Rooftop Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Edinburgh, Scotland

Rooftop Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland

There are plenty of wonderful panoramic vistas in Edinburgh, but not many are hidden smack in the middle of the Old Town.  

The National Museum of Scotland has been enchanting children and adults alike ever since it opened in the late 1800s, and these days it’s one of the most visited attractions in the country. But not all visitors know about its hidden gem.

The grand, airy Victorian building is home to thousands of artifacts from around the globe and natural world collections. And following the opening of the adjoining modern building in 1998, visitors can also learn about Scotland’s long and colourful history, inventions through the ages, plus science, technology and design. The museum is home to both a T-Rex skeleton cast and Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell.

When you visit, don’t forget to take the lift all the way to the 7th floor. You’ll exit onto the rooftop terrace, well worth checking out for its panoramic view. Sure, there are wonderful vantage points from plenty of places in Edinburgh, not least the city’s seven hills, but not many are slap bang in the middle of the Old Town. Unless you’re lucky enough to be staying in accommodation nearby, this is one of the best places to enjoy a view right in amongst Auld Reekie’s rooftops and to the busy streets below, and to admire the wide vistas across to the Edinburgh Castle, the New Town, the Braid Hills and the Firth of Forth. You even get an elevated peek into Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The terrace was designed by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy in honor of Edinburgh-born James Hutton, known as the founder of modern geology. Sandstone blocks sit on the decked platform and plant life along the edge of the terrace represents different aspects of Scotland’s landscape, from coastal plants to grassland vegetation.

The minimalist design helps put the focus on the dazzling views from all four sides of the terrace. It’s a great place to escape the crowds below during the tourist months and to get a different perspective on the city. And, since in any season in Edinburgh there is often a stiff breeze coming in from the coast, it will almost certainly blow away any cobwebs.

Know Before You Go

Enter the Museum using the Tower entrance (at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge). Take the Terrace Lift, situated at the back of the Kingdom of Scots gallery on Level 1, to the 7th floor.