Culture in Edinburgh

The best cultural activities in Edinburgh

From sweaty gigs to Scottish poets: Enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer

Explore Edinburgh and discover a city filled to the brim with music, theatre, history, literature, stunning architecture and even more besides

Edinburgh is a city where old meets new. It’s a city that embraces the past but maintains a youthful outlook for the future. It’s a city that offers world-class museums that not only celebrate generations long since gone but also the technical achievements that keep us moving forward. Its venues and galleries host both greats and emerging talents. Delve deep into the culture of this remarkable and beautiful city with our guide to the best cultural activities that Edinburgh has to offer.

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the most popular cultural attractions in the UK and one of the top 20 museums and galleries worldwide. The museum was formed in 2006 when the Royal Museum merged with the Museum of Scotland, resulting in the unusual juxtaposition of styles that greets visitors to Chambers Street, a Romanesque revival building from the Victorian era jutting up against the modern turret of the Museum of Scotland. This marriage has also resulted in an eclectic assortment of collections that include Assyrian sculptures from hundreds of years BC, the stuffed remains of Dolly the sheep, and the Maiden, a grim Scottish precursor to the Guillotine. The museum’s Grand Hall, based on The Crystal Palace, is a sight in itself. The museum is open 364 days a year, closing on Christmas Day (that’s when all the exhibits come to life, we like to think).

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Scottish National Gallery

Scotland’s national gallery is a neoclassical behemoth on The Mound that houses a truly impressive collection of important works by renowned Scottish and international artists from throughout history. These include Canova’s The Three Graces, Gaugin’s Vision After The Sermon and Vermeer’s Christ In The House Of Martha And Mary. There are also paintings by El Greco, Monet, Goya, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Constable, Blake, Bacon, McTaggart and Cézanne.

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Usher Hall

Usher Hall is a much-loved, grand auditorium in Edinburgh’s West End which is renowned for its superb acoustics. Since it opened in 1914, it has held concerts spanning genres from classical to indie rock and is generally regarded as the shining jewel in Edinburgh’s venues. It was named after local businessman Andrew Usher, who conceived the idea of a central music venue for the city but sadly died before its completion. In recent years, it has welcomed acclaimed international bands and artists including Ryan Adams, The National and Father John Misty to play in lavish surroundings, while still also regularly holding classical concerts.

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Sneaky Pete’s <o:p></o:p>

From grandiose surroundings to the kind of tiny venue where you get jostled around by strangers, sweat out half your body weight and leave elated with a high-pitched whine in your ears. Sneaky Pete’s is where rising talent cut their teeth and then keep coming back for the sheer thrill of it all, even when their appeal surpasses the venue’s capacity of 100 enthusiastic music fans. Whether it’s a club night or a gig from international and local bands, the emphasis is on fun and loud, loud music. If you’re tired of seated, sedate gigs, this is your antidote.

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Writers’ Museum<o:p></o:p>

A must-visit for fans of Scottish literature, the Writers’ Museum is a testament to three of Scotland’s most notable purveyors of the written word: Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. The museum is in Lady Stair’s House, a beautifully restored home built in 1622, on the Royal Mile. The collections include personal items belonging to the revered wordsmiths, including manuscripts, Stevenson’s riding boots, the wardrobe made for him by the man who inspired Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, Walter Scott’s rocking horse and Robert Burns’ chair.

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We recommend

Day Trips to the Old Town: Edinburgh has something for everyone.
Edinburgh Castle: Why it’s a must-visit in the Scottish capital
Must-visit museums in Birmingham



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