3 Easy Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland

Are you visiting Edinburgh soon? If so, the National Museum of Scotland is one of the must-see sights in Edinburg. And for good reason! With free admission and a central location, it’s the perfect family friendly place to spend the day exploring Scottish culture and history. A top tourist destination in Edinburgh here is something for everyone at this world-class museum. After visiting with Sal, I am sharing a few tips for visiting the National Museum of Scotland to help you make the most of your visit!

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Weathered building that says "National Museum of Scotland." Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland. MPA Project Travels.
National Museum of Scotland’s Chambers Street Entrance

The details

Located at Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom, the National Museum of Scotland has 11 floors of exhibits. museum exhibits feature everything from natural history, anatomy, fashion, science and technology, and Scottish art to name a few. In general, the National Museum of Scotland is open daily from 10am-5pm. If you are interested in going, check out the website for the most up-to-date hours and information about current exhibits. But not need to worry about the price of admission, the National Museum of Scotland is free!

Where is Buddy?

Unfortunately, Buddy did not visit the National Museum of Scotland during his choir’s trip to Edinburgh. So, this post will not share a teenager’s perspective about the museum. But I can say that I think he would have liked some of the exhibits, especially the Explore Gallery featuring interactive science and technology exhibits. Especially the Race a Formula 1 Car exhibit.

3 Easy Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland

1. Plan ahead and pick your must-sees

The National Museum of Scotland is big. Very big. With 22 galleries, it is impossible to see everything in one visit, even if you plan on spending an entire day at the museum. And if you only have a few hours at the museum, you will want to focus on the things that are of most interest to you. One way to ensure that you get to see exactly what you want is to plan ahead. You can visit the museum’s website prior to your trip and pick your must-see exhibits and galleries.  That way, you can make the most of your time.

Artifacts of stone with ancient writing are on display behind glass. The symbols written on the stones are written on the wall behind the artifacts. Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland. MPA Project Travels.
Artifacts in the Scottish History and Archeology Gallery

When Sal and I visited the National Museum of Scotland, we only had 2 hours to explore before we had to walk to Edinburgh Castle for our timed entry there. Agreeing that we both wanted to learn more about Scottish history, we began our museum experience in the Scottish History and Archeology galleries. As time passed, and there was so much left to see, we decided to split up so we could each take in the exhibits that were most interesting to our individual tastes. Even with that, we only made it up to level 3 in the Scotland Gallery.

One thing I would do differently

On my next visit, this is what I would do differently. First, I would plan for a full day at the Museum. Even then, it would not be enough, but I would give us more time to enjoy the museum. Second, I would have Sal and I plan to split up from the beginning of our visit. That way we could personalize our visits and take in all the things that interest us from the beginning.

If Buddy was with us, would I split up then? It depends on the museum and where we are traveling. Buddy is a teenager and has grown up exploring museums. I think that he would be a respectful museum goer on his own. But I would definitely take cultural norms of the country we are visiting and safety into account before splitting up. I would also consider Buddy’s proficiency in the local language and his desire to explore on his own.

Dark blue letters on a beige wall read" As long as only one hundred of us remain alive we will never on any conditions be brought under English rule. Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland. MPA Project Travels.
Exhibit in the Scottish History and Archeology Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland

2. Arrive early to avoid crowds

The National Museum of Scotland is one of Edinburgh’s most popular attractions, so it can get quite busy. If you want to avoid the crowds, aim to arrive early in the morning. Getting there right as the museum opens means you can take your time experiencing the galleries and exhibits that are most interesting to you. And, you will have a better chance to explore at your own pace, enjoying the exhibits with fewer people around.

Also, if you are traveling with kiddos who may want to engage with the hands on and interactive exhibitions in the Science and Technology galleries, arriving early would ensure that they can take their time with these exhibits. If you want to beat the crowds, get there right when the museum opens.

We arrived at the National Museum of Scotland shortly after 10am. There were very few people in the galleries we visited. In some areas, we had the exhibitions all to ourselves. As time went on, the museum filled up. By the time we left at noon, the galleries were becoming busy and crowded. I am glad we went early.

Although we did not visit in the evening, later hours are also a great time to explore the museum as crowds generally disperse following the afternoon rush.

3. Bring the whole family

The National Museum of Scotland is a family friendly! And it is a perfect outing for kiddos and travelers of all ages.

For the kiddos, there are lots of hands-on exhibits in the family galleries. These include the Imagine Gallery (good for littles!), Adventure Planet, and the Explore Gallery. Additionally, there are also kiddo friendly exhibitions in other galleries like the Light up our Energy Tower in the Science and Technology galleries on level 5. Other kid friendly exhibitions can be found throughout the museum.

A large room with a high ceiling is filled with various colorful hands on exhibits. The Explore Gallery. Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland. MPA Project Travels.
The Explore Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland

And the fun and hands on exhibits are not the only thing that is family friendly about the National Museum of Scotland. You can also pack your lunch for the whole family. The museum allows guests to bring in their own food and has a designated dining area for people with a sack lunch. Preparing and bringing your own lunch to the museum is a great way to save money while you travel!

If you are planning to pack a sack lunch, these travel friendly eco collapsible meal kits and reusable sandwich bags might come in handy. As will a large refillable water bottle so you can stay hydrated as you explore the museum.

During our visit, I saw many fun and hands on family friendly exhibits, some that I thought Buddy, even as a teenager, would love. I would love to go back and visit with him. Also, during our visit, we did not stay there long enough to need a meal. But it is good to know that we can bring our own food. Next time we visit, and dedicate a day to the museum, I will pack us a lunch!

View of a large open space surrounded by white wood terraces about three stories up and a glass ceiling. Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland. MPA Project Travels.
The Grand Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland

Pro Tip

When visiting the National Museum of Scotland, you will be on your feet – a lot! Make sure to wear comfortable shoes so you can explore without your toes getting sore. These shoes from Dansko are my go to shoes for summer travel in Europe.


The National Museum of Scotland is a must-see for anyone visiting Edinburgh. With its wide range of exhibits, there is something for everyone at this world-class museum. Keep these tips in mind to make the most of your visit and enjoy everything the museum has to offer!

Have you visited the National Museum of Scotland? If so, what are your tips for visiting? Let us know in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “3 Easy Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland

  1. Oooh what a fab museum! I have been to Edinburgh a few times but I am ashamed to say somehow I always missed the National Museum of Scotland. I will try to make it there next time as it does look really interesting.

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