things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the enchanting capital of Scotland, is a city that merges old-world charm with modern allure. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture, Edinburgh invites visitors into its cobbled streets and cosy pubs with a warm, open-hearted spirit. The city is a captivating blend of towering castles, serene parks, delightful museums, and bustling marketplaces. Add to this the friendly locals, scrumptious Scottish delicacies, and the constant sound of bagpipes in the air, and you have a destination that promises an unforgettable travel experience. So discover all the magical things to do in Edinburgh today!

Table of Contents

Popular Tourist Attractions in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Presiding over the city like a protective guardian, the majestic Edinburgh Castle is a historical gem that takes you back in time. Its imposing structure, brimming with stories of power, warfare, and royal intrigues, is a testament to Scotland’s rich history. The castle’s Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny are particular highlights.

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile, stretching from the Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace, is a vibrant hotspot that pulses with life. Lined with quaint shops, lively pubs, and historic buildings, a leisurely stroll down the Royal Mile is an experience you shouldn’t miss.

Holyrood Palace

The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace, exhibits grandeur at its finest. With its stunning gardens and sumptuous State Apartments, a visit to Holyrood Palace is a deep dive into regal opulence.

Scottish National Gallery

Art lovers must make time for the Scottish National Gallery, a repository of masterpieces by world-renowned artists. With works by Botticelli, Van Gogh, and Gauguin gracing its walls, it’s a haven for the aesthetically inclined.

Top Things to Do in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Edinburgh Festivals

Edinburgh is home to a plethora of festivals throughout the year. Be it the vibrant Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, or the magical Edinburgh’s Christmas, these events are perfect for immersing yourself in the city’s cultural scene.

Hiking Arthur’s Seat

For those looking for a mix of nature and adventure, hiking Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano and hill located in Holyrood Park, is a must. The panoramic view from the top is nothing short of breathtaking.

Shopping on Princes Street

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without some retail therapy. Princes Street, with its myriad of shops, is the perfect spot for shopping, ranging from high-end brands to local boutiques.

Exploring Dean Village

Step away from the hustle and bustle of the city and spend some time in Dean Village. This peaceful and picturesque neighbourhood, with its beautiful residential houses and serene waterway, provides a tranquil retreat.

Must-See Places in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden

A haven of tranquillity in the heart of the city, the Royal Botanic Garden is a verdant paradise spanning 72 acres. With its diverse plant collection, stunning glasshouses, and peaceful atmosphere, it’s a perfect spot to unwind.

National Museum of Scotland

Offering a glimpse into Scotland’s history, culture, and people, the National Museum of Scotland is an absolute must-see. Its extensive exhibits cover everything from natural history and world cultures to science and technology.

St Giles’ Cathedral

This awe-inspiring cathedral, with its beautiful stained glass windows and ornate stonework, is a monument to Edinburgh’s spiritual history. The rooftop view from its tower is a treat to the eyes.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

For a taste of royal extravagance, visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, the former seafaring residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Explore the decks, state rooms, and crew quarters while getting a sense of the royal lifestyle.

Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh for First-Time Visitors

things to do in edinburgh

Edinburgh Zoo

Home to over 1,000 rare and endangered animals, Edinburgh Zoo is a must for first-time visitors. From viewing the giant pandas to witnessing the famous penguin parade, it’s a fantastic destination for all ages.

Museum of Edinburgh

Uncover the fascinating story of Edinburgh at the Museum of Edinburgh. With exhibits ranging from ancient artifacts to the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, the museum offers a comprehensive view of the city’s history.

Calton Hill

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calton Hill offers panoramic views of the city. It’s also home to several iconic monuments, making it a must-visit spot for first-time visitors.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

This interactive museum is a fascinating place that blurs the line between reality and illusion. With five floors filled with over 100 hands-on exhibits, it’s a fun-filled place for all ages.

Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh for Families

things to do in edinburgh

Dynamic Earth

Families visiting Edinburgh should make time for Dynamic Earth, a fascinating interactive science centre that takes you on a journey through Earth’s history.

Gorgie City Farm

At Gorgie City Farm, families can get up close with a variety of farm animals, learn about farming, and enjoy a peaceful atmosphere in the heart of the city.

Edinburgh Dungeon

For a fun-filled, spine-chilling experience, visit the Edinburgh Dungeon. With thrilling rides and live shows, it’s an adventure that promises a blend of history, horror, and hilarity.

Butterfly & Insect World

Discover the fascinating world of butterflies and insects at this indoor tropical rainforest. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about these colourful creatures.

Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh for Couples

things to do in edinburgh

Scott Monument

Offering a romantic view of the city, Scott Monument is an ideal place for couples. Climbing its spiralling staircases leads to a panoramic vista that is worth every step.

Royal Observatory

Nothing screams romance more than stargazing. At the Royal Observatory, couples can spend an evening looking at the stars and learning about the mysteries of the universe.

The Vennel

This hidden alleyway offers a perfect romantic spot with its exceptional view of the Edinburgh Castle. It’s a great place to catch a quiet moment away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Leith Walk

Strolling down the Leith Walk towards the waterfront provides an excellent opportunity for couples to explore local shops, cafes, and picturesque views.

Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh on a Budget

things to do in edinburgh

The Meadows

This expansive public park is perfect for a budget-friendly day out. Whether it’s picnicking, cycling, or simply enjoying the greenery, The Meadows offers a breath of fresh air without hurting your wallet.

Museum of Edinburgh

Offering free admission, the Museum of Edinburgh allows you to delve into the city’s rich history and heritage without spending a penny.

Greyfriars Kirk

Historic Greyfriars Kirk, with its significant history and serene graveyard, is a fascinating, budget-friendly visit.

