Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art | Visitor Info | Updated 2021

About The Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has a rich history. From its humble beginnings, it is now a stronghold of creativity. A look at its history paints a true picture of its significance.


The original National Gallery of Modern Art was in the Inverleith House in the August of 1960. There it sat in the centre of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden before being later moved to Belford Road. The Inverleith House then became a contemporary art gallery. Its work at the time was curated by the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh. In 1984, the National Gallery of Modern Art moved again. It is now housed in the former premises of John Watson’s Institution. The Modern One Gallery was the primary building at the time. Then in 1999, Terry Farrell transformed Dean Orphan Hospital into a gallery. This Dean Gallery then became the Modern Two.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern One

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Part of the original gallery, the Modern One has a long history. It houses contemporary art, in a William Burn design hold. The building itself comes with a history, formerly being home for orphaned children. Today it features temporary and permanent collections as well as a conservation workshop. The sweeping grounds surrounding the structure feature displays as well. Its singular landscape creates a Landform Ueda style. As the winner of the 2004 Gulbenkian Prize, it has some interesting sights to offer.

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The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern Two

Converted into a gallery much more recently, Modern Two features more cinematic exhibitions. Currently, the gallery is showcasing the works and innovation of Ray Harryhausen. The exhibition includes restored and previously unseen material. Formerly a hospital, it was converted to display surrealist art. Now it showcases art with periodic shifts, still housing the original Paolozzi Gallery.

Accessibility & facilities

The Scottish National Gallery has taken steps to make itself accessible to visitors. Payment meters request donations for parking available at both galleries. There are also concessionary rates for disabled visitors and complimentary ticket policies.
Public toilets and special evacuation procedures are in place. The staff is also familiar with disability awareness training.

Our galleries

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art features two main galleries. Modern One and Modern Two display contemporary art and cinematic pieces. The lavish grounds surrounding them display breathtaking sculptures.
There is also the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, this gallery features the heroes of Scotland. It proudly showcases the works of influential figures. The Gallery displays prominent figures from a variety of fields. With historical figures, it also includes individuals from science, sports and the arts.

The art found in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is mostly composed of…

  • contemporary art (art which is of the current moment or with the last couple decades)
  • modern art (art which is roughly around the 20th century and today).

The art of this gallery consists of the early twentieth century artists such as André Derain and Pierre Bonnard with the style of expressionists and modern British art.

  • Expressionism art. (creates a distorted or skewed perception of the world to convey emotions instead of showing reality.)
  • Modern British art. (art influenced by the styles of the late twentieth century.)

In its Modern Two you can find the gallery’s big piece of work called “Vulcan” which is a 7.3 metres high sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi and his studio of artists.

Featured exhibitions and displays

The Galleries often feature a changing array of exhibitions and displays. Among many others, you can view the Isaac Julien exhibition, open till October 2021. The Ray Harryhausen exhibition features some of his greatest cinematic pieces.
The Joan Eardley and Catterline in the Modern One building is another must-see. The display celebrates the life and works of the 20th-century artist. Along with her artwork, a map follows the iconic locations of her work.

Fun for families, whatever the weather!

Family activities are an integral part of the Gallery’s experience. The grounds are open to many such activities that engage the whole family. These include the Sculpture Trail, which offers an educative experience. You also get the chance to create your own art.
Art stomps for children let them express their creative freedom. Sculpture-hunting and outdoor art-making are just a couple of its exciting features. Sensory sculpture stories let you go on a sensory exploration around featured artwork.

Creature Feature Play Area

The Creature Feature Play Area is a cinematic adventure, featuring Ray Harryhausen. This play area is home to flying saucers and Cyclops. Sliding down a dragon’s tail, the rope bridge offers a tricky pass. Movie cameras are specially set up to view the Gallery beasts.

Featured Artwork

The Master of the Universe sculpture by Edoardo Paolozzi is on display on the grounds. Inside you can find the Wave sculpture, by Barbara Hepworth. This Cornwall landscape-inspired piece is a truly remarkable work. It is a hallmark of abstract art and mathematical models.

