Visit the ZOO for Free on St Andrews Day - 30 Nov 08

When: 30 November 2008 ONLY
Where: Edinburgh Zoo, Costorphine Road
FREE entry on St Andrews Day, 9am-4.30pm

Get closer to over 1000 amazing animals at Edinburgh Zoo; meet the UK's only koalas and visit our new chimpanzee enclosure, Budongo Trail.

As part of St Andrew's Day many visitor attractions will open for free or offer a discounted entry price. Castles, museums, gardens and abbeys across Scotland will take part in this joint initiative between The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland and the Association of Visitor Attractions (ASVA).

For more info and other offers go to the Visit for Free page on the Scottish Government website.

Concerts at the University

University Concert Series

A series of lunch-hour chamber recitals on Tuesdays and organ recitals on Fridays, plus the occasional evening concert during the academic year. Many of the concerts are free to attend, including the following forthcoming concerts:

31 Oct 2008 at 1.10pm
Lunchtime concert
1.10pm. Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Square, Edinburgh. John Kitchen organ. Music by Russell, C.P.E. Bach and J.S. Bach.

04 Nov 2008 at 1.10pm
Lunchtime Concert
1.10pm. St. Cecilia`s Hall, Niddry Street, Edinburgh. Michele Benuzzi harpsichord. Music by Froberger, Ritter, J.S. Bach and W.F. Bach.
Download the concert programme booklet here.

Walking the Walls - 14 November 2008

When: Friday 14 November at 2.30pm
Where: Meet at NLS George IV Building
FREE but booking is essential.

Graeme Cruickshank leads a walk around the old town walls of Edinburgh. Discover surviving stretches of the three main systems – the King's Wall, the Flodden Wall, and the Telfer Wall.

Jean Muir Exhibition - NMS, 7 Nov to 15 March 2009

When: Friday 7 November - Sunday 15 March 2009, 10am-5pm
Where: Level 3, National Museums Scotland, Chambers Street
FREE Entrance

Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon

This exhibition will display highlights from her amazing career in fashion design for the very first time, using material from a collection that was donated to the National Museums Scotland.

The British designer held a unique place in the international fashion scene, from her emergence in the 1960s to her death in 1995. In Paris, she was 'the new queen of the dress' and in New York 'the jewel in the crown of British fashion'. To her customers she was 'addictive' and in her own words, 'evolutionary, not revolutionary'.
For more information, visit the Jean Muir page on the NMS website.

Image (c) NMS

William Littlejohn Exhibition - RSA 1 Nov to 14 Dec

When: Saturday 1 November to Sunday 14 December
Where: Royal Scottish Academy Lower Galleries, The Mound (website)
FREE entrance

William Littlejohn RSA

This retrospective exhibition charts the career of the late William Littlejohn, who gave the entire contents of his studio to the Royal Scottish Academy after his death in 2006. His collection includes oil paintings, watercolours and drawings.

Open daily, Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sunday 12noon - 5pm.

The Intimate Portrait Exhibition - Portrait Gallery, 25 Oct to 1 Feb 2009

When: 25th October 2008 - 1st February 2009 10am-5pm
Where: Portrait Gallery, Queen Street

This beatifully laid-out exhibition is the first ever major exhibition held in Britain to focus on the more intimate types of Georgian and Regency portraiture. It includes drawings, pastels, miniatures and watercolours. In total, nearly 200 works have been brought together, from the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Museum. For more information, visit the Intimate Portrait page on the website of the National Galleries of Scotland.

When you do visit this exhibition, make sure you do not miss the award-winning scones in the Portrait Gallery cafe!

Image (c) NGS

Money Museum, HBOS, Mound

Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm
Weekends/Holidays: 1-5pm
HBOS Headquarters
The Mound, Edinburgh

Ever seen a note of £1,000,000? Well, that and everything else you have always wanted to know about money is on show at the Museum on the Mound, which is part of the HBOS Headquarters just off the Royal Mile.

Visit the website of the Museum on the Mound.

