Top 10 Things to Do in Edinburgh: What You Absolutely Can NOT Miss

The capital of Scotland is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and while there are endless experiences to keep you busy, we’ve compiled a list of the top things to do in Edinburgh that you shouldn’t miss.

Edinburgh has a long and illustrious tradition spanning over 600 years, which has preserved a vibrant historic district. But, the city has also kept up with modern times leaving a beautiful mix of new and old.

During the Enlightenment of the 18th century the city experienced an unprecedented wave of intellectual, scientific, and architectural accomplishments which bestowed upon the city the nickname ‘Athens of the North.’ And the city’s beautiful natural setting is also one of the qualities that sets it apart.

A striking royal castle from the 12th century until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the gigantic castle grounds could easily take you a full day to explore it all. There are wide ranging periods of construction and reconstruction making up the castle, with a 12th century chapel marking it’s earliest known period. The castle houses several museums and galleries, as well as the Scottish Crown jewels.

Tip: Absolutely must see when visiting Edinburgh, spend at least a couple of hours roaming the complex.

Things to do in Edinburgh

2. Palace of the Holyrood House

Official royal residence of her majesty the Queen in Scotland, and royal residence for Scottish monarchs for generations. Mary Queen of Scots is the most famous visitor to the Palace during the mid-sixteen century. The palace, gardens, and adjacent ruined abbey are beautiful and an importance piece of Scottish history.

Things to do in Edinburgh

3. St. Giles Cathedral

The center of the Church of Scotland, this cathedral is a unique piece of Scottish architecture and definitely worth peeking inside for it’s intricate wood and stone carvings and colorful banners lining the old nave.

Things to do in Edinburgh 

4. Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s seat is the main peak of hills in the center of the city formed from an ancient volcano. The peak’s name has links to the legends pertaining to King Arthur, and serves as one of Edinburgh’s most iconic and visited natural sights.
From the top, you will have excellent panoramic views of Edinburgh, the sea, and surrounding countryside. If you have more than a day or two in the city this is a must do. If you’re relatively fit you should be able to be up and down in less than two hours.

Tip: The best way to get up the hill is from the base near the Palace of Holyrood House (you’ll typically see people walking up the path from there).

Things to do in Edinburgh

5. Calton Hill

Another large hill in the center of the city, giving you another great perspective of the city, particularly of Edinburgh castle and old town. The hill also houses some of Edinburgh’s iconic monuments such as the National Monument, Nelson Monument and Robbie Burns Monuments, and the City Observatory.

Things to do in Edinburgh

6. Scott Monument

Dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, this wonderful Victorian Gothic structure adds a nice cherry to an already rich cityscape. The monument sites right on Princess St in the middle of town, which offers more great views of the city from the top.

Things to do in Edinburgh

7. Scottish Parliament

The guided tour through the Scottish Parliament provides interesting information on the history, work, and procedures of the National Parliament and on the architecture of the award-winning Parliament building.

Tip: You can enjoy a free guided tour, or if Parliament is in session, you can observe proceedings from the public gallery.

Things to do in Edinburgh

8. National Museum of Scotland

The superb National Museum of Scotland houses collections celebrating the nation’s culture, history and people. Exploring the museum is a great way to better understand Scottish history, from ancient times right up to the modern era. And the 360 degree views of Edinburgh from the roof garden are also spectacular.

Things to do in Edinburgh

9. Greyfriars Bobby

Directly across the road from the National Museum, you will find a small statue commemorating one of Edinburgh’s best loved residents, a little Skye terrier known as Greyfriars Bobby.

Made famous by numerous books and a Disney film, Bobby faithfully guarded over his owners grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard for fourteen years after his owner had died.

Things to do in Edinburgh

10. Royal Botanic Garden

Just one mile from city center, the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh offers visitors peace and tranquility amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery. Founded in 1670, the Garden is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the world where unusual and beautiful plants can be found.

Things to do in Edinburgh

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