What To Do In Edinburgh? 25 Best Things To Do in Edinburgh (2023)
Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is a thriving city with a rich culture, a fascinating history, and breathtaking scenery. With a focus on education and the arts, Edinburgh has long been a significant city. 500,000 people now live there, and it hosts a number of cultural events, such as the Edinburgh Fringe and Edinburgh Festival.
The city has a laid-back but vibrant atmosphere, with exciting new events taking place every week. The ideal entry point into Scotland and Scottish culture is Edinburgh. Here are some of the best activities in this lovely, serene, and vibrant city.
How many days should I spend in Edinburgh?
To have enough time to discover all that this ancient city has to offer, we advise staying in Edinburgh for two to three days. These are the best things to do in Edinburgh, from hiking up Arthur’s Seat and taking in the view of Edinburgh to shopping on Stephen Place.
Lets see the best things to do in Edinburgh
1. Edinburgh Castle Scotland
The Edinburgh Castle plays a major role in the skyline of the city. The castle can be seen from many parts of the city because it is perched atop a large rock. Due to its ideal defensive location, the site has been occupied since the second century. The castle has long been regarded as the “key to the city,” and holding the castle meant holding power in Edinburgh.
Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots, among other significant figures from Scottish history, resided in the castle. Visit Edinburgh Castle to learn more about life in the castle’s past. The Stone of Destiny, which has been used for centuries in the coronation of British monarchs, is on display alongside the Scottish crown jewels. Keep an eye out for the One O’Clock Gun, which has been fired every day except Sundays since 1861, if you can.
Top tips: Don’t miss the One O’clock gunfire while you are visiting Edinburgh Castle; it was once a maritime timekeeper and is now a spectacular show that takes place every day at 1 pm, excluding Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.
It is strongly advised to make reservations in advance to avoid the line, especially during the summer. August is a great month to travel to Edinburgh. At the Castle Esplanade, the renowned Royal Military Tattoo is held.
2. Princes Street Edinburgh Scotland
The storied Princes Street will be one of your first stops once you arrive in Edinburgh. Since 1770, this major thoroughfare has served as the city’s beating heart, and it is now one of Edinburgh’s busiest shopping areas. For some retail therapy, head to Princes Street, where you’ll find all the major high street retailers. Princes Street is a great place to learn about history because it is close to many significant sites. This location is excellent for photography because it offers stunning views of Edinburgh Castle as well as access to a number of galleries and the Scott Monument.
After shopping or taking pictures, take a break in the Princes Street Gardens, which have lovely green lawns ideal for picnics, a war memorial, and a beautiful floral clock.
3. Holyrood Palace
The Scottish home of the British monarchy, Holyrood Palace, is close to Edinburgh Castle. The palace was constructed in 1678 and has housed numerous kings and queens over the years. To present royal life in the 17th century, a large portion of the historic palace has been preserved in its present form. Visit the rooms where Mary Queen of Scots lived, including the one where her husband killed her secretary in 1566.
Visit the State Apartments, which feature fine art and are still used by the British Royal Family today, for some art and a glimpse into regal duties. Finish your journey by relaxing at the palace café, where you can take a traditional afternoon tea in a luxurious setting.
4. Camera Obscura
The Camera Obscura is Edinburgh’s oldest tourist destination and first opened in 1835. The gallery concentrates on optical tricks and offers a variety of exploration opportunities and enjoyable hands-on pursuits. On-site attractions include a mirror maze, an Ames room where you’ll seem to be shrinking, and a vortex tunnel where, despite your complete stability, you’ll feel unbalanced.
Camera Obscura offers a fun and family-friendly way to spend a day, tricking your brain and experiencing all kinds of unusual sensations. Climb to the roof to see the city from an excellent vantage point, with free telescopes available for close-up views.
5. Arthur’s Seat Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat is a destination that outdoor enthusiasts must see. A dormant volcano and one of Edinburgh’s highest points is called Arthur’s Seat. For breathtaking city views and a taste of the wild outdoors right in the middle of Edinburgh, climb to the top. Although there are remnants of older buildings nearby that date to the year 2, A.D., you will also find a hill fort here that dates to about 600 A.D. The mythical King Arthur’s castle, Camelot, is thought to have been located somewhere near Arthur’s Seat. The dramatic and interesting Arthur’s Seat is the ideal place to begin exploring the hills close to Holyrood Park.
6. Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close is a section of Edinburgh’s Old Town, which was made up of numerous narrow, winding alleyways known as “closes.” Having partially collapsed centuries ago, Mary King’s Close is now a maze of underground passages and streets. To learn more about the fascinating past of this once-bustling Edinburgh street, schedule a tour with The Real Mary King’s Close. Learn about the closes’ daily activities as well as the gruesome murders and haunting rumors that have surfaced since the close’s collapse.
The area has been well-preserved, allowing visitors to see the history in every square inch of every street. Even the tour guides wear costumes to create an engaging environment. This is a fantastic way to learn about Edinburgh’s past.
7. St Giles’ Cathedral
The main church in Edinburgh and a prominent part of the skyline is St. Giles’ Cathedral. It was constructed in the 14th century and features a recognizable gothic-style building that is typical of Edinburgh. In addition to stunning stained glass windows, the cathedral is home to several memorials for notable Scots. The King’s Pillar and authentic bells from the fifteenth century are both kept in the church. The medieval shields and coats of arms of former British kings can be seen on the Pillar.
Make sure to visit the Thistle Chapel, which honors the Order of the Thistle, a group of knights who defended Scotland in the 17th century. The chapel has magnificent archways and stunning architecture. The city’s focal point, St Giles’ Cathedral, is a great place to learn about Edinburgh’s past and ancient culture.
Viewpiont: On the weekends, guided rooftop tours are offered for £6 per adult. The view of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Old Town from the top is breathtaking.
8. Scottish National Gallery
As Scotland’s national art gallery, the Scottish National Gallery is a must-see for tourists in Edinburgh. The building, which was constructed in 1859 and has lovely neoclassical architecture, is the ideal setting for the extensive collections of fine art that are kept there. The National Gallery, which is situated in the center of the city, houses artwork by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Rubens.
The collection of works by Scottish artists, which includes unforgettable landscapes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life by artists like Peter Graham, Sir David Wilkie, and Sir Henry Raeburn, is one of the highlights. At the Scottish Café and Restaurant, where there are lovely views of the Princes Street Gardens, you can settle in for a snack and a cup of tea. a great location to experience some Scottish culture and art.
Tip: The Dean Cemetery, which contains numerous monuments and gravestones with Victorian ornamentation, is located next to Modern Two. a visit is advised.
9. Scott Monument
Edinburgh’s Scott Monument, a well-known landmark, is situated close to Princes Street. The Scott Monument, which was erected in 1844 as a tribute to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, was built in a distinctive gothic style. It stands 61 meters tall and is the largest monument to a writer in the entire world.
68 statues of famous Scottish authors, poets, and figures from Scottish history, including Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, and Lord Byron, adorn the tower. Ascend the monument’s steps for breathtaking views of the city and the neighboring Princes Street Gardens.
10. Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh was established in 1670 to help with the scientific investigation of plants used as medicines. The garden is now a well-liked tourist destination as well as a place for research and conservation. The Temperate Palm House, which was constructed in 1858, was acquired along with the current structure in the early 19th century. Even today, the palm house is the tallest building in Britain. The garden currently contains about 275,000 plants, which are dispersed across 70 acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens.
Each new area of the garden is a wonder to explore because of the diversity of the plants on display. Inverleith House, a mansion from the 18th century that serves as an art gallery, is nearby. Contemporary art with a focus on Scottish artists is featured in the gallery on a regular basis. The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a lovely setting for spending a sunny day surrounded by flowers, plants, and culture.
11. Greyfriars Kirk
Since 1620, Greyfriars Kirk has stood in the center of Edinburgh. It has long been a well-liked place of worship and a significant figure in the city’s past. To find out more about the church’s past, including its significance to the Scottish Covenanters and its use as a barracks during Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in the 17th century, schedule a tour.
Even in modern times, you can still go to church on Sundays or stop by the Kirk when there is a performance or concert going on. A diverse and dynamic calendar of events makes it easy to experience culture in this special setting. Remember to visit the Greyfriars Museum and Shop to see a genuine copy of the National Covenant that was signed in 1638.
