National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland
4.5
9:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Monday
9:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday
9:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Friday
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
About
The National Library of Scotland is a reference library with world-class collections. It is also Scotland's largest library and one of the major research libraries in Europe. In our visitor centre you can spend time in our free exhibitions, enjoy refreshments in the café and buy quality gifts, books and stationery in our shop.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: Old Town
Few Edinburghers live in the Old Town, but its labyrinth of dank alleys and steep streets suggests this was not always the case. Today, it’s mostly visitors, tartan-flavored souvenir shops, and pipers that you’ll find on its cobbled streets. This is the place to get a feel for Auld Reekie (Old Smelly), as the town was once nicknamed, and stroll the Royal Mile, the thoroughfare that links the castle with the royal palace – two of Edinburgh’s great set-piece attractions. But there’s lots more exploring to do here down dozens of little alleys, or wynds, while at night the city’s busiest clubs erupt along the Cowgate which is closed to traffic for this purpose.
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
177 reviews
Excellent
95
Very good
57
Average
19
Poor
5
Terrible
1

Beatrice-TA
Scunthorpe, UK405 contributions
Feb 2020
We made a special visit here to look at a special copy of The Dandy which according to their website can be viewed in the reading room. Went to the desk to ask a member a staff, they replied with what is the Dandy? never heard of it, they started searching on the website couldn't find it even though I had. Another member of staff came and said oh yes The Dandy you can't see it its not allowed to be seen apart from special permission visitors or if its in an exhibition. I tried saying that on the website it says you can see it. Gave up in the end puts you off visiting these places if staff aren't knowledgeable.
Written March 30, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hello Beatrice Thank you for taking the time to give this useful feedback. We are very sorry to hear about your disappointing visit. As you quite rightly say The Dandy is available to view in our reading rooms. We will make sure that all staff are made aware of this. The Library buildings are closed at the moment due to the spread of COVID - 19 however we hope that you will be able to visit us again once we reopen. To save you valuable time you can start the joining process on online before you arrive by selecting the Join/Log in button on our website. You can also order The Dandy ahead of our visit by using the email or phone contact details also on our website. When you visit the Library you should bring a document that confirms your identity and proof of address.
Written April 14, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

LeithWhale
Edinburgh, UK37 contributions
Mar 2019 • Solo
I visited the library some time ago (I can’t remember the exact date but I know it was wishing the last year) as a friend had recommended it as being an excellent place to find any text that you may need or want to read. I was excited to visit the National Library and initially my experience was good as I was greeting well at at the reception and had a coffee in the cafe.

Unfortunately after this my experience in the library was anything but good. I was shown to a desk and met by an employee, his name tag said Tom, where I was going to sign up to be able to use the library.

Instead of being supported with this I felt that the service was deliberately unhelpful and actually obstructive to joining the library.

The first question I was asked was what my research was on - at this time as a graduate of Edinburgh university I was not researching any particular field. I was told that without a field of research I could not join the library. When I explained that I was an educator and I would mainly be looking at texts on educational practice and pedagogy, I was asked to name the books and authors that I wanted to read, again something that I had not thought of.

I actually felt like this was more of an interrogation than a welcome to the library and the staff member seemed to be deliberately obstructive and unhelpful. Instead of being welcomed in to the amazing establishment, I felt as though I was being told that my presence was not wanted.

This experience was very negative and I felt without joining the library and without wanting to return.
Written February 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hi Leith Whale. Thanks for your comments and we’re sorry to hear that your experience at the Library was not all positive, as we always aim to be friendly and welcoming. You do not need to provide anything other than proof of identity and address. We would like to invite you back and take you through registering with us. Please ask for the Visitor Services Manager or Team Leader on arrival. You’re also very welcome to phone us in advance to arrange a convenient time for registering (please use the number on our TripAdvisor page and ask for the Visitor Services Manager).
Written February 25, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

IAN D
Wigan, UK19,555 contributions
Jan 2020 • Solo
I have been in numerous libraries recently and must admit this pails in comparison to say Ryland library in Manchester. Felt not enough chance for a casual visitor to see the main reading rooms. Does have an impressive staircase and window.
Written January 27, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your comments. If you would like to see more of the Library you can join or arrange a tour.
Written February 4, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

finnmcool9
Bo'ness, UK125 contributions
May 2021
Lovely welcome from Joy at the front door. She is a lovely person and knows how to treat customers. Sadly some of the other staff I encountered don’t want to be there and it shows. Some of them must have been off the day customer service was taught. Thanks Joy for your kindness
Written May 11, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Peter
Glasgow, UK3,229 contributions
Jan 2020
Most of the ?15 floors are below the street entry.
Good cafe and fun shop with tables and chairs.
Across the hall are small exhibition rooms always interesting.
Written January 16, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your review. There are indeed 15 floors. You enter on level 11 and there are 10 floors of books below you.
Written February 4, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

