Most beautiful interiors in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh has on average 124 rainy days a year. So, if you can’t spend time outside, you might as well spend it in the most beautiful interiors of the city. To help you figure out where to go next time the weather foils your plans, here is a selection of the best interiors in Edinburgh open to the public.

Dundas House, Telling Hall, Peddie and Kinnear

A star skylight dome of a bank at Dundas House, Edinburgh
View of the ceiling of the telling hall in the Dundas House

Built in 1772 by William Chambers for one of the wealthiest man in Scotland, Sir Laurence Dundas, the Dundas house is still today one of the most impressive houses of the New Town. However, the real treasure appears when you step inside the building and enter inside the hall. The “telling hall” was added in 1857, a couple of decades after the house was purchased by the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was where bank workers, or tellers, welcomed and impressed their clients.

Designed by local practice “Peddie and Kinnear”, the hall is composed of 4 wide arches supporting a magnificent dome pierced with glazed stars. Pendentives on each corner designed by James Steell represent each Commerce, Agriculture, Navigation and the Arts.

Today the building still belongs to RBS and is open to the public as a regular branch during banking hours. If you are near St Andrew’s Square, I recommend you have a look to have your head in the stars.

National Museum of Scotland, Main Hall, Francis Fowke

Main hall of the National Museum of Scotland

Designed by the naval architect Captain Francis Fowke in 1861, the inside of Royal Scottish Museum draws inspiration from the grandeur of London’s Crystal Palace. The main hall is ringed with two storey galleries supported on highly decorative cast-iron columns underneath a spectacular rooflight. 

With a free entrance for all visitors, the museum is a great space to wander in. The numerous exhibitions offer entertainment for the whole family. Moreover, the café, situated on the first-floor balcony, is a great place to just sit and relax in.

If you have time you should also visit the roof top gardens, on top of the modern extension of the Museum, which offer some of the best views of the city.

Scottish Parliament, Debating Chamber, EMBT

Debating chamber (Image: Scottish Parliament)

In 1997, the Scottish people voted to finally have their own parliament. The international competition was won by a Catalan architect Enric Miralles. He delivered a building “centered on reflecting the characteristics of the country and its inhabitants”. As controversial as Miralles’ design is, the debating chamber is almost unanimously recognised as the pinnacle of its designer’s talent.

There is no afterthought to the design. From the steel and oak roof structure to the custom-made steel joint, everything is given attention. Even the desks and seats are designed by Miralles himself and made by a local carpenter.

The parliament is free and open to public. You are permitted to roam around and visit the chamber and can even witness debates when the parliament is in session from Tuesday to Thursday (granted you acquire a free ticket).

National Portrait Gallery, Entrance Hall, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Hall Architecture
Scottish National Portrait Gallery entrance hall

Built in time when history was told through tales of heroes, the National Portrait Gallery still holds today an impressive collection of portraits of Scots. Commissioned by John Ritchie Findlay, a philanthropist and chief proprietor of the Scotsman newspaper, the building was designed by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. As you walk along Queen Street, the neo-gothic red sandstone building stands out as one of the city’s landmarks.  

But once again, it is the inside that holds the most impressive sight. The entrance hall is constituted of murals relating the Scottish history. Beautiful friezes depict the most famous Scots as a ‘visual encyclopaedia’.

The museum is free and is open every day. The main hall is a great place to discover the history of Scotland and its great protagonists.

The Dome, The Grill Room, David Rhind

Dome's Grill Room Interior (Image: Brewmook)

The site on which the Dome stands was originally planned for the Royal College of Physicians by James Craig. It was later acquired by the Commercial Bank in 1843, Craig’s building demolished, and the bank was erected as the only freestanding structure on George Street. Designed by David Rhind, the former bank is recognisable by its Graeco-Roman temple front.

Today the Dome hosts many different restaurants and bars but the most impressive one is the Grill room, situated in the old telling hall. Twin staircases frame the space with gilded balusters ascending to the first floor. The place is beautifully decorated around Christmas and is perfect for a special occasion.

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