Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, offers a unique blend of historical and modern attractions, making it the perfect destination for travelers of all types. With its rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and a plethora of things to do, you’re sure to fall in love with this enchanting city. Let’s dive into some of the best things to do in Edinburgh that will guarantee an unforgettable experience.
A Walk Through History: Edinburgh Castle and The Royal Mile
One of the top things to do in Edinburgh is to explore the famous Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress sits atop Castle Rock, offering panoramic views of the city. As you make your way through the castle, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Scotland’s history, visiting sites like the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
After exploring the castle, take a stroll down the Royal Mile, the most famous street in Edinburgh. Stretching from the castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, this historic street is lined with beautiful architecture, shops, and pubs. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit St. Giles’ Cathedral, a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture.
Unwind in Nature: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Holyrood Park
If you’re looking for a more tranquil experience, visiting the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh should be high on your list of things to do in Edinburgh. This beautiful oasis spans 70 acres, offering a peaceful escape from the bustling city. The garden is home to over 13,000 plant species, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
Another great way to unwind and enjoy nature is by exploring Holyrood Park, a vast green space located in the heart of the city. At the center of the park is Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that offers stunning views of the city. Hiking to the top is a popular activity for both locals and visitors, and is well worth the effort for the breathtaking views.
Experience Scottish Culture: Museums and Galleries
Edinburgh is a cultural hub, and one of the best things to do in Edinburgh is to explore its many museums and galleries. The National Museum of Scotland is a great place to start, as it houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits showcasing the country’s history and culture. With everything from ancient artifacts to exhibits on modern technology, there’s something to interest everyone.
For art lovers, the Scottish National Gallery is a must-visit. The gallery features a stunning collection of European and Scottish artwork, including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Botticelli, and Rembrandt.
Go on a Literary Adventure: The Writers’ Museum and Literary Pub Tour
Edinburgh has a rich literary history, and one of the most interesting things to do in Edinburgh is to explore this aspect of the city. Start at the Writers’ Museum, which celebrates the lives and works of three Scottish literary giants: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The museum offers a fascinating insight into their lives and the city that inspired their work.
After visiting the museum, why not embark on a Literary Pub Tour? This guided tour takes you through some of the most famous pubs in the city, where you can enjoy a pint while learning about the literary history of Edinburgh. It’s a unique way to explore the city’s literary scene while enjoying a taste of local culture.
Haunted History: Ghost Tours and Underground Vaults
For those who enjoy a good scare, one of the most thrilling things to do in Edinburgh is to embark on a ghost tour. Edinburgh is known for its haunted history, and there are numerous tours that will take you through the city’s spooky past. Some of the most popular options include the Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour, which takes you around the city in a vintage bus while sharing eerie tales, and the City of the Dead tour, which ventures into the haunted Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Another spine-chilling experience is exploring the underground vaults beneath the city streets. These vaults date back to the 18th century and have a dark history, having been used for various purposes, from housing the city’s poor to illicit activities. Mercat Tours offers an excellent guided tour of the vaults, providing an unforgettable journey into Edinburgh’s hidden history.
Delight Your Taste Buds: Sample Scottish Cuisine
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without experiencing the delicious local cuisine. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Edinburgh is to indulge in traditional Scottish dishes, such as haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and Cullen skink (a hearty fish soup). You’ll find many restaurants and pubs in the city offering these and other mouthwatering dishes.
For a truly unforgettable dining experience, consider booking a table at The Witchery by the Castle. This unique restaurant is housed in a 16th-century building and offers a romantic, candlelit atmosphere. The menu features a range of Scottish dishes, using locally-sourced ingredients, and is sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Shop ’til You Drop: Princes Street and Beyond
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to do some shopping while you’re in Edinburgh. Princes Street, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, offers a mix of high-street brands and upscale department stores. For a more unique shopping experience, head to the Grassmarket area, where you’ll find an array of independent shops selling everything from vintage clothing to handmade crafts.
Edinburgh also boasts a lively market scene, with the popular Stockbridge Market taking place every Sunday. Here, you can browse an array of local products, including artisanal foods, crafts, and antiques.
