The 9 best things to do in Edinburgh | Fun and Enriching Edinburgh Activities

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When we first arrived in Edinburgh, I remember being memorized by the sheer beauty of such a magnificent city. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for visiting Edinburgh, it was simply a destination we added since we were visiting Glasgow, we thought it would be cool to hit up Edinburgh since it wasn’t too far away. Boy was I happy that I was so wrong and misjudged this city insanely wrong. Edinburgh, to my surprise, wasn’t a stuffy and boring city, it wasn’t cold, and nor did it leave me yearning to return to the states.

In fact, Edinburgh was full of cheery locals, happy wandering tourists, and delicious food that kept our minds and tummies unaware that we had left for a new country. To top it off, it had so many things to do that we, unfortunately, couldn’t do all of them and now have to return to finish our best things to do in Edinburgh Scotland! Yeah, we enjoyed the city that much, and can’t wait to go back and finish what we started!

This is why we created this best thing to do in Edinburgh, not many people are aware that this city shouldn’t be shoved off to a minor 2-day visit or worse even less. In fact, you want to reserve at least 3 days dedicated to this city and have one additional day set aside for day trips to nearby attractions. But, we’ll cover more of that later in this post ☺️.

edinburgh scotland skyline

But first, let’s cover some FAQ for Edinburgh Scotland

Is Edinburgh Scotland worth visiting?

Edinburgh Is definitely worth a visit, whether you’re coming from London, a neighboring Scottish town, or across the globe the flight is worth it! Edinburgh is full of various things to do from whiskey tours, museums, harry potter galore, hikes, palaces, and more!

What is Edinburgh best known for?

Edinburgh is best known for being a beautiful city that is full of historical monuments, delicious food and drinks, grand festivals such as the Edinburgh fringe, other cultural events, and even Unesco World heritage sites.

Where is Edinburgh Located?

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is located in the southeastern part of the country.

What makes Edinburgh unique?

Edinburgh is unique in that it is the largest city and also the most populated city found in Scotland. Edinburgh is also full of palaces, historical monuments, heritage sites, and other valuable attractions that make it so worthwhile to visit.

How Many Days should you spend in Edinburgh?

at the very least, you’ll want to set aside at least 3 days dedicated to Edinburgh and more if you plan on doing day trips out of the city, which we highly recommend because Edinburgh is centrally located to vast destinations that it will be easy to arrange them.

How do you get to Edinburgh?

Depends where you are coming from if you are heading to Edinburgh from a nearby city such as Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, and even London by just catching a train. This method is the easiest and simplest way of transportation to Edinburgh. However, if you are coming from across the sea then you’ll want to catch a flight to Edinburgh airport which is fairly close to the city center, about 17 miles give or take. When you arrive at the airport, catch the popular airline 100 express bus and from there it’s a straight shot to the city center.

edinburgh list of things to do

is Edinburgh expensive?

Edinburgh is costly, especially if you’re coming from a country where the pound is of higher value. Typical stay costs average around close to 120 pounds per night. Expect to spend around 33 pounds a day on food, and 15 pounds a day on transportation needs.

What are the best times to visit Edinburgh?

The absolute best times to visit Edinburgh are in the late springtime, after the last frost and the beginning of warmer weather. As well late summer and early fall, these times are usually the best weather and are followed by the lowest traffic of tourists. You’ll also save money by traveling during off-peak times since there is less demand during these times.

Are museums in Edinburgh free?

Most Museums and attractions are free in Edinburgh! This is awesome if you are trying to save money and stretch your budget. Keep in mind while entrances are free for most, some still charge a fee, and others will be happy to accept a donation of your choosing.

Can I spend a day in Edinburgh?

Technically yes, you can spend a day in Edinburgh and knock out roughly three of the attractions on this list. However, we do not recommend this short time frame because you’ll be rushing and barely have any time to enjoy the city.

What food is Edinburgh famous for?

Edinburgh is famous for the infamous haggis, a minced sheep’s pluck that is minced with various ingredients and boiled in a sheep’s stomach for a few hours. We couldn’t muster up the courage to try it, but if you do leave a comment below what it tasted like ?.

What is the most visited place in Edinburgh?

