Scotland is a country renowned for its landscape and scenery. However, it is also home to some of the most impressive architectural wonders in the world. As part of the year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, we’ve put together our top 5 Scottish architectural wonders to visit.

The Scottish Parliament Building

The home of the Scottish Parliament is one of Scotland’s most unique pieces of modern architecture. Situated in the heart of the old town, it features the capital’s most beautiful backdrop with spectacular views of Arthur’s seat. The site was previously occupied by a Scottish and Newcastle brewery, located next to the Royal Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Park in one of Edinburgh’s most historical locations.

Photo credit: VisitScotland

The overall concept for the design of the building focuses on the relationship between the parliament, its immediate surroundings and the landscape, a complement to Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags. Opened in 2004, the building is accessible to the general public and entry is free of charge, including guided tours where you can discover Scottish history, art, literature and architecture.

Closest youth hostel: Edinburgh Central

National Museum of Scotland


Photo credit: VisitScotland

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the most visited museums and galleries in the world. A combination of two separate buildings, the museum is housed in a magnificent Victorian building designed by Robert Matheson and Francis Fowke dating as far back as 1861. The more prominent other half of the building dates from 1998 and was designed by architecture firm Benson & Forsyth in a style which is reminiscent of a Scottish castle and Le Corbusier monastery.

The design of the new National Museum is both contemporary and traditional, inspired by national building traditions and character of its surroundings. A stark contrast to neighbouring buildings, the new museum of Scotland won the Building of the Year award in 1999. The museum is now 150 years old, however, it has since retained a lot of its distinctive characters making it a top British historical landmark.

Closest youth hostel: Edinburgh Central

Pier Arts Centre

Scottish architectural brilliance isn’t limited to the big cities! Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney is another masterpiece, a bold fusion of old and new. It sits on the shores of Stromness acting as a welcoming passage to the Island. This is a very small but exciting art gallery and museum, it is also home to some of the best collections of British fine art.
The building consists of three distinctive characteristics, a building that is part of Victoria Street and two parallel buildings that extend from the street towards the sea. The original pier building holds the collections while the new building serves as a temporary gallery space along with the collections archive and service area.

Photo credit: VisitScotland

The buildings have undergone major redevelopment in recent times, winning Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s Doolan Award for the Best Building in Scotland 2007. The centre also holds exhibitions all year round with plenty of events opened to the public.

Closest youth hostel: Kirkwall

Riverside Museum

A multi award winning museum, Riverside is situated on the banks of River Clyde, with over 3,000 objects on display at any given time, detailing Glasgow’s industrial heritage. Designed by world famous architect Zaha Hadid, the building is one of Scotland’s most outstanding contemporary pieces of architecture.

Photo credit: VisitScotland

The concept for its overall design is a symbolisation of the dynamic relationship between Glasgow and the ship-building, seafaring and industrial legacy of the River Clyde. The building has a 36 metre-high glazed frontage overlooking the River Clyde and eye catching zig-zag rooftop.

Closest youth hostel: Glasgow

Perth Concert Hall

Perth Concert hall is one of the most exciting new buildings in Scotland. Opened in 2005, the concert hall is an oval shaped building with a glazed south-facing foyer, it features a 1,200-seat auditorium which rises up in the centre to create a striking copper-topped dome. The auditorium features a movable floor which accommodates a wide range of music performances and conferences. The concert hall has also won 7 awards making it an architectural icon for an historic city like Perth. Whether you are there to see a concert, performance, or an art exhibition, this building is guaranteed to leave an impression.

Closest youth hostel: Perth (open summer 2017)

Biography for Hostelling Scotland

Scotland's best known network of youth hostels in stunning city & rural locations. As a not-for-profit organisation, we encourage guests to join Hostelling Scotland. Members enjoy a range of exclusive benefits including dual membership of Hostelling International, providing access to more than 4,000 youth hostels in over 90 countries worldwide. Membership and guest overnight income supports our charitable youth programmes.

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