Water of Leith Walkway

This beautiful, winding walkway alongside the Water of Leith river is a perfect free activity that lets you enjoy Edinburgh’s natural beauty.

Best Day Trips from Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh


Home to the legendary Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument, a day trip to Stirling allows you to explore Scottish history in depth.

North Berwick

For a seaside escape, head to North Berwick. Enjoy its beautiful beaches, charming boutiques, and the renowned Scottish Seabird Centre.

Loch Lomond

Just a short trip from Edinburgh, Loch Lomond offers stunning landscapes, scenic hikes, and a chance to engage in a variety of water sports.

Rosslyn Chapel

Famous for its intricate carvings and its appearance in The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel is a masterpiece that is well worth the short trip from Edinburgh.

Hidden Gems in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Dr Neil’s Garden

This beautiful, secluded garden in Duddingston is one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets. It’s an idyllic, tranquil spot for those in search of peace.

Mary King’s Close

Hidden beneath the Royal Mile, Mary King’s Close is a network of 17th-century streets and spaces, offering a unique perspective on the city’s history.

The Writers’ Museum

Located in a charming 17th-century house, this museum is dedicated to celebrating the lives of three giants of Scottish Literature – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust

This lovely walkway along the Water of Leith river offers a peaceful escape from the city buzz. Along the way, you can spot various wildlife and enjoy the natural beauty.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Places in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Cramond Island

Accessible only at low tide, Cramond Island offers a unique adventure off the beaten path. Remember to check tide times to ensure a safe trip.

The Museum of Fire

This lesser-known museum tells the story of firefighting in Edinburgh. It’s a fascinating place that many tourists often overlook.

Gilmerton Cove

Venture into Gilmerton Cove’s mysterious network of hand-carved underground tunnels and chambers. The purpose of this subterranean labyrinth remains a mystery, adding to its intrigue.

Lauriston Castle

Nestled on the outskirts of the city, Lauriston Castle with its beautiful gardens and stunning views of the Firth of Forth offers a tranquil off-beat experience.

Best Places to Eat in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

The Witchery by the Castle

Located near Edinburgh Castle, The Witchery offers a unique dining experience with its gothic-style interior and superb Scottish cuisine.


For a more modern culinary experience, Timberyard, with its locally sourced ingredients and creative dishes, is a must-visit.

Mother India’s Café

This Indian tapas restaurant is a hit with locals and tourists alike. With its blend of traditional and modern flavours, it’s a great place to sample Indian cuisine.

The Scran & Scallie

For a taste of traditional Scottish food with a modern twist, visit The Scran & Scallie. Their haggis is especially popular.

Night-Life in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

The Jazz Bar

This award-winning bar offers live music seven nights a week. With its impressive line-up of jazz, blues, and funk, it’s a favourite among music lovers.

The Stand Comedy Club

For a night filled with laughter, head to The Stand Comedy Club, one of the best places in Edinburgh to enjoy stand-up comedy.

Bramble Bar

For a sophisticated night out, Bramble Bar offers innovative cocktails in a cosy setting. Its speakeasy vibe adds to its charm.

The Liquid Room

This dynamic club is one of Edinburgh’s premier venues for concerts and dance nights. It’s a must-visit for those looking to experience the city’s energetic nightlife.

Festivals in Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

Edinburgh International Festival

This globally renowned festival showcases the best in music, theatre, and dance. With performances from world-class artists, it’s a cultural extravaganza not to be missed.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Featuring musicians and performers from around the world, this annual event set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle is a spectacle of music, ceremony, and entertainment.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Literature lovers should not miss the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the world’s largest public celebration of books and storytelling.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

This engaging and educational festival offers a range of activities and discussions around science and technology, perfect for curious minds of all ages.

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Things to do in Edinburgh – Conclusion

Edinburgh, with its rich history, vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and friendly people, is a city that charms you at every turn. Whether it’s strolling down the historic Royal Mile, exploring the imposing Edinburgh Castle, hiking up Arthur’s Seat, or indulging in the city’s culinary delights, there is no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh. So pack your bags, and get ready to explore this wonderful city, one experience at a time!

Frequently Asked Questions for Things to do in Edinburgh

  • What is the best time to visit Edinburgh?

    Edinburgh is a year-round destination. However, the summer months (June to August) are particularly vibrant due to the Edinburgh Festivals.

  • How many days do I need to explore Edinburgh?

    A minimum of three days would be ideal to cover the main attractions. However, if you plan to take day trips or want to explore the city more leisurely, consider staying for a week.

  • Is Edinburgh walkable?

    Yes, Edinburgh is a very walkable city. Many of the main attractions, like the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace, are within walking distance of each other.

  • Is Edinburgh Castle worth visiting?

    Absolutely. Edinburgh Castle is one of the city’s iconic landmarks and houses significant historical artefacts. The views of the city from the castle are also exceptional.

  • What food is Edinburgh famous for?

    Edinburgh is known for traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, black pudding, Scotch pie, and Scottish salmon. Be sure to also try a Scotch whisky while you’re in the city.

  • Does it rain a lot in Edinburgh?

    Edinburgh has a maritime climate, which means it can be quite unpredictable. While it does rain throughout the year, it’s not usually heavy.

  • Are there any beaches in Edinburgh?

    Yes, there are several beautiful beaches in and around Edinburgh. Portobello Beach is a popular choice within the city. For day trips, consider going to Cramond or North Berwick.

  • Can you see the Northern Lights from Edinburgh?

    While the Northern Lights are not commonly seen from Edinburgh, they can occasionally be observed during periods of high solar activity, particularly in the darker winter months.

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