The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is a must visit city. There is something very regal about this city, perhaps due to the fact that it has 2 past and present royal residences all within a mile from each other! Edinburgh deserves at least 2 days on your Scotland itinerary. This post covers the 12 best things to do in Edinburgh.
1. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Built in the 12th century, Edinburgh castle sits upon Castle Rock, the remains of a dormant volcano. This castle is an absolute must do in Edinburgh. The castle used to be a residence for royalty until about the 1600s but later turned into military barracks. You can visit the crown jewels, Great Hall and the royal apartments during a tour of the castle.
Highly recommend buying tickets in advance and also buying the early time slots to avoid crowds. You can buy tickets HERE.
2. Walk the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a mile long road from Edinburgh Castle to Palace of Holyrood and is the most famous road in all of Edinburgh. It was used as a processional route for kings and queens back in the day. Today it’s lined with various shops, beautiful buildings, taverns and street performers, including bag pipers!
3. Visit Palace of Holyroodhouse
Located at the end of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This palace is the official home of the British Monarch in Scotland. Mary Queen of Scots live here for a few years and you can see her bed chambers inside.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, except during July to September when they are open 7 days a week. The palace may also close when the Monarch is visiting.
Click HERE for tickets and opening times and for days/weeks the palace is closed.
4. Stroll Through Edinburgh Old Town
This is a must do thing in Edinburgh. I really loved strolling through Old Town. The stone facades of the houses and buildings, the slight cool, damp weather and the gentle slopes all add to the beauty and charm of Edinburgh. One of the best places to see a snap shot of Old Town is actually from the New Town (across the bridge, near the train station). It’s especially nice during golden hour when the sun shines directly on the buildings of Old Town.
5. Walk Through Victoria Street
Victoria street is a famous street in Old Town Edinburgh. This curved street with its colorful shops is supposed to be where J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter found inspiration for Diagon Alley.
6. Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral
Built starting from the 14th century, St. Giles’ cathedral stands magnificently along the Royal Mile. Entry is via donation and is worth it to see the stained glass windows and brilliant blue ceiling. My favorite part however is the steeple that is topped with a crown. This steeple is visible from lots of places in Edinburgh.
7. Hike up to Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s seat is located on a hill right behind Holyroodhouse on an extinct volcano. It offers some great views of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. It’s a relatively easy hike but wear proper shoes as there’s lose gravel in certain places. What I loved most about the hike were the hundreds and thousands of common gorse bushes that line the trail creating a sea of yellow as far as the eye can see.
8. Climb Calton Hill
Calton Hill is to Edinburgh what the Acropolis is to Athens. A climb to Calton hill will give you some of the best views of Edinburgh. Especially that of the Old and New town. Calton Hill is also famous for its collection of historic monuments including the National Monument and the Nelson Monument.
9. Do the Scotch Whiskey Experience
Learn about the distilling of scotch whisky by taking a tour at the Scotch whiskey experience. The tour starts with a barrel ride through the virtual distillery and ends with a whisky tasting. Great for people who love whiskey or people wanting to learn more about the distilling process.
10. Climb or See the Scott Monument
Climb the Scott Monument for another bird’s eye view of Edinburgh. Even if you don’t climb it, it’s still a very impressive monument and piece of architecture.
11. Visit Scottish Museums and Galleries
Both the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery are free to visit (donations welcomed at the Museum) and is a great way to learn about the history of Scotland and/or admire Scottish art.
12. Head to the Highlands
Technically not in Edinburgh but if you are visiting Edinburgh, then it’s fully worth it to spend extra time in Scotland to visit the Scottish Highlands. If you are really pressed for time, then at least a full day trip from Edinburgh to the Highlands is a must do, in my opinion. See HERE for one day trips from Edinburgh. This company also does multi day trips too but if you have a vehicle and are comfortable driving, then doing it on your own would probably be the best.
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Edinburgh is such an amazing city. We spent two weeks cat-sitting there in May, and managed to visit most of the places on your list. The day we climbed Arthur’s Seat wasn’t nearly as sunny or clear sadly. The Highlands are one of my favourite places in the world.
That’s awesome! I wish I could have spent more time in Edinburgh and Scotland, especially the Highlands. Definitely on my repeat list!