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For customers with top-up Ridacards, you can add funds by visiting any store which has PayPoint facilities (enter your postcode here  to find your nearest retailer).

For new or replacement Ridacards, please visit our Waverley Bridge, Shandwick Place or East Coast Buses TravelHubs, and a member of the team will be happy to help. 

Shandwick Place TravelHub

  • East Coast Buses Travelhub

Waverley Bridge TravelHub

Opening Hours

travel centre edinburgh

Shandwick Place TravelHub is also home to our CoffeeHub which serves a wide range of local and Scottish produce, hot drinks, cakes, snacks and meals. 

The CoffeeHub is fully accessible and includes free WiFi and charging points. Visit the CoffeeHub page to find out more and view the menu.

49 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh EH2 4SD

31 Waverley Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1BQ

East Coast Buses TravelHub

Opening hours

Mall Ave, Musselburgh, EH21 7DY

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Guía turística de Edinburgh

Planning a trip to Edinburgh? In Introducingedinburgh.com you’ll find all the necessary and up to date information on the best places to visit in the city, where to stay or the top neighbourhoods to go out for dinner and a night out , among a lot more interesting facts and figures. 

Edinburgh Travel Guide

  • General Information
  • Top Attractions
  • Getting to Edinburgh
  • Getting around Edinburgh
  • Where to Eat
  • Where to Stay
  • 2-Day Edinburgh Itinerary

Why visit Edinburgh?

Scotland’s capital is one of the most unique and memorable cities in Europe . Edinburgh has a rare charm with narrow and cobbled passageways , called closes in Scots . The town is also known for its dark corners where terrifying events have taken place , its majestic buildings and gardens , countless fascinating museums , which are free to visit,  and, especially, the city's  kind and open locals . All the above-mentioned make this city a favorite among those who have seen it.

Edinburgh is fondly known as “Auld Reekie,”  which means “Old Smokey” in Scots. This is because of all the smoke and chimneys the city had in the past, creating smog over the city. The weather in Edinburgh is normally rainy and windy , but far from being an inconvenience, the bitter weather gives the town an extra charm, creating a mysterious and somber atmosphere.

The capital has a unique radiance when the rays of sun stream through the clouds, and when the night falls, the ghosts that refuse to leave Edinburgh  come out to haunt the streets and buildings while guides accompany curious tourists to see crypts, alleyways, and graveyards to discover the mysteries that besiege the heart of the city.

As well as countless ghost stories, Edinburgh also offers its visitors and locals a wide variety of attractions, including museums , most of which are free. Tourists can also visit a whisky distillery and learn how Scotland’s national drink is made in   the   Scotch Whisky Experience ,  discover how the Scottish people lived during the Middle Ages in the People’s Story Museum , or explore the evolution of medicine in the Surgeon’s Hall Museums .

The country’s hearty dishes combined with the traditional Scottish breakfast will probably mean you’ll go home a few pounds heavier but happy and full of extremely fond memories of the city.

With our guide, you’ll discover why Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK after London . Every year, over two million tourists visit Scotland’s capital city.

Need accommodation?

If you still don’t have a hotel, hostel, or apartment booked, we recommend checking out the link below, where you’ll find all types of accommodation with the best rates guaranteed. If you book in advance, you’ll be able to get up to 75% discount and pay once you get to your destination.

  • Hotels in Edinburgh – Book online for the best rates guaranteed.

top activities

Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour Edinburgh Castle is the most visited monument in Scotland ; an unmissable sight in the Scottish capital. Don't miss this Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour!

Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Highlands & Glencoe Day Trip Travel from Edinburgh to Loch Ness on this tour of some of the  Scottish Highlands ' most stunning attractions - an unforgettable day trip at the best price!

Edinburgh Free Tour Discover Edinburgh's Old Town with this free walking tour of one of Scotland's most beloved cities. This tour is perfect for any first-visitors to Edinburgh!

Edinburgh Underground Ghost Tour Embark on a haunting journey into Edinburgh's eerie depths . Uncover the secrets within the haunted underground vaults and Greyfriars Kirkyard by night !

Edinburgh Outlander Tour Imposing castles, palaces and mythical mansions ... Discover a new side of Scotland by exploring the filming locations of the legendary TV series  Outlander .

Dinner and Traditional Scottish Show Looking for fun things to do in Edinburgh ? Spend a unique evening with this Scottish folk dinner and concert , complete with lively music and local dishes.

Royal Edinburgh Ticket Book this Royal Edinburgh Ticket and enjoy the best of the Scottish capital city for 48 hours. Visit the Castle, the Royal Yacht and the Palace .

Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond & The Kelpies Explore the Scottish Highlands on this day trip from Edinburgh to Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Kelpies! You'll discover history and nature!

Holy Island & Alnwick Castle Day Trip Discover the Medieval Kingdom of Northumbria: explore the ruined castles, quaint villages and wild coastline of North-East England on this tour from Edinburgh.

Scottish Highlands Tour Explore the Scottish Highlands on this excursion from Edinburgh and discover natural landscapes, a whisky distillery and historical monuments!

Holyrood Palace Tickets Coronations, weddings, betrayal, assassination... discover the secrets of Holyrood Palace: the official residence of the queen of England and Scotland .

Ghost Tour of Edinburgh The Scottish capital is famously haunted and there have been countless sightings of phantoms. Are you brave enough to take our ghost tour of Edinburgh ?

Forth Boat Tour Make the most of your time in Edinburgh admiring one of the most emblematic feats of civil engineering on this boat tour of three Forth bridges .

Harry Potter Train Tour Want to travel on the Hogwarts Express ? Travel through Scotland's breathtaking scenery on board the Jacobite with this  Harry Potter Train Tour .

Get lost in the lively Scottish nightlife with this route across five of the capital's best pubs . Pints of beer, live music... let's get this party started!

West Highland Lochs, Mountains & Castles Day Trip This day trip lets you enjoy a taste of all things Scottish , as we take you on a fascinating journey through the Highlands. Lochs, castles and mountains await.

Edinburgh Hop On Hop Off Bus Explore top Edinburgh attractions with our flexible hop-on hop-off bus tour without getting tired . Enjoy audio commentary in multiple languages!

Day Trip: Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Get a slice of Highland life on this day trip to western Scotland, witht scenic lochs, the old capital of Stirling, and the Trossachs: land of William Wallace.

Rosslyn Chapel and the Borders Day Trip On this trip, you'll explore the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel and the border town of Melrose & its Abbey , plus a tour of a malt whisky distillery .

Edinburgh Food Tour On this Edinburgh Food Tour, you'll explore the Scottish capital through its gastronomy. You'll try traditional dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties!

St. Andrews & Fife's Fishing Villages Day Trip Make the most of your stay in Edinburgh with this St. Andrews & Fife's Fishing Villages Day Trip. Explore the famous golfing town and quaint coastal towns.

Loch Ness & the Scottish Highlands: 2 Day Tour Delve deep into the delights of Scotland. Discover spectacular mountains, rivers and lochs as you immerse yourself in the legendary history of the Highlands.

3-Day Tour of Skye and the Highlands See the very north of Scotland , where the winds whip the wild edge of the United Kingdom. We'll see highlands highlights such as Loch Ness, Ben Nevis  and more.

Blackness Castle & Forth Bridges Cruise Enjoy a cruise to the three famous Forth bridges and the historic Blackness Castle on this  boat tour on the Firth of Forth .

Whisky Distillery Tour Discover the secrets of Scotch whisky on this  tour of the Dewar's and Glenturret distilleries from Edinburgh ​. The ideal excursion for any whisky lover!

Edinburgh Private Tour Discover the architecture, history & everyday life of Edinburgh accompanied by a private tour guide . The best way to explore Scotland's capital city!

Edinburgh Shore Excursion If you're arriving in the Scottish capital by cruise, don't miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city's history with this Edinburgh Shore Excursion.

Outlander Tour While in the Scottish capital , take a page from Jamie Fraser 's book and embark on our Outlander tour through Edinburgh to see iconic sites from the hit series !

Full Day Edinburgh Walking Tour + Entry Tickets On this  tour of Edinburgh , you'll visit the most important places in the city , such as the Castle and the Scotland National Gallery . 

Edinburgh Hard Rock Cafe Enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at Edinburgh's Hard Rock Cafe, a restaurant full of rock and roll. Choose your menu and enjoy a fun dining experience!

Edinburgh Christmas Tour We'll admire Christmas markets and dreamy lights  on this Christmas Tour in Edinburgh . Explore the Scottish capital at this magical time of year!

This guide has been made by exploring each street, taking photos of every nook and cranny, and paying attention to each and every little detail to help you prepare your trip in the best way possible .

All the information in this guide was updated in March 2023 . If you see any errors or anything we should change, we would be delighted to hear from you .

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Hotels in Edinburgh

Travelodge Edinburgh Central Waterloo Place

Whether you're taking an Edinburgh break to enjoy the history or the shopping or just to take part in a Scottish Whisky Experience, there are numerous Travelodge hotels in the heart of the city that'll make your visit more enjoyable. From our Edinburgh Central Princes Street Hotel, you'll have the wonderful shops of the Royal Mile, the majestic Edinburgh Castle and plenty of other attractions right on your doorstep. Absorb a real sense of this wonderfully vibrant city by visiting the Grassmarket at night; it's a lively place to be, no matter what time of year you visit and has plenty of attractions for you to enjoy.

Cheap Hotels in Edinburgh

As well as the world-famous Holyrood House, the city also boasts Edinburgh Castle, once home to Mary Queen of Scots and now home to the historic Stone of Scone, and the Scottish Royal Jewels. The State Rooms are open to the public so you'll be able to imagine what life was like for the Scottish royal family in centuries gone by. Holyrood House dates back to the 15th century and is situated next door to Holyrood Park, and next to the crags that make up Arthur's Seat. Look out for the majestic ruins of Holyrood Abbey and set up home in our Edinburgh Central Rose Street hotel to explore this part of the city in more detail. Ghost tours are also a growing tourist attraction in Edinburgh and if you stay at any of our Central Edinburgh hotels then you'll be able to take part in one of these intriguing walks: start with Mary King's Close or the Greyfriars Kirkyard to test your courage.

Things to do in Edinburgh

Consider yourself a culture vulture? Travelodge offer excellent value hotels in Edinburgh that will put you in the perfect place to make the most of your visit. With loads of things to do in Edinburgh, visitors can enjoy a City renowned for its culture and fantastic sightseeing, most notably Edinburgh Castle. Or if you're after a spot of music, the Edinburgh Playhouse is a former cinema that now hosts touring musicals and music concerts, so why not stay in the Edinburgh Central Travelodge right around the corner? The city is well known for its annual festivals and we have plenty of hotels in Edinburgh located in just the right places so that you can enjoy the best of the atmosphere. In particular, Edinburgh hosts festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest performing arts festival in the world, and the hugely popular Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the month of August. If you love a good art gallery, our Edinburgh Haymarket hotel is located right outside the National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Scotland, and you'll also have the Haymarket rail station on your doorstep.

Nearby attractions

  • News Years Eve In Edinburgh
  • Standrews Hotels Edinburgh
  • Waverley Hotels Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh Waverley Train Station
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Nearby locations

  • Queensferry

UK Travel Planning

Edinburgh Travel Guide (including essential tips, itinerary & map)

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: June 22, 2024

Our  Edinburgh Travel Guide  includes recommended places to visit and things to do, accommodation options, tips and more for the beautiful Scottish capital. Everything you need to plan your visit and essential reading for any visitor to Edinburgh!

