Edinburgh might be famous for its whisky distilleries, the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, and its castle, not to mention the Fringe festival (for all the comedy fans out there like me), but little people know about its contemporary art. 

I have studied in the Scottish city and I have been back there a few times over the years, and yet I didn’t know much about Edinburgh’s contemporary art scene until recently. 

Edinburgh has a perfectly divided city center, with an Old city developing along the so-called Royal Mile, a mile-long road departing from the Edinburgh Castle, and a newer part of the city, along Prices Street, built in more recent years. With its cobbled streets, narrow passages, and many ghost stories, Edinburgh is famous for its noble past and long history. 

Yet, in recent years, it has been developing a thrilling contemporary art scene, with museums and art centers popping around the city and many art spots and artist-run spaces enriching the offer. 

And since Scotland is one of my favorite destinations for summer, I decided to play a little bit ahead of time and start giving you some ideas and inspiration. I can’t be the only one tired of the winter weather, can I? 
So, here are all the destinations you really shouldn’t miss if you are looking for contemporary art in Edinburgh. 

contemporary art Edinburgh - national gallery
Grousebeater2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Clearly at the top of the list, this magnificent museum concentrates primarily on modern art, but also hosts temporary exhibitions of more contemporary artists. The Scottish National Gallery actually has several locations in Edinburgh and this one, dedicated to modern art, is a little bit out of the center, but completely worth the visit. It has two different neoclassical buildings and a shuttle bus to connect them. Here you will find works by the major modern and contemporary international artists as well as local ones. The entrance is free to the collections, but some exhibitions may require a ticket. 

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 
75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR, United Kingdom

Info, ticket and opening hours: nationalgalleries.org

City Art Centre

Another public institution, the City Art Centre promotes Scottish art through several temporary exhibitions hosted on its six floors. The center, right in front of Edinburgh’s main station, Waverley Station, is easy to reach and can be included in any Edinburgh tour, whether you are in the Old or New town. Being a public center included in the city’s Museums & Galleries network, the entrance is almost always free (but may vary for some exhibitions), so you can always pop inside to have a look at the latest exhibits. 

Come here for historic and contemporary Scottish visual and applied arts, as well as photography. But most of all, visit the City Art Center to dive deeper into Edinburgh’s art scene.

City Art Centre
2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE

Info, tickets and opening hours: edinburghmuseums.org.uk

ECA – Edinburgh College of Art 

Part of the University of Edinburgh, ECA is not just another art school, but rather it is perhaps the most famous art school in Scotland. Together with courses and teaching, it offers temporary exhibitions year-round, whether they are graduation group exhibitions, students exhibitions, or guest artists shows. It is most definitely the perfect place to savor what contemporary art is like in the Scottish capital, what are the latest trends, and what emerging artists are reflecting upon around here. Not to mention that the school is located in the Old Town, just steps away from the Castle and the Cathedral, and can be a great counterpart to all the medieval buildings and stories you will hear while visiting this area! 

The University of Edinburgh, ECA – Edinburgh College of Art
74 Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9DF

Info and opening hours: eca.ed.ac.uk

contemporary art Edinburgh - Rice Talbot Gallery
Talbot Rice Gallery building and exhibition views | Photos courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery

Talbot Rice Gallery

Still part of the University of Edinburgh, Talbot Rice Gallery is the public art gallery of the university. It serves as a meeting point for local and international artists, that can come together and get to know each other in this space. The gallery has a rich program of solo and group exhibitions, dealing with pressing themes and ideas of our times. Being one of Scotland’s leading contemporary art platforms, it offers a program for Scottish artists and promotes and produces exhibitions for Edinburgh’s festivals. Check the exhibitions on display to catch up with the latest ideas and experimentations and to discover the work of the best Scottish artists nowadays. 

Talbot Rice Gallery
South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL

Info and opening hours: trg.ed.ac.uk

contemporary art Edinburgh - Ingleby Gallery
Ingleby Gallery – Exhibition view | Photo courtesy Ingleby Gallery

Ingleby Gallery

The only commercial gallery I am going to mention here is Ingleby Gallery. To be honest, Edinburgh has many valuable galleries and small art shops that you should definitely visit to get to know local artists. I chose Ingleby, though, as it is the gallery representing one of my favorite artists and one I had the pleasure to work with many years ago, Charles Avery. 

The gallery was founded in 1998, and nowadays it maintains an ambitious program of exhibitions and off-site projects by established and emerging artists. Over the past 20 years, it has become one of the leading galleries in the UK, representing both local and international artists. Come here for well-curated exhibitions hosted in a historic building and to discover your next favorite Scottish artist!

Ingleby Gallery
33 Barony Street, Edinburgh EH3 6NX

Info and opening hours: inglebygallery.com

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