12 of the Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a charming and fascinating city full of culture, wonder and rich history.
Known for its Harry Potter-esque charm, Edinburgh is a truly magical city that offers so much to tourists and locals alike. Whether you plan to visit Edinburgh for a quick weekend getaway or for a longer break, you certainly won’t be short of fantastic things to do in the city.
We’ve created a short guide of the 12 best things to do in Edinburgh to help our guests get the most out of their trip to Scotland’s endearing capital.
Experience the wonders of Edinburgh Castle
There aren’t too many cities that can boast that they have a castle slap bang in the middle of it. But Edinburgh can! Look up from pretty much any point around the old or new town of Edinburgh and you’ll spot it, sitting proudly on the historic Castle Rock.
The castle itself is steeped in history dating all the way back to the iron age. In more recent history it acted as a stronghold for the Kingdom of Scotland as it fought for Scottish Independence. In fact, the castle has a rather unwanted claim to fame as being the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world.
Today the castle stands a proud cultural symbol for both the city of Edinburgh and Scotland. It is also the most visited tourist attraction in the whole of Scotland, so you certainly won’t want to miss out on visiting the castle when looking for things to do in Edinburgh.
You can find out more information on tours and tickets via the official Edinburgh Castle website.
Explore the Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s old town
The castle is located at the top of Edinburgh’s most famous street; The Royal Mile.
Walk through history as you stroll along the cobbled stones and quaint corners of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The Mile gets its name due to being exactly (that’s right, you guessed it) a mile in length between the Castle and Holyrood Palace, the official Royal Residence of Edinburgh.
Along it you’ll find some of Edinburgh’s grandest and oldest buildings, including St Giles Cathedral, The Writers Museum and other hidden gems. You’ll also notice a raft of boutique shops, traditional pubs and tourist shops selling the finest tartan…
If you feel like exploring, be sure to meander down the many alleyways and closes that connect to the Mile from all sides. They make for a fascinating, all-be-it confusing, walk through the city and gives you a true taste of Old Edinburgh.
Immerse yourself with Camera Obscura’s World of Illusions
Another fantastic Edinburgh tourist attraction, although this one is slightly more modern than the others mentioned on our list so far, is Camera Obscura.
Camera Obscura offers guests a world of optical illusions that are enjoyable for the whole family. Walk through mirrored mazes, gaze at optical illusions and experience an interactive camera show as you ascend through the magic that is Camera Obscura.
At the very top you’ll find an amazing rooftop setting that delivers incredible 360 views of Edinburgh. Better yet, Camera Obscura is located right at the top of the Royal Mile, so it’s an easy stop to mark off as you explore the wonders of Edinburgh’s old town.
Ascend Arthurs Seat
Arthur’s Seat is a fantastic place to visit in Edinburgh if you’re looking to stretch the legs and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre.
You can easily reach the extinct volcano by walking through Holyrood Park. From there, you’ll be meet with a leisurely hike that is not overly strenuous. However, it’s still a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes and warm clothes as it can get windy at the top.
Once you make it to the top you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of the city and surrounding areas. It’s well worth a visit when searching for things to do in Edinburgh!
Visit the National Museum of Scotland
Completely free and perfect for any rainy days that you might encounter when visiting Edinburgh (let’s face it, there’s bound to be one), the National Museum of Scotland is a treasure trove of wonders located in the heart of the city.
With impressive permanent exhibits on Space, Dinasaur’s and Wildlife, as well as a range of rotating displays that are perfect for both kids and adults alike, the National Musuem is a must-see when in Edinburgh and the perfect place to while away a few hours if you ever get stuck for something to do.
Climb Calton Hill at Sunset or Sunrise
Calton Hill offers some of the most spectacular views of the city, with the iconic Balmorle Clock Tower, the Scots Monument and Edinburgh Castle all visible in the skyline.
But Calton Hill offers more than just views, you’ll also find some impressive and intriguing monuments atop the hill, including the National Monument, which was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens.
It’s without doubt one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh, particularly for sunrise or sunset.
To get there simply walk to the very end of Princes Street (Waverley Station end), follow the signs and march up the steps to the top!