Plan your visit to Edinburgh

The Scottish capital of Edinburgh is one of the most visited and beautiful cities to visit in the United Kingdom (in fact it is the second most visited city in the UK after London).

The winding cobblestone streets of its Old Town offer quaint medieval charm which is contrasted by the New Town, the very epitome of Georgian style. There is culture and history around every corner, and the list of Edinburgh attractions is a long one.

A visit to Edinburgh is one of the highlights of any UK itinerary and features in our recommended top 19 attractions, sights and landmarks to see in Scotland.

First-time visitor? Read our practical tips and make the most of your Edinburgh adventure

What you will find in this complete Edinburgh Travel Guide

Map of Edinburgh

When is the best time of year to visit edinburgh, how many days do you need in edinburgh, public transport options, alternative transport options (including tours), 🚆 by train from london, 🚗 by car (road trip option), ✈️ fly to edinburgh airport, attractions and things to do in edinburgh (and scotland), uktp podcasts about visiting edinburgh, quick picks, luxury/boutique hotels, mid-range hotels (including well-known chains), guest houses, edinburgh travel guide -tickets, tours & attractions, best day trips from edinburgh, best multi-day tours from edinburgh, best pubs, cafes and restaurants in edinburgh, books to read before visiting edinburgh, enjoy your visit to edinburgh.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh travel guide – Visiting Edinburgh FAQ’s

Edinburgh is a popular destination to visit throughout the year. In fact, there are some months of the year it is best to avoid Edinburgh unless you are specifically visiting to attend an event such as

  • Hogmanay (December 30/31)
  • The Edinburgh Festival (August)
  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August)

Weather-wise the summer months are the perfect time to visit Edinburgh. The days are long and expect sunny, warm and drier weather.

Winter can be brutal in Scotland. Expect rain, freezing fog and even snow especially in January or February. Read more about visiting the UK in winter .

Make sure to pack for the weather – layers are always recommended (and waterproofs too) whatever time of year you plan to visit.

Read more about the best time to visit the UK in my detailed guide.

Highland dancers at the Edinburgh Tattoo in the Edinburgh Travel Guide.

We recommend spending at least 2 days in Edinburgh. This will give you enough time to see the main sights, landmarks and attractions. Edinburgh is also the perfect base for exploring Scotland with many organised tours departing from the city.

There are many attractions to visit on days trips from Edinburgh (by train, car or tour) such as the Kelpies, Stirling, and St Andrews. Although it is possible to take a day trip tour to the Scottish Highlands we recommend planning your own multi-day itinerary or joining an organised multi-day tour.

Include Edinburgh in your train trip itinerary of the UK . It can be easily reached by train from London in just a few hours.

Catching the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Edinburgh (or Fort William or Inverness ) is a fantastic experience and if you enjoy train travel we recommend including it in your travel plans.

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

What is the best way to explore Edinburgh?

Many of the sights are close to each other (Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile , Holyrood House, the monument to Sir Walter Scott, Princes Street ) and are within walkable distance of one another.

The city has a modern public transport network which includes buses, trams and trains.

There is a city-wide network of buses operating 24 hours a day. The Airlink bus runs between the airport and Waverley Station (Edinburgh’s train station) 24 hours a day. The journey takes around 25 minutes and leaves every 10 mins (approx) An adult single costs £4.50 and an open return £7.50.

The tram is a great way of travelling from one end of the city to the other. With regular stops along Princes Street jumping on and off the tram is one way to get around. The tram runs 14 km from Edinburgh Airport to York Place in the east end of the city centre. 

Buy tickets from the ticket vending machines at each tram stop. The machines accept credit and debit cards including cash (but give no change)

If you are travelling into  Edinburgh from the airport  via the tram network the cost is £6.50 for an adult and £3.30 for a child (single). Return tickets are £9.00 for adults and £4.80 for children.

Airport transfers are also included in the Edinburgh Pass. It is also possible to book an  Airlink Bus Transfer  or  private car transfer  to and from the airport into Edinburgh.

  • Trains  

If you want to travel further afield for the day there are regular services from Edinburgh Waverley Train Station to Glasgow, Falkirk ( for the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel) and Stirling. 

There are a number of hop-on and hop-off bus services operating in the city. If you purchase an  Edinburgh Pass  (these can be purchased for one, two or three days in Edinburgh) the Hop-on Hop-off Bright Bus Tour is included in the cost as well as a City Bus Tour.

Other bus tours include 

  • City Sightseeing Edinburgh: 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Travel on an open-top, double-decker bus with panoramic views of the city.

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Pass with 3 City Tours

Tour Edinburgh on 3 different hop-on and hop-off bus routes with 24 or 48 hours unlimited travel. Enjoy live guidance in English during the City Sightseeing Tour and the Majestic Tours.

  • Royal Attractions with Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

See all of Edinburgh’s attractions from the comfort of a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus which includes free entry to 3 royal attractions with a 48-hour Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

Visit the Castle, climb aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, and tour Holyroodhouse.

Best of Britain Itinerary planners

What is the best way to travel to Edinburgh from London?

For timetables and tickets, we recommend the trainline. Take the train to Edinburgh for a short break or incorporate it into your UK train travel itinerary.

Tip – If this is your first time catching a train in the UK read our complete guide to UK train travel which includes all the information you need to know to make travelling around the UK by rail a relaxing and stress-free experience.

🔀 Distance from London (via transport): 600 km (400 miles)

🕐 Time taken by train: 5 hours

📍 Leave from London Euston or London King’s Cross

If you are taking a road trip around the UK and plan to include Edinburgh in your itinerary make sure you book a hotel/ accommodation with free parking.

Many of the hotels and guest houses don’t offer parking at all so do check before you book. 

If you plan to start your road trip in Edinburgh I would see all the main city sights before picking up your car and continuing your trip.

I recommend checking car hire options through Discover Cars  who compare the prices from a number of companies to secure the best deal for you.

If you want to fly directly to Edinburgh you will find options from many destinations across the world. We recommend Skyscanner for flights,

If there is no direct flight available take a connecting flight from London. Edinburgh airport is close to the city and there are many ways to transfer to your accommodation including bus, taxi and tram.

Click here for transfers from Edinburgh airport

Read more – How to get from London to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Travel Guide view of a street in the city.

BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN EDINBURGH

Scotland view with cow.

21 BEST DAY TRIPS FROM EDINBURGH

Skye.

SCOTTISH ISLANDS TRAVEL GUIDE

ISLE OF SKYE TRAVEL GUIDE

Inverness.

INVERNESS TRAVEL GUIDE

Edinburgh Travel Guide pic of one of the Kelpies in Falkirk.

19 PLACES TO VISIT IN SCOTLAND

Alnwick Castle.

NORTHUMBERLAND TRAVEL GUIDE

Edinburgh Travel Guide - Itinerary Planners.

Accommodation in Edinburgh

Best hotels in edinburgh for sightseeing.

There are lots of accommodation options in Edinburgh to suit every budget. These are my choices of some of the best hotels in the city based on location and customer reviews.

The Balmoral

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5* luxury with a Michelin starred restaurant

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Holiday Inn Express City Centre

⭐️⭐️⭐️

3* hotel located in the New Town

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Elder York Guest House

Excellent location & good breakfast included.

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  • The Balmoral  – 5* luxury, a Michelin starred restaurant, amazing afternoon teas, a spa and located right next to Waverley train station. £35 per day for parking.
  • The Witchery by the Castle  – a luxury boutique hotel with 9 themed suites. Boasting 4 poster canopied beds, spacious bathrooms and beautifully furnished and decorated the Witchery is the perfect choice for a special occasion. No parking available.
  • Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian  – Another beautiful 5* luxury hotel offering rooms with some lovely views. Facilities include a spa and fitness centre, indoor pool, restaurant and bar. £25 per day for parking.
  • Holiday Inn Express City Centre  – 3* hotel located in the New Town. A good breakfast, free WiFi, clean rooms and and comfy beds make this a great choice. With family rooms available it is a popular option for those traveling with children. No parking available.
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh City Centre   – A very good hotel at a good price the Radisson Blu is centrally located. Facilities include a spa and gym. Parking is £12.50 per day. 
  • Motel One Edinburgh Royal  – Centrally located and affordable yet stylish hotel with clean and comfortable rooms. Adults only. No parking.
  • Elder York Guest House  – perfectly located a few minutes walk to Princes Street this is where we stay when we visit the city. Breakfast is good and the rooms comfortable. Note there is no lift so you have to climb a few sets of stairs to get to the guest house. No parking.

➡️ WHERE TO STAY IN EDINBURGH – LOCATION AND ACCOMMODATION GUIDE

Find more special stays in my Accommodation Guide for Scotland.

Edinburgh Travel Guide - Man playing the bagpipes.

This is our selection of the best tours and attractions available in Edinburgh (if you fancy a ghost tour check out our guide to 9 of the spookiest, scariest and best ghost tours of Edinburgh !)

  • Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour – Take a magical 2-hour walking tour of Edinburgh and discover the city where the world of Harry Potter was conceived.
  • Underground Vaults Tour – Visit the vaults beneath Old Town which date back to the early 18th century
  • Holyrood Distillery Gin and Whisky Guided Tour – Enjoy a guided flavour-forward experience, learn how gin and whisky are made, and explore the craft distilling methods at Holyrood Distillery.
  • Firth of Forth: 90-Minute Three Bridges Cruise – A 90-minute sightseeing cruise with views of the “three bridges”, including the UNESCO World Heritage Forth Bridge, Inchcolm Island and medieval abbey. Enjoy incredible views of the Edinburgh skyline during your cruise.
  • History of Whisky with Tasting and Storytelling – Visit an outstanding whisky venue where you will be served four classic single malt scotch whiskys and immerse yourself in the great cultural importance of whisky and storytelling in Scotland.

Click here for great tickets, tours and attractions for Edinburgh

Best day & multi-day trips from Edinburgh

I have handpicked the best tours available from Edinburgh through Get Your Guide (we book most of our day tours and organised activities through Get Your Guide due to their great customer service and cancellation policy) and Viator (another tour company we have used during our travels).

You will find even more options to choose from in our guide to the best day trips and multi-day tours from Edinburgh here.

  • Loch Ness, Glencoe, & the Highlands Day Tour – See the best of Scotland, all in one day with this 12 hour day tour.
  • Hogwarts Express and Scottish Highlands Tour – Ride the world-famous Jacobite Steam Train and explore Glen Coe
  • Loch Lomond, Trossachs & Stirling Castle Tour – Experience the natural beauty of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
  • 3-Day Isle of Skye, Highlands & Loch Ness – Stay overnight in the island village of Portree, visit haunting Glencoe & explore Eilean Donan Castle.
  • Outlander Experience 2-Day Tour – Follow in the footsteps of Claire and Jamie during this Outlander themed 2-day tour.
  • Iona, Mull, and Isle of Skye – Explore the famous Scottish Highlands and discover the unspoiled beauty of its westerly islands, including Mull, Iona, Staffa, and the famous Isle of Skye.

Are you an Outlander fan? Read our guide to the best Outlander tours available in 2022 and beyond

Portree on Isle of Skye.

There are so many fantastic places to eat in Edinburgh you are spoilt for choice. These are our top picks:

  • Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar – for haggis, neeps & tatties
  • Biddy Mulligans (pub)
  • Maggie Dicksons (pub)
  • The World’s End (pub)
  • Toast (brunch and lunch)
  • The Dome – dine in stunning surroundings (bookings essential)

Haggis, neeps and tatties at Makar's Gourmet Mash Bar in Edinburgh.