The most popular destination in Edinburgh is visiting Edinburgh Castle Rock, this palace is one of Scotland’s most famous and iconic landmarks and receives around 2.2 million visitors per year (not including 2020 and up)

things to do in edinburgh scotland

The 9 best things to do in Edinburgh Scotland

Hike to the top of Arthurs’s Seat for a grand view at the top of an extinct volcano

No trip is complete without embarking on a trail through the great outdoors, and Edinburgh is not an exception. Arthurs seat is an incredibly popular hike that takes place in Holyrood park and is set on an extinct volcano that hasn’t erupted in over 350 million years.

Getting to Holyrood park is quite easy as you have to do is follow the royal mile that stretches from Edinburgh castle all the way to the palace of Holyrood house. Once you find yourself at Holyrood house, head past it to Holyrood park, this vast park is over 650 acres and reminds us of the game of thrones battles that take place in the series on vast green lands.

When choosing what path to take up to Arthur’s seat we recommend following the most difficult path that requires climbing up to Arthur’s seat. It’s difficult, to say the least, but well worth the panoramic views of Edinburgh skyline at the vantage point. To be honest, we felt like we were dying when we were walking up this hike lol, had to take several breaks, and the most annoying part was it was windy and cold but we were super hot from the hike and would take off our jackets only to realize two minutes later it was freezing again.

We recommend bringing light jackets when hiking this trail, it will get cold as it’s rather windy even during the summertime, but a light jacket will help curb the wind and not make you feel like you are suffocating. When you reach the top make sure to snap as many photos as possible but stay away from the edges and try not to wear your hair down, it’s too windy to take a nice photo with hair loose and you’ll just look like a wild medusa.

The total trail time should take you roughly an hour to reach the top and 30-45 minutes to walk back down depending on if you take the original Holyrood palace route or take a different path.

best things to do in edinburgh scotland

Have a moment at St. Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral has been around for over a thousand years and has played an important role in Edinburgh’s history. To reach this historical cathedral, you’ll want to follow the royal mile, depending if you are close to Holyrood house or Edinburgh castle will dictate what direction and how far of a walk you’ll have before you. If coming from Holyrood house, you’ll walk about 75% of a mile hearing toward Edinburgh castle. if coming from Edinburgh Castle you’ll head down from the castle and walk a short distance of around a quarter of a mile. You know you’ve reached St Giles when you see the familiar spindle that points out of at the very top of the cathedral, this spire can be seen from across Edinburgh and from certain viewpoints such as Arthurs’ seat.

Admission to the cathedral is free, but donations are suggested per person of typically 3 pounds. There are also guided walking tours that run from the later morning at 10:30 am until 2:30 pm. You’ll want to pre-book these tours online via the St Giles Cathedral website.

If you elect to visit alone, or without a tour make sure to not miss any of the mentioned attractions such as the Thistle chapel, walking through it and learning about the History of the cathedral and its many reformations via audio recordings, and they even have kids activities such as medical master pierces, science and sounds activity, and creative writing activities.

things to do in edinburgh

Visit the historic old town and shop till you drop at victoria street

If you have seen and professionally taken photos or any touristy photo album of Scotland, then you have probably seen the famous Victoria Street. This historical street has a fluid curve that slowly makes its way down old town, embellished with colorful storefronts, old cobblestone, and unique punches of historical grandeur.

It has an allure to it that defines it from the rest of Edinburgh, for starters, it’s in the original historical old town part of the city. Meaning its kept its charm and personality despite the growing boom of technology and trends in architectural design. This street is said to have been between 1829 and 1834 as cited by the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.

Being a popular tourist destination this colorful and cultural street is usually filled with locals and tourists shopping in its small boutiques that are nestled in its doorways, flashes of cameras as tourist pose for a picture with the alluring cobbled streets and a mysterious dark aura that alludes the wavering eye.

After all, Victoria street is said to be the inspiration behind Harry Potter Diagon alley, although this is all just speculation since JK Rowling has not admitted to this little rumor. Despite this, Victoria street has an even darker past and is said to have been the home of a man named Major Weir, he was a man that was notoriously famous and known as “The most famous wizard who ‘danced with the devil” as stated by Kaite Welsh from Edinburghlive. Due to his alleged connection with witchcraft, he was executed back in the 1600s. According to ScotClans some Scottish people even say his ghost wanders Victoria Street, waiting to practice his devilish ways once more.

calton hill

Explore Calton Hill

Calton hill also known as the acropolis of Edinburgh offers not only a staggering view spot of Edinburgh that is up to par with that of Arthur’s seat, but it also offers a punch of history that dazzled across its hilltop. This historical place has various important monuments and iconic pieces such as the wandering Canon that has gone from Spain to Portugal to Burma and then found itself in Edinburgh thanks to the Brits. It’s pretty common to see tourists taking photos with the canon and on the canon ?.