Embrace the Festival Spirit: Edinburgh Festival Fringe and International Festival
Edinburgh is renowned for its vibrant festival scene, and if you’re visiting during the summer months, attending one of these events is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, taking place every August. With thousands of shows spanning theatre, comedy, dance, and music, there’s something to suit every taste. You can browse the extensive program and book tickets on their official website here.
The Edinburgh International Festival, which runs concurrently with the Fringe, showcases a diverse range of performing arts, including theatre, opera, and classical music. The festival attracts some of the world’s leading artists and is a must for culture enthusiasts. More information and ticket bookings can be found on their website here.
Plan Your Visit: Essential Resources and Tips
To make the most of your trip to Edinburgh, it’s a good idea to do some research and planning beforehand. The official Edinburgh tourism website, VisitScotland, offers a wealth of information on things to do in Edinburgh, as well as accommodation options, travel tips, and event listings.
When it comes to getting around the city, Edinburgh is easily explored on foot, as most attractions are within walking distance of each other. However, if you prefer, the city has an excellent public transport system, with buses and trams providing regular service. For more information on public transport, including timetables and ticket prices, visit the Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams websites.
Finally, remember that Edinburgh’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to pack layers and be prepared for rain, even in the summer months. With a bit of planning and a sense of adventure, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time discovering all the incredible things to do in Edinburgh. Happy travels!
Take a Day Trip: Explore Nearby Attractions and Scenic Beauty
Although there’s no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh, one of the city’s greatest assets is its proximity to stunning natural landscapes and historic sites. Taking a day trip to explore these nearby attractions is a fantastic way to experience more of what Scotland has to offer.
The Scottish Highlands
A visit to the breathtaking Scottish Highlands should be on every traveler’s bucket list. The Highlands boast dramatic scenery, picturesque lochs, and rugged mountain landscapes. Several tour companies offer day trips from Edinburgh to the Highlands, including Rabbie’s, which provides small group tours with knowledgeable guides.
Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond
Another popular day trip destination is Stirling Castle, one of the most historically significant castles in Scotland. The castle has played a pivotal role in Scotland’s history and offers fascinating exhibits and guided tours. You can combine a visit to Stirling Castle with a trip to Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake in mainland Britain. The area surrounding the loch is known for its scenic beauty and offers numerous walking trails and outdoor activities. Timberbush Tours is one company that offers a combined Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond day trip from Edinburgh.
The Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders region, located south of Edinburgh, is rich in history and natural beauty. The area is famous for its picturesque rolling hills, historic abbeys, and charming market towns. A day trip to the Borders is an excellent way to explore Scotland’s countryside and learn more about the country’s turbulent past. Companies like Borders Journeys provide guided tours of the area, ensuring you don’t miss any of the highlights.
Catch a Show: Edinburgh’s Vibrant Theatre Scene
If you’re a fan of live performances, experiencing Edinburgh’s thriving theatre scene is a must. The city is home to a variety of venues that cater to all tastes, from intimate spaces showcasing local talent to grand theatres hosting world-renowned productions.
The Edinburgh Playhouse is the city’s largest theatre, offering a program of popular musicals, comedy shows, and concerts. For a more intimate setting, the Traverse Theatre is known for its cutting-edge plays and strong focus on new writing.
Additionally, the Lyceum Theatre presents a diverse range of productions, from contemporary adaptations of classic plays to innovative new works. With so many options, catching a show is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for theatre enthusiasts.
In summary, Edinburgh is a captivating city that truly has something for everyone, from history buffs and nature lovers to culture vultures and foodies. By following this guide and venturing out on day trips to nearby attractions, you’ll experience the very best of what Scotland has to offer. So pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in this unforgettable city!
Discover Hidden Gems: Unusual Attractions and Off-the-Beaten-Path Experiences
While Edinburgh is famous for its popular attractions, the city is also home to a number of lesser-known gems that can offer unique and memorable experiences. Here are some off-the-beaten-path things to do in Edinburgh that will help you discover a different side of the city.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Located near Edinburgh Castle, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a fascinating attraction that combines history, science, and interactive fun. The centerpiece is the Camera Obscura itself, a 19th-century optical device that offers a live, moving panorama of the city. The five floors of the building are filled with interactive exhibits and illusions that will delight both children and adults.
