18 Best Things To Do In Edinburgh – Attractions, Tours & Sights

(Last Updated On: January 23, 2023)

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe.

The city is Scotland’s capital and has a rich history dating back to the 11th century, when it was founded by King David I of Scotland.

Edinburgh’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks, including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Royal Mile.

The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with many museums, galleries, and theaters.

Edinburgh is an ideal destination for travellers who want to experience the best of Scottish culture and history.

Things To Do In Edinburgh

1. Arthur’s Seat

Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park which is a short distance from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the city centre.

The park’s highest point is the area called Arthur’s Seat which is over 250 metres above sea level.

Arthur’s Seat is part of an extinct volcano, which overlooks the city of Edinburgh.

A popular legend suggests that Arthur’s Seat was named after the legendary King Arthur, who was said to have fought a battle at the site.

Another theory is that the name, Arthur’s Seat, comes from the Celtic words for “height” and “rock”, which would describe the mountain’s steep cliffs.

Arthur’s Seat gives excellent views of the city and is also the site of a large and well preserved fort.

There are several walking and hiking trails that lead to the summit, where there is also a monument dedicated to Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson.

2. Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia was the British royal family’s former yacht.

It was decommissioned in 1997 and is now a five-star tourist attraction and conference centre in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The vessel was built at John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, and was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II and launched by Her Majesty on 16 April 1953.

The 97-metre (318 ft) yacht served as one of the royal family’s official residences during their visits abroad and as a venue for state visits and events.

The yacht was decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years of service, and is now a tourist attraction docked at Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 2000, the vessel was granted the freedom of the City of Edinburgh.

Visitors can purchase tickets online and take a self-led audio guided tour of the vessel.

Address: Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Dr, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

3. National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the United Kingdom’s leading museums, attracting over two million visitors a year.

It was established in 2006, following the merger of the Royal Scottish Museum and the National Museums of Scotland.

The National Museum of Scotland is located on the south side of the city centre overlooking the George IV Bridge and is just a short walk from the Royal Mile.

The National Museum of Scotland houses over 8,000 objects from around the world.

With over 8,000 objects that include Scottish archaeology, natural history, science and technology.

Admission to the museum is free, with no pre-booking needed.

The museum is open daily from 10:00am to 17:00pm.

Address: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, Scotland

4. Edinburgh Old Town

Edinburgh Old Town

Edinburgh’s Old Town is one of the most atmospheric and historic parts of the city.

Dominated by Edinburgh Castle, it has a network of medieval streets and alleyways which lead down to the Grassmarket (A historic marketplace) and Royal Mile.

The Old Town is also home to many of Edinburgh’s best-known tourist attractions, including the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Parliament Building and St Giles’ Cathedral.

The history of Edinburgh’s Town can be traced back over a thousand years in Scottish history.

It was first settled by the Celts in the 7th century AD, and later became the capital of the Kingdom of Scotland.

The Old Town was enclosed by a defensive wall in the 14th century, and many of its streets and buildings date from this period.

The Great Plague of 1645 killed over half of the city’s population, and the resulting shortage of labour meant that many of the old medieval buildings were replaced.

Despite these changes, the Old Town retains its medieval character.

Its narrow streets and winding stairways are a testimony to its history, and it is this unique atmosphere that makes it such a popular tourist destination.

5. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the city skyline of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The castle sits atop an extinct volcano in the heart of the city, making it one of the most visually striking castles in Europe.

It is also one of the most historically important castles, having been at the center of many pivotal events in Scottish history.

The first castle on the site was built by the Celtic people around 1000 years ago.

The castle has since been through numerous incarnations, with each new owner adding to and changing its architecture.

The most significant changes were made during the 14th century, when Scotland’s King David II rebuilt much of the castle in stone.

Edinburgh Castle has served as a royal residence, a prison, a military garrison, and a royal fortress.

It has also been the site of many famous battles in Scottish history, including the siege of 1573 when Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to surrender the castle to her enemies.

