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Edinburgh cultural attractions

Edinburgh has a veritable feast of cultural activities and art exhibitions for you to enjoy. Even today, Edinburgh is the cultural seat of the nation. Scotland is home to four internationally-important National Collections, the National Galleries (NGS); the National Library (NLS); the National Museums (NMS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the buildings which comprise each are based almost exclusively in Edinburgh. Five galleries, on three sites across Edinburgh, encompass the NGS and together they house one of the finest art collections in the world.

The National Gallery itself is situated on The Mound, adjacent to the Royal Scottish Academy and the two galleries are linked by an underground tunnel, The Weston Link, which also houses a stunning glass-fronted restaurant overlooking Princes Street Gardens. Here you’ll find works by greats like Rembrandt, Cezanne, Gaugin, El Greco and Van Gogh. This is also where a number of paintings by the Italian master Titian hang, including the glorious Diana and Actaeon (displayed in rotation between here and the National Gallery in London), which made headlines when it was saved for the nation for the princely sum of £50 million.

The National Gallery of Modern Art, displays works by many luminaries of the modern art world. Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Piet Mondrian, Henry Moore and Tracey Emin are some of the highlights in Modern One, while Modern Two is the permanent home of the Paolozzi Gift, a collection of works gifted by the Edinburgh-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi. From here, you can also enjoy a walk along the delightful Water of Leith and follow a series of installations by Turner Prize winner, Antony Gormley, which you can follow right down to the sea. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street houses depictions of some of Scotland’s most notable citizens such as Robert Burns, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Our picks

Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel

Chapel Loan, Roslin EH25 9PU

Come face-to-face with over 500 years of history at Rosslyn Chapel. Dating from 1446, Rosslyn Chapel took over 40 years to complete. The beauty of its setting and the mysterious symbolism of its ornate stonework have inspired, intrigued and attracted visitors ever since. Located just seven miles south of Edinburgh city centre, with good transport links from the city centre, there’s also free parking on site. Visit website

Scottish Gallery
Friends in gallery

16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

The Scottish Gallery was established in South St. David Street, Edinburgh by Aitken Dott in 1842 as “Gilders, Framers, and Artists’ Colourmen”, the firm, as it does today, also exhibited and sold work by the leading Scottish artists of the day. As all areas of the business grew, larger premises were found in Castle Street in 1860 and a new dedicated gallery space was opened in 1897 as “The Scottish Gallery”. The gallery has been situated on Dundas Street since 1992. Visit website

Hopetoun House and Estate

Queensferry, South Queensferry EH30 9RW

Visit Hopetoun and discover a place of beauty, tranquility and architectural magnificence dating from the 17th century filled with stunning collections and scenic walks. Located on the outskirts of the pretty town of South Queensferry, approximately 10 miles from Edinburgh, Hopetoun is a welcoming and thriving 6,500 acre community. It is the seat of the Marquis of Linlithgow and this beautiful house is still home to the Hopetoun family. Visit website

Jupiter Artland
Cells of Life by Charles Jencks at Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh

Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston, Edinburgh EH27 8BY

Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park located just outside Edinburgh. Founded in 2009 by philanthropist art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, Jupiter has grown into one of Scotland’s most significant arts organisations and was nominated for ArtFund’s Museum of the Year in 2016. Set over 100 acres of meadow, woodland and five indoor gallery spaces, Jupiter Artland is home to 35 permanent site-specific sculptures from artists including Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Antony Gormley, as well as a seasonal programme of exhibitions and events. Visit website

Alpha Art
Art gallery

52 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AX

Alpha Art was established as a result of the owners’ passion for the arts. The artists and artwork have been carefully chosen to ensure that only high quality work is provided at all times. Alpha Art has a reputation for being “a bit different” and are confident that you will find your unique piece of artwork in the gallery. With regular exhibitions running throughout the year in the back gallery, you are sure to find something that suits your taste. Openings are a great chance to meet the artist and enjoy a glass of wine in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Visit website

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Image credits: ©Allan Pollok Morris/Jupiter Artland; Dariusz Oczkowicz/Iryna Inshyna/Waldteufel/; David Monteith Hodge/ Festival Fringe Society; Vic Sharp Photography/Rosslyn Chapel

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