For more Scottish literary inspiration check out my selection of 25 of the best books to read before you visit Scotland.

UK TRAVEL PLANNING SHEETS SCOTLAND TRAVEL TIPS

This guide will have provided inspiration plus practical information to help plan your visit to Edinburgh. You will find more inspiration and ideas to help plan your travels around Scotland in these travel guides:

  • Best castle hotels in Scotland
  • Northumberland Travel Guide (including tips, itinerary + map)
  • 10 virtual tours of famous landmarks in the UK

Find more inspiration for your travels in my Scotland Travel Guide which includes information about what to see, where to stay, how to get around, travel tips, recommended reading and more to make the most of your trip.

Edinburgh Travel Guide All you need to know

How best to get around the city of Edinburgh

Jemima Forbes

Sep 15, 2021 • 7 min read

Dean Village along the river Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland

Dean Village along the river Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland © Christian Mueller / Shutterstock

Despite being the Scottish capital, Edinburgh is a surprisingly compact city. You can easily explore the Royal Mile – where the bulk of the attractions lie – on foot. In fact, due to a winding network of narrow lanes, steep hills and one-way streets, walking is usually the most efficient way to get around Edinburgh Old Town. 

Keen to dive off the beaten path or visit the city’s farther-flung neighbourhoods? Edinburgh’s public transport system is nothing to scoff at. It might not be quite as finessed as London’s, but there are direct routes to all four corners of the city. From 24-hour bus services to a vast network of cycle paths, here’s what you need to know about getting around Edinburgh, Scotland. 

The Balmoral Hotel clock tower stands above on Princess street in Edinburgh with a queue of traffic, including a red bus, making its way along the street to the green hills in the background

Best for getting further afield, especially at night

The bus network is extensive and well-run, making it one of the most popular ways to get around in Edinburgh. That doesn't mean it’s always the fastest option, though. If you’re in a hurry, avoid the bus during rush hour (7-9:30am and 4:30-6pm) when the city’s winding streets can swiftly become gridlocked. 

Buses are largely run by one company, Lothian Buses , which have over 50 routes criss-crossing Edinburgh. You can check out the Lothian bus timetables on their website or track services in real-time on the Transport for Edinburgh app . Some, such as the N22, run every 30 minutes throughout the night, which makes catching the bus back to your hotel a cheaper alternative to a cab. 

Under the Lothian Buses umbrella are also Skylink and Airlink buses which connect Edinburgh Airport to the city. A large chunk of Edinburgh’s buses are electric, too, making it one of the most eco-friendly public transport options.

You can pay on the bus with cash (exact change is needed), a contactless debit/credit card or via the Transport for Edinburgh M-Tickets feature, a mobile platform that lets you load your tickets directly onto your smartphone. When you want to use one, press the "activate now" button below your selected ticket and then show it to the bus driver when boarding.

If you’re planning on using your contactless card, Lothian runs a "tap, tap, cap" policy meaning if you take more than three journeys on the same day, your fare will be automatically capped. Visiting with kids? Buses are free for under-5s. 

Top tip for taking the bus: If you don’t want another app on your smartphone, Citymapper is brilliant for finding nearby bus stops and working out journey routes. 

Edinburgh Tram stands at Gogarburn Station

Best for efficient journeys across town

Look at the Edinburgh tram map and you’ll see it runs in a straight line from Edinburgh Airport to York Place in New Town. Services are regular and generally faster than the bus as there are fewer stops to contend with. 

All the same, having only 15 stations can make Edinburgh Trams less helpful when exploring the city. The tram network is in fact being extended all the way to Newham and Leith (home to some of Edinburgh’s best restaurants ), however the new line isn’t expected to open until early 2023. 

Overall, the tram is an efficient way to reach the airport or main rail stations. Buy your tickets at the station machines or ticket offices before you board. You can also use the Transport for Edinburgh M-Ticket function if you’d prefer to have digital tickets. To use your mobile ticket, scan it at the QR code point on the tram platform. If you’re not going all the way to the airport, a single journey actually works out at about the same price as a single bus ticket. 

Top tip for taking the tram: The Edinburgh Park and Ride at Ingliston tram stop is ideal if you’re just visiting for the day and don’t fancy driving in the city. Park up and jump on the tram to reach the centre in less than 30 minutes.

Commuters travelling through The Meadows by foot and bike

Best for exploring, and your green credentials

Want to exercise and keep your carbon footprint to a minimum? Cycling is a great option for getting around Edinburgh. The only exception is the immediate city center where you’ll likely be sharing the road with busy traffic.

Beyond the Royal Mile, the city is surprisingly bike-friendly, with numerous dedicated cycle lanes and off-road paths ideal for more nervous cyclists. The Water of Leith path (and the connecting Warriston Path) offers a direct route from Leith to the city center. The North Edinburgh bike network also uses disused rail lines to connect the northern suburbs with New Town. Known as the QuietRoutes, cyclists can download maps of the network from the Edinburgh council website .

Edinburgh’s bike hire scheme is Just Eat Cycles and it’s run by Edinburgh Cycle Hire . Download the app and it will show you where to find bikes at 63 locations across the city. If Edinburgh’s steep hills sound a little daunting, you can even hire electric bikes.

There are numerous independent rental outlets too, like Biketrax , who have bikes for varying terrains, plus helmets, locks and child seats.

Best for groups travelling together

Black cabs operate across Edinburgh and you can either hail them in the street or head to a taxi rank outside a train station or hotel. They typically accommodate up to five people and are wheelchair-friendly. 

City Cabs and Central Taxis are the main cab companies. Both have apps you can use to order taxis. The price is often calculated in advance and varies depending on the distance you’re travelling and the time it will take. In general, cabs are more expensive during commuting times. 

Uber also operates across the city and is usually cheaper. Sometimes surge pricing can make it more expensive, so it’s best to go with a local company during peak periods like Hogmanay (New Year) or the Edinburgh Fringe Festival . 

Edinburgh castle from Heriot place

Best for day trips out of the city

Edinburgh’s center isn’t particularly car-friendly, especially for those unused to driving in cities. Finding parking can be tricky, too. Don’t completely rule out hiring a car, though. Driving can be useful for day trips out of Edinburgh and to visit places like Portobello Beach. 

You can hire cars at various spots around the city, including from the Enterprise and Europcar branches outside Edinburgh Waverley station or from Sixt and Avis at Edinburgh Airport.

Accessible transportation in Edinburgh

Hills and cobblestones may not be the best match for those travelling with access needs . Thankfully, Edinburgh’s public transport system is well thought out, especially Lothian buses which are equipped with ramps, dedicated wheelchair spaces and plenty of handrails.

Edinburgh trams are also very accessible for those with disabilities. All offer step-free access and spaces for wheelchairs. Wheelchair ramps are usually located in the middle carriages and you’ll find each station platform should have a sign indicating where to wait. 

If you’re venturing from A to B by taxi, all of the major black cab companies are able to accommodate wheelchair users. Some vehicles might be exempt, but you’ll find stickers displayed on their windows if that’s the case. 

There are lots of things to do in Edinburgh for visitors, even with accessibility needs. Even centuries-old Edinburgh Castle  now provides excellent assistance for those with additional needs. New Town is one of the better places to book wheelchair accessible accommodation and the streets are wider and less sloped.

Edinburgh's busy Royal Mile (The Highstreet) is one of the most iconic streets in Scotland

Transport Passes

While it’s often easiest to pay for your tickets on the day or using your contactless card, there are a handful of Edinburgh public transport passes worth knowing about. 

If you’re arriving by train, add a Plusbus Edinburgh pass to your ticket to gain unlimited access to the city’s tram and bus services for as little as £3.80 a day. There’s also the Lothian Citysmart , a prepaid card with 20 or 40 single bus tickets loaded onto it. It works out a little cheaper than buying your tickets separately; simply tap it on the ticket reader when you board a bus.

You might also like: Old Town and beyond, these are Edinburgh's best neighborhoods The 9 best day trips from Edinburgh The ultimate guide to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival for first-timers

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PlanetWare.com

21 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Edinburgh

Written by Bryan Dearsley Updated Dec 27, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

One of the most beautiful cities in all of the UK, Edinburgh rises from the wide Firth of Forth to a high, rocky pinnacle crowned by the stone walls and towers of Edinburgh Castle.

The Scottish capital is a center of culture and the arts, and is especially well-known for its festivals. These include the Edinburgh International Book Festival , which welcomes more than 1,000 authors, to the sparkling Christmas Markets and the Edinburgh Fringe , the world's largest festival of the arts.

Between these and internationally known events such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo , there are always plenty of fun events and entertainment opportunities here.

Old Town Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh may seem at times to be two separate cities, so different are the 18th-century New Town 's elegant Georgian neighborhoods of stately terraces from the Old Town 's narrow winding lanes, steep staircases, and hidden passageways.

While many of the most popular tourist attractions are along the Royal Mile, which follows the crest of the hill between the castle and Holyrood Palace and Princes Street, be sure to explore the other side of the hill, where you'll find the picturesque Grassmarket . One of Edinburgh's most important market squares since the Middle Ages, it rings with history. In this pedestrian-friendly area of shops and cafés look for the White Hart Inn, where Robbie Burns once wrote poetry.

To make sure you get the most out of your visit to this extremely romantic Scottish city, be sure to read our list of the top attractions and things to do in Edinburgh.

1. Edinburgh Castle

2. palace of holyroodhouse and holyrood abbey, 3. stroll the royal mile, 4. climb to arthur's seat and the salisbury crags, 5. set sail for royal yacht britannia, 6. explore the past at the national museum of scotland, 7. see the flowers bloom at royal botanic garden edinburgh, 8. walk the length of princes street, 9. see the camera obscura & world of illusions, 10. tour the scottish national gallery & portrait gallery, 11. scottish national gallery of modern art (modern one), 12. st. giles cathedral, 13. take in the views from calton hill and the scottish national monument, 14. learn about the city's past at the museum of edinburgh, 15. greyfriars church and greyfriars bobby, 16. edinburgh zoo, 17. the museum of childhood, 18. explore dynamic earth: edinburgh's science centre, 19. visit the real mary king's close, 20. john knox house & scottish storytelling centre, 21. the surgeons' hall museums, where to stay in edinburgh for sightseeing, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to edinburgh, map of tourist attractions in edinburgh, frequently asked questions, how do you get from edinburgh airport to the city center, what are the best shopping areas in edinburgh, what are the must-visit destinations near edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

Scotland's most famous landmark, Edinburgh Castle is one of Britain's most visited tourist attractions. Highlights of a visit include hearing the famous One O'clock Salute from Half Moon Battery (cannon fire commemorates the tradition of helping ships synchronize their clocks), the impressive Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum , and the stunning collection of Crown Jewels housed in the Royal Palace.

Another notable feature is the Stone of Destiny (aka, the Stone of Scone) , famously stolen by Edward I and placed under the English throne in London - only returned to Scotland 700 years later in 1996.

If you want to save time, consider purchasing a Skip the Line: Edinburgh Castle Entrance Ticket , so you can spend more time touring the castle instead of waiting in the long lines.

Address: Castle Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland

Official site: www.edinburghcastle.scot

Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey

The Palace of Holyroodhouse – usually simply referred to as Holyrood Palace – is the Queen's official Edinburgh residence and has frequently been at the center of Scottish history. Built in 1678, it was where James II and James IV were each married, where James V and Charles I were crowned, and where "Bonnie Prince Charlie" held court in 1745.

