Here Are Some of the Best Things to Do in Edinburgh, Scotland!
Searching for things to do in Edinburgh? You’re not the first – and won’t be the last! The Scottish capital city (where we used to live) is absolutely packed with things to do, see, visit, and eat!
The Edinburgh city centre alone has countless attractions – like Edinburgh Castle – but there are so many other great places to visit in Edinburgh. You’re bound to find a wee little pub, shop, or a museum down each side alley – or “close” – dedicated to something uniquely Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a fantastic city for tourists. The beautiful city has so much to offer different travellers – from sightseers and families to adventurers, couples, and photographers.
Our massive guide covers a healthy mix of the top Edinburgh attractions to visit as well as lesser-known sights and side adventures we experienced while living there. From free attractions in Edinburgh to paid experiences, here’s our Edinburgh travel guide and tips.
Edinburgh Quick Guide
Best Time to Visit: Summer for the best chance of sunshine (August for festivals), Christmas for Markets – and always plan for wind and rain!
Table of Contents
Top Things to Do in Edinburgh
Without further ado, here’s our list of what to see and do in Edinburgh – from the famous places in Edinburgh to the lesser-known attractions and sights!
Just so you know, this list is roughly divided into sections that run geographically from the heart of the city centre and work their way further out.
The first part features things to do in Edinburgh’s Old Town and the surrounding area, then Edinburgh’s New Town and the surrounding areas (like Stockbridge), and finally areas further from the centre like Leith and Portobello.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Location: Castlehill, Edinburgh (Top of the Royal Mile)
Of all the top things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland, it doesn’t get much more popular than Edinburgh Castle. Perched high atop the city centre, Edinburgh Castle is definitely a highlight for anyone visiting the city.
With a rich history dating back to the Iron Age, there are few places of interest in Edinburgh that draw visitors in like the castle does!
Within the Castle, there are a number of small points of interest, galleries, and museums which you can also check out. Oh, and if you’re around for 1 pm, you’ll definitely hear the 1 o’clock gun!
Lisa’s been inside for a full visit while Eric’s only been through the Gatehouse as far as you can go without paying. We’d say it’s worth it.
The nice thing about visiting Edinburgh Castle is that you can choose your own experience and explore via guided tour, audio tour, or self-guided!
You can also visit the website for Edinburgh Castle for up-to-date information.
Our Tip: Get the Royal Edinburgh Ticket to combine your admission tickets to all of Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Royal Yacht Britannia with any Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour around Edinburgh for 48 hours!
Explore Old Town + Walk the Royal Mile
Location: Aim for 55°57’00.2″N 3°11’17.3″W
It might seem obvious – but one of the best things to do in Edinburgh is to walk up and down the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh’s famous long street in the heart of the Old Town runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top all the way down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom.
There’s a lot going on up and down the mile for both tourists and locals alike. For those wondering what to do in Edinburgh, a walk down the Royal Mile might give you a few ideas.
This is because there are many monuments and attractions like St. Giles Cathedral. There are also lots of alleyways called “closes” which branch off of the Mile.
These alleyways often have stairs and connect to other streets and sometimes hidden shops or museums.
The Mile itself is absolutely loaded with shops, pubs, and places to eat. Admittedly, it’s a great place to grab all of your souvenirs. You might even stop at a street performer or two to see what they have to offer.
If you plan on exploring Edinburgh on foot, you can also discover the Mile as part of a walking tour.
We personally love the energy of the Mile. Sure it can be busy and touristy at times – but Eric always found it fascinating to see new visitors discovering the city for the first time.
Don’t forget to venture off the Mile down other Old Town streets like Cockburn Street (pronounced Co-burn), colourful Victoria Street, and along South Bridge towards Cowgate.
Drink/Learn at The Scotch Whisky Experience
Address: The Royal Mile, 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh
One of our favourite things to do in Edinburgh is to head for the Scotch Whisky Experience. Located right off the Royal Mile just steps from the Castle, this is the place to learn all about Scotch the proper way!
