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Free Cultural Days Out in Edinburgh

Discover the culture of Edinburgh on a budget!

There are plenty of galleries, museums and cultural spots in Edinburgh and we have listed some below so you can discover your perfect cultural day out, all for FREE!

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art first opened in August 1960 at Inverleith House in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden. It moved to its present site at Modern One on Belford Road in 1984.

In March 1999, the National Galleries of Scotland opened Modern Two across the road from Modern One. As a sister gallery, it displays the Gallery of Modern Art’s permanent collection as well as hosting temporary exhibitions.

Home to Scotland’s outstanding national collection of modern and contemporary art, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art comprises two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, both set in beautiful sculpture parks.

At Modern One, explore sculptures by major artists such as Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread and Barbara Hepworth outside and a superb collection of art ranging from the 1900s to the present day within. Discover the dramatic lawn at the front of Modern One, designed by landscape architect Charles Jencks. The collection includes works by Matisse, Picasso, Vuillard, and Dix. It also includes a world-famous collection of Surrealism and Dada as well as a superb selection of paintings by Scottish artists such as Peploe, Fergusson, Douglas Gordon and Steven Campbell. Café Modern One serves lunches, incredible cakes and delicious coffee.

Modern Two is home to The Stairwell Project, a large- scale, permanent work by 2009 Turner Prize- winner Richard Wright. Comprising several thousand individually hand-painted forms, the piece is one of Wright’s most complex and ambitious works to date in the world. Modern Two is also home to a detailed recreation of Eduard Paolozzi’s studio on permanent display. Paolozzi’s towering sculpture, Vulcan, dominates Paolozzi’s Kitchen, their cafe named after the artist. Enjoy delicious lunches, cakes and coffee while taking in this stunning work.

The Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum celebrates the lives of three giants of Scottish Literature – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Home to portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were first produced, and the rocking horse he used as a child. They have Robert Louis Stevenson’s riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with the name ‘Tusitala’, meaning ‘teller of tales’. There is also a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull, one of only three ever made.

This free museum is easy to locate just off the Lawnmarket, the top part of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, in Lady Stair’s Close.

With a wide range of stories and objects this museum has something for everyone to enjoy, whether young or old, local resident or visitor. You don’t need to have read these writers’ works to enjoy the fascinating life stories told in the Writers’ Museum.

The People’s Story Museum

The People’s Story gives an unique insight in to Edinburgh’s working class people from the 18th century to the late 20th century. The displays include tableaux, original objects, images and personal stories to reveal their fascinating history of the city.

The collection focuses on the history, culture, crafts and trades, and the people of Edinburgh but also as a place to explore more contemporary issues, events and opinions.

What makes the museum stand out is that all of the displays are based around the words of Edinburgh’s people, taken from oral history reminiscences and written sources to tell real stories. The collections reflect this with objects ranging from Friendly Society regalia, banners and material relating to Edinburgh’s diverse communities.

National Museum of Scotland

Your journey of discovery starts here.

What do an oak tree, building a fantasy landscape and getting a robot to spell out your name have in common? You can explore all of these (and more) in their interactive galleries, including the newly transformed Adventure Planet!

Filled with activities and spaces for reflection, stories and experimentation, their family friendly galleries have something for everyone.

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ is the High Kirk of Edinburgh, situated at the historic heart of the Old Town.

St Giles’ was built on the very eastern edge of Edinburgh and pre-dates most of the Old Town.

Join them at 10.30am or 2.30pm for their daily short walking tours of St Giles’ Cathedral. These tours are free, and will last around 45 minutes. Their guide will tell you stories from the building’s early foundations to John Knox’s Reformation, and show you into the famous Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle. From rebellions to royals, guilds to guillotines, and even a unicorn, this tour has it all.

Please note, these times are for guided tours. It is still possible to visit St Giles’ during their usual opening hours listed above.

Museum on the Mound

Located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office, this fascinating museum takes a fresh look at money – and much, much more. Art & design, technology, crime, trade and security – all feature in the story of money. They are open throughout the year.

Want to see a million pounds? See Scotland’s oldest banknote? Explore the changing face of Edinburgh? Build a model home? Crack open a safe?

These are just some of the things you can see and do at the Museum on the Mound.

In addition to its permanent displays, the Museum on the Mound often has a special exhibition or event over the summer months. It also hosts temporary installations from time to time.

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