Dr. Neil’s Garden
Tucked away in the picturesque village of Duddingston, just a short bus ride from the city center, you’ll find Dr. Neil’s Garden. This hidden gem is often referred to as Edinburgh’s “secret garden” and offers a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The beautifully landscaped garden features a variety of plants, tranquil ponds, and stunning views of Arthur’s Seat.
The Water of Leith Walkway
The Water of Leith is a 12-mile river that flows through the heart of Edinburgh, and the Water of Leith Walkway offers a scenic, peaceful route along its banks. This well-maintained path is perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, taking you past charming villages, historic sites, and lush greenery. One highlight along the walkway is the picturesque Dean Village, a former milling village that feels like a step back in time.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre
Located on the Royal Mile, the Scottish Storytelling Centre is a unique cultural venue dedicated to preserving and promoting Scotland’s rich storytelling heritage. The centre offers a range of events, including storytelling performances, workshops, and exhibitions, providing an immersive experience that connects visitors with the country’s history and culture.
Get Active: Outdoor Activities and Adventure Sports
For those who enjoy outdoor pursuits and adrenaline-pumping activities, Edinburgh and its surroundings offer plenty of opportunities to get your heart racing. Here are some exciting things to do in Edinburgh that will satisfy your adventurous spirit.
Home to over 1,000 animals, including the UK’s only giant pandas, Edinburgh Zoo is an excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Located on the outskirts of the city, the zoo offers a range of unique experiences, such as close encounters with animals and keeper talks. The zoo also places a strong emphasis on conservation, education, and research.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Edinburgh’s coastal location provides ample opportunities for water-based adventures. For example, you can embark on a canoeing or kayaking trip along the city’s waterways or venture out to the nearby coastline. Companies like Dun Eideann Sea Kayaking offer guided tours and courses suitable for all skill levels.
The diverse terrain around Edinburgh makes it a fantastic destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. There are numerous trails and routes to explore, from the challenging singletrack trails of Glentress Forest to the more leisurely rides in the Pentland Hills Regional Park. If you don’t have your own bike, companies like Bike & Go offer bike rentals and guided tours.
Expand Your Knowledge: Visit Edinburgh’s Quirky Museums
Edinburgh is home to several unique and lesser-known museums that are worth exploring during your visit. These quirky attractions provide an opportunity to learn more about the city’s history and culture in a fun and engaging way.
The Museum of Childhood
Located on the Royal Mile, the Museum of Childhood is a fascinating journey through the history of toys, games, and childhood. The museum features five floors of exhibits, showcasing everything from antique dolls and teddy bears to vintage video games. It’s a nostalgic experience that’s sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Surgeons’ Hall Museums
For those with a strong stomach and an interest in medical history, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums offer a fascinating insight into the world of surgery and anatomical study. The museum’s collection includes historic surgical instruments, pathological specimens, and interactive displays that explore the history of medicine and the role of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
The Writers’ Museum
Celebrating the lives and works of Scotland’s most famous literary figures, the Writers’ Museum is a must-visit for book lovers. The museum is dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and features a collection of personal items, manuscripts, and portraits that offer a glimpse into their lives and creative processes.
The Ultimate Guide: Top Recommendations and Must-See Attractions
There’s no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh, and with so many options, it can be hard to decide where to start. To help you make the most of your time in the city, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, covering everything from iconic landmarks to hidden gems. Let’s dive in!
Top Things to Do in Edinburgh: Iconic Landmarks and Attractions
- Edinburgh Castle: Dominating the city’s skyline, the historic Edinburgh Castle is a must-see for any visitor. Explore the centuries-old fortress, marvel at the Crown Jewels, and take in the breathtaking views of the city.
- Royal Mile: Stroll along this famous street, which stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Along the way, you’ll find a wealth of historic sites, charming shops, and traditional pubs.
- Arthur’s Seat: For an unforgettable panoramic view, hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that offers stunning vistas of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Stuff to Do in Edinburgh: Cultural Experiences and Museums
- Scottish National Gallery: Art lovers won’t want to miss this impressive collection of European masterpieces, including works by Botticelli, Titian, and Rembrandt.
- The Writers’ Museum: Celebrate the lives and works of Scotland’s most famous literary figures, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
- The Museum of Childhood: Take a nostalgic journey through the history of toys, games, and childhood at this unique and engaging museum.