When the Queen is away – which is typically 51 weeks of the year, as she's only here for "Royal Week" each summer – public access is permitted. At such times, access is granted to the stunning Historic Apartments (former home of Mary Queen of Scots) and the State Apartments, famous for their fine furnishings, tapestries, and plasterwork.

The Great Gallery displays portraits of Scottish kings, both legendary and real. The Queen's Gallery, opened in 2002 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, hosts changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection. The neighboring 12th-century Holyrood Abbey was founded by King David I.

If you're traveling with kids, be sure to allow them to enjoy dressing up in the costumes in the Family Room; and if you've got time, linger a little longer in the charming café and enjoy a proper afternoon tea. Guided tours are available.

Location: Royal Mile, Canongate, Edinburgh

Palace of Holyroodhouse - Floor plan map

The Royal Mile refers to the streets linking Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Lined with charming townhouses, churches, and historic landmarks, this splendid thoroughfare is a great place to stroll for its shops (including kiltmakers), inns, museums, cafés, and restaurants.

Many of the buildings are tall, averaging six to 15 stories and are referred to locally as "lands." Narrow little alleys, called "winds," with their quaint hidden backyard "closes," weave in and around them.

Some of the most popular attractions are at the upper end of the Royal Mile – commonly called Castle Hill – and include Outlook Tower and the Camera Obscura and the Tolbooth (St. John's Highland Church) with the city's tallest church tower. It houses the interesting People's Story Museum and Gladstone's Land , a six-story merchant's house with pretty ceiling paintings and original furniture.

Also worthy of a visit is Lady Stair's Close, home to The Writer's Museum . Here, you'll find displays of manuscripts, portraits, etchings, and memorabilia of the poet Robert Burns and writers Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Just around the corner and overlooking Princes Park, the Museum on the Mound is worth checking out for its displays relating to the history of money and economics.

Climb to Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags

At 820 feet, Arthur's Seat is the highest point in the 640-acre Holyrood Park. The spectacular views from the top encompass the whole city all the way to the mouth of the Forth. The easiest way up is from Dunsapie Loch, where there's a good-sized car park. Alternatively, you can walk from the Old Town, heading up past the Dynamic Earth science center onto a path that leads from Queen's Drive.

Also easy to climb are the dramatic Salisbury Crags, a series of 151-foot cliffs adjacent to Arthur's Seat. Other features in this huge park are the ancient cultivation terraces, some of the earliest and best-preserved examples of ancient farming practices in Scotland, and the picturesque ruins of the medieval St. Anthony's Chapel.

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of Britain's most popular attractions associated with the monarchy. Over the years, the Queen has welcomed heads of state and famous people from around the world to this luxurious vessel. After more than 40 years serving the Royal Family, the 60-year-old yacht was sent to Leith, Edinburgh's port area, as the centerpiece of the Britannia Visitor Centre.

Once aboard, you'll learn about the history of this and other royal yachts as you explore the ship's five main decks. Highlights include the Royal Apartments and bedrooms; the lovely sun lounge; and the onboard Royal Deck Tea Room, where you can stop for tea and cakes.

For those wanting to spoil themselves with a luxury getaway, consider a stay aboard the former lighthouse ship, the Fingal , docked adjacent to the royal yacht.

Address: Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh

National Museum of Scotland

Since opening in 2011, the National Museum of Scotland has become one of Scotland's most popular attractions , and one of the best things to do for free in Edinburgh.

Welcoming over two million visitors each year, it incorporates collections from a number of Edinburgh's older museums, with highlights including national archaeological collections; medieval artifacts; and displays focusing on natural history, geology, art, science, and technology.

In its 16 galleries, containing more than 8,000 artifacts, are Dolly the sheep – the world's first cloned mammal – as well as some of Elton John's more elaborate stage costumes. Traditional museum displays also include material from Ancient Egypt and the infamous Maiden, an early form of guillotine.

There's plenty to see and do here, so expect to spend at least three or four hours exploring. Guided tours are available, and two restaurants are located on-site.

Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Founded in 1670, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is the second oldest such garden in Britain. It's also one of the largest, and boasts an impressive 13,200 different plant species.

Within its magnificent 70 acres are a herbarium with a collection of over three million specimens, Britain's biggest palm house, and a tropical house with exotic orchids. There's also an alpine house; a terraced moorland garden; a heather garden; and an extensive arboretum with rare giant trees from the Himalayas, North America, and China.

Other highlights include the woodland garden with its colorful azaleas, hydrangeas, camellias, and rhododendrons. There's also an aquatic house with tropical water plants, such as the pink water lily from India. Touring displays can be enjoyed in the Exhibition Hall.

For a special festive treat, visit for the spectacular light displays over the Christmas period. A variety of educational programs are also available for those wanting a more immersive experience.

Address: Arboretum Place, Edinburgh

Princes Street and Gardens

Busy Princes Street is the New Town's main thoroughfare. It extends for almost a mile and is lined with colorful gardens and elegant shops, including the tradition-conscious Jenners of Edinburgh, founded in 1838 and one of the world's oldest department stores.

Also good for shopping is the Princes Mall, popular with its small shops set among fountains and cafés and plenty of places to browse. As well as these temples to consumerism, you'll find restaurants, from fast food to gourmet bistros.

Of interest to those keen on genealogy is New Register House, home to the Scottish National Archives , some of which date as far back as the 13th century. Princes Street's historic landmarks include the 200-foot-tall Sir Walter Scott Monument and the David Livingstone Memorial, a memorial to the missionary and African explorer.

When you're done with all that shopping and history, head for Princes Street Gardens , home to the world's oldest floral clock (1903). From here, you're also afforded spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the gardens.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

A combination of Edinburgh history, city views from a new perspective, and experience with optical illusions, the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions is an attraction that certainly appeals to all ages.

The centerpiece, set in a Victorian rooftop room, is a pinhole camera that projects live moving images of Edinburgh onto a viewing table. The panorama is created by a combination of mirror and lenses, and it has been entertaining people here since 1853.

The rest of the experience will challenge your faith in your own vision, with a hall of mirrors, a vertigo-inspiring spinning vortex, 3-D holograms, and a whole range of optical experiences

Address: 549 Castlehill, Edinburgh

The National Galleries of Scotland

Paintings of Scotland's leading historic figures from the 16th century to the present day can be seen in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery , one of Edinburgh's three major art galleries.

The highlight of the gallery's 65,000-plus pieces is the huge processional frieze showing Scotland's most famous personalities, including Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Sean Connery, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Stuart, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, among others. The gallery is also home to the Scottish National Photography Collection .

Founded in 1859, the Scottish National Gallery is the country's second major art collection and displays Scotland's biggest collection of European paintings and sculptures. Its collection includes works from the Renaissance period right up to the Post-Impressionists.

Tours, lectures, and even art classes are available for visitors to enjoy, along with a restaurant. A handy shuttle bus service is also available that connects these two galleries with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (see below).

Address: The Mound, Edinburgh

Official site: www.nationalgalleries.org/

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – also known as "Modern One" – is another must-visit for art enthusiasts. Here, you'll find displays of paintings by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso; surrealistic works by Rene Magritte, Joan Miró, and Max Ernst; and contemporary paintings by Bruce McLean, Callum Innes, and Gwen Hardie.

The gallery is also well-known for its impressive collection of sculptures. Notable examples are works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and David Hockney. The extensive grounds of this impressive gallery are also worth exploring.

Across the road is what's come to be known as "Modern Two," housed in an old hospital built in the 1830s. Here, you'll see works by Surrealists, including sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, as well as an impressive recreation of his original London studio. A number of works by Dada are also on display.

If you plan on seeing both locations, as well as the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery, there's a lot of art (and walking) to experience, so you may want to spread your visits over a couple of days.

Address: 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh

St. Giles Cathedral

Consecrated in 1243, St. Giles Cathedral – also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh – is Edinburgh's principal church. It's also one of the city's most popular places to visit, attracting upwards of a million visitors each year.

The current structure was built in the 1300s and is notable for its impressive 161-foot-tall central tower with its eight arched buttresses. These form a huge crown (the Crown Steeple), which has become a favorite backdrop for photos and selfies. Interior highlights include memorials to the dead of WWI; lovely stained-glass windows; and a statue of John Knox, leader of the Protestant Reformation (his former home, 45 High Street, is close by and contains a museum).

The Thistle Chapel is also worth checking out and is best known for its oak carvings; heraldic emblems; and seals of the "Knights of the Thistle," Scotland's oldest order of knights. Sir Robert Lorimer designed the chapel in 1911, and it's a superb example of the modern Gothic style. Fun things to do while visiting the cathedral include joining a rooftop tour, or enjoying an afternoon choir concert.

Address: High Street, Edinburgh

St.Giles Cathedral - Floor plan map

Calton Hill provides a panoramic view of the city, with Princes Street, the castle, and the Old Town silhouetted against Arthur's Seat. To the east and north you can see the Firth of Forth and the docks at Leith. At the foot of the hill stands the 13th-century Royal High School, where Sir Walter Scott was once a pupil.

Perhaps the most important of Edinburgh's many memorials is the impressive National Monument on Calton Hill, erected to remember the dead from the Napoleonic Wars. Henry Playfair designed the memorial using the Parthenon in Athens as his inspiration.

Work began in 1822, but the project had to be abandoned due to lack of money. Nelson's Monument was unveiled in 1816 after Horatio Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Opposite Calton Hill stands a memorial to famed Scottish poet, Robert Burns. For a spectacular memento of your Edinburgh vacation, be sure to snap a few shots from here over the city at sunset.

Museum of Edinburgh

Located on historic Canongate, the Museum of Edinburgh is also worth a look for those with an interest in digging a little deeper into this fascinating city's rich and storied history. The building itself is well worth seeing and was constructed in the late 1500s.

Its fascinating exhibits tell of Edinburgh's origins through artifacts and original documents, as well as tales of its heroes and everyday life. Of note is its important collection of decorative arts, including finely crafted glassware and silverware, 18th-century porcelain, and clocks.

Fans of the popular Outlander TV show should also pay a visit. The museum building and neighboring Bakehouse Close were featured in the show's third series, and make for a great selfie opportunity.

Address: 142-146 Canongate, Edinburgh

Greyfriars Church and Greyfriars Bobby

Located at the south end of picturesque Candlemakers Row, Greyfriars Church is a must-visit when in Edinburgh. Here, you'll find the city's oldest graveyard, the final resting place for a number of celebrated Scots, including poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758).

The first "National Covenant," directed against Charles I's attempt to impose the constitution of the Anglican Church on Scotland, was signed here in 1638, under which framework the church would be subjected to the power of the state. Buried within the Covenanters Prison is James Hutton, considered by many as the father of modern geology.

Perhaps the most famous name associated with the church, however, is Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858, this Skye terrier loyally followed the coffin of his master, John Gray, to the graveyard and until his death 14 years later refused to leave. A kennel was built for him to shelter in, and a famous landmark outside the church is a statue of Bobby erected in 1873.

If visiting on Thursday, be sure to spend time enjoying one of the regular afternoon concerts. A museum is located on-site, and guided tours are available.

Address: 1 Greyfriars, Edinburgh

Giant panda at the Edinburgh Zoo

Set on 82 acres of land on the edge of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Zoo was established in 1913 and remains one of the top things to do for families visiting the city.

The zoo boasts a diversity of creatures from around the globe, some of whom were born and raised here through its successful breeding programs. Edinburgh Zoo has the distinction of being the only UK zoo park to house koalas and pandas, and was the first to breed penguins. Among its other "star" animals are a troop of chimps and wallabies, as well as an exhibit of smaller creatures, such as amphibians and insects, in an area called "Wee Beasties."