November Highlights Tours National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland offers FREE tours of their permanent collections. Booking is not necessary, simply meet at the main entrance.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Saturday 8 November 2008, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (45 mins)

National Gallery of Scotland
Saturday 29 November 2008, 2pm and 3pm (45 mins)

Visit website.

Granton Art Centre Guided Tour

When: 12 noon & 3.30pm every Tuesday
Where: 242 West Granton Road, Edinburgh - Granton Art Centre
FREE but advance booking is essential, phone 0131 467 0466 by 11am on Monday.

The National Galleries of Scotland have a large art store in Granton, which you can visit on Tuesdays by appointment only. This 30-minute tour offers an opportunity to discover how a state-of-the-art picture and sculpture store actually works, and gives a chance to see some of the masterworks not on display.

You can get to the Granton Art Centre on Lothian buses 8 or 16.

Image: (c) National Galleries of Scotland

Edinburgh Doors Open Day - 27 September 2008

When: Saturday 27 September
Where: Venues throughout the city.
FREE access!

This is your chance to explore some of Edinburgh's most architecturally, culturally and socially significant buildings. From heritage landmarks to the newest of the capital's architecture, on Doors Open Day you get free access to properties that are either not usually open to the public, or would normally charge an entry fee. These include the University's Old College, Lauriston Castle, the Royal Observatory and Mansfield Traquair.

View the online brochure or visit the Cockburn Association for more information.

Free events at the National Library of Scotland

Where: National Library, George IV Bridge
When: dates in September
FREE but book on 0131 623 385 or

Wednesday 3 September, 7pm
"Better than a Gin and Tonic: Scottish Readers Remember"

Linda Fleming introduces Scottish Readers Remember - an oral history research project at Napier University exploring how Scots born before 1945 have made reading a part of their everyday lives.

Sunday 7 September, 11am - 12:30pm
Family Event "Books at Brunch"

Have a bite to eat, and share your favourite Scottish poems, stories and books. Bring along something to read aloud to others, or relax and discover new favourites. With storytellers Ewan McVicar and Judy Paterson.

Wednesday 17 September, 7pm
"Favourite Scottish Books"

Discuss your favourite Scottish literature at this informal event with tea and coffee. Read your favourite piece or just listen to others. With Ewan McVicar and Margaret Bennett.

Tuesday 30 September, 7pm
"An off-centre, centre of the universe"

Alastair Mann travels through a historical journey of the first 500 years of the printed book in Scotland, charting the highs and lows of the Scottish book trade, from the arrival of the press in 1508 to the uncertainties of the present.

Free Fringe Music Festival

Where: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street
When: 3-24 August, daily at 12.45, weekends also at 13:45
FREE entrance!
Every lunchtime during the Fringe, the National Museum of Scotland will host free performances by some of today's best Scottish musicians. From Highland dancing and Gaelic song to a traditional boy band from Tiree, check them out at the National Museum of Scotland, it's free! (Picture: 'Scottish boyband' Skerryvore on Tuesday 12 July, as seen from the balcony on level 5)

For the full programme, go to the Music Festival page on the NMS website.

Fringe Sunday - 10 August 2008

When: 10 August 2008 from 11am
Where: Meadows, Edinburgh

Fringe Sunday is a huge free garden party on the Meadows, a large park just to the south of the city centre/university area. This yearly event will feature an extensive programme of free part-performances of hundreds of Fringe shows, music, art and children's activities including workshops and family performances. There's also food, ranging from an array of burger vans to quality organic produce on the Farmers Market.


If the weather is good, this event attracts crowds of over 200,000, but there's plenty space for everyone so enjoy!!

Fringe Festival - Royal Mile

Where: Royal Mile, Old Town, Edinburgh
When: 3-25 August, all day!

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe the central section of the Royal Mile is transformed into one huge street theatre featuring acrobats, musicians and lots of other entertainers. You will be able to see short excerpts of Fringe acts promoting their shows and generally soak up the festival atmosphere!

