,500 pieces. Pieces include photography, sculptures, drawings, contemporary arts and crafts, and paintings. The City Art Centre also hosts events such as creative workshops, reduce, reuse, recycle workshops, and sensory experiences.
Leaving the Art Centre, turn right to walk up the steps of Fleshmarket Close onto Cockburn Street (for a step-free route, continue past Fleshmarket Close to turn right into North Bridge then straight onto South Bridge). Follow the curve of Cockburn Street into Hunter Square. Then when you reach the main road, turn left then immediately right onto South Bridge.
Continue down South Bridge, then right into Chambers Street. Then turn immediately left into the next street to see the Talbot Rice Gallery on your left.
Talbot Rice Gallery part of the Edinburgh College of Art often hosts exhibitions speaking to issues such as Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis, and women’s self-empowerment. Admission is free but donations are welcomed. You would be supporting students and up-and-coming Scottish artists.
Exiting the gallery, turn right then left back onto Chambers Street and the National Museum of Scotland will be on your immediate left.
One can easily spend an entire day at the National Museum of Scotland. With galleries exploring history, archaeology, geology, art, cultures of the world, science and technology, and more temporary exhibits, you will be spoiled for choice. Interactive installations can be enjoyed by both the young and old.
Exiting the Museum, turn right into George IV Bridge.
Follow George IV Bridge then turn left into North Bank Street. Follow the curve onto The Mound. You will pass the National Gallery of Scotland: National on your right and The Royal Scottish Academy will be on the corner at the end of the street.
The National Gallery of Scotland: National hosts various events such as lectures and talks, as well as music shows, displays, and workshops. Artworks held here include Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, van Dyck, da Vinci, and Raeburn. Entrance is free.
Royal Scottish Academy, founded in 1826, continued to function even during World War I and II and will host its 200th Anniversary in 2026 with bigger-than-ever exhibitions and events. Currently, they have a wide selection of artworks by Scottish artists and architects and are “recognised as a collection of National Significance to Scotland in 2008.” The Academy hosts frequent temporary exhibitions, which you can see on their website.
If you enjoyed this route, see our 4km UNESCO City of Literature Walk.