12. Scottish National Portrait Gallery
In the heart of the city, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is housed in a recognizable gothic structure. The building, which was constructed in 1889 as the first portrait gallery specifically for that purpose, has both large, open galleries and small, private spaces. The gallery is home to a sizable collection of portraits that illustrate Scottish history through its inhabitants. Discover artwork by artists like Sir Henry Raeburn, Allan Ramsay, and William Brodie, as well as portraits of people like Robert Burns, Mary Queen of Scots, and more.
There is always something going on at the National Portrait Gallery thanks to the numerous temporary exhibitions that explore significant facets of Scottish culture, history, and people. Take a break in the café to end your journey with delicious food, including options without gluten or dairy, in a stunning and motivational environment.
13. Gladstone’s Land
In Edinburgh’s Old Town is where you can find Gladstone’s Land. It is a six-story tenement house from the 17th century that towers over the street. The structure has been carefully preserved and restored to give visitors a glimpse into life in Edinburgh in the sixteenth century. Investigate the historic spaces and rickety staircases to see where people once lived and worked.
Gladstone’s Land has been furnished with historical items to depict a variety of lifestyles, including those of the merchant, the wealthy resident, and the crowded living conditions of the poor. This is a fascinating glimpse into Old Town life that is both immersive and interesting, making it a great way to learn more about Scottish culture. Check the listings for the gallery, which is on the second floor and frequently used by neighborhood artists to display their work in a lovely, attention-grabbing setting.
14. National War Museum Edinburgh
The National War Museum, which is housed in Edinburgh Castle, examines Scotland’s military history. The collections here feature military memorabilia and materials from the time of war, including medals, uniforms, banners, and posters. The museum explores Scotland’s role in warfare from the Highland-Lowland conflicts of the 17th and 18th centuries up to today’s military presence in Scotland.
Learn about the military experience from the viewpoint of Scottish soldiers and observe the evolution of recruitment literature. In order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the experience and effects of war throughout history from a distinctive Scottish point of view, the museum also hosts exciting temporary exhibitions and regular events.
15. Holyrood Abbey
Built in 1128, Holyrood Abbey is now in ruins. Later, the abbey served as a venue for the Scottish Parliament from the 13th to the 15th centuries and served in part as a royal residence. In addition to witnessing the First War of Scottish Independence’s conclusion and the birth and coronation of kings, the abbey has witnessed a significant portion of Scottish history, politics, and culture.
The original, stunning architecture can still be seen in the ruins, and it has served as an inspiration for many painters and writers.
16. Craigmillar Castle
One of Scotland’s most stunning and well-preserved castles, Craigmillar Castle is a must-see. Mary Queen of Scots lived in the castle, which has been around since the fifteenth century. A pair of yew trees that once provided wood for weapons stand in the same spot at the castle’s entrance as they have for centuries.
Discover the castle’s grand halls, living quarters, and stunning stone architecture. For breathtaking views of Edinburgh and Queen Mary’s Room, where Mary Queen of Scots once resided, climb the castle tower. A day spent in beautiful surroundings and learning about Scottish history and culture is ideal at Craigmillar Castle.
17. The Georgian House
The Georgian House, which dominates the bustling city center, is a reminder of Edinburgh in the 18th century. The Georgian House, constructed in 1796, is a beautiful illustration of the posh structures that made up Edinburgh’s New Town. The New Town was created to offer more luxurious living quarters than the Old Town could offer to the city’s wealthier residents.
To give visitors an inside look at the affluent Edinburgh residents’ lives, the House has been impeccably furnished with antiques from the time period. Beautiful furniture, stunning silverware, and works of fine art are on display. Take a self-guided tour or join a special costumed tour where tour guides portray a day in the life of a noble family.
18. Museum of Childhood Edinburgh
The first institution of its kind in the world, the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh still displays games and toys from the 18th century to the present. The museum offers a fascinating look at how childhood has changed over the years, as well as the variations in toy trends.
This is a fantastic attraction for both kids and adults because it explores the origins of “fun” and makes grownups nostalgic. Visit the store and buy some toys or vintage goods to take home with you.
