20 Things To Do In Edinburgh

Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is brimming with historical landmarks, cultural delights, and natural wonders. Whether you’re a history enthusiast exploring medieval castles or an art lover admiring contemporary galleries, you’ll find an array of things to do in Edinburgh. From strolling the Royal Mile to hiking Arthur’s Seat, this city has something for everyone. This guide will help you discover the essential sights and activities that make Edinburgh a remarkable destination.

Things To Do In Edinburgh

  1. Edinburgh Castle

Sitting atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic historic landmark that offers sweeping views over the city. The castle has been a royal residence, military stronghold, and fortress for centuries, and now hosts the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. History enthusiasts can explore the Crown Room, where these national treasures reside, or visit the Royal Palace. Other points of interest include St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, and the National War Museum. Arrive early to catch the one o’clock gunfire ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1861. The castle’s grand architecture, historical artifacts, and incredible views make it a must-visit.

  1. The Royal Mile

Stretching between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile is a bustling street filled with shops, pubs, restaurants, and historical landmarks. Start your journey at the Castle Esplanade and make your way down the cobbled street, visiting St. Giles’ Cathedral with its stunning stained-glass windows, or the Museum of Edinburgh for a glimpse into the city’s past. For a spooky twist, head underground to explore the hidden passageways of Mary King’s Close. This historic street pulses with the charm of Edinburgh, and you can immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of street performers, market stalls, and quaint alleys.

  1. Arthur’s Seat

For the best panoramic views of Edinburgh, head up Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano rising about 250 meters above sea level. The hike is relatively easy and takes about an hour, with several trails leading to the summit. On your way, you’ll pass the remains of St. Anthony’s Chapel and spot various bird species in this verdant space. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views over the cityscape, the coastline, and distant hills. Arthur’s Seat is part of Holyrood Park, a lush oasis that provides a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

  1. National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is a treasure trove of knowledge and culture, boasting everything from ancient artifacts to modern art. Highlights include the Grand Gallery’s soaring atrium, the science and technology exhibits, and a fascinating natural history collection. Delve into Scotland’s past in the Scottish History and Archaeology galleries, or marvel at the Ancient Egypt and East Asia displays. The interactive exhibits make learning fun for all ages, and the rooftop terrace provides an excellent spot to unwind with views over the city. With free admission and ever-changing special exhibitions, it’s a cultural gem that invites repeat visits.

  1. Edinburgh’s Festivals

Edinburgh is known worldwide as a city of festivals, most notably the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival in August. The Fringe is a celebration of creativity, featuring thousands of performances across comedy, theater, and dance. The International Festival hosts some of the world’s best performers in opera, classical music, and dance. Other notable festivals include the Hogmanay street party and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. No matter the season, the city buzzes with events showcasing art, literature, and more, making it a dynamic destination for culture lovers.

  1. Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers another excellent vantage point over Edinburgh. A short hike leads you to several iconic monuments, including the National Monument, designed to resemble the Parthenon, and the Nelson Monument, which commemorates Admiral Lord Nelson. The Dugald Stewart Monument, inspired by ancient Greece, adds to the site’s unique atmosphere. Beyond the historical structures, Calton Hill is known for its peaceful walks and serene sunsets. The vibrant annual Beltane Fire Festival, which celebrates Celtic traditions, also takes place here, drawing thousands for a night of fire dancing and storytelling.

  1. Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey

At the other end of the Royal Mile lies the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Visitors can tour the State Apartments, which feature royal artifacts and intricate tapestries, and explore the beautifully preserved ruins of the adjoining 12th-century Holyrood Abbey. The palace gardens offer a tranquil setting to stroll through or reflect upon the area’s royal history. Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, who once lived here. Don’t miss the Queen’s Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions from the Royal Collection.

  1. Dean Village

A hidden gem just a short walk from Edinburgh’s bustling city center, Dean Village offers picturesque scenery and a peaceful atmosphere. Once a milling village, it’s now known for its charming cobbled streets, historic buildings, and the gentle waters of the Water of Leith. Take a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway or snap photos of Well Court, a beautifully restored 19th-century building. The nearby Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art adds a contemporary touch to the outing, with exhibitions that feature works by renowned artists and an engaging sculpture garden.

  1. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a quirky attraction near Edinburgh Castle that delights visitors of all ages. The original camera obscura, a Victorian device that projects live panoramic views of the city, remains a highlight. However, the venue also hosts a range of interactive optical illusions, holograms, and visual tricks. From mirror mazes to 3D puzzles, it provides endless opportunities for hands-on fun. The rooftop terrace offers yet another vantage point over Edinburgh’s skyline.

  1. Princes Street Gardens

Nestled in the heart of the city between the Old and New Towns, Princes Street Gardens is a lush public park that’s perfect for relaxing or enjoying a leisurely walk. Divided into East and West Gardens, they feature beautifully landscaped flowerbeds, statues, and the towering Scott Monument dedicated to Sir Walter Scott. During the festive season, they transform into a winter wonderland, complete with a Christmas market, ice skating rink, and carnival rides. At other times, they provide a serene setting for soaking up the sun or taking in the stunning views of Edinburgh Castle looming above.