Find Peace in the Charming Dean Village
Dean Village is a quaint residential area situated along Leith Walk and is easily accessible by foot from the city centre.
This charming location boasts rows of bright yellow houses in amongst traditional Edinburgh architecture that gives it a truely unique feel.
The flowing river and cobbled stones make this location a peaceful haven for anyone wishing to leave the busyness of the city behind for a few hours. You can follow the river and take a stroll along Leith Walk to experience greenery and nature, or simply snap a few quick pics and get back to your sightseeing list.
Whatever you choose, make sure you add Dean Village to your list of things to do in Edinburgh. You won’t regret it!
Enjoy Nature in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens
Another amazing location not located in the city centre. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh are a sprawling display of flora and fauna that has been artfully arranged to give visitors a delightful walk in nature.
With green houses, mini waterfalls, water pools and mazes, both adults and children will love a visit to these beautiful gardens.
Definitely a great thing to do in Edinburgh if you’re looking to reconnect with nature.
Get Traditional with the Scotch Whiskey Experience
If you’re visiting Edinburgh from abroad, it’s quite likely you’ll want to sample that famous Scotch Whiskey.
The Scotch Whiskey Experience will do more than just that, it will give visitors the chance to learn about the important role that Scotch Whiskey played, and still plays, in Edinburgh and in Scotland as a whole.
Visitors can choose to take the tour, enjoy an event or tasting, or simply visit the shop or dine at the restaurant. Whatever you do, you’ll get a chance to sample a famous wee dram that will be sure to send a tingle down your spine.
For any whiskey lovers, the Scotch Whiskey Tour is a must see on your list of best places to visit in Edinburgh. It’s located at the top of the Royal Mile and tickets can be purchased online through their official website.
Climb the Scots Monument for Insane views of the city
I know, I know, more climbing… Edinburgh’s full of it. But trust us, this one is well worth the effort.
The famous Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, sits in Princes Street gardens and is one of the most notable landmarks throughout all of Edinburgh. Visitors can choose to climb the spiral staircase, which consists of an impressive 287 steps to get to the very top!
Although the climb is steep and at times rather narrow, it offers spectacular views and is a fantastic experience for those looking to immerse themselves in Edinburgh’s rich history.
Brave Mary King’s Close
Mary Queen’s Close is effectively a hidden city underneath the city of Edinburgh. It’s found in the old town and is known for its ghostly tales and haunting atmosphere.
You’ll have to book a tour to be taken down the hidden alleyways and tunnels that was once the true city of Edinburgh. With brilliant tour guides, immersive story telling and a host of actors and actresses adding to the experience, it’s well worth the money. Especially if you’re a lover of spooky tales and bloody history!
Please note that the Closes can be quite cramped and claustrophobic and won’t be suitable for everyone.
Explore the Trendy Area of Bruntsfield
Bruntsfield is an excellent area of Edinburgh and is located just a short 15-minute walk from the Old Town.
With a wealth of boutique shops, breakfast cafes, restaurants and welcoming bars, there’s a whole host of fun places to visit in this charming part of Edinburgh!
You’ll also find the Meadows close by and Bruntsfield Links, two wide open green spaces that are perfect to relax on during a summer’s day.
Bruntsfield is a great place to set up a base from which to explore Edinburgh, and offers a great range of boutique hotels to stay in while you work your way through the best things to do in Scotland’s capital.
Where to stay when travelling to Edinburgh?
Wondering the best place to stay in Edinburgh as you mark off your list of top Edinburgh tourist attractions? Let us help you!
The Black Ivy hotel in Bruntsfield offers the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing. With a fantastic in-house restaurant our guests can head back to their hotel knowing that they’re guaranteed a fantastic dinner. Our restaurant also offers hearty breakfasts to get your day off to a great start!
What is more, we have an extensive bar menu and a lively outdoor terrace area which can be enjoyed late into the night. So, if you’re looking to finish your night with a few drinks and some great conversation but not wanting to stray too far from where you’re sleeping, Black Ivy will be perfect for you!
Check out our wide range of reasonably priced rooms, all located in a charming, boutique hotel that is ideally placed for all your Edinburgh travels.
You can also contact us directly for more information about visiting Edinburgh and staying at Black Ivy.