Highlights include riding in a giant barrel to learn about how scotch is made and learning from a live guide all about the regions of Scotland and the whisky produced in each one!
Everyone gets a taste of scotch (or soft drink) with the Standard “Silver” tour ticket in this room. If you think that’s cool – you’ll then be brought into the world’s largest collection of scotch. It’s quite the sight!
If you buy the “Gold Tour” (which Eric has done before), you’ll then get access to a special tasting bar (with a giant wall of scotch) after the tour.
There you get to sample scotch from all four regions you just learned about. It was definitely worth the extra admission.
The knowledgeable bartenders will pour you others to try (for an additional fee). When you’re done with the visit (whatever ticket you choose), you can head to the gift shop to buy scotch to take home.
Our Tip: If you want to try Scotch from different regions – and fancy a bit of Scottish lore – check out this Whisky Tasting and Storytelling Cultural Experience!
Have Fun at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Address: Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (across from the Scotch Whisky Experience)
As one of the more quirky things to do in Edinburgh, this wacky world of illusions is definitely a fun one – and not something you’d expect to be visiting when you think of “attractions in Edinburgh”.
Also located up on the Royal Mile just down from the Castle, a visit to Camera Obscura is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for families.
It’s a great way to entertain the kids – and the adults, too! The interactive exhibits allow you to fully engage, and the introductory session is a great way to learn a little bit about the science of light and images!
Explore The Palace of Holyroodhouse/Queen’s Gallery
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh (Bottom of the Royal Mile)
Also commonly known as “Holyrood Palace” this magnificent attraction is the residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she visits Scotland.
Located at the very bottom of the Royal Mile, you can’t miss it! Inside, you’ll find exhibit after exhibit showing you the history of the Palace – dating back to the 16th century!
The tours are self-guided audio so you can move at your own pace.
When you’re done exploring, you can stop by the onsite cafe “Cafe at the Palace” for an afternoon tea experience. Lisa has been there – it might make for a nice afternoon stop. FYI: The entrance to the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyrood is a separate ticket.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Location: Holyrood Park
As one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for free, a hike up Arthur’s Seat is a must-do (if you’re able to).
Located in Holyrood Park near the bottom of the Royal Mile, you cannot miss “the Seat” (an old, rocky dormant volcano) if you’re standing in front of the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
There are actually two areas to hike here: to the top of the Seat or up along the Salisbury Crags. The seat is for bragging rights while the Crags is for nice, unobstructed photos of the city centre!
There are many different routes up to the top of the Seat – and you can expect a hike to take you 45 minutes to an hour to get up there.
Having lived in Edinburgh (and played tour guide for visiting friends), Eric can personally vouch for different routes of varying difficulty.
- The common route is to head for St Anthony’s Chapel Ruins near St Margaret’s Loch and then follow the well-tracked path to the top.
- An easier route would be to walk around to the back of the Seat (all on a ring sidewalk that circles the entire park) to Dunsapie Loch. You can also drive and park here. From here, it’s straight up the grassy hillside to the top.
Whichever way you go, be sure to wear good running shoes/boots (it’ll help) and be sure to bring a jacket as it can get quite windy/chilly at the top!
If you don’t want to navigate your way up the Seat on your own, you can always Hire a Private Local Guide to show you the way!
Tip: If you’re by the Seat, walk just south of it to find Dr. Neil’s Garden for a little bit of peace and quiet by a small lake (Duddingston Loch)
Tour of the Scottish Parliament
Location: At the bottom of the Royal Mile, across from the Palace of Holyroodhouse
If you fancy a tour of how democracy works in Scotland, book yourself a tour of the Scottish Parliament. Once again located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, Parliament sits in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat.
In a building known to turn heads with its modern architecture, the tours are informative and allow visitors a great glimpse into understanding politics and culture in Scotland, and the United Kingdom, in general.
You can learn more about touring the Scottish Parliament here.