Today, Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, welcoming over 1.6 million visitors each year.

Edinburgh Castle is open daily and it’s recommended that visitors need at least 2/3 hours to see the main attractions at the Castle.

Address: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

6. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

The Camera Obscura is an exciting attraction which can be found on the Castlehill section of the Royal Mile close to Edinburgh Castle.

Visitors can experience and take part in over 100 interactive exhibits.

There are five floors of optical illusions, tricks and family friendly things to do such as the Vortex Tunnel, Ames room and Mirror Maze

These mirrors and lenses reflect an image of the city onto a white surface inside the cylinder, giving visitors a bird’s eye view of Edinburgh.

The Camera Obscura was invented in the 18th century by Scottish scientist Charles Wheatstone.

It was originally used as a scientific instrument to study optics, but soon became a popular tourist attraction.

Address: Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, The Royal Mile, 549 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND

7. Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland.

Located at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, opposite the Scottish Parliament building, Holyrood Palace is used for state occasions and official entertaining.

Built in the early 16th century by James IV, Holyroodhouse was expanded in the following centuries.

In 1529, James V ordered the construction of a new royal palace on the site, which was completed in 1532.

Mary, Queen of Scots, spent most of her childhood here before she was married off to France.

The palace was further expanded during the reign of her son, James VI, who added a new wing known as the Great Hall.

Open throughout the year for visitors, you can take a self-led multimedia guided tour.

Address: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX

8. Royal Mile

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the name given to a series of streets in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

It is a succession of streets which lead from Edinburgh Castle, down the spine of the old town, to Holyrood Palace.

The Royal Mile is one of the most iconic and popular tourist destinations in Edinburgh.

It is lined with historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and cafes.

During the summer months, the street is often thronged with tourists and street performers.

The Royal Mile has kept many historic buildings including Gladstone’s Land, Museum of Edinburgh, The Tron Kirk and real Mary King’s Close.

Well worth a visit, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is lined with cobbles and layered with history, and is one of Britain’s best-known streets.

Address: Royal Mile, 109 The Royal Mile Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1SG

9. The Scotch Whisky Experience

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotch whisky is a type of whisky that is made in Scotland. It is made from malted barley, water and yeast.

The Scots were the first to make whisky, and they have been making it for centuries.

The word “whisky” comes from the Gaelic “uisge beatha”, which means “water of life”.

Scotch whisky is very popular all over the world, and it is one of Scotland’s most famous exports.

There are many different types of Scotch whisky, and each has its own unique flavour.

Some of the most popular brands of Scotch whisky include Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, Glenfiddich and Highland Park.

The Scotch Whisky Experience is a visitor attraction in Edinburgh, that is located in the heart of the city, on the Royal Mile.

The Scotch Whisky Experience offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of Scotch whisky, and to taste some of the different types that are available.

Address: The Scotch Whisky Experience, 354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE

10. Calton Hill

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks and popular tourist attractions.

Calton Hill and the National Monument are situated in the city centre, east of Edinburgh’s New Town.

The hill offers spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and the surrounding area.

The history of Calton Hill dates back to the 12th century when it was first used as a defensive position by King David I of Scotland.

The hill was later used as a royal hunting ground and became a popular spot for picnics and outdoor activities.

In the 18th century, Calton Hill began to be developed as a residential area for the city’s wealthy elite.

A number of grand Georgian townhouses were built on the hill, many of which survive to this day.

Calton Hill is also home to a number of important monuments and buildings, including the National Monument, the City Observatory and Nelson’s Monument.

Calton Hill is easily accessed and visitors can climb the Hill that is not very high, there is also a staircase at Regent Road on the South side.

11. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh studies plants and focuses on their conservation and diversity. It’s now also become a popular tourist attraction alongside being a scientific centre.

The gardens are a one-mile distance from the city centre and offer visitors peace and serenity on 72 acres of beautiful landscape.

