Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
4.5
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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About
Come face to face with the people who shaped Scotland’s past, present and future at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. One of Edinburgh’s most remarkable buildings, the Gallery opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. Displays at the Gallery explore different aspects of the story of Scotland and her people, told through a wealth of imagery including portraits of famous historical figures such as Mary Sommeville, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns, through to more recent pioneers in science, sport and the arts including Emeli Sandé, Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton. Round off your trip with a visit to Café Portrait for a delicious lunch or coffee. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is part of the National Galleries of Scotland, which also includes the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Admission is free. Currently showing Counted | Scotland's Census 2022
Suggested duration
< 1 hour
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: New Town
Suits and shopping bags rule the streets of New Town, until after dark when strappy dresses come out to play. This is the city’s central business district with its smaller offices, clothes boutiques, and many of the city’s flashiest restaurants and ritziest clubs. The architecture along roads like George Street helps give it a swank and formal feel: it’s a planned Georgian development of regal townhouses, geometric squares, and self-important statues. But it’s also a very wanderable neighborhood, with a healthy bustle at almost any time of day and fine people-watching in places like St Andrew's Square which fills with picnickers around lunch. You’ll also find a series of cheerful basement bistros on Hanover Street, while dark Rose Street has something of the feel of an undiscovered back alley and is chock-full of characterful pubs and small independent shops.
See what other travelers are saying
  • Caseyestrella
    New York City, New York80 contributions
    Such a treasure
    An unexpected, pleasant surprise. My husband and I had only been in Edinburgh a few hours and we stumbled on the portrait gallery since it was close to our hotel. What a find! So much history told through amazing portraits. The oldest portraits seem to be on the top floor and you work your way down. I loved that with every portrait was a well detailed information card about why this was important. In so many museums I find this information lacking so they can sell you a guide book or audio tour. The museum is free, but we did make a donation making this a great stop for travelers on a budget. Besides the portraits the central staircase is gorgeous. Painted on gold are an array of important figures all through history. On the walkway above there are incredible wall murals of events in Scottish history. This is where we met Alastair, guide extraordinaire, who gave us an fun little history lesson. I would love to go back and spend more time. It was such a nice peaceful, place to look and talk about art history.
    Ah, so glad that you met Alastair - he knows the Gallery inside and out! Thank you so much for your lovely review. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay in Edinburgh <3
    Written June 27, 2022
    This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
    Traveled as a couple
    Written June 26, 2022
  • GWoolfe
    Scarborough, United Kingdom63 contributions
    Beautiful Scottish Gallery
    The gallery is free to enter but you need to pre-book your visit. There is also the option to buy an audio guide (£5) before the visit which I recommend. The audio guide is a screen that shows the painting/photo in question alongside information, it has talks from people who work at the museum and historians and has extra images to accompany the talks. The audio guide gave me a chance to sit down and listen and then go and see the artwork. This is a beautiful gallery to walk around with both modern art and older paintings which give a great insight to Scotland's past and present. There are lots of places to sit in the different rooms and there are also foldable chairs, the gallery also has a lift, however I didn't use this. I spent around 1 hour in the gallery on a rainy friday afternoon and it wasn't busy (busier in the cafe) but you could easily spend longer wandering around. The shop is a bit small but has some great gifts and books for sale. Make sure you spend time in The Ambulatory and sit down to appreciate the artwork.
    Thanks for your lovely review. Hope to see you again soon!
    Written November 8, 2021
    This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
    Written November 5, 2021
  • vessi80
    North Lanarkshire, United Kingdom1,070 contributions
    Supreme Sandstone : Supreme Selfies
    First time visitors should find the Great Hall amazing and for devotees of this red sandstone palace, the stunning portrait of Nicola Benedetti placed here is a fitting tribute. The displays change frequently so 'new' faces to face. Dodie Weir is in his trademark tartan suit and recent additions include a stunning Horse Mc Donald and poets Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy. Barbara Rae's is perfect as there's a great show of her work now on at the Open Eye Gallery. Galleries devoted to Heroes and Heroines are very emotive. The Historical Greats like Mary Queen of Scots et all are still here to be admired....but the exhibition on the recent Census is not to be missed. Kieran Dodd's 'Gingers' is truly snappy (catch his talk at the Book Festival) Staff here are so welcoming and helpful. You can escape the crowds in the discrete , stylish coffee shop/restaurant which is useful if you're a wee bit of a celebrity with one of those 'faces'- or not !
    We loved reading your review and hearing about all the discoveries you made during your visit. Great stuff, thank you! Please come back again soon.
    Written August 16, 2022
    This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
    Written August 12, 2022
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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GretchenDK
Montclair, NJ112 contributions
Aug 2022
I wanted to visit the National Portrait Gallery when I was in London a few days earlier but it was closed for renovation, so I thought I'd check out this one in Edinburgh. FIrst, don't bother with the audio guide, the placards next to each picture tell you all you want to know. Save that 5 pounds or just donate it if you'd prefer to do that but you really don't need it. It was pretty much what I expected. Lots of vivid portraits. You really get a good feel for the person in the painting. Lots of history. I found it interesting that so many of these "aristocrats" were related but were always planning to do each other in. A huge focus on Mary, Queen of Scots. I was surprised that there was no painting of Queen Elizabeth, at all. A guide said there is one in storage. It's a huge building with a beautiful library and a cafe. Plan to spend 2-3 hours exploring.
Written August 22, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
There was a lot of 'planning to do each other in' - it's tricky to keep up! Thank you so much for your lovely review. The audio guide does add an extra element to your visit (including names such as Ian Rankin, Jackie Kay, Ken Currie, Val McDermid, Horse McDonald, Roxana Halls, Mona Siddiqui, and much much more) but it's great to hear that you enjoyed your visit regardless. Hope to see you again soon!
Written August 24, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