Explore Dynamic Earth
Address: Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh
If you’re down near Arthur’s Seat and close to the Parliament building, you might also want to check out Dynamic Earth.
Dynamic Earth is an interactive museum/science centre dedicated to exploring everything about Planet Earth – from the Big Bang until now!
Through interactive exhibits and a number of live workshops, films in the Planetarium, and even events, there’s always something to explore.
It’s safe to say that this fascinating building – from the outside – has loads of activities for kids on the inside. You can look into visiting Dynamic Earth here.
Hop on a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Location: North side of St. Andrew Square (in New Town)
For a classic thing to do in a city, you can always hop on a hop-on hop-off bus tour! If you head to St Andrew Square in New Town, you can’t miss the buses parked in a line – waiting to take you on an adventure!
There are a few different colours of buses that run around Edinburgh, each doing a different tour on their open and closed-top buses.
Get Your Ultimate Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Ticket – good for all three Bus Tours below!
A bus tour can be a good idea if you want to see lots of Edinburgh points of interest and learn a little bit along the way.
Then, you can return to the ones that interested you later in your stay. Here’s a breakdown of the three main Edinburgh sightseeing bus tours:
City Sightseeing Tour
This is the classic Red Bus “Hop-on Hop-Off” you see in cities around the world.
This route allows you to see the most popular Edinburgh sights and attractions while emphasizing that you can get off and go visit (entrance tickets to attractions are not included in the bus ticket price).
There is an audio tour available in multiple languages with this tour. Here’s a simple City Sightseeing 24-Hour Ticket.
This Green Bus is more focused on the rich history that Edinburgh has to offer. There’s a lot of the same points of interest covered on the red bus BUT this one has a live tour guide on board.
So, you learn about Edinburgh from a real person who tells stories and will usually have more personality than an audio track.
This Blue and Yellow Bus doesn’t focus on the Old Town, New Town, and Castle much like the other two.
Instead, you’ll be taken closer to the water in Leith, and farther from the centre to other attractions and sights in Edinburgh like the Royal Botanic Gardens.
This bus also has a multilingual audio tour so no live person, should that make a difference for you!
Sightseeing Tip: Combine Your Royal Attractions Tickets (for Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Royal Yacht Britannia) with any of the 3 city bus tours with this Royal Edinburgh Ticket!
Ride the Edinburgh Ghost Bus
Location: Outside Deacon Brodies Tavern, Lawnmarket (part of the Royal Mile), Edinburgh
Speaking of bus tours, there is one more Edinburgh bus tour that is worth checking out. The Ghost Bus is something you see parked on the Royal Mile just down from the Castle and think “what IS that?!”
If you’re looking to learn more about the creepy side of Edinburgh – from ghosts to legendary murderers – then this is the bus for you!
You ride an antique decorated black bus around Edinburgh at night with a theatrical guide who tells jokes and stories as you explore Edinburgh’s creepy past.
Definitely something different from all the day walking and scotch tasting!
Discover Greyfriars Kirkyard
Address: 26A Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh
Of all the places to go in Edinburgh, this one is definitely one of the eerier. Located in the Old Town between the University of Edinburgh campus and the Royal Mile, this famous graveyard is popular for a number of reasons.
Aside from being known for its tales of grave robbers, you can also see the tombstones that served as an inspiration to J.K. Rowling for characters in Harry Potter. That includes “He Who Shall Not Be Named”!
It’s another one of the free attractions in Edinburgh. You can walk around the paths and take in the sights in what is deemed to be one of the most haunted places in the city.
Go on a Graveyard and Underground Vaults Guided Tour if you’re too scared to explore Edinburgh’s creepy past yourself! (no judgement)
When you leave the Kirkyard, be sure to stop by Greyfriars Bobby – both the pub and the bronze statue – named after the loyal Terrier who guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years after his death!
Go For A Drink
It should come as no surprise that a city like Edinburgh has a few places where you can wet your whistle.