CindyLou
Houston, Texas, USA139 contributions
Sep 2019
Another place in Edinburgh to stop in for a quick look see. Last year they had the SHACKLETON SOUTHPOLE story. It was amazing with life size photos and sounds.
This year it is IDEAS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD and shows how amazing and involved Scots were in affecting the world-the Scottish Enlightenment. 2 Scots signed the Declaration of Independence! They do such a great display job too. Check out the stairs as the story is also between the steps. Toilets, little cafe and gift shop.
Written October 9, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thanks for your review. We are pleased to hear that you have enjoyed our exhibitions.
Written October 14, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Huffers57
York, UK99 contributions
Oct 2019 • Friends
Pleasantly surprised with the small cafe here. We came in to have a look and stayed for a coffee and shortbread biscuit both of which were very good. I think that more libraries need to provide drinks and good quality food. This place obviously attracts many people and having a place to sit and relax while books are just a smidgen away is a great idea. Very nice shop too with some nice gifts.
Written October 5, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your feedback. We are glad that you enjoyed your visit.
Written October 14, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Alastair L
Edinburgh, UK15 contributions
Jan 2019 • Solo
When the streets of central Edinburgh are jammed with people staring into their hand devices, this is a lovely (quiet) place to meet. There's a real sense of community here and always something going on: exhibitions, talks and lots of chat in the downstairs cafe (reasonably priced, unpretentious, somewhere to sit, quiet, yet with a buzz about the place).The view from Special Collections, on Level 15, is one of the best in Edinburgh. My top tip would be to register as as a reader, find something interesting to research pre-1850, order out a few manuscripts, and enjoy an authentic "Level 15 Experience" in Special Collections. If the research doesn't turn out quite as you'd hoped, you still have the consolation of the most wonderful view of Salisbury Crags. A visit to the NLS is a reminder, too, that people live and work in the City (written during a quiet spell in the NLS)
Written January 16, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for you feedback, Alastair. It's lovely to hear people talk of the sense of community here at the Library. We hope you'll continue coming along to experience this with us, and of course enjoying the "Level 15 Experience" (we are rather fond of that view too!)
Written January 17, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Liamsmamo
Stuart, FL230 contributions
Sep 2017 • Friends
This is a lovely building with exhibits, nice cafe and gift shop. It is also a library where one can read and inquire but not borrow. To enter the library you need a card. You can apply for the card on line from anywhere in the world. They will send you your library number. Bring the number plus identification with your picture. They will take your picture and give you your library card. It is good for three years. You leave backpacks etc in a locker locked by use of a one pound coin, returned when you leave. There are large, see through, sturdy plastic bags for your computer, papers and pencils (no pens allowed). The two level main part of the library have many desks with computers. Books are located in stacks around the room. If you find a book you want to read and it is not listed as in the room, click on the order button. Depending where the book is located it could take an hour for its arrival at the desk or perhaps it will be available the next day. Upstairs, accessible by elevator, is the rare book area. If you order a book in this category, it again will take a while for the book to appear. The desks here have foam pieces set up to hold a book. There are also small pieces of paper one can use to keep ones place while reading instead of using a finger or ruler or anything else. They carefully check your large plastic bag before you leave.
Written September 21, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Max B
Aberdeen, UK105 contributions
Sep 2015 • Business
NLS gets a lot of positive reviews. This may be due to the range of books and other resources it holds that is unrivalled in Scotland. Fair enough. However, being the king of the castle in terms of resources is no excuse for treating your customers in such a condescending way. The staff here are among the most narrow minded and rudest people I have ever met. The atmosphere here does not inspire my intellectual creativity since it is far too robotic. I urge people working here to get a few of those amazing books down and read what they say about knowledge, reality and treating other people - maybe some Derrida and the Bible for 2 very different takes? It feels like a prison in which my soul is trapped while I work there, hence I feel my creative energy is severely restrained. Everything is made to be black and white - plain right and wrong - and that one view of the world is imposed on all the academics who visit by people who do not come close to rivalling the visiting academics in terms of intellect - how very ironic. Please sort out a health and safety policy - not allowing water is DANGEROUS. Even going out to the toilet involves so much fuss it feels like going into and out of a prison. It is a shame that the nation's resources are available to such a select few who have the 'appropriate' 'credentials' (both concepts I see as very problematic) and then those 'select' few are treated so poorly...
Written September 29, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hi Max, Thanks for your comment. As a National Library we have a responsibility to make our collections accessible to all while also ensuring the preservation and security of the collections so that they are available for current and future generations. This dual aspect of our work is challenging. In order to do this we apply appropriate levels of security and terms and conditions for use of our collections. This is entirely in line with the policies in place in other national institutions who share a similar purpose. For these reasons, we ask that readers present their library card and any materials they are bringing in to the Library for inspection when entering and exiting the reading rooms. Additionally, food or drink cannot be brought in to the reading rooms because of the potential for damage to the collections. Water fountains are available outside the General Reading Room and in the Visitor Centre. We’re sorry that you were unhappy about the attitude of the staff you met. We take customer service very seriously and provide regular training for our staff. We have a regular programme of mystery visits, which are generally positive about the Library and help us to continually improve our services. We welcome all suggestions and feedback about our services and act upon them appropriately where possible. We hope that this has given some context and rationale to your impressions of the Library and, further, that we can welcome you back soon. Best wishes, Magdalena Dundas Front of House Team Leader
Written October 26, 2015
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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