Confused about what to do in Edinburgh and which destination to visit?
Don’t worry; read through this article to decide on things to do in Edinburgh. The vibrant and picturesque capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, is a textbook example of the heavens on earth. Located in Central eastern Scotland, it is surrounded by majestic rocks, rustic buildings and a constellation of ancient & medieval structures, as well as stone decorations.
Scottish people often refer to it as Auld Reekie, Edina, Athens of the North and Britain’s other eye. The city is one of the most visited destinations in the UK. The capital of Scotland is also home to many tourist attractions.
Scotland is a combination of antique and modern architecture, giving the city a unique character. In 1995, the Old City was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With year-round festivals, vibrant nightlife and an exciting art scene, Edinburgh never fails to impress tourists. Edinburgh is a city of literature and is proudly the first city to be granted UNESCO’s city of Literature.
Filled with stunning geology, diverse landscape, volcanic Pentland hills in the south, and the seaside resort of Portobello all add to Edinburgh’s magnificence.
There are numerous splendid destinations around Scotland‘s marvellous capital. So if you plan to be in Edinburgh anytime, here are some of the most engaging things to do in Edinburgh.
1. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
The world-famous icon of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is one of Britain’s most visited destinations. It forms a part of the new town and old town of Edinburgh’s World Heritage site.
The Castle houses the Honours Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, and the National War Museum of Scotland and continues to claim the city skyline. A mighty fortress, playing a role as a defender of the Nation, this Scott monument carries a complex building history.
Guided tours are available at this location provided by the castle stewards, which take you around the castle, explaining its history and architecture in Multilingual options. With so much to see here, how can this destination not be your priority in the list of things to do in Edinburgh.
2. Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official Edinburgh residence and occupied a significant part in Scottish history. Built by the year, 1679, this is where James V and Charles I were crowned and where ‘Bonnie prince charlie’ held court in 1745.
The Grand Gallery depicts portraits of Scottish kings, both mythical and real. The Queen’s Gallery, opened in 2002 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, hosts a series of exhibitions from the Royal Collection.
If you are travelling with children to Holyrood Palace, be sure to let them enjoy the activities in the Family Room; and if you have time, stay for a while at a charming restaurant and enjoy a good afternoon tea.
Make sure to visit the chambers of Mary Queen of Scots‘, too. It is located in proximity to Arthur’s Seat.
3. Stroll the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland
Royal Mile refers to the roads connecting Edinburgh Castle with the Holyroodhouse Palace. It is the main street of the Old town. With stunning city houses, churches, and historic landmarks, this magnificent trail is a great place to go for its shops (including kiltmakers), lodging, museums, cafes, and restaurants.
Some of the most famous attractions stand at the end of the Royal Mile – often called Castle Hill – and include the Outlook Tower and Camera Obscura and Tolbooth (St. John’s Highland Church), and the city’s tallest church tower.
A visit to Lady Stair’s Close is surely worthwhile, home to The Writer’s Museum. Here you will behold exhibits of manuscripts, etchings, and memorabilia, of the poet Robert Burns and authors Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
For people who love taking long walks, this place is custom designed for you. Be sure to include it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
4. Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland
Very distinct from the New Town (around George Street), you can expect a host of cobbled streets, historical structures and beautiful little squares. Be sure to walk down Victoria Street (from the Royal Mile down to Grass Market) and visit some of the local gift shops and restaurants.
So, anyone with a wish for fancy walking, don’t forget to add it to your list of things to do in Edinburgh.
5. Climb to Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh, Scotland
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point situated in the Holyrood Park, which encompasses a panoramic view of the entire Edinburgh city. The 151- foot cliffs of Salisbury Crags are an easy climb adjacent to Arthur’s Seat.
Other eye-catching locations in this Park are the ancient cultivation terraces, some of the earliest examples of historical agricultural practises in Scotland and not to forget the ironically alluring ruins of the medieval St. Anthony’s Chapel.
Out of the 7 hills in Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat runs through the city and offers a variety of views. One can clearly see Edinburgh Castle, the Old City and the New City.
