Top museum cafes in Scotland

Yesterday on twitter I stumbled across a blog which reviews cake in Edinburgh, called Cake Quest! The most recent post reviewed some tasty looking Carrot and Cinnamon Cake  at Dovecot Studios and this got me thinking about museum cafes.

I’ve always enjoy sampling museum and gallery cafes as part of my visit. I remember as a Museum Studies students we were always encouraged to test out cafes on our field trips. In a recent post Rebecca Atkinson, Museums Association, argued that visitors expect museums to have a cafe to create a holistic experience. I was even informed by Jilly Burns (NMS) on twitter that the minutes from Scottish Museums Federation in the 1980s include reports on museum cafes and even a national scone scoring list!

Scottish Museums Federation event – curators enjoying the Riverside Museum cafe, just before opening to the public.

So it’s clear that it’s not only the public who like museum cafes, curators do too! With that in mind I’ve created a list of  my (current) favorite museum and gallery cafes in Scotland (in no particular order):

  1. Scottish National Portrait Gallery: This cafe has the perfect combination of great food in a nice atmosphere. I’ve enjoyed salads, fancy paninis, and scones in this cafe. I like the fact that artworks I remember hanging in the gallery prior to refurbishment, adorn the walls. My only criticism is I couldn’t get the free wi-fi to work, and phone signal was really poor, so I  was unable to tweet about what a great time I having!
  2. McManus, Dundee: This cafe is quite large in size, which is great for the busier periods. I enjoyed the table service and the tasty selection of tray bakes. It also caught my eye that they serve a breakfast and brunch menu, which is a great way to start off the weekend.
  3. The Fruitmarket Gallery: I’ve been here a couple of times and always been really impressed with the wide range of tasty things on the menu and the daily specials too. The setting for the cafe, with the massive window wall, makes it a great place for people watching. I also enjoy having a little browse in the shop on the way out too!
  4. St Andrews Museum: this cafe made it onto the list for sentimental reasons, as I’ve spent many a lunch time here. The menu is a bit more basic, but very reasonably priced compared to some other cafes. The service is always really friendly too. The only down side is it’s really hard to get a table, as it’s always packed and the regulars like to book a table. However, the museum has a nice garden area out the back, so if it’s sunny you can enjoy your cake alfresco!
  5. I’ve left this one blank for you to decide! I know there will be loads of you out there with strong views about the best cafes. Maybe you want to champion your own museum cafe? Do your volunteers bake cakes which are out of this world? Visited somewhere recently and really enjoyed it? I’d love to hear what everyone’s thoughts are. Please join in the conversion by commenting on this post, or tweeting me @MususeumsGalScot. You’ll get extra points for sharing tasty looking pictures of cake!
Super tasty cheese scones sitting in the sunshine outside the Scottish National Gallery

Update: Jenni Fuchs kindly shared the Museum140 report from the twitter event #MusCafe earlier this year which discussed museum cafes around the world.  It contains some interesting findings about where to find the best cakes!



  1. I would like to add NMS’s cafe for their wonderful scones, sandwiches and selection of teas to this list. And Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Modern Two cafe does lovely antipasti platters.

    It looks like Claire and I are conducting some sort of risk assessment on Riversides Menu – I think I had a pie!

    – Jennifer

  2. 1. Rozelle House afternoon tea. Lots of little tray bake. 2. Almond Valley the best scones ever 3. NMS millionaire shortbread

    Loving the cake talk Amy!

    • Not been to Rozelle House, but sounds like I might have to give it a try! I did really like the cafe at Almond Valley too, but regrettably didn’t sample the scones.

  3. The National Portrait Gallery Cafe is a winner! I think Jenn and I should return to the Riverside to continue our risk assessment…

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