Those wanting to broaden their zoo experience can opt to participate in a variety of special events and animal interaction opportunities, including the popular "keeper experiences," which offer a fun behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day care of animals.

Also fun are the "Animal Antics" shows, which provide a fascinating insight into the training and care of a variety of species. There's a great garden area to explore, too, plus a number of casual food options and a gift shop.

Address: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh

The Museum of Childhood

Not just for kids, the Museum of Childhood includes excellent collections of old toys, including model trains, dolls, and games from around the world. But it's more than just a place full of old toys (as much fun as they are). The museum – the first of its kind when it opened in the early 1900s – explores other aspects of growing up, including a fun look at schooldays, trends, and fashions.

Adding to the authenticity is a re-creation of a Victorian streetscape complete with outdoor toys, as well as an opportunity to dress up in period costumes and play the kinds of games our ancestors would have enjoyed.

Address: 42 High Street, Edinburgh

Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is a multi-media presentation that takes visitors on a 500-million-year journey through the Earth's history. Using hi-tech gadgetry and superb special effects, its displays realistically portray natural events such as volcanoes, tropical rainstorms, and glaciation.

Located at the foot of Arthur's Seat near Holyrood Park, this unique science center is housed in an ultra-modern tent-like structure and is particularly fun for kids. And thanks to facilities like the excellent 360-degree Showdome, with its 3D movies, it's as entertaining as it is educational.

The museum's latest addition is 4Dventure flight simulator , where visitors explore evolution and the diversity of the world's climates by "flying" through time and space.

Address: Holyrood Road, Edinburgh

The Real Mary King's Close

One of the newest attractions in Edinburgh, The Real Mary King's Close offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into one of the oldest sections of the Royal Mile.

Located under the historic Old Town area, Mary King's Close was buried and closed after being partly dismantled in the 1700s to make way for the Royal Exchange. This network of narrow streets, now underground, was once a vibrant neighborhood lined with tenement homes, and has long been the subject of myths of ghosts and murder.

Visitors can now join fun tours led by costumed guides that lead you to some of the best preserved areas of this fascinating underground world. Along the way, you'll learn how, during the time of the plague, some 300 residents were sealed up and forgotten about, so legend has it.

Displays and exhibits are also used to show what the area once would have looked like, as well as sharing details of life during the 17th century. ( Editor's Note : Advanced booking is recommended, especially during the busy summer season.)

Ghost tours can also be booked at the Edinburgh Vaults , a series of underground storage chambers built in the 1780s. You can also get a taste for life during medieval times at the popular Edinburgh Dungeon, another underground attraction, this time located on East Market Street.

Address: Warriston's Close, 2, High Street, Edinburgh

John Knox House

Located on the Royal Mile a short distance from the castle, the John Knox House & Scottish Storytelling Centre attraction is a treat for anyone interested in Scotland's rich cultural heritage. It was built in 1470 and is said to be the one time home of the protestant reformer after which it's named.

A highlight of a visit is exploring the exhibits and displays related to the Scottish Reformation, a pivotal moment in the country's history. Other notable features include a well-preserved hand-painted ceiling from this period and carvings from the 1800s. Guided tours are available.

The adjoining Scottish Storytelling Centre is also worth a visit. Billed as a "home for Scotland's stories," this popular venue hosts regular performances by musicians and actors, as well as readings by leading Scottish writers. A variety of workshops and learning opportunities are also available, with programs aimed at all ages. For a truly memorable experience, book one of the venue's professional storytellers for a personalized story-telling session or workshop. A café is also located on-site.

Address: Scottish Storytelling Centre, High Street, Edinburgh

The Surgeons' Hall Museum

The Surgeons' Hall Museums consist of three fascinating attractions in one, all of them dealing with important advancements in medicine and medical procedures. These include the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum, and the Techniques and Technologies Dental Collection.

Set in the impressive Royal College of Surgeons building, these fascinating museums feature collections of tools and material relating to medicine and surgical procedures. Workshops and other learning opportunities are held here frequently, along with the occasional themed special events at Halloween and Christmas.

Address: Nicolson Street, Edinburgh

If you're visiting Edinburgh for the first time and want to see all the best places to visit in this beautiful part of Scotland, the city center makes a great base, especially the areas of Old Town, with the Royal Mile, and New Town, with the fabulous shops of Princes Street. The more affordable West End is also a popular and convenient place to stay. These areas put you in close range of the city's top historic attractions, such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey, as well as museums, galleries, and restaurants. Here are some highly rated hotels in these central locations:

Luxury Hotels :

  • Set in one of the most picturesque corners of Edinburgh, The Balmoral Hotel is perhaps the poshest place to stay in the city. Just two minutes' walk from Waverley station and close to Edinburgh Castle, its bright, contemporary-styled rooms and suites feature classy marble bathrooms, and a great breakfast. Amenities include a fine-dining restaurant, afternoon tea, a full-service spa, indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center.
  • Just steps away from the Royal Mile, Cheval Old Town Chambers offers fantastic value – especially for families and extended-stay travelers – with its luxurious contemporary apartments. Each is unique, with features such as exposed stone from the 15th century and gabled ceilings. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk and concierge services, laundry facilities, and luggage storage.
  • For those who prefer a large chain hotel, the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa is a great choice of luxury accommodations. Only 10 minutes on foot from Edinburgh Castle, its well-appointed rooms feature media hubs and glass-walled bathrooms, along with free Wi-Fi. Larger suites are also available (be sure to request one that overlooks the castle). On-site amenities include a good-size indoor swimming pool and a full-service, rooftop spa.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Sitting right on the Royal Mile in a historic old bank building, The Inn on the Mile offers great-value, stylish rooms with iPod docks, and wonderful city views, all just five-minutes' walk from the castle and Princes Street. This charming boutique hotel also features a restaurant that's popular with guests and locals alike and known to serve great locally sourced dishes, including freshly caught fish.
  • Located in the heart of Edinburgh New Town, the Ibis Styles Edinburgh Centre St. Andrew Square features bold, colorful décor throughout, along with plush bedding and a great breakfast (some pet-friendly rooms are available). Just 12-minutes' stroll from the Royal Mile, the hotel is popular with families for its kids programs.
  • Another excellent mid-range chain option located in the heart of the city is the Premier Inn Edinburgh City Centre (Princes Street) Hotel , featuring clean, bright rooms with comfortable beds and bedding. You're also within easy walking distance of the castle and the Royal Mile, as well as Edinburgh's best museums and galleries. The hotel's on-site restaurant features excellent views of the castle.

Budget Hotels:

  • The great-value Travelodge Edinburgh Central Princes Street is set in a fantastic location opposite Edinburgh-Waverley train station and close to shops, restaurants, and the Royal Mile. Popular with families, this budget hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi and HD TVs.
  • Also popular in this category, the Cairn Hotel Edinburgh features compact, clean rooms within the theater district and less than a 10-minute walk from the city center. A breakfast buffet is available, along with a lounge area and coffee shop.
  • About a 15-minute walk from the Royal Mile, Regent House Hotel offers a mix of brightly decorated guest rooms and family rooms with period furniture, comfy beds, large screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, luggage storage, and a hearty free breakfast buffet.
  • Sightseeing Tours: If you're planning to see the city's top attractions, the Royal Edinburgh Ticket Including Hop-On Hop-Off Tours and Edinburgh Castle Admission will save you the hassle of finding your way around the city. Hop aboard the open-top, double-decker sightseeing bus and cruise around the sites, listening to the audio commentary and jumping off at your favorite attractions. The tour is valid for 48 hours. Best of all, it includes admission to prime sights such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as fast-track entry to Edinburgh Castle.
  • Day Trip Tours: Breathtaking countryside, quaint villages, and the famous Scottish Highlands beckon not far from Edinburgh. And you can save time and trouble if you explore the surroundings on a day trip tour. Let an experienced driver take you through the countryside in the comfort of a Mercedes van on the Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Trip from Edinburgh . This full-day guided tour includes a visit to beautiful forested lochs, tiny villages, Glencoe, Cairngorms National Park, Fort Augustus, and the chance to search for the Loch Ness monster. Also focusing on the Scottish Highlands is the West Highland Lochs and Castles Small Group Day Trip from Edinburgh . Castles, lakes, breathtaking scenery, and small villages are the highlights on this full-day guided tour, which includes discounts at select local restaurants, shops, and attractions. You don't have to be a golfer to enjoy the St. Andrews and Fife Small Group Day Trip from Edinburgh . It includes a visit to the fishing villages of East Neuk, Falkland Palace, and, of course, a visit to St. Andrews, known as the home of golf as well as Scotland's oldest university. If you have more time and want to see the dramatic scenery of Scotland's northwest coast, consider the 3-Day Isle of Skye Small-Group Tour from Edinburgh . In the comfort of a Mercedes van, you'll visit the Scottish Highlands, with stops at Glencoe and Loch Ness, and the Isle of Skye. Included in the tour are a professional driver and guide, two nights at a B&B or three-star hotel, and two breakfasts.
  • Free in Edinburgh: A surprising number of Edinburgh attractions are free. Top things to do for free in Edinburgh include the National Museum, the Botanic Garden, the National Galleries, and the city's many churches. Also free is the sightseeing bus that shuttles visitors between the various National Galleries.

Located just eight miles west of the city center, Edinburgh Airport is well served by public transit. From here, an easy journey by Edinburgh Trams and a change to the mainline train will get you to Waverley station in under 30 minutes. The same journey by car (taxis are plentiful, and Uber is available) takes around 25 minutes. Buses are available and offer good connections to other parts of the city.

Whether you're looking for souvenirs or traditional Scottish crafts and clothing – and who wouldn't want to buy a kilt? – Princes Street and the Royal Mile are your best bets. Both are home to a number of large department stores. If you're looking for the big-name fashion outlets, head to Waverley Mall , just steps from the city's train station – you'll find shops in a bright, modern-looking building.

If you're planning on visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, be sure to add the Ocean Terminal , in the old docklands area, to your list of places to shop. There are also many great restaurants and entertainment options here, too.

Some of the best places to visit in Scotland can be enjoyed on easy day trips from Edinburgh . Highlights include several castles, including famous Stirling Castle , which is easy to get to by train or by road. Scotland's cultural capital, Glasgow , is also only a short train ride to the west. From here, you can grab a quick bus connection to Loch Lomond . Said to be the country's prettiest loch, it's a great area for outdoorsy-types to explore, thanks to its many hiking and biking trails.

Also within reach is one of Europe's most scenic train rides. Made famous by the Harry Potter movie franchise, the journey from Balloch to Oban , gateway to the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides , travels over the spectacular Glenfinnan viaduct. North of Edinburgh, St. Andrews is of interest not just to golfers, but to history enthusiasts. But wherever you plan to travel in Scotland , you'll find Edinburgh a good starting point.

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30 Epic Things to Do in Edinburgh: Ultimate Guide by a Local

Shrouded in myths and legends and steeped in thousands of years of history, Edinburgh is a city like no other.

With an electric mix of architecture, winding cobbled streets, atmospheric alleyways, diverse festivals, plenty of green spaces and one of the best castles in Scotland – It’s hard to beat Edinburgh’s charm. Nearly every type of traveller will find something in this Scottish city to marvel at.

It’s been our home for almost a decade now, and we are so excited to share our favourite experiences and places to help you curate your journey.

Even if the sun doesn’t shine every day, Edinburgh is so incredibly stunning that “it breaks the heart again and again.”