Enchanting beauty like this cannot be missed, so don’t wait and include it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
6. Glimpse into Scottish History at National Museum of Scotland
One of the best things to do in Scotland, its most famous attraction since its opening in 2011. It receives more than 2 million visitors each year, including collections from several of Edinburgh’s oldest museums, as well as exhibitions focusing on natural history, geology, art, science, and technology.
16 galleries, containing more than 8,000 works of art, there is the Dolly the sheep – the world’s first cloned mammal – and some of Elton John’s elaborate stage costumes. The museum also exhibits artefacts from Ancient Egypt and the infamous Maiden, an early form of the guillotine.
There is a lot you can see and do here, so expect to spend at least 4-5 hrs exploring. Guided tours are available, and two restaurants are available on site. Be sure to have this on your list of things to do in Edinburgh.
7. Set Sail for Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh, Scotland
Over the years, the Queen has welcomed heads of state and world-renowned people to this magnificent ship. After more than 40 years working for the royal family, a 60-year-old boat was sent to Leith, a port in Edinburgh, as the main Britannia Visitor Center.
Once aboard, you will learn about the history of this and other royal yachts as you explore the five main decks of the ship.
- Royal Apartments and bedrooms.
- A lovely resting place in the sun.
- The Royal Deck Tea Room, where you can stand for tea and cakes.
8. See the Flowers Bloom at Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Royal Botanic garden Edinburgh is the 2nd oldest garden in Britain. It’s huge and boasts 13,200 different plant species. 70 acres of this is Herbarium with a collection of over 3 million specimens, Britain’s biggest Palm house and a tropical house with exotic Orchids.
It also has a beautiful Alpine house, a terraced moorland garden, a heather garden and a large arboretum with unique giant trees from the Himalayas and North America.
The aquatic house is another of its umpteen attractions, with colourful camellias and hydrangeas. A special festive treat visit during the Christmas holidays; you can also opt for an educational and learning experience here.
9. Walk the Length of Princes Street, Edinburgh
The name Princes Street is related to Edinburgh, but its structure is often overlooked by city dwellers. In fact, most of the existing buildings are now listed, and among the modern stores are real treasures.
There aren’t many cities in the world where the best shopping mall has the unmistakable view of the ancient castle, but Princes Street in Edinburgh does just that!
It is unique as its stores are lined on one side of the street, leaving the opposite side of the green garden space giving customers an amazing view of the Old Town town.
When you are done with all that shopping and history, head to Princes Street Gardens, the oldest floral clock home in the world.
George iv Bridge
George IV Bridge made Edinburgh’s southside accessible to the people and covered the gap that joins the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile with Chamber Street in the south. At the North end of the street, it joins the Royal mile.
10. Edinburgh Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, Edinburgh, Scotland
The centrepiece, housed in a Victorian upstairs room, is a hole-in-the-wall camera that depicts Edinburgh moving images on a viewing table. The panorama was created by a combination of mirrors and lenses, and it has fascinated people here since 1853.
Some information will challenge your faith in your vision, with a mirror hall, vertigo-inspiring spinning vortex, 3-D holograms, and a whole list of visual experiences.
11. Walk the Scottish National Gallery & Portrait Gallery
Paintings of Scotland’s leading historical figures can be seen in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, one of Edinburgh’s most majestic architecture – a great red sandstone neo-gothic palace which sits proudly on the city’s skyline.
The highlight of the 65,000-plus gallery is a large series of exhibits featuring the very famous Scottish personalities, Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Sean Connery, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Stuart, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, among others.
Founded in 1859, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the great art galleries in the world. It exhibits Scotland’s largest collection of European paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance period to the Post-Impressionists.
All the ancient art lovers and admirers, it would be sheer injustice to your eyes if you didn’t make this place one of your things to do in Edinburgh.
12. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – also known as “Modern” – is a must-see visiting Edinburgh. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has two buildings, Modern One and Modern, both set in beautiful art galleries.
The collection includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Vuillard, and Dix. It also includes the world-renowned collection of Surrealism and Duck, as well as an excellent selection of Scottish artists such as Peploe, Fergusson, Douglas Gordon and Steven Campbell.