So, if you’re out and about and looking to have a drink, we recommend a few of the following streets/areas. We’ve been to every single one of these:
- Rose Street is located in New Town and is absolutely packed with bars and pubs like The Amber Rose Edinburgh. Thistle Street is also in New Town and has Thistle Street Bar. We also like The Queens Arms located on Frederick Street.
- The Royal Mile, of course, has lots of places where you can grab a drink- some more touristy like Deacon Brodies Tavern or World’s End – than others – like The Ensign Ewart.
- At the bottom of Victoria Street, you’ll find Grassmarket. This lovely open-air square is lined with bars and pubs like The Last Drop and Beehive Inn and sits in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
- You can also venture down Cowgate which has many bars and clubs. Check out Ox184 or BrewDog as two classic examples. The Three Sisters is also close by for sports and an outdoor sitting area.
- West of the Old Town/Castle you’ll find Lothian Road with lots of places for drinks. A classic place to go is The Hanging Bat (love it).
As a visitor, you’ll be more than covered if you stick to these areas/suggestions. Of course, there are other bars and pubs around every corner. You never know where you might end up!
If you are searching for things to do in Edinburgh at night, the Edinburgh Pub Crawl is a great experience every time. The founder, Justin, runs an excellent tour – Eric’s been on it 3 times!
Dive into Harry Potter Lore
Locations: All Over Edinburgh
If you’re visiting Edinburgh (a rather magical city) and you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you’ll be pleased to know that you can dive into Harry Potter lore all around the city.
As mentioned above, Greyfriars Kirkyard inspired the names of famous characters in the books while The Elephant House Cafe is dubbed “the birthplace of Harry Potter”.
That said, Rowling actually wrote in a few places around the city – another place is above Black Medicine Coffee Co which is now Nicolsons Cafe.
If you are looking to indulge in more Harry Potter-themed activities when you visit Edinburgh, you might consider a guided walking tour.
These Potter-themed tours are designed to hit up most of the popular sites around the city!
Visit the National Museum of Scotland
Address: Entrance off of Chambers St, Edinburgh
Want to see a dinosaur, a shark, and a bunch of artefacts all under one roof? Then come on down to the National Museum of Scotland!
As another one of the best free attractions in Edinburgh, you’ll be treated to many floors of different exhibits showcasing a little bit of everything – from science and pop culture to the history of Scotland!
Fun Fact: The museum is actually a combined collection of a number of former smaller museums and collections – including the Antiquities of Scotland collection.
These days, the National Museum – with its photogenic Grand Gallery atrium – is one of the most popular attractions in all of Scotland.
Having lived just down the street, it was a place Eric ventured to often to play tourist or even to write papers at the upper floor cafe. You can plan your visit to the National Museum of Scotland here.
Our Tip: There’s a rooftop garden/terrace on top of the museum that offers great views from within Old Town. Just head up the stairs or elevator to the top of the building.
Tour the University of Edinburgh
Location: Aim for Bristol Square to see McEwan Hall
If history and academia are more your thing, you should go and explore the University of Edinburgh. Located just south of Old Town, the University was founded way back in 1583.
This makes the University of Edinburgh one of Scotland’s four ancient universities.
From historic and modern buildings to the green space around George Square, it’s worth a wander through to feel the hustle and bustle of campus life. The quiet inner square at the Old College (just off South Bridge) makes for some great photos, too.
There’s even a campus watering hole – The Library Bar – located in Teviot. Here, you can get classic pub grub and drinks while being surrounded by books!
Eric should know: He completed his MSc at the University of Edinburgh back in the day!
Lounge in the Meadows
Location: Aim for the “Middle Meadow Walk” to enter the park – you can’t miss it!
If the sun is shining and you just want to relax, you should head for the Meadows. Located just south of the University of Edinburgh, this expansive green space is essentially a large park with many paths cutting through it in all directions.
The park is extremely flat and the grass is very nice for sitting or laying down and watching the world go by (assuming the ground is dry).