19. Heart of Midlothian
For a piece of Scottish history that is unique, look for the Heart of Midlothian in the city center. The Heart of Midlothian is a heart-and-cross-shaped structure made of colored granite blocks that is embedded in the Royal Mile’s pavement. This landmark marks the location of the Old Tolbooth, the town’s “heart,” which dates back to the fifteenth century. Although it is no longer standing, this structure once served as the city’s administrative center, prison, and execution site. Spitting on the Heart became a local custom as a result of this.
Originally performed to express disdain for the prison that once stood on this location, the act is now thought to be lucky today. The locals spitting as they pass by should indicate where The Heart of Midlothian is if you aren’t paying attention.
20. Museum of Edinburgh
The Museum of Edinburgh is the best place to go if you want to learn about the evolution of Edinburgh’s history. In the museum, you can discover more about the city’s history, inhabitants, and economic activities. See the National Covenant, the original city plans, and a ton of decorative art from Edinburgh.
The museum offers a variety of immersive exhibitions to teach visitors about the development of the city in a fun and interesting way. Don’t overlook the “hidden” courtyard behind the museum, which has stonework and engravings that date back hundreds of years.
21. Edinburgh Zoo
Visit the 82-acre Edinburgh Zoo to see some exotic animals. Edinburgh Zoo offers stunning views of the city and is a wonderful and fun family outing. The zoo is the only one in Britain that currently has koalas and giant pandas, and it was the first zoo in the world to house penguins. If you want to get up close and personal and experience what it’s like to be a zookeeper, book a keeper experience. You can also just watch the cute animals in their enclosures.
Daily lectures are available, as well as weekly events like photography workshops, feeding demonstrations, and movie screenings. For those who enjoy animals and a taste of exotic nature in ancient Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Zoo is ideal.
22. Edinburgh Vaults
The Edinburgh Vaults offer underground exploration of the city’s seedy underbelly. The South Bridge, which was constructed in 1788, has a number of chambers that make up the vaults. Initially, tradespeople and illegal individuals used the vaults. When the vaults were eventually excavated in the 1990s, a wealth of intriguing historical and archaeological artifacts were discovered. Over time, the vaults gained popularity among the poor and the criminal.
You can now reserve a guided tour to visit the vaults and discover more. Alternatively, if you’re feeling fearless, go on a ghost tour! Due to the fact that murderers and tormentors once used the vaults, they are said to be haunted. This is an intriguing—and eerie—look into an important period in Edinburgh’s history.
23. National Monument of Scotland
In the center of the city, on Calton Hill, is the National Monument of Scotland. The monument, which was never finished, was intended to honor Scottish soldiers who served in the Napoleonic Wars. Since it was erected in 1829, the monument has become a well-liked tourist destination.
As the monument is still being built, the locals’ opinions of it are ambiguous. The monument nonetheless boasts magnificent architecture and breathtaking vistas of the city and surroundings. For breathtaking views of Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags, and Holyrood Park, hike to the top of the hill.
24. Usher Hall
Usher Hall is the top concert venue in Edinburgh and a must-see for culture and entertainment enthusiasts. The hall was constructed in 1914 and has lovely architecture, including a curved exterior decorated with panels of notable individuals like Mozart and Sir Walter Scott.
Concerts, political gatherings, and sporting events have all previously taken place in the hall. Usher Hall is well-known for hosting classical music performances and is praised for its excellent acoustics throughout Europe. Attend a concert at Usher Hall to experience contemporary art in a setting rich in history.
25. Dean Village
One of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets, Dean Village is situated next to the lovely Water of Leith just outside the city. There are still traces of Dean Village’s former prominence as a major player in Edinburgh’s milling industry today. Find bakeries’ stone signs and millstones by exploring the village. Visit Well Court, a 19th-century home that has undergone meticulous restoration to preserve its authentic appearance.
St. Bernards Well is nearby; it was once used to draw water from the nearby river. This water attracted visitors from all over the nation because it was thought to be very beneficial for health. Along with stunning architecture, the well includes a statue of the Greek goddess Hygeia. Finally, make sure to cross Dean Bridge, a striking structure that connects the village and the city. A distinctive and well-preserved location like Dean Village is ideal for getting a firsthand look at Scottish history.
Topic: What To Do In Edinburgh? 25 Best Things To Do in Edinburgh (2023)
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By: Travel Pixy