Modern Two is the home of The Stairwell Project, a major, never-ending 2009-based Turner Award-winning Richard Wright. Both the Modern art galleries proudly houses spectacular specimen of contemporary art.
Be ready as this place calls you to behold its grandeur; include it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
13. St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Consecrated in 1124, St. Giles Cathedral – also called the High Kirk of Edinburgh – is Edinburgh’s principal church. It’s also one of the city’s most significant places, attracting flocks of visitors all year round.
Built-in the 1300s, it is notable for its 8 arched buttresses forming a huge Crown- Steeple, including lovely stained glass windows and a statue of John Knox.
The Thistle Chapel nearby is loved for its oak carvings, heraldic emblems, and many more are great examples of the contemporary Gothic style.
Fun things to do while visiting the cathedral with joining a rooftop visit or immersing in an afternoon choir concert. Take out time to visit this marvel, and don’t forget to mention it in your list of things to do in Edinburgh that you’re planning.
14. Panoramic Views from Calton Hill and the Scottish National Monument
Enjoy the views from Calton Hill with Princes Street, the Edinburgh 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 medieval era Royal High School, attended by Sir Walter Scott.
The most significant of Edinburgh’s many memorials is the impressive National Monument on Calton Hill, to commemorate the dead from the Napoleonic Wars. Henry Playfair designed the memorial with the Parthenon in Athens, serving as his inspiration.
Opposite Calton Hill has situated a memorial to the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. For a spectacular souvenir of your Edinburgh vacation, be sure to snap a few clicks from here over the city at sunset.
So, selfie lovers as well as enthusiastic photographers, savour the beauty and list it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
15. Know about the City’s Past at the Museum of Edinburgh
Situated at the iconic Canongate, the Museum of Edinburgh is a worthwhile visit to learn about the Scottish local history; it was constructed in the 1500s.
Located in the late 16th century Huntly House in Canongate, the museum is maintained by the Edinburgh City Council.
The museum also has an amazing collection of decorative artefacts featuring the rich history of Scottish art, ranging from intricately crafted silver from Edinburgh and Canongate, costumes, clocks, and Scottish pottery and Scottish porcelain from the 18th century.
16. Greyfriars Church and Greyfriars Bobby
In the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, there is a parish church of the Church of Scotland. It is surrounded by Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Located at the southern end of Candlemakers’ Row, Greyfriars Church is the oldest cemetery in the city, the last resting place of many famous Scots, including the poet Allan Ramsay.
Greyfriars Bobby is a well-known name associated with the Church. In 1858, the Skye Terrier faithfully followed the coffin of its master, John Gray, to the Graveyard and, until his death 14 years later, refused to leave. A shelter was built for him, and a famous site outside the church is the Bobby statue.
A museum is located on-site. You can also take guided tours; they are available as well.
We’ve all heard this great tale of loyalty; the statue stands to commemorate the loyalty of Skye Terrier, so do have it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
17. The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland
Meadows remain the most significant piece of Edinburgh’s social life for the city’s residents all around the year. Meadows is an expansive public park in Edinburgh, Scotland, south of the city centre.
It consists mainly of an open grassy area that crosses tree-lined paths but also has a children’s croquet, club playground, tennis courts and recreational sports fields.
Sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike are welcome here to indulge in the breathtaking beauty of nature, do have it in your things to do in Edinburgh.
18. Edinburgh Zoo
The Edinburgh Zoo, formerly the Scottish National Zoological Park, is a non-profit wildlife park in the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The south side faces the slopes of Corstorphine Hill, offering a broad view of the city.
Built in 1913 and owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, it receives more than 600,000 visitors a year, making it Scotland’s 2nd most popular tourist destination.
We have sooooo many things to do in Edinburgh, Don’t wait any longer and plan your next trip to Edinburgh. If you are visiting Edinburgh for the first time and want to see all the best places to visit in this beautiful part of Scotland, the City centre makes a great base, especially the Old Town, Royal Mile, and New Town places. And the fine shops of Princes Street.
The affordable West End is also a popular location. These places put you next to the city’s historical attractions, such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse Palace and Holyrood Abbey, as well as museums, exhibitions, and restaurants.
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