  1. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a tranquil escape spread across 70 acres, offering a world-class collection of plants. Visitors can explore the diverse landscapes of themed gardens, including the Rock Garden, the Woodland Garden, and the Chinese Hillside. The Glasshouses feature a variety of climate zones, from tropical rainforests to arid deserts. The picturesque Inverleith House hosts art exhibitions, while guided tours reveal the extensive scientific research undertaken here. The gardens are a serene haven to reconnect with nature while learning about botany.

  1. The Scotch Whisky Experience

Located on the Royal Mile, the Scotch Whisky Experience provides an entertaining and educational journey into Scotland’s national drink. A barrel ride simulates the whisky-making process, while expert guides offer tastings and explain the nuances of different whisky regions. The tasting room boasts an impressive whisky collection, and visitors can sample single malts or blended whiskies while enjoying panoramic city views. For enthusiasts, the Masterclass provides in-depth knowledge about flavors and aromas.

  1. Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is an interactive science museum that offers a family-friendly exploration of the Earth’s history. From the Big Bang to present day, the exhibits take visitors through geological eras, natural disasters, and ecosystems. Highlights include the 4D Showdome, where cinematic experiences make volcanoes erupt and glaciers move. Kids can dig for fossils in the Discovery Zone or watch polar auroras in the Polar Extremes exhibit. With hands-on displays and engaging storytelling, Dynamic Earth makes science fascinating for all ages.

  1. Rosslyn Chapel

Just outside Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel is a historic marvel known for its mysterious carvings and religious symbolism. Founded in the 15th century, this chapel gained renewed fame after featuring in “The Da Vinci Code.” The intricate stonework features mythological creatures, biblical scenes, and symbols whose meanings have been debated for centuries. Guided tours offer insights into the architecture and tales of the chapel, while the surrounding grounds offer beautiful walks in the countryside.

  1. Scottish Parliament

Visitors can tour the Scottish Parliament to learn about modern Scottish politics and the unique architectural design by Enric Miralles. The building reflects Scotland’s progressive values with its distinctive, eco-friendly design. Free guided tours explain the functions of government and provide access to the Debating Chamber, Committee Rooms, and Members’ Lobby. Art installations throughout the building showcase contemporary Scottish creativity, making it a worthwhile visit for anyone interested in politics or architecture.

  1. The Meadows

The Meadows is a vast green space south of the city center, perfect for relaxing outdoors. Popular with locals, this park is a hotspot for picnics, sports, and casual strolls. In spring, cherry blossoms create a stunning canopy over the paths, while summer brings various festivals, concerts, and events. Play a game of tennis or football, join a yoga class, or simply enjoy a good book in the lush surroundings. The vibrant student community ensures a lively atmosphere, making the Meadows a must-visit for a refreshing outdoor experience.

  1. Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Delve into the fascinating world of medical history at Surgeons’ Hall Museums, which consists of three unique collections: the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum, and the Dental Collection. Here, visitors can learn about historical surgical practices and medical advancements, exploring exhibits like surgical instruments, preserved anatomical specimens, and educational models. The museums offer a mix of the gruesome and the educational, giving a unique insight into centuries of medical evolution.

  1. Leith Walk and The Shore

Leith, Edinburgh’s historic port area, is a vibrant and creative district. Leith Walk connects the city center to The Shore, a bustling waterfront lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes. Sample local seafood, visit boutique shops, or stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway. Maritime enthusiasts should explore the Royal Yacht Britannia, which once served as the royal residence at sea. With its lively arts scene and distinct maritime heritage, Leith is a cultural gem worth exploring.

  1. Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars Kirkyard is a historic cemetery known for its tales of loyalty and inspiration. It is home to the famous Greyfriars Bobby statue, commemorating the loyal Skye Terrier that guarded his master’s grave for 14 years. Literature lovers will be fascinated by the graves that inspired characters in the Harry Potter series. Guided tours shed light on the graveyard’s fascinating stories and connections to the city’s past. The eerie yet charming ambiance is perfect for those seeking a slightly spooky yet historic experience.

  1. Royal Yacht Britannia

Moored in Leith, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the British royal family’s official yacht for over 40 years. Now a museum, visitors can tour the royal apartments, crew quarters, and engine room to see how the royals traveled the world in style. Learn about the yacht’s distinguished history while wandering through five decks, then enjoy afternoon tea in the onboard Royal Deck Tea Room. The meticulously preserved interiors offer a glimpse into the luxurious yet practical life of the British monarchy at sea.


Edinburgh’s unique blend of history, culture, and nature ensures an unforgettable experience for visitors. With so many things to do in Edinburgh, you can explore ancient castles, relax in lush gardens, and immerse yourself in world-class museums. The lively festivals and diverse neighborhoods add to the city’s charm, offering something new and exciting at every turn. No matter what kind of traveler you are, Edinburgh promises a journey rich in discovery and inspiration.

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