hev_p611
Woking, UK64 contributions
Sep 2022 • Couples
We hadn’t planned to visit the gallery whilst in Edinburgh but were glad we did. We came shortly after opening so it wasn’t crowded and we were able to look around at a leisurely pace. The Great Hall is very impressive and we enjoyed spotting a few Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year pieces in the collection. There is a mix of photography and paintings throughout and good signage to help you learn about each artist and sitter. We stopped by the cafe on arrival. The food offering looked good but perhaps geared towards lunch rather than a late breakfast. Sadly no chance to buy a souvenir as there appeared to be no gift shop.
Written September 4, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for sharing the details of your visit. We are pleased to know you got so much from the dispays and our gorgeous Great Hall. We're hoping to open a shop in the gallery in the months to come, so do pop back when you have a chance.
Written September 7, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Lobsterlover99
Lincolnshire, UK1,256 contributions
Oct 2022 • Couples
Another rainy old day in Edinburgh ( does it ever not rain here) so another gallery. . This one as the others did not disappoint. Very convenient bus service stops right outside

Appreciated the conveniently positioned seats and I also took advantage of a foldable one when my back got sore. We used the cafe and had a lovely cup of tea, really welcome.

As far as the portraits go I love that art is subjective, some I loved done I didn’t, that’s just normal. My two favourites were the PAOTY winner of Nicky Bernadetti with the violin and the Doddie Weir one, absolutely superb.

A great free attraction but please do leave a contribution
Written November 7, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for your lovely review! Glad that you were able to make use of our foldable chairs - they're an essential if you want to spend a bit more time looking at the portraits :) Really great to hear about your highlights - thanks for sharing!
Written November 8, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Travelleronwheels
United Kingdom151 contributions
Sep 2022
This is a really well set out gallery and we’ll worth a visit. Allow plenty of time as there’s a lot to see here and a good amount of information is given for each exhibit so it takes a while to read everything and take it all in. Also, as the building is spacious and the rooms are so well laid out, wheelchair access is very easy. There’s also a bright and reasonably priced cafe offering a decent choice of food and drink.
Written September 4, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for sharing your experience - please come and see us again soon!
Written September 7, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Annette P
Melbourne, Australia155 contributions
Dec 2022 • Couples
Another lovely free activity in Edinburgh. The Portrait Gallery is well set out with lockers to cloak our coats etc. Plenty of toilets around the gallery with a gift shop and cafe which served very tasty options. Enjoyed the variety of galleries and spaces. A must do on a chilly day.
Written December 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Steve F
Reading, UK194 contributions
Oct 2022
This was a much more interesting gallery than we expected. Really interesting, in terms of both the history and the paintings themselves. The staff were very friendly and welcoming too.
The only thing I might do differently next time is to start at the bottom with the more modern portraits and work upwards. This is only because the modern ones are a bit more challenging and I think, with hindsight, they would have made a good starting point.
Written October 31, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Maybe we could put 'start at the bottom!' in our visitor maps in the future. Hope you can come back soon - thank you for your review!
Written November 1, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Gaye N
Perth, UK452 contributions
May 2021 • Couples
Good to be back. We had to book a time slot so were a bit early stopped in cafe for drink before going into gallery. Good covid measures in place, because we visit at least once every couple of months any missing displays didn’t bother us, keep a look out for new restricted opening times in all museums and galleries around Edinburgh.
Written June 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

quarryhouse99
Aberdeen, UK119 contributions
Mar 2022 • Friends
Visited with a group of friends because we wanted to see the portrait of Nicola Benedetti painted by the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year. It did not disappoint. We took the opportunity to walk around the rest of gallery. The pictures are well curated and the information a good size (could read it without my glasses). There was a lot of space so you could appreciate the individual paintings. The lift was very futuristic - all glass but allowed views going between the floors. We visited the cafe for lunch which had good food. The salad selection in particular was excellent with some different types of salad allowing the opportunity to eat something different. All the staff, both in the gallery and in the cafe were very friendly and helpful. They even arranged for a taxi so we could get back. This place is definitely worth a visit, rain or shine.
Written March 26, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for your lovely review! Hope to see you again soon
Written March 29, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Louise
5 contributions
Aug 2021 • Family
An excellent art gallery with some really interesting pieces. However, a large proportion of the galleries are currently closed to the public. This was really disappointing as there was not much to see elsewhere. Also, the gift shop is rarely open and there seems to always be a queue for the cafe.
Written August 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Hello, thanks for visiting. Some of the spaces were temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, however a lot more spaces are now open. Exhibitions which are open to the public include: Thomas Joshua Cooper | The World's Edge, Alison Watt | A Portrait Without Likeness, and Modern Portrait. The shop is currently closed, and our café often has a queue but it moves quickly. Hopefully we'll see you again soon and you'll be able to enjoy the exhibition spaces.
Written August 24, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Yvonne M
London, UK227 contributions
Feb 2020 • Friends
Loved this gallery! The quality and display of so many historical portraits was outstanding, especially as the fabulous detail on the costumes over many centuries shone through. I particularly liked the photographic array of famous and notable Scottish people over the years and I was lucky enough to catch the winners and entrants to the annual portrait competition, beautiful and thought provoking exhibition. I would recommend stopping by this gallery when you are in Edinburgh, or if you just need somewhere calming and beautiful to spend an hour or two.
Written February 19, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Hi Yvonne, thank you for the wonderful review! We're so glad you enjoyed your visit. All the best, National Galleries of Scotland
Written February 28, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Frequently Asked Questions about Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery is open:
  • Sun - Sat 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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