To Do in Edinburgh: Outdoor Activities and Adventures
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beautiful grounds of this world-renowned botanical garden.
- The Water of Leith Walkway: Enjoy a leisurely stroll or bike ride along this scenic path that follows the banks of the Water of Leith river.
- Mountain biking in the Pentland Hills: Get your adrenaline pumping with an exciting mountain biking adventure in the picturesque Pentland Hills Regional Park.
Things to Do Edinburgh Scotland: Day Trips and Excursions
- The Scottish Highlands: Discover the dramatic landscapes, picturesque lochs, and rugged mountains of this breathtaking region on a guided day trip.
- Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond: Combine a visit to the historic Stirling Castle with a trip to the stunning Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake in mainland Britain.
- The Scottish Borders: Explore the rolling hills, historic abbeys, and charming market towns of this picturesque region on a guided tour.
Edinburgh Scotland Things to Do: Unusual Attractions and Hidden Gems
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: Experience a fascinating mix of history, science, and interactive fun at this one-of-a-kind attraction.
- Dr. Neil’s Garden: Step into Edinburgh’s “secret garden” and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of this beautifully landscaped haven.
- The Surgeons’ Hall Museums: Delve into the world of surgery and anatomical study at this fascinating museum for those with a strong stomach and an interest in medical history.
Things to See in Edinburgh: Must-Visit Spots
- Calton Hill: Take in the stunning views of the city and the surrounding landscape from this iconic vantage point.
- The Royal Yacht Britannia: Explore the luxurious former royal yacht and gain a unique insight into the lives of the British Royal Family.
- The Scottish Parliament Building: Discover the striking architecture and learn about the workings of Scotland’s devolved government at this modern building.
Top 10 Things to Do in Edinburgh: A Quick Summary
- Edinburgh Castle
- Royal Mile
- Arthur’s Seat
- Scottish National Gallery
- The Writers’ Museum
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
- The Water of Leith Walkway
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
- Calton Hill
- The Royal Yacht Britannia
Edinburgh What to Do: Family-Friendly Activities
- Edinburgh Zoo: Meet the UK’s only giant pandas and more than 1,000 other animals at this popular wildlife attraction.
- Dynamic Earth: Embark on an interactive journey through Earth’s history at this fascinating science center.
- Holyrood Park: Enjoy a family picnic, fly a kite, or explore the park’s many walking trails at this expansive green space near the city center.
Edinburgh To Do: Food and Drink Experiences
- Scotch Whisky Experience: Learn about the history and production of Scotland’s national drink and enjoy a tasting session at this immersive attraction.
- Food and drink walking tour: Sample the city’s culinary delights and discover local favorites on a guided tour of Edinburgh’s food scene.
- Afternoon tea: Indulge in a traditional British afternoon tea at one of the city’s elegant hotels or historic tea rooms.
What to Do Edinburgh: Shopping and Souvenirs
- Victoria Street: Browse the independent boutiques and specialty shops that line this colorful, curved street.
- Grassmarket: Hunt for treasures and unique finds at the many vintage shops and market stalls in this historic area.
- Jenners Department Store: Visit this iconic Edinburgh institution for luxury shopping in a beautiful, historic setting.
Things to Do in Edinburgh City: Festivals and Events
- Edinburgh International Festival: Experience world-class theater, music, and dance at this renowned annual arts festival.
- Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Discover a diverse range of performances, from comedy and theater to music and spoken word, at the world’s largest arts festival.
- Hogmanay: Ring in the New Year with a bang at Edinburgh’s famous street party, featuring live music, fireworks, and traditional Scottish celebrations.
With this extensive list of recommendations and must-see attractions, you’ll never run out of things to do in Edinburgh. Whether you’re seeking history and culture, outdoor adventures, or simply a chance to relax and enjoy the city’s unique atmosphere, Edinburgh has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this enchanting Scottish capital!
In conclusion, Edinburgh is a captivating city that offers a diverse range of activities and experiences for every type of traveler. From exploring historic landmarks and enjoying the natural beauty of the city to delving into its rich culture and haunted past, there’s no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh. With this guide in hand, you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip that leaves you longing to return.