If you don’t want to sit on the ground, there are a number of benches throughout the Meadows which you can claim as your own for a little bit. There are also playgrounds in the East end if you are travelling with kids.
On really hot summer days, people even barbecue (with tiny, disposable BBQs) in the Meadows. You’ll see plumes of food smoke rising from across the crowds of locals and visitors alike.
Attend an Edinburgh Festival
Locations: All Over the City
If you’re visiting Edinburgh in the summertime, there’s a good chance you’re heading there for the festival season. If you didn’t know about the festivals – it’s probably a good idea that you do!
Edinburgh is home to a great number of festivals covering everything from film and street performers to literature and much more.
Many people know about “The Fringe” and the Military Tattoo – so here’s a list of all the festivals in the summer that keep Edinburgh tourism booming!
- Edinburgh International Festival
- Edinburgh Festival Fringe
- The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
- Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
- Edinburgh International Film Festival
- and a few more festivals!
If you do head to Edinburgh in the summer (especially August), you’ll want to book your accommodations well in advance! See our section on “where to stay in Edinburgh” for details.
Explore/Go Shopping in New Town
Location: Aim for Hanover Street
Once you have had your fill of the historic Old Town, it’s time to explore the historic, slightly newer New Town!
Lined with Georgian architecture, Edinburgh’s New Town is known to be more of a shopping destination for those visiting Edinburgh.
New Town is located just north of the Princes St Gardens along Princes Street – George Street runs in the middle, and Queen Street outlines the northern border.
Head for Hanover Street (which runs north-south, roughly) at George Street to find the middle of New Town.
Inside this grid pattern of streets are lots of different shops, places to eat, places for drinks, and lots of historic architecture around every corner.
There’s even a green space – St Andrew Square – where you can picnic or find bus tours and the tram stop.
As far as shopping goes, there are classic clothing stores right off of Princes Street and you can find many others scattered throughout the area.
There’s a large mall called St James Quarter (located at the east end of New Town) close to Calton Hill. Another highlight of New Town is the cobblestone streets that run between the major streets.
You’ll find lots of bars and pubs along Rose Street (mentioned in the drinks section above) as well as on Thistle Street and Hill Street. Honestly, just go for a wander and see what you can find!
Climb Calton Hill + Nelson Monument
Location for Steps up Calton Hill: 55°57’14.8″N 3°11’06.3″W
Of all the things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland, a hike to the top of Calton Hill will definitely get you some of the best views and photos.
Located just to the east of the heart of New Town, this hillside escape is easy to reach from the city centre.
Just head for the Balmoral Hotel (with a large iconic clock tower) on North Bridge and then head east on the A1 (to the pin location above) to find the steps up the hill.
There’s plenty to see up there – from Nelson Monument (see below) and the National Monument of Scotland to just soaking up in the breathtaking views of Edinburgh!
The good news is the views are free to take in. If you catch the sun setting on a clear night, you can be assured there will be plenty of locals and visitors all with their cameras out to capture the perfect shot. Eric used to be one of them.
As for other things to see, you should check out Nelson Monument. This tower that looks like a giant telescope is another adventure in itself.
Believe it or not, it can be entered – and if you’re feeling like climbing the 143 stairs to the top observation deck, you’ll get an even better view of the city (for a small admission fee).
The ground-floor museum is actually free to enter. You can learn all about naval history (which we found to be really interesting), the significance of the monument, and the ball timepiece on the top that still drops at 1 pm every day. It had great significance to 19th-century seafarers.
You can read more about Nelson Monument in Edinburgh here.
Relax in Princes Street Gardens
Location: 55°57’05.5″N 3°11’43.8″W (Good for a Nice View/Photo)
While you’re still in New Town, you might want to just have a nice sit down if the weather cooperates. For this, head for the Princes Street Gardens.
Located between Old Town and New Town, these sprawling gardens have a great significance to the city.