It’s not surprising that in 1995, The Old and New Town of Edinburgh was recognised in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

From Harry Potter writer J. K. Rowling to Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson to Sir Walter Scott – this Scottish capital city has inspired many creative geniuses.

So, whether you have only a day or a week, this guide will help you pull together a fantastic itinerary of Edinburgh. Also, there are some great day trip options within easy reach.

We have covered much of what this city has to offer to first-time visitors, as well as some ideas to explore a little further in pursuit of different experiences for returning visitors.

Best things to do in Edinburgh

1. soak up the panoramic views from calton hill.

Located only a few metres off the east end of the busy Princes Street, Calton Hill is a public park housing several Greek-style historical monuments and landmarks. It is one of the best places in Edinburgh to get an interrupted panoramic view of the city’s dramatic skyline.

At the top, you will find the upside-down telescope-shaped Nelson Monument. You can climb 143 steps to reach a viewing platform at the top to admire some of the best views of Edinburgh.

view over Edinburgh skyline from Calton Hill

Another historic attraction on Calton Hill is the columned structure of the National Monument of Scotland. The construction of this 19th-century landmark remained unfinished due to lack of funds at that time and hence earned the nickname ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’.

We will highly recommend visiting Calton Hill at sunset. It takes only 5-10 minutes to reach the top through the steps on Regent Road. It is open to visitors every day, all year round.

Find Out the Best Viewpoints and Attractions on Calton Hill

2. Explore the Turbulent History of Edinburgh Castle

Sitting at the top of the historic Royal Mile, this magnificent fortress is a prominent part of the city’s iconic skyline. Steeped in over nine hundred years of history, its dramatic setting on an extinct volcanic plug provides a stunning view over the city.

The oldest surviving structure of Edinburgh Castle is the St. Margaret’s Chapel. It was built in the early 12th century by King David I. He named this small chapel after his beloved mother, Queen Margaret. However, historians believe that the origins of the fortress and the geological features of this area are much older.

Read More: 25 Most Beautiful Castles in Scotland You Must Visit

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has a chequered past. For many years, this was the home of Scottish kings and queens of Scotland, then it was turned into a mighty military fortress and later served as a prison. The control of the castle changed hands numerous times throughout history.

We would suggest spending at least two hours to explore all the hidden corners of the castle.

Visitors can see the famous Honours of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, Mons Meg, the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel, and the One O’Clock Gun. Follow our extensive guide to visiting Edinburgh Castle .

Tickets: Admission fees up to and including 31st March costs £18 online and £21 walk-up for adults.

From 1st April onwards, it costs £19.50 online and £22 walk-up for adults.

3. Step Back in Time in the Historic Royal Mile

A meander along the historic Royal Mile is an unmissable part of sightseeing in Edinburgh. The street is actually longer than a mile. The term ‘Royal Mile’ refers to a Scots mile – an old Scottish measuring unit which became obsolete in the 18th century.

The Royal Mile is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city. It runs from the historic castle to the Holyrood Palace.

Tron Kirk

This iconic street is lined with various famous city landmarks, souvenir shops, museums, traditional pubs and restaurants. During Edinburgh Festival in August, this area comes alive with entertaining street performances.

Some of the historical highlights of Royal Mile are the Scottish Parliament Building, St Giles’ Cathedral, The Real Mary King’s Close, John Knox House and the Museum of Edinburgh .

Also, watch out for the narrow alleyways known as closes in Scotland. Advocates Close, Anchor Close and White Horse Close are particularly very photogenic.

Read More: Detailed Guide to Edinburgh Castle

4. Take in Breathtaking Views from Arthur’s Seat

Created by volcanic activity 335 million years ago, Arthur’s Seat is one of the most popular sites in Edinburgh to watch the sunset. Watching the Sun gradually disappear behind the horizon is an absolute treat.

Sitting at the edge of the historic Royal Mile, right next to the Holyrood Palace, the Holyrood Park spreads across a vast area of 650 acres. The highest point of the park is Arthur’s Seat at 251 metres.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Arthur’s Seat

View Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

There are numerous walking trails all around this park. The hike to Arthur’s Seat is moderately easy and well worth the effort to see the breathtaking view over the sprawling cityscapes of Edinburgh and beyond.

It takes around 1 -1.5 hours to climb the summit, depending on your pace and fitness level. Alternatively, the jagged cliffs of Salisbury Crags are also an excellent vantage point to admire the epic skyline of Edinburgh.

If you are a keen walker, you might be interested in taking a peaceful stroll around Duddingston Loch, Dunsapie Loch and St Margaret’s Loch – home to many wildlife and birds.

5. Unleash Your Inner Harry Potter in Victoria Street and Grassmarket

Frequently referred to as the fictional Diagon Alley of Edinburgh, Victoria Street is one of the most photographed streets in the city. It is like a magic alleyway that will make you disappear from the historic Grassmarket and pop you out at the iconic Royal Mile. The Colourful stretch of old Flemish-styled buildings with arch-shaped facades is bound to cast a spell.

Grassmarket is one of the most vibrant and liveliest places in the Old Town. In past centuries, public hangings used to take place here.

Read More: A Short Guide to Victoria Street

Victoria Street, most colorful street of Edinburgh

Grassmarket has some of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh. One of them is the White Hart Inn, a 500-year-old pub where many famous people spent the night, including William Wordsworth and Robert Burns. It was also frequented by the notorious body snatchers of the 18th century, Burke and Hare.

Nowadays, Grassmarket is home to many events, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Also, you can visit the farmer’s market on Saturdays.

6. Explore the Prettiest Corners of Dean Village

Nestled in a deep valley on the Water of Leith, Dean Village is only a few minutes away from the busy Edinburgh city centre. This picturesque neighbourhood stands out for its colourful half-timbered houses, medieval cobbled streets and idyllic riverside settings.

For over 800 years, Dean Village was a bustling site with various thriving industries and mills that used to harness power from the Water of Leith. Look out for the millstones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies on the buildings. Dean Village used to supply milled flour and other grains to the residents of Edinburgh.

Dean Village

One of the most impressive houses here is Well Court. The red sandstone building with its landmark clock tower, conical turrets and crow-stepped gables oozes charm. It was built in the late 19th century for the nearby mill workers.

Follow the riverside path towards Stockbridge to visit St. Bernard’s Well, a hidden gem of Edinburgh. This elegant Roman temple-like structure houses a beautiful statue of Hygieia – the Greek goddess of health.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Dean Village

7. Discover the Royal History of Palace of Holyroodhouse

The official residence of the British Monarch in Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. This grand palace stands at the east end of the Royal Mile with Arthur’s Seat in the backdrop.

This 16th-century palace was closely associated with Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie – two prominent royal figures in Scottish history. Visitors can explore the grand interiors and the collections of Flemish and French tapestries in the state apartments. Also, you can see the two thrones commissioned by King George V in 1911 in the Throne room.

Holyrood Palace

Outside the palace, you would find the ruins of the historic Holyrood Abbey, which played a pivotal role in Edinburgh’s history. It was founded in 1128 by King David I.

Stroll around the beautiful garden and search for Queen Mary’s Bathhouse. Also, the adjacent Queen’s gallery is worth a visit. It displays paintings, furniture and photographs from the Royal collection.

Opening Hours : 1 November – 31 March 09.30 am – 16.30 pm.

1 April – 31 October 09.30 am – 18.00 pm.

Ticket Price : Adult advance £18, on the day £19.50.

8. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Located opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard, the National Museum of Scotland is one of the best kid-friendly attractions in Edinburgh.

It features several exhibitions on natural and ancient history, ancient civilisations, archaeology and the history of Scotland. You can easily spend an hour or two discovering all the impressive collections this museum has to offer.

National Museum of Scotland

From ancient Egyptian artefacts to ceramics, cultural diversity to wildlife – you can find everything under one roof. Some highlights include Dolly the Sheep, the millennium clock and Lewis chessmen. Also, the Grand Gallery looks very photogenic.

They regularly host several events, including guided tours, workshops and temporary exhibitions.

Don’t forget to visit the rooftop of the museum. It is free and provides a stunning panoramic view over Edinburgh rooftops. If you can’t find it, ask any member of the staff for directions.

Opening Hours : Daily, 10 am – 5 pm.

9. Enjoy Romantic Strolls in Circus Lane and Stockbridge

Travellers visit Circus Lane to admire the vibrant floral displays, cute Georgian mews houses, colourful doors and the picturesque settings of the imposing St Stephen’s Church in the background. This cobbled street is a popular spot with local photographers and tourists.

Regarded as the prettiest street in Edinburgh, Circus Lane was originally a back alley built to cater for the horses, carriages and stable servants of wealthy residents of nearby Royal Circus in the 19th century.

Further Reading: Our Detailed Guide to Stockbridge

Circus Lane

Circus Lane lies in the bustling neighbourhood of Stockbridge . From indulging in tasty street food in the farmer’s market to feeding the ducks at Inverleith Pond – there are loads of amazing things to do in Stockbridge.

Packed with trendy cocktail bars, cosy cafes, gastro eateries and several independent shops, Stockbridge is famous for its cool bohemian vibe. Also, it is a few minutes away from some of Edinburgh’s open green spaces and art museums.

Further Reading: Our Brief Guide to Circus Lane

10. Marvel at the Priceless Paintings of the Scottish National Gallery

Housed in an elegant 19th-century neoclassical building just off Princes Street, Scottish National Gallery is the leading art gallery in Scotland. It is undoubtedly one of the best free visitors attractions in Edinburgh. You can easily spend an hour or two discovering priceless art.

Established in 1859, it showcases an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures from the early renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. Here you’ll find many famous masterpieces by legends like Raphael, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Velázquez and Vermeer.

Also, there are paintings by several Scottish artists. Look out for Edwin Landseer’s famous painting ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ and Henry Raeburn’s much-loved ‘The Skating Minister’.

The nearby Royal Scottish Academy is also part of the Scottish National Gallery and hosts many temporary exhibitions.

Opening Hours : Open daily, 10 am-5 pm.

11. Test Your Limits and Climb Scott Monument

Standing proudly in East Princes Street Garden, Scott Monument is dedicated to one of Scotland’s most legendary writers, Sir Walter Scott.

This Gothic structure at the heart of Edinburgh is the second-largest monument to a writer, anywhere in the world. A statue of him with his beloved dog, Maida, sits at the base of this memorial.

Scott Monument

Constructed in mid 19th century, Scott Monument is a famous landmark in the city and an iconic part of the skyline. The exterior of the tower is adorned with several small statues of Scottish writers and various characters from Scott’s novels.

Do you know you can actually climb Scott Monument? There are viewing platforms at different levels offering gorgeous views of Edinburgh rooftops and the surrounding hills. Inside, you can visit the exhibitions showcasing the life and legacy of Sir Walter Scott. There are 287 steps to climb up to the top. The last few steps are quite steep and narrow.

12. Admire the Interiors of St Giles Cathedral

Founded in 1124, St Giles Cathedral is one of the prominent historic buildings in Edinburgh. It’s technically not a cathedral – rather a church that stands right on the iconic Royal Mile with distinct crown spires, popularly known as lantern towers. The architecture is impressive and worth a visit inside. 

Step inside this medieval building and learn the riveting tale of reformation when John Knox was a priest. They have guided rooftop tours available as well. The view of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Old Town is stunning from the top.

St Giles Cathedral

The highlight of your visit would be the Thistle Chapel, situated at one corner of the church. It has ornated roofs and impressive wood carvings, including coats of arms of the sixteen nights, swords and thistles. Also, don’t miss the large stained glass window above the main entrance depicting the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns.