Free Fringe Comedy

When: 3-25 August 2008
Where: Various venues including: Standing Order #64 (George Street), The Phoenix #286 (Broughton Street) and Nicol Edwards #156 (Niddry Street)

Many Fringe shows are now a little expensive for the sometimes hit-and-miss experience of experimental comedy. Fortunately, the Free Fringe is back again this year, with over 120 FREE shows across Edinburgh. For the full programme, see the Free Fringe website.

Extremes - Curator's Talk

When: Friday 28 August at 2pm (1 hour)
Where: National Museums Scotland, Chambers Street
FREE, but pre-book on 0131 225 7534

The Tlicho people of North-western Canada live in one of the most extreme climates on earth. Their lives are shaped by the seasons and how they use the resources from their land.

In conjunction with the exhibition 'Extremes: Life in Subarctic Canada', Curator Chantal Knowles will give a talk in which she explores Tlicho crafts and techniques. There will also be an opportunity to handle some tools and materials.

Space is limited, so you MUST book in advance.

See also the exhibition: 'Extremes: Life in Subarctic Canada'.
Image (c) NMS

Kaleidoscope - Works on Paper (RSA from 15 July 2008)

When: 15 July - 21 Sept 2008,
daily 10am-5pm
Where: Royal Scottish Academy building, entrance via Princes Street Gardens
FREE Entry

From 15 July, the National Galleries of Scotland will show a selection of seventy photographs and prints acquired through purchase, gift and bequest over the last few years. Works will range from Italian Renaissance to contemporary Scotland.

Needless to say I haven't seen it yet but I will post a quick review as soon as it opens.

Scotland: A Changing Nation (National Museum of Scotland)

When: From 11 July 2008, open daily 10am-5pm
Where: Level 6, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street
Entrance: FREE

It has been several years in the making, but the top floor of the National Museum of Scotland is reopening on 11 July with a new permanent exhibition entitled 'Scotland - A Changing Nation'.

Based around five themes - war, emigration, industry, politics and entertainment - the gallery brings together many fascinating objects and perspectives from all over Scotland, creating a thought-provoking glimpse into Scottish social history of the last 100 years.

Image (c) NMS

For more information, visit

Institut Français d'Ecosse - Fête de la Musique

When: Saturday 21 June 2008
Where: Institut Français d'Ecosse, 13 Randolph Crescent (5pm - Midnight)
Danish Institute, 3 Doune Terrace (3pm - 5pm / classical stage)
Ainslie Place Gardens (5pm - 10pm).

Every year since 1982, the Institut Français d'Ecosse has celebrated the Fête de la Musique in Edinburgh. This 2008 edition promises to be even more diverse with the Alliance Française of Glasgow, the Danish, Italian and Goethe Institutes all participating. A band from each of these four countries will perform on 21 June.

According to the French tradition, the Fête de la Musique is open to all amateurs and professional musicians, and all artistic forms with no preference given to any particular genre.

For more information visit

John Murray Archive - Exhibition at NLS

Location: National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge
When: Permanent exhibition

Monday to Friday: 10am-8pm
Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 2-5pm

Image (c) NLS

This free permanent exhibition in the National Library building on George IV Bridge is a great example of how state-of-the-art exhibition technology can be used succesfully to bring to life the work and lives of historic figures.

John Murray was an 18th century publisher who corresponded with a wide range of writers and thinkers, including Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and David Livingstone. This exhibition draws on material from the John Murray Archive and highlights a changing selection of the publisher's most influential contacts through clever use of new media, costumes, objects and of course the letters and manuscripts. Well worth a visit!

Live Music Now: Sax Ecosse

Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street
When: Thursday 26 June 2008, 6.00-6.30pm
FREE, no booking required, unticketed.
Location: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street
When: Sunday 29 June 2008, 11.00-12:00am
FREE, no booking required, unticketed.