As a green space, the Gardens (both the Princes Street Gardens and the East Princes Street Gardens) provide a great deal of beauty to the city.
There are numerous monuments, statues, and walking paths to explore. Springtime sees manicured flower beds throughout the area.
The “East” Gardens are close to Waverley Station and have Scott Monument and the Scottish National Gallery (see below). This section is where most of the Edinburgh Christmas Market stalls are located.
The larger part of the Gardens – in the shadow of the Castle’s north side – features the beautiful Ross Fountain and Floral Clock.
Overall, the gardens are a nice place to sit in the sunshine, have a picnic, or just go for a prolonged stroll right in the city centre.
Climb Scott Monument
Location: 55°57’08.6″N 3°11’35.2″W
Aside from Edinburgh Castle, there are other things to do in Edinburgh’s city centre that should be explored. One of the noteworthy landmarks in Edinburgh that stands out (pun intended) is Scott Monument.
Completed in the mid-1800s, this Gothic monument is one of the tallest monuments in the world that is dedicated to a writer. In this case, Sir Walter Scott.
These days, you can enter the base and climb the 287 steps (for a small fee) to get beautiful views of the city (but from within the city centre).
There is an interior museum room to learn more about Scott and Scottish literature – and they now offer guided tours throughout the day
You can read more information about Scott Monument. Climbing the monument is a personal favourite of ours!
Explore the Scottish National Gallery
Location: The Mound, Edinburgh
If you’re hanging around Scott Monument in the Gardens, you might also be interested in other museums. The Scottish National Gallery might be of interest!
Located right on the Mound (the area near New Town in Princes Street Gardens), the National Gallery houses some incredible pieces from some incredible artists.
With exhibits changing all the time, it’s best to have a look at what’s on before you visit. Admission is free but, again, donations are what keep these amazing attractions alive!
Explore More Museums + Galleries
Locations: All Over the City
Speaking of museums and galleries, there are so many more museums and galleries scattered across Edinburgh. We’d never be able to cover them all!
If you are looking for free museums in Edinburgh, you’ll be in luck since many do have free admission (but donations are always a nice gesture).
Edinburgh is rich with history so you’ll find several museums dedicated to writing, art, folklore, history, money, and more! Here are a few more places to check out:
- Surgeons’ Hall Museum – exhibits all about the history of medicine, surgery, and pathology.
- The Writers’ Museum – is dedicated to famous Scottish writers from the past.
- Museum of Childhood – all about the history of toys, games, and play.
- The Peoples’ Story Museum – is all about working-class people and the history of the city.
- Museum of Edinburgh – all about Edinburgh’s past (free to enter).
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – pretty self-explanatory.
- Museum on the Mound – the history of money (free to enter).
- … and many more!
Visit The Edinburgh Dungeon
Address: 31 Market St, Edinburgh
If you haven’t been creeped out enough by other Edinburgh attractions, then you should head for the Edinburgh Dungeon!
Located near Waverley Station, the Edinburgh Dungeon is another must-see for travellers who like to be creeped out or generally like to address the darker side of a city’s past!
Get your Ticket for the Edinburgh Dungeon (if you dare…).
Through interactive, live actors, the Dungeon has solidified itself as one of the top attractions in Edinburgh. You can also find other Dungeon-brand attractions across Europe – like in London.
Browse the Stockbridge Market
Address: Saunders St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh
If you want to explore a classic Sunday market, head for Stockbridge. Here, you’ll find the famous Stockbridge market which runs every Sunday – you can’t miss the yellow and white tents amongst the trees and old buildings.
Located just to the northwest of the city centre (not far from New Town), exploring Stockbridge and heading for the market is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for couples (in our opinion).
The market is packed with local vendors who are serving up hot food, selling sweet treats, or showcasing a number of artisan crafts and goodies.
It’s a lot of fun to just wander through and see what you can find. You might even find a bite to eat or a unique local souvenir to bring home from your trip to Edinburgh. You can learn more about the Stockbridge Market here.