13. Be Royalty for a Day at Royal Yacht Britannia

A floating palace moored in Leith, Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the top tourist attractions in Edinburgh. This Royal vessel has sailed one million nautical miles, hosted several State Receptions and dignitaries, and a few Royal honeymoons – she served the Royal Family for over forty years.

Built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co in Clydebank, Scotland, Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953. It sailed her first overseas maiden voyage to the Grand Harbour of Malta in 1954.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Explore the five decks of this ship, the State Apartments, State Drawing Room and the Sun Lounge, which was the Queen’s favourite room here. Also, you can uncover the stories of the crew members and learn about their life at sea. Britannia’s fascinating tale of its epic voyages around the globe to its retirement in Edinburgh will intrigue you.

If you fancy a bite with a stunning view, pop into their onboard restaurant, The Royal Deck Tearoom.

Price : Adult £18.50 and child £9.25.

14. Commune with Nature at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Just a mile away from the city centre, The Royal Botanic Garden is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. Home to some of the extensive collections of living plants and more than 13,500 species, this sprawling 70 acres of green space is one of the best places to walk in Edinburgh.

Founded in 1670, this is one of the oldest gardens in the UK. Enjoy the vast collections of plants at the Chinese Hillside, climb to the highest point of the Garden Rock, follow the Beech Hedge and Herbaceous Border or meander around the large Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Also, there are many vantage points offering fantastic views of Edinburgh’s skyline.

The lovely Victorian Temperate Palm House is a must-visit. Entry to the garden is free except for the glasshouses, which require tickets. During the winter months, Royal Botanics hosts Christmas at the Botanics – a popular family-friendly event.

Opening Hours : Daily, November to January 10 am-4 pm; February and October 10 am – 5 pm; March to September 10 am-6 pm.

15. Get Spooked in Greyfriars Kirkyard

If you are a Harry potter fan, Greyfriars Kirkyard should be a must-visit place in your Edinburgh itinerary.

As you stroll around the graveyard, you will spot the name of some of the beloved Harry Potter Characters. Watch out for the names of Tom Riddle, McGonagall, Mad-eye Moodie, and Potter.

The author J.K. Rowling penned some of the chapters of the Harry Potter series at the nearby Elephant House Cafe.

Greyfriars Bobby

Another unmissable attraction is the adorable bronze statue of the famous Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. Tourists often rub its nose for luck.

The story goes that Bobby guarded the grave of his master in Greyfriars Kirkyard for 14 years after his death in 1872. Bobby became very famous in his lifetime, and people from all over Edinburgh used to come to watch and feed him.

Greyfriars Kirkyard is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city.

16. Sit Back with a Picnic at Princes Street Garden

This Scottish city doesn’t have any shortage of open green spaces. But Princes Street Garden at the heart of the city centre is a special one. It is a great place to hang out beneath the imposing Edinburgh Castle and enjoy a picnic.

In summer, you will find the garden teeming with locals and tourists sunbathing and chilling out. During Christmas, this ground transforms into a winter wonderland. In East Princes Street Garden stands Scott Monument, an iconic landmark of Edinburgh. Centrepiece of the westside garden is the beautifully ornate Ross Fountain.

You can also see many statues here. Look out for the Statue of Wojtek, a soldier bear who carried ammunition during World War II.

Also, visit the gingerbread-looking Gardeners Cottage, the former home of the head gardener. Today this dinky house is a popular photo spot in Edinburgh.

Another point of interest is the Floral Clock, the first floral clock in the world, dating back to the early 20th century.

17. Take Some Unforgettable Day Trips from Edinburgh

If you are visiting this city for a little longer, we highly recommend adding a few of the best day trips from Edinburgh to your visit.

Take a day trip to Glasgow , famous for various museums , Victorian and art nouveau architectures, colourful urban mural trail , legendary music scenes and nightlife.

A day tour to visit the incredibly beautiful Loch Lomond is a must. Take a boat cruise and explore Luss , one of the prettiest Scottish villages on the bank of Loch Lomond.

Catch a train from Edinburgh Waverley to the coastal town of St Andrews . Frequently referred to as the home of golf, the Old Course is one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

The picturesque fishing village, St Abbs in the Scottish Borders, has featured in the Avengers the Endgame movie and is worth a visit.

History lovers would love exploring the history of Stirling . The bustling city is full of many historical sights.

18. Enjoy a Taste of Haggis

No visit to Edinburgh is ever complete without tasting the national dish of Scotland, haggis. Love it or hate it, you have to try this famous dish at least once. You never know. Maybe you might turn into a fan of this savoury pudding.

Haggis is typically served with a generous portion of mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips) and accompanied by a dram of whiskey.

It tastes like crumbly sausage, with an earthy texture and peppery flavour. It is made by combining sheep’s plucks – chopped liver, heart and lungs with oatmeal, onions, salt and spices and cooked in a sheep’s stomach.

Some of the best places to try haggis in Edinburgh are Arcade Bar Haggis and Whisky House  and Whiski Bar & Restaurant . Other delicious Scottish dishes you might be interested in trying are Cullen Skink, full Scottish breakfast, black pudding and Scotch Pie.

19. Watch a Live Performance at the Edinburgh Festival

August is the most happening month in the city’s calendar. Edinburgh comes alive with an array of festivals and events. More than 2500 performances take place every day in August at various venues around the city.

The Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. Hundreds of street performers entertain the audience in the Royal Mile, Grassmarket and Princes Street Garden.

Edinburgh Fringe Street performers

Also, you can enjoy several standup comedy shows, ballets, operas, cabaret and musicals by renowned local and international artists. We would strongly recommend seeing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo , an experience of a lifetime. The jaw-dropping performances of military pipes and drums come alongside traditional Scottish highland dance. Tattoo tickets sell out months in advance.

The month-long festivities end with the annual fireworks display. Thousands of locals and tourists gather at various vantage points to witness this breathtaking display.

20. Uncover Gourmet Delights in Leith

Away from the city centre, Leith is a vibrant and culturally diverse corner of Edinburgh. The Water of Leith flows through the heart of this neighbourhood. It has a rich maritime history and was once an important industrial hub of Scotland.

The Shore of Leith

Today, this area is bustling with trendy shops, hip coffee shops and cosy pubs. From fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants to delicious street foods, Leith is a must-visit destination for all foodies visiting Edinburgh.

You can find some of the city’s best restaurants in Leith. Some of our favourites are Fishers, Teuchters Landing , Martin Wishart and The Kitchin . Also, the full Scottish breakfast at Roseleaf Bar Cafe is a reason alone to visit Leith.

If you are here on Saturday, head to the farmer’s market for fresh local produces.

21. Explore Underground History at Real Mary King Close

Steeped in history, the Real Mary King Close lies underneath the busy street of the Royal Mile. This family-friendly attraction takes you back in time and tells the unheard stories of the Edinburgh Old Town.

An hour-long guided tour is the only way to explore this historic close and the surrounding maze of narrow alleyways and tenement houses from the 17th century.

It is named after Mary King, a local businesswoman who was a resident of this close. An expert guide will tell you about the life of some of the notable residents who once lived here. Also, you will learn intriguing tales about the deadly plague that ravaged Edinburgh and this close in past centuries.

Over the years, this site has been associated with various folklore, legends and paranormal activities. It was featured in several books and on television as one of the haunted places in the UK.

Price : Adult £21 and child £15.

22. Enjoy Yourself in Edinburgh Christmas Market and Hogmanay

We are perhaps a bit biased, but this city hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. It shines bright with festive spirit at this magical time of the year.

You can find the beautiful Edinburgh Christmas Market in the Princes Street Gardens. There is an array of beautifully decorated chalets selling everything from hot mulled wine to Christmas decorations.

Also, there are plenty of fun rides and activities for all age groups. Younger visitors would love the Christmas Tree Maze, Santa’s Grotto and Nativity Carol Concert. You would love skating at the Alpine ice rink located on George Street.

Hogmanay is an integral part of the Edinburgh Christmas celebration and Scottish tradition. The three-day-long festivity starts with a torchlight procession.

On New Year’s Eve, there are spectacular fireworks displays from the castle . Locals and tourists enjoy themselves at the world-famous Hogmanay Street Party with live music and a delicious selection of street food and drink.

23. Release Your Inner Child at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions 

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is located at the top of the historic Royal Mile, close to Edinburgh Castle esplanade. If you are not familiar with Camera Obscura, it’s a Latin term for dark chamber and is related to the earliest version of the modern-day camera.

Established in 1835, Camera Obscura is a six-floor building having plenty of entertaining and interactive optical illusions suitable for all age groups. The mindblowing puzzles, mirror maze, and vortex tunnel are thoroughly enjoyable.

The Camera Obscura is still in use and can project the buildings and streets of Edinburgh up and close for visitors. The rooftop terrace offers a superb panoramic view of the sprawling city and the Firth of Forth.

Price : Adult £20.95 and child £16.95.

24. Visit Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art lies at the West End of Edinburgh. You can also walk here from Dean Village following the Water of Leith pathway. Sitting side by side, there are actually two separate buildings – Modern One and Two.

You will find an extensive collection of modern and contemporary artworks by reputed Scottish and international artists.

There are many interesting outdoor sculptures and art installations on the surrounding ground. The landform by Charles Jencks in front of Modern One looks stunning.

Modern One houses masterpieces by famous artists like Matisse and Picasso. Modern Two hosts various temporary exhibitions all year round. As you enter the building, you will notice a giant 7.3 metre-tall sculpture, Vulcan. Their permanent display includes the recreation of Edinburgh-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio.

Opening Hours : Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm.

25. Take a Tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience

If you are a whisky enthusiast, a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of the Royal Mile will surely interest you. After all, whisky is the national drink of Scotland.

Established in 1988 on the former premise of a school, this visitor attraction in Edinburgh Old Town offers various guided tours to showcase Scotland’s rich history of the whisky industry. It houses the world’s largest collection of whisky bottles. They also have a restaurant and whisky bar on site.

They offer different types of tours. Their expert guide will demonstrate the methods and skills of making scotch whisky. The tour concludes with a wee tasting. Also, you can bring a small bottle back home with you. Audio guides are available in 20 languages. The tour price starts from £21 per adult.

Opening Hours : 10 am – 5 pm.

26. Explore the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Situated on Queens Street, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has a superb selection of photographs, sculptures and portraits of some of the most famous Scottish personalities from past and present.

Also, you would be amazed by the glittering friezes and murals of this neo-gothic architectural gem of Edinburgh. The beautifully painted mural at the main entrance hall will surely impress you.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

From Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie to Tilda Swinton and Flora Macdonald – You can see all their beautiful portraits here.

This gorgeous red sandstone building was donated in the 19th century by John Ritchie Findlay – the proprietor of The Scotsman newspaper.

It is an amazing free attraction in Edinburgh to spend a rainy day.

Opening Hours : Open daily, 10 am to 5 pm.

27. Discover Writers Museum & Makar’s Court

Located at Lady Stairs close, just a few steps off the Royal Mile, the Writers Museum houses a magnificent collection and memorabilia of three legends of Scottish literature – Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

This picturesque house was built in 1622 by Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, an Edinburgh-based wealthy businessman. Today, the fairy-tale-looking turret draws tourists to this humble museum.

Highlights of your visit would be the first edition of Scott’s Waverley, Burn’s writing desk and a rare cast of his skull, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s personal items. Also, you would get to know a lot about their literary life.

