Museum on the Mound
The Mound, Edinburgh, EH1 1YZ, Tel: 0131 243 5464, Website
Is that not just the Scottish headquarters for Lloyds Banking Group? Well it is yes but it’s also home to the Museum on the Mound, a fascinating museum which takes a fresh look at money. Sadly no free samples are issued but do you want to see a million pounds up close and personal (not that close)? See Scotland's oldest banknote? Explore the changing face of Edinburgh? Build a model home? Or try your hand at cracking open a safe? Then give the Museum on the Mound a go, if nothing else it’s got to be more exciting than your average trip to the bank…
H M Register House, 2 Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 3YY, website
Hidden behind the impressive General Register House at the edge of the east end of Princes Street, is a beautiful botanical haven. The Archivists' Garden is filled with 57 different varieties of plants - all connected in some way to Scotland's collective memory, whether through myth and folklore, heraldry, or association with individual famous Scots. Designed and created by David Mitchell, curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Ediburgh it fills the open courtyard space between General Register House and New Register House. Although just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street this is a lovely quiet spot to escape the stresses of your day.
Museum of Edinburgh
Huntly House, 142 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DD, website
Hidden in plain sight on the Canongate in the Royal Mile, this free museum lifts the lid on the fascinating history of the city - from its very beginnings right up to the present day. Get lost in the fascinating collection of artefacts, including greyfriar's collar and bowl, or dress up with replica costumes and get creative in the interactive space.
Top Tip: Make sure you take the time to find the museum's 'secret' courtyard, a recent addition to the museum which is full of quirky undiscovered treasures.
City Art Centre
2 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DE, Tel: 0131 529 3993, website
This impressive nine-storey, former warehouse is a stunning and recognisable feature in Edinburgh's Old Town but have you ever ventured inside? If not then you're in for even more visual treats. City Art Centre is home to a fantastic collection of Scottish Art featuring work by leading Scottish artists from 17th Century onward. Holding over 4500 pieces of work the gallery's collections include paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture and installation art, it provides a comprehensive overview of Scottish art from over the last 500 years. It's also well worth looking out for the guest exhibitions which in the past have seen the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and costumes from the Star Wars films feature at the gallery.
Top Tip: Get creative in their ArtSpace and experiment with art materials to create your own landscapes, collages and portraits. Head along on on Saturdays between 2pm and 3pm for their free hosted art sessions for even more messy fun.
10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT, Tel: 0131 550 3660, website
Dovecot Studios is a one hundred year old tapestry studio, now homed in a beautifully renovated Victorian swimming pool in the heart of Edinburgh. Throughout its long history, the studio’s talented weavers have produced several high profile commissions and worked with many renowned 20th century artists.
Today, visitors to this incredible building can see the fantastic workshop spaces where the in-house weavers create their stunning tapestries. There’s also a great gallery space which exhibits work by artist from all over the globe and an in house café which is an ideal little spot to catch up with friends.
Top Tip: There's the chance to see some of the weavers at work from the Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony from Noon to 3pm on Thursday and Friday and from 10.30am to 5.30pm on Saturdays.
Dunbar’s Close Garden
Canongate, High Street, EH8 8BW, website
Escape the hive of activity and clamour of The Royal Mile and disappear down one of its many closes which you may well walk past every day, for your chance to discover a hidden retreat. A prime example being Dunbar’s Close Garden located just beside The Canongate Kirk, wander down Dunbar’s Close to reveal a garden laid out in the character of the seventeenth century, donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978 and named after Edinburgh writer David Dunbar owned tenements on either side of this close in 1773.
Top Tip: Hard day in the office? Spotted someone on the street you want to avoid? Nip down Dunbar’s Close and experience a moment of harmony in historic surrounds.
Dr Neil's Garden
[Image Credit: Dr Neil's Garden Trust]
Old Church Lane, Duddingston Village, Edinburgh, EH15 3PX, Tel: 07849 187 995, website
Often referred to as Edinburgh's secret garden, Dr Neil's Garden is nestled beside Duddingston Kirk close to the banks of Duddingston Loch. The Garden was a labour of love for the late Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil who transformed what was formerly waste ground into the beautiful, blooming haven it is today. Boasting a huge variety of plants and flowers, this is a perfectly peaceful spot with stunning views over the Loch and of Arthur's Seat. Take a book, find a bench and relax.
Top Tip: If you visit during July and August make sure you take a look inside Thomson's Tower, an intriguing octagonal building designed by William Henry Playfair in 1825 for the Duddingston Curling Society.
Museum of Childhood
42 High Street, Edinburgh,EH1 1TG, Tel: 0131 529 4142, website
Who said that learning can’t be fun? The Museum of Childhood is an Edinburgh gem that’s not just for kids. Spend a few hours exploring the 21 rooms and over 2,000 items, toys and games from across the generations, from early Steiff Bears to Barbie’s - we can pretty much guarantee it’s won’t be long before you say; ‘I had one of those!’ The Museum of Childhood is set in two historic buildings straddling South Gray’s Close on the Royal Mile. Both buildings were constructed in the 18th century. The eastern building was home to some well-known figures of Edinburgh society, while the western building housed a theatre, and later ironmongers. Even if you don’t think you fancy a wander down toy memory lane, pop in and visit ‘the nosiest museum in the world’ and just try avoid getting caught up in the magical nostalgia.
Did you know? The Museum of Childhood is the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood!
National Museum of Scotland – Rooftop Terrace
Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, Tel: 0300 123 6789, website
How could the National Museum of Scotland, Scotland's most visited free attraction possibly be a hidden gem? Well, for the purposes of this guide we're not referring to the many wonders within the building which allow you to explore diversity of the natural world, world cultures, art and design, science and technology and Scottish history. No, we are talking about the truly stunning panoramic views as well as artworks by Andy Goldsworthy and a selection of Scottish flora which await those who make the trip to the roof terrace of the National Museum.
Top Tip: Avoid the crowds and venture up first thing in the morning for a beautifully peaceful experience.