Our Tip: Walk from the Stockbridge Market south along the Water of Leith to St. Bernard’s Well to snap a photo. You can keep following this water/path to Dean Village (see below).
Snap a Photo of Dean Village and Circus Lane
Address: Dean Path, Edinburgh (by the Water of Leith)
Speaking of Stockbridge, if you’re in the area you’ll want to stop by some famous photo sites: Dean Village and Circus Lane. From a photo perspective, these spots are among the best things to see in Edinburgh!
Located just up the street from the Stockbridge Market (near The Pantry – great brunch), Circus Lane is a small, curved residential street that has become a famous photo spot over the years.
The small, colourful doors, cobblestone street, and excess of plants on window sills make it a very photogenic spot. Keep in mind these are peoples’ homes so be sure to be respectful when you visit.
If you follow the Water of Leith away from the Stockbridge Market, you’ll cross under The Dean Bridge and eventually end up in Dean Village.
This collection of 19th-century colourful buildings with water in the foreground makes for a stunning Edinburgh photo. You can snap a photo from the small bridge along the Water of Leith Walkway in the heart of the village.
We actually cover these areas as top Edinburgh photos spots!
Enjoy the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Address: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh
This huge green space – 70 acres worth – in the city’s northwest is a top Edinburgh attraction that makes for a wonderful getaway for a few hours.
The Royal Botanic Gardens date back to the 17th century and have been wowing visitors ever since.
The garden grounds are free to enter and the beautiful Glasshouses – where a number of exhibits and flora are featured – require a small fee for entry. Learn more about the Royal Botanical Gardens here.
Explore Leith + Royal Yacht Britannia
Location: Aim for Commercial St, Leith to be close to shops and pubs
If the water calls to you, then you should head down to Leith to explore a different side of Edinburgh. Here, you’ll find a more laid-back atmosphere and a number of shops, pubs, and restaurants with water views.
Leith has the Farmers Market every Saturday and lots of photogenic spots. Nearby, you’ll find the Ocean Terminal (a popular bus stop for city buses and one sightseeing bus) – and you’ll set your eyes on the Royal Yacht Britannia!
This former royal yacht was in service from 1954 until 1997 and used to cater to Queen Elizabeth II. You can plan a whole visit to the yacht – and you can even sleep on the boat! Check out the website for the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.
Cruise the Iconic Waterways on a Boat Cruise
Address: Hawes Pier, South Queensferry, EH30 9TB (Check in with Forth Boat Tours)
For more action out on the water, you might consider a boat cruise to learn about the Scottish shoreline, history, and see the famous bridges – like the iconic red Forth Bridge – that call the area home.
From ruins to wildlife like seals, some time out on the water in the Firth of Forth estuary is a great thing to do!
Head for Portobello Beach
Address: 1 Promenade, Portobello, Edinburgh
For a day spent at the beach – in the sunshine or with clouds above-, head for Portobello Beach. Located on the water to the east of the city centre, Portobello itself is a small suburb that is just a short bus ride away from the heart of Edinburgh.
When you get to Portobello, you can relax at the expansive sandy beach or walk the promenade which runs its length.
There are a few seaside cafes where you can sit and have a drink or bite to eat. Alternatively, you can head one block inland to Portobello High Street where there are other restaurants that might interest you.
Portobello is very popular on sunny days but we’ve visited when it was overcast and it was worth it. We enjoyed the sound of the waves, the smell of sea air, and the peace and quiet away from the city centre.
Bonus: Enjoy Edinburgh Christmas Markets and Hogmanay
Locations: In the Princes Street Gardens
If you’re still looking for things to do and see in Edinburgh, you might consider changing up the season you visit the city to take in the winter activities!
December is a lively month in Edinburgh because you get to visit the famous Edinburgh Christmas Markets!
Located in all parts of the Princes Street Gardens (and with skating on George Street), there’s lots to discover for all ages. Eric went with friends many times during the Christmas season and it never disappointed.
