Best free world-class art to enjoy in Edinburgh and Glasgow

A is for affordable art

credit: Ingrid Calame, installation view © the artist and Ruth Clark

With a range of free galleries and exhibitions across both cities, there's plenty of scope to have a very arty day out on a shoestring budget

In Edinburgh, entry to all of the National Galleries doesn't cost a penny. The Scottish National Gallery on the Mound has one of the best fine art collections in the world, and is open daily (10am–6pm). Here, you'll find masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Constable, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and many others. There are some special exhibitions which come with an entry fee, but you can still wander round the main halls and take in all that ancient arty goodness.

The National Portrait Gallery is on Queen Street, and is also open daily (10am–6pm). The gallery was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland's heroes and heroines, and has portraits of everyone from Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Burns, to Patti Smith and Muriel Spark. Over near Dean Village, the National Gallery of Modern Art (open daily, 10am–6pm) is spread across two buildings, with an extensive collection of work by Dada and surrealist artists and work by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, alongside free and paid-for temporary exhibitions.

There are also several independent galleries worth checking out, including the Fruitmarket (daily, 11am–6pm), which is currently showing work by Tacita Dean, one of Britain's most respected and successful international artists. Plus, don't forget to swing by City Art Centre (daily, 10am–5pm), which champions both traditional and contemporary Scottish art.

In Glasgow, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (daily, 10am–5pm, except Fri & Sun, 11am–5pm) is one of the most picturesque venues around, with everything from art to animals inside its 22 impressive galleries. The city's collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Old Masters can be found in the Dutch gallery, while the French gallery features works by important artists including Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Van Gogh. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style gallery features furniture, decorative panels and light fittings from the Ingram Street Tearooms, designed by Mackintosh in 1900–1912, plus reconstructed rooms including the Ladies Luncheon Room.​ And, well, we won't go on – there are 19 more galleries filled with impressive works of international significance. Go fill your boots.

Elsewhere in the city, the Gallery of Modern Art, better known as GoMA, (open daily, times vary) has five exhibition spaces presenting a changing programme of temporary exhibitions. Cellular World is a group exhibition running until Sun 7 Oct, which explores questions of identity and individual and collective consciousness at a time of prolific social change and uncertainty, when reality can often seem more life science fiction. Inner City is running until Sun 11 Nov. This exhibition has work by Michael McMillen as the centrepiece, while artists Alberta Whittle and Mitch Miller explore our relationship with our urban environment and the often-hidden communities that inhabit it. Plus, don't forget to check out the Hunterian (open daily, times vary), which is home to the world's largest permanent display of the work of James McNeill Whistler and the largest single holding of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

A Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AG
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, an exuberant piece of Edwardian architecture, was built in 1901 to house both an art collection and Glasgow's old industrial museum, and its eclecticism is part of its appeal; few other museums can offer a stuffed…
B The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
University of Glasgow, 82 Hillhead Street, Glasgow, G12 8QQ
Scotland’s oldest public museum, The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery was founded in 1807 and it is located on the main campus of the University of Glasgow in the western part of the city. The museum houses rich collections relating to science…
C Gallery of Modern Art
Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, G1 3AH
Located on Royal Exchange Square, in William Cunninghame of Lainshaw's imposing 1778 townhouse, the Gallery of Modern Art's monumentalism is offset by the traffic cone that's usually perched on the head of the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington…
D Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR
Standing opposite Modern Two (formerly Dean Gallery), the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One is fronted by the giant Landform sculpture by Charles Jencks, a stepped, serpentine mound reflected in three crescent-shaped pools of water. Inside the…
E Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two
73 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DS
Opened in 1999 in a former orphanage, the Scottish National Galleries' second modern art gallery, formerly known as the Dean Gallery, stands across the road from its partner, just outside Edinburgh’s Dean Village. Since its opening it has housed the…
F Scottish National Gallery
The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL
Stationed at the foot of the Mound, this building was designed by William Henry Playfair in 1850 to be a 'temple erected to the Fine Arts'. Since its completion the National Gallery has been home to some of the world's finest Western art ranging from…
G Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD
One of the most magnificent buildings in the entire city, modelled on the Doges Palace in Venice, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has an impressive Gothic red sandstone façade designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. As well as classical subjects…
H City Art Centre
2 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DE
Aside from being home to one of the finest collections of Scottish art in the UK, Edinburgh’s City Art Centre hosts some of the best temporary exhibitions across fine art, photography and craft.
I The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF
The Fruitmarket is closed for redevelopment until 2020, though the bookshop is operating as a pop up stall in Waverley Mall and can be accessed via Williams and Johnson Coffee Co. Located behind Waverley train station, this world-class gallery showcases…

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