Just outside the Writers Museum lies Makar’s Court, an open space where famous quotes of Scottish writers are etched on flagstones – possibly the most fitting feature to honour Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature .

Opening Hours : Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm.

28. Admire the Grand Architecture of the Forth Bridge

An iconic landmark of Scotland, Forth Rail Bridge is an engineering marvel over the Firth of Forth – the estuary of the River Forth.

Located about 10 miles west of Edinburgh City Centre, this bridge connects two villages of Scotland – North and South Queensferry.When this rail bridge was completed in 1890, it was the longest single cantilever bridge in the world. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015.

Forth Rail Bridge

There are several sightseeing tour companies that offer guided trips to the Forth Bridges. Alternatively, hop on board Lothian Bus service 43 from Princes Street to South Queensferry. Also, it takes only 15 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley to Dalmeny by train.

If you have time, we recommend you take a boat trip from South Queensferry to the picturesque island of Inchcolm.

29. Enjoy Strolls on the Grounds of Lauriston Castle

Away from the hubbub of the busy city centre, Lauriston Castle is a hidden gem of Edinburgh. The history of this castle dates back to the middle ages. Completely Destroyed during the Earl of Hertford’s raid around 1544, Lauriston Castle was rebuilt in 1590.

Once there, explore the grand interior of this Edwardian tower house. If you hear some eerie footsteps inside, don’t worry. It must be the resident ghost, who hasn’t reportedly harmed anyone yet.

This historic house has lovely grounds with a nice little pond, an award-winning modern Japanese garden, and an Italian garden. Also, you would admire the gorgeous view across Edinburgh and Fife coastline. The woodland around the castle is very scenic, especially in spring, with bluebells lying all around.

Opening Hours : 1 April – 30 September, 8 am – 7.30 pm and 1 October – 31 March, 8 am – 4.30 pm.

Price : £8.00 for adults.

30. Build Sandcastles at Portobello Beach

Just a few miles from Edinburgh City Centre, Portobello is a seaside suburb with a sprawling sand beach stretching over two miles. In summer, it’s a popular spot with sunbathers, swimmers, and volleyballers.

Take a stroll along the charming promenade. It is lined with busy pubs and cafes, chippies, arcades and ice cream shops. Plus, this award-winning beach hosts events like the Big Beach Bush and an annual music and sandcastle competition event. Catch the local bus service 15 or 26 from Princes Street to get here.

So, in short, Portobello would be a perfect spot for a breezy beach day in summer.

How Many Days to Spend in Edinburgh

You will need to spend at least two days visiting some of the main attractions in the city. Check out our detailed 2-day itinerary of Edinburgh . But if you want to explore the city’s nooks and crannies more closely, you can easily spend a week here. You can also add some great day trip destinations to your itinerary. 

But if you are really short on time, it’s possible to see some of the highlights in a day.

Best Time to Visit Edinburgh

Although this capital city is a delight to explore all year round, June to August is the perfect time to explore Edinburgh.

The weather remains relatively dry, pleasant and warm, with longer daylights. Usually, July is the hottest month here. Also, it is an ideal time to enjoy various festivals. But this is also the peak tourist season. So, expect long queues at the attractions.

Scottish weather is famous for being unpredictable. You may experience all four seasons in one day. So, carry an umbrella or a rain jacket when you go out.

Edinburgh is also a great destination for a short winter city break in the UK. It hosts a lovely Christmas market.

Map of the Tourist Attractions

Here is a map of all the Edinburgh tourist attractions mentioned in this article. We have also marked some of the best cafes, restaurants, and pubs for you. Save this Google Map on your phone to use it later. Also, you can use it offline.

How to Get Around Edinburgh

Most of the attractions mentioned in this article are spread across the historic Old and New Town. The area is not that huge. So, the cobbled streets of Edinburgh are best explored on foot.

This city has an excellent public transport system. If you are venturing out of the city centre, catch a local Lothian Bus service.

Buses run frequently day and night. It costs £1.80 for a single journey and £4.50 for a day ticket. Also, the tram runs regularly from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew’s Square.

We hope this article on the best things to do in the city of Edinburgh was helpful to plan your trip. Read our other travel guides of Scotland to fuel your travel inspirations further.

6 thoughts on “30 Epic Things to Do in Edinburgh: Ultimate Guide by a Local”

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Excellent. This should be used as a leaflet of Edinburgh for tourist and sightseeing. Informative and interesting, make you want to get up and go do.

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Excellent piece! We will definitely use this!

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Thanks for the wonderful info. Is there a working link to the ‘detailed 2-day itinerary of Edinburgh” ? Would love to see it.

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Love this, thank you!

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Edinburgh - City Centre

Central Edinburgh has two distinct parts, divided by Princes Street, which runs roughly east-west under the shadow of Castle Rock.

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Views of Edinburgh Castle

In Edinburgh’s city centre for over one hundred years, our historic property offers iconic views of the Edinburgh Castle. Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Mile, and Edinburgh's Old Town are within 10 minutes of the hotel. Our spa offers curated wellness treatments and leisure facilities, accompanied by award-winning dining experiences.

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Please always contact the property if you require a connecting room.

This property is 100% non-smoking.

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Savor afternoon tea, cocktails, casual meals, and fine dining. Enjoy elegant dining with Scottish seafood at Dean Banks at The Pompadour and a relaxed ambiance with local ingredients at Grazing by Mark Greenaway. Cocktails at The Caley Bar and afternoon tea at The Lounge complete your day.

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The Spa at The Caledonian is a haven of relaxation and rejuvenation that offers treatments in partnership with 111SKIN and Ground Wellbeing. We also have our steam room, sauna, whirlpool, a two-floor gym, and an indoor swimming pool overlooking Edinburgh Castle.

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Edinburgh Royal Highland Show 2024: when is it, how to get there, what's new this year - all you need to know

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s event.

When and where is the Royal Highland Show ?

Edinburgh's landmark world class agricultural gathering always takes place from the Thursday to the Sunday of the second last week of June. That means this year's extravaganza will be held from 20 to 23 June.

The RHS takes place at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston , Newbridge, which is around seven miles from Edinburgh’s city centre. The Showground will be open from 7am-8pm Thurs-Sat and 7am-6pm on Sunday.

What is there to see and do?

Where to start! There is so much to see and do at the Show that it’s impossible to cover everything in one go.

Visitors to the event will have the opportunity to witness top-class livestock strut their stuff, look on in wonder at the amazing displays of skill in the showjumping rings, shop at a variety of retail stands, sample Scotland’s Larder in the food hall, be thrilled by exciting farriery and pole climbing displays, watch the exciting action in the sheep shearing competitions – you get the jist?

What do I wear?

As we all know, Scotland’s weather can be notoriously unpredictable – yes, even in June! For that reason, it’s best to come prepared – always check the weather before setting off on the day and be ready to experience all four seasons in one day. Essentials to take include a waterproof jacket, light layers, sensible footwear, and sunscreen.

What is there to eat?

Food and drink are one of the most exciting parts of the Royal Highland Show experience. The food and drink hall, Scotland’s Larder, sees artisanal produce from Scotland on display, eat, meet and buy delicious tastes of Scotland.

Once visitors have sampled their way around Scotland’s Larder, they’ll be able to see the results of this year’s Scottish Bread, Honey, Cheese, Butter and Ice Cream Championships unfold. If you’re still feeling peckish afterwards, there is a fantastic selection of food-to-go stands on every corner of the Showground. The Royal Highland Show’s strict Food Charter ensures that only locally produced and ethically sourced food be served at the Show – from delicious venison burgers to tasty fish and chips, finished off with a bowl of Scottish strawberries bursting with flavour.

Which animals can I see?

The Show is the place to be if you are an animal lover – as around 6000 animals flock to the showground over the four days. You’ll be bound to discover some unique breeds you’ve never seen before.

Admire the moo-rvelous cattle, from the iconic Highland coo to the unique striped Belted Galloway. Stare at some special sheep – including what are known as the cutest sheep in the world, the curly-coated Valais Blacknose. Watch in wonder as incredible equines canter past – from the towering Clydesdales to the tiny but strong Shetland Ponies. Witness everything from the magnificent heavy horse turnouts and impressive side saddle displays to exciting show jumping rounds and the hugely fun Pony Club games. Always an amusing sight to see, goat lovers can get up close to these cheeky creatures. Poultry fans can also go nose-to-beak with some of the finest feathered friends in the country.

What is there to do with kids?

The Royal Highland Show offers tons of fun activities for younger visitors – it is also free for those aged 15 and under when accompanied by a paying adult, but note, free tickets must also be reserved in advance online.

The Discovery Centre is run by the Royal Highland Education Trust and offers interactive sessions and activities for children to participate in, all while learning about the countryside and where their food comes from.

Kids will love getting up close to the animals and incredible machinery displays at the Show (just please don’t let them clamber on the displays!) The Countryside Area is also brilliant for little ones, with row boats, bird of prey displays and the honey, goat and poultry marquees – plus, new for this year is a fantastic Kids Zone complete with a woodland walk!

How do I get tickets?

Tickets can be accessed through the Royal Highland Show website - www.royalhighlandshow.org

What is the Royal Highland Hoolie line-up this year - and how to get tickets

The Royal Highland Hoolie will see some of Scotland and Ireland’s liveliest musicians take to the stage with eight folk and country acts set to entertain crowds on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

Friday line-up: Tidelines, Trail West, Peatbog Faeries with special guest Nathan Evans.

Saturday line-up: Derek Ryan, Lisa McHugh, Calum MacPhail and an exclusive appearance from “Cotton Eye Joe” chart toppers, Rednex.

Ticket prices start at £35 and are available to buy from the Royal Highland Show website - www.royalhighlandshow.org

How to get here

The Royal Highland Show is easily accessible from Edinburgh City Centre and from further afield across the country.

It’s easy to jump on the tram to the Show – alight at the Ingliston Park & Ride stop and remember to wear comfy shoes as there’s a 15-minute walk to the south entrance.

Frankie Atkinson from Cumbria with his junior champion British Blonde cow at the Royal Highland Show in 2023. PA Photo. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

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    0830 - 1730. Saturday. 0830 - 1730. Sunday. Closed. Shandwick Place TravelHub is also home to our CoffeeHub which serves a wide range of local and Scottish produce, hot drinks, cakes, snacks and meals. The CoffeeHub is fully accessible and includes free WiFi and charging points. Visit the CoffeeHub page to find out more and view the menu.

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    The bus network is extensive and well-run, making it one of the most popular ways to get around in Edinburgh. That doesn't mean it's always the fastest option, though. If you're in a hurry, avoid the bus during rush hour (7-9:30am and 4:30-6pm) when the city's winding streets can swiftly become gridlocked. Buses are largely run by one ...

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    The quickest transfer option is to take an Edinburgh Airport taxi. The trip takes around 25 minutes in light traffic and costs approximately £25 (€29). The cheapest form of transportation to get to the city centre is to take the Airlink 100 Express Bus. A one-way ticket costs £4.50 (€5) and takes around 30 minutes.

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    By Tram. It takes under 35 minutes to get from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre. Trams run every 7 minutes from approx. 6.18am to 10.48pm (you can see live timetable here) and are a fast and efficient way of traveling. The tram goes to major locations in the city. The major tram stops include:

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    There are many frequent and affordable bus services that travel from various main cities to Edinburgh daily. Most buses to Edinburgh arrive at the Edinburgh Bus Station that is located on St Andrew Square in the city centre. National Express to Edinburgh; Megabus to Edinburgh; Scottish Citylink to Edinburgh; Flixbus to Edinburgh

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