Saxophone quartet Sax Ecosse will perform a FREE short concert in the beautiful main hall of the Portrait Gallery inspired by the Vanity Fair Portraits exhibition. They will also do a promenade-style performance in the National Museum, playing a selection of jazz greats. In association with Live Music Now Scotland.

Highlights Tours - National Gallery of Scotland (NGS)

The National Gallery of Scotland offers FREE tours of its permanent collection, focusing on key paintings from all parts of the collection. Booking is not necessary, simply meet at the main entrance of the National Gallery on the Mound. (link to map)

National Gallery of Scotland
Highlights Tour

Saturday 28 June 2008, 2.00pm and 3.00pm (45 mins)
Saturday 26 July 2008, 2.00pm and 3.00pm (45 mins)
Saturday 30 August 2008, 2.00pm and 3.00pm (45 mins)

Visit website.

Highlights Tours - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (NGS)

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers FREE tours of its permanent collections, spanning the period of the 1890s to the present day. Booking is not necessary, simply meet at the main entrance.
(link to map)

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Highlights Tour

Saturday 14 June 2008, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (45 mins)
Saturday 12 July 2008, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (45 mins)
Saturday 9 August 2008, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (45 mins)

Visit website.

Extremes - until 5 October (National Museums Scotland)

Location: 3rd floor, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street
Open: Daily, 10am-5pm until 5 October
FREE entry

This little gem of an exhibition examines the ways of the life of the Dene (or Tlicho) communities in sub-arctic Canada. The exhibition partly consists of historical material that was collected by Scottish fur traders in the mid-19th century, and partly of contemporary material purchased recently. But most striking are the stunningly beautiful large-scale photographs that set the scene for the exhibition.

An added (unintentional?) dimension to all this is the smell of smoked hide through the real leather that is also on display (and for touching!)

Royal Botanic Garden

Location: Entrances on Inverleith Row and Inverleith Place
Open: Daily from 10am, until 7pm (April-Sept), 6pm (March & Oct) or 4pm (Nov-Feb)
Entrance is FREE but there is a charge for the glasshouses

The Botanic Garden is a beautiful green oasis only a 15 minute downhill walk or a short bus ride (no 8, 17, 23 and 27 all go past) north of the New Town. It is made up of a large number of smaller gardens, including a rock garden, Chinese garden, arboretum, azalea garden and large herbacious borders. There are also several glass houses, one of which is free to enter.


The Garden also hosts a range of events, including art exhibitions in Inverleith House (see below), music performances and guided walks. More information on all of these can be found on the Garden's extensive website. In August, look out especially for festival shows that are held there, because the setting for these performances is truly fantastic.

In summer, the gardens are very well used by the people of Edinburgh for picnics, sunbathing or just relaxing with friends in a beautiful and stress-free environment.

National Museum of Scotland

Location: Chambers Street, corner George IV Bridge (map)
Open: Daily, 10am - 5pm
Entrance is FREE

Completed in 1998, the National Museum of Scotland is the perfect place to find out about the history of Scotland and the country's material culture. If you want to do it properly, you start in the basement and work your way up chronologically from prehistoric times to the present day (the top floor, which deals with modern Scotland, will reopen in July 2008).

Don't miss the Connect gallery, an interactive science space in the adjacent Royal Museum that will remain open throughout the Royal Museum's refurbishment. The special exhibitions gallery on level 3 is also free to enter.


Every day several FREE guided tours start from Hawthornden Court on the ground floor.

Intro tour: 10:30, 12:30 and 15:30 (30 mins)
Highlights tour: 11:30 and 13:30 (1 hr)
Themed tour: 14:30 (1 hr)

Eating and Drinking

There's a small coffee corner in on the ground floor. The Tower Restaurant is a pricey but high-quality restaurant that is also open outside Museum opening hours.

Roof-top garden

Finally, for one of the best views of the city in all of Edinburgh, make sure to visit the roof-top garden on the 7th floor (there is a lift, or stairs from the 5th floor). It's a haven of peace and a brilliant space to eat a sandwich, read a book or enjoy the sunshine.