Historic prints and drawings

The Gallery houses many historical paintings and drawings, with regular updates. These include The Painting Lesson by Henri Matisse, an exemplary work by the colourist. Threatening Weather by Rene Magritte is a phenomenal view. The Exploding Raphaelesque Head by Salvador Dali is a must-visit.

Featured artists

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is featuring a wide variety of artists. At any given moment it is known to display the works of many renowned names. A wide variety of artists are featured here, displaying modern-era works.

Dalí to Jenny Saville

While a complete glossary would run pretty long, the Gallery has much to offer. From the awe-inspiring works of Dali and Jenny Saville to Kenneth Armitage and the works of Jean Arp. Hendrick Avercamp’s works can also be seen, along with John Armstrong. Diane Arbus is also featured at the Gallery, among many others.

Cafés and shops

Refreshments are a major part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art tour. There are many places that offer both food and keepsakes. Both the Modern One and Modern Two galleries feature shops. These offer a variety of Scottish memorabilia.

Pop-up café

The pop-up café next to Modern Two specialises in sweet treats and snacks. These can always be paired with refreshing cups of coffee. It is open daily to offer refreshments as you tour the galleries and grounds.

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Café Modern One

The Café Modern One offers a modern interior with a beautiful terrace and garden. Seasonal salads are on the menu, as well as soups and sandwiches. Traditional baking produces some delicious treats. All food is freshly prepared on the premises.

Paolozzi’s Kitchen

This recently opened restaurant at Modern Two offers a Paolozzi theme. Classic Italian food mixed with seasonal, locally-grown ingredients offers a delicious taste. To top it off, cakes and scones are always on the menu.

Keeping you safe on your visit

The current situation regarding the pandemic requires some safety measures. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has taken steps to ensure your safety. These are in addition to contactless features available all over the gallery. Sanitisation stations and mandatory SOPs are strictly followed.

Book online

The Gallery offers online booking services as part of visitor slots. This is an effort in reducing direct contact, and help you plan your visit in advance. You will be able to book your tour in advance in timed slots.

Timed visitor slots

To avoid large gatherings, timed visitor slots have been introduced. These offer specific slots to visitors via booking. It is an effort to keep the number of people present controlled and limit the risk of illness.

Getting here

Located near Princes Street, the Gallery is pretty easy to access via different modes. It also features bike tracks for those wishing to make more of their adventure.

By train

The Gallery is easily accessible via train. The Haymarket Station is located just 15 minutes away from the Gallery. It is an easy distance away, from Palmerston Place onto Belford Road. Google maps directions are also available for first-time visitors.

By car

If you are driving in, parking is easily available at Modern One and Modern Two. However, parking for longer than 8 hours is not ideal, and overnight parking is not available. A fee between £3-£6 is charged.

By luxury chauffeur

Your luxury chauffeur can pick you up from your hotel or place of your choosing. In comfortable cars, you can enjoy a guided tour on your way to the Gallery. Your chauffeur will be available to drive you back or show you around at all times.

Locations and availability

Open daily from 10am to 5pm

Both of the Moderns are on the Belford Rd across from each other. The two galleries are a 15-minute walk from Princes Street.

There is a gallery bus which run between the Modern Gallery, National Gallery and Portrait gallery.

Car metres are available for those who wish to travel by car.

Cafe Modern One – open Monday-Friday from 9am to 4.30pm and open from 10 am on the weekends.

Cafe Modern Two – opens daily from 10am to 4.30pm

There is also a gift shop at each of the modules with art related merchandise like books and gifts like post cards.

Features found on site

Modern 1

  • Information desk
  • Wi-Fi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Hearing loop
  • Accessible toilets
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • On-site parking (£2)
  • Disabled parking
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack

Modern 2

  • Wi-Fi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Hearing loop
  • Accessible toilets
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • On-site parking (£2)
  • Disabled parking
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack

To find out more about the attractions and places to see we have created a list to help you decide on some the best that Edinburgh has to offer Edinburgh Tourist Attractions.


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