There is also the National Monument of Scotland a piece that was left as 12 pillars and never completed. The monument was created for those who gave their lives in the Napoleonic Wars back in 1816 as stated by the Edinburgh World Heritage site. Another place to visit if you like greek style influence design is the City Observatory which was used to study the stars back in the 1800s.

If you have time you’ll want to stop and climb the Nelson Monument tower, this tower was constructed back in the 1800s and was created to honor the passing of admiral lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. has since been used as a way to catch a view of the city. Unlike most other Edinburgh attractions, this one will set you back a few pounds so keep that in mind.

national monument of scotland

Take a Stroll through the Royal Mile

The royal mile is quite literally, the heart of Edinburgh and is nestled in the historical old town, it marks the start of the route between Edinburgh castle and the end at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This one-mile stretch of passage was also the route for royalty to stroll through as the royal mile was the main street and was full of life with breweries, shops, ins, and homes that piled high due to the vast population.

Visiting the royal mile is a must as you’ll walk through much of Edinburgh’s famous pieces of history such as Visiting The Royal Mile and venturing to Edinburgh castle, the palace of Holyrood house, St Giles cathedral, John Knox alleged house, Cadenhead’s whisky shop because who visits Scotland without trying scotch? If you fancy that, you’ll want to make sure to join a whisky tour as there is an abundance of them, and they will take you through the ropes of good Scottish whisky.

the royal mile

Explore Edinburgh castle and feel like royalty

What trip can skip the world-famous Edinburgh castle? This house of royalty has withstood the test of time, reigns of kings and queens, and stands to tell the tale of time. Edinburgh castle, once upon a time was a mighty and intimidating fortress that was used as the highest defense of Scotland’s Royalty. This Castle has been created slowly over time with different times periods adding their own embellishment such as the St Margaret chapel back in the early 1200s or the half moon battery that was built after the Lang Seige in 1573.

Also added was the Great Hall added in 1511 by King James IV, and lastly, the initials of Mary Queen of Scots and her husband Henry Stewart engraved above the royal palace doors. Point of this all, this castle has undergone many additions, and changes as the powers who held it changed just as often. Regardless if you are visiting for the history, marvel at architectural wonders, or to catch a selfie with the castle, visiting Edinburgh castle should be at the top of your list!

edinburgh castle

Visit the palace of Holyroodhouse

The queen royal residence, do we need to say more? All jokes aside the Palace of Holyroodhouse (wow is that a mouthful) is the official residence of the Queen of England when she stays in Edinburgh usually during official business in Scotland and also during Royal Week each year. It also was the residence of many other royal members throughout time and is the official mark of the end of the royal mile that starts at Edinburgh Castle.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse was created by James IV, but the Holyrood Abbey was said to have been created by David I of Scotland, or so the legends say. Besides, the historical relevance and creation behind the palace, there are also man activities to do while visiting. Explore the palace gardens, visit the nearby Holyrood abbey, learn about royal treasures in the palace, know who Bonnie Prince Charlie was, learn about the real history of mary, queen of scots, and go on a tour to see how the royals truly lived.

Enjoy delicious afternoon tea and crumpets, then go on a whiskey tour

You’re in Scotland after all, so make sure to stop and enjoy some delicious crumpets with whipped butter, jam, and English tea (with milk of course). After you have had your fair share of finger sandwiches, crumpets, and tea. head on over to join one of the many guided whiskey tours, or if youre not up for a tour just go bar hopping! The royal mile has a ton of great places to start your whisky stretch so have fun!

the national museum of scotland

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Visiting the National Museum of Scotland is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh city, this exhausting museum is full of tons of unique and beautiful pieces of not only Scottish history, but pieces and artifacts from various time periods and other civilizations. The best part about visiting the museum of Scotland is it a free! But of course, we recommend donating a few pounds per part member in your group.

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