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.
1. Edinburgh Castle
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.
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.
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.
4. Arthur’s Seat
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.