If you aim for the gardens near Scott Monument you’ll be greeted by lots of wooden stalls that cascade down over a number of walkways.
There’s a Ferris wheel, skating rink, stuff for the kids, and many, many shops and stalls covering crafts, gifts, food, and – of course – mulled wine!
Another important event to take in in December is Hogmanay – the Scottish celebration of New Years. New Years is a big deal in Edinburgh.
Hogmanay is celebrated over a number of days and the famous Torchlight Procession is definitely something to join once in your lifetime!
Things to Consider When Visiting Edinburgh
As you plan your trip to Edinburgh, here are some other useful pieces of information like the best time to visit, how to get around, and where to stay in Edinburgh.
Best Time to Visit Edinburgh
The best time to visit Edinburgh is a tricky question to answer. This is because you sort of have to have an idea of why you are travelling to the city and plan around that.
You also have to plan your trip under the assumption that the weather might not be great – because it’s Scotland.
The easy answer would be the summer months because that’s the best shot at having sunshine and warmer weather.
The month of August is very popular for all the festivals (i.e. Edinburgh Fringe, Scottish Military Tattoo, etc).
So, if you’re planning on travelling to Edinburgh but not going to festivals you should avoid August because it gets very busy.
Another good time to visit Edinburgh is for Christmas and/or New Year’s. The Edinburgh Christmas market is world-famous and their celebration for New Year – Hogmanay – is also something to be experienced.
However, the winter months in Edinburgh can be quite grey, cold, windy, and rainy (we lived there, we know).
You can certainly find decent weather in the spring and in the fall but you should always plan for the chance of wind and rain.
A good rain jacket that is also a windbreaker is a must when you visit Edinburgh.
Getting To/Around Edinburgh
In terms of getting to and/or around Edinburgh, there are lots of great options. To get into the city by plane, you can land at Edinburgh Airport and easily take the Airlink (bus), tram, or a cab to the city centre.
If you’re travelling by train, you’ll arrive at Edinburgh Waverley train station which is located in the heart of the city centre between Old Town and New Town.
To explore many things and attractions, the city centre is quite compact and walkable. However, it’s important to know that the Old Town can be quite hilly (with lots of stairs in the side alleys or “closes”) while New Town is generally much flatter (or slopes more gently).
As for transport, the tour buses mentioned above and the regular buses and trams run by Transport for Edinburgh are a great way to get around.
You might also utilize a bike as a means of transport – and a guided Edinburgh bike tour is a great way to get exercise and get some knowledge when you arrive!
Our Tip: Get your Airlink Ticket in Advance so you don’t have to wait in line after you land in Edinburgh!
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
If you’re wondering about where to stay in Edinburgh, the city is absolutely jam-packed with great accommodation choices in many great areas. We actually have a whole Edinburgh accommodation guide which dives into detail.
Having said that, you can find many hotels, apartments/aparthotels, bed and breakfasts and even hostels for types of accommodations.
In terms of areas, Old Town and New Town are incredibly popular because of their proximity to all the best attractions and sites.
However, there are a few other areas around the city – like Stockbridge or Leith – which you can also find accommodations in.
A very popular hotel option is Motel One – Edinburgh Royal with its perfect location close to the Royal Mile, New Town, as well as Edinburgh Waverley train station.
Another option is the ibis Edinburgh Centre – Hunter Square (steps from the Royal Mile) right in the heart of all the action in Old Town.
For a hotel with views of Edinburgh Castle, stay in Grassmarket at the Apex Grassmarket Hotel.
If you’re travelling to Edinburgh, we’ve got some knowledge for you! Check out these other detailed posts for our insider knowledge and tips:
And there you have it – our guide on some of the best things to do in Edinburgh! These are some of our favourites and they cover many of the top Edinburgh attractions. That said, there’s always more to discover in the Scottish capital. Have a blast exploring the city!
As always, Happy Waddlin’,