The Royal Botanic Garden is divided into various areas, each dedicated to a variety of vegetation, some of the highlights are the Chinese Hillside, the Queen Mother’s memorial garden, the Rock Garden and the Woodland Garden.

The Garden also offers fantastic views of the Edinburgh skyline, featuring Edinburgh Castle.

Admission to the Royal Botanic Garden is free.

Address: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ

12. Inchcolm Abbey and Island

Inchcolm Abbey and Island

Inchcolm Abbey is one of the most well-preserved and picturesque ruins in Scotland.

The Abbey is located on an island in the River Forth, just off the coast of Edinburgh.

The island itself is a small but stunning example of Scottish scenery, with rocky cliffs, green fields and a sandy beach.

The history of Inchcolm Abbey dates back to the 12th century, when it was founded by Augustinian monks.

The Abbey flourished for centuries, until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century led to its decline.

However, its beauty has ensured that it remains a popular tourist destination today.

There is much to see at Inchcolm Abbey, including the ruins of the Abbey church, the cloisters, the refectory and the dormitory.

The most beautiful and well-preserved feature is the Chapter House, which still has its original roof intact.

The island is also famous for its wildlife, seals and coastal defences from the two world wars.

Visitors can get to the island by ferry leaving from Hawes Peir, South Queensferry sailing direct to the island.

Address: Inchcolm Abbey and Island, Burntisland KY3 0UA

13. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is one of Scotland’s most important art galleries.

Comprised of two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, they are both set in beautiful sculpture parks.

Located in Edinburgh, the gallery houses a wide collection of modern and contemporary art, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photography and video.

This contemporary art gallery also has an extensive programme of temporary exhibitions, featuring both international and Scottish artists.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was founded in 1960, and was originally housed in a small building on Queen Street.

In 1984, the Scottish National Gallery relocated to its current home in Belford Road.

The move allowed the gallery to expand its collection and display more of its work to the public.

Today, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is widely recognised as one of the leading art galleries in the UK.

Admission to the gallery is free, however there are charges for some exhibitions.

Address: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 73 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DS

14. Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens is a public park located in the city centre and it separates the Old Town from the New Town.

The gardens were created in the 19th century, on the site of an old nor’easterly flowing burn (stream).

The burn ran from the foot of The Mound to Princes Street, and was culverted during the building of the New Town.

Today, Princes Street Gardens is a much-loved oasis in the heart of Edinburgh, providing a green space for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.

The gardens are over 37 acres and home to a number of important monuments, including the Scott Monument, the Floral Clock and the Ross Bandstand.

There are also several statues and fountains, as well as a café and a playground.

In the winter, the gardens are transformed into a ‘Winter Wonderland’ with an ice rink and a Christmas Market, and in the summer they play host to a number of open-air events.

Address: Princes Street Gardens, Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HG

15. Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo is a world-famous zoological park located in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

The zoo was opened in 1913, and today it is home to over 1,000 animals, representing over 170 different species.

The zoo is best known for its work with endangered species, and has been involved in a number of successful breeding programmes for animals such as the snow leopard, the red pandas and the giant panda.

Edinburgh Zoo is also home to the UK’s only koala colony, and the only chimpanzee family in Scotland.

In addition to its animal residents, Edinburgh Zoo also has a variety of attractions for visitors to enjoy.

These include a Penguin Walkway, where you can get up close to the zoo’s colony of Gentoo penguins, and the Budgie Buddies aviary, where you can feed and interact with budgerigars.

The zoo also has a number of educational facilities, including a Discovery Centre and a Zoo Academy.

Address: Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Rd, Corstorphine, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

16. Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Scotland.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery is located on Queen Street in the city centre.

The gallery was founded in 1882 and is one of the oldest museums in the world.

It houses a collection of over 3,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs and film.

The gallery also has a library and archives which contain over 1 million items.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is open to the public from Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, and on Sundays 12pm to 4pm.

Admission to the gallery is free.

Address: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD

17. Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park is a royal park created in 1541 by King James V of Scotland, and is today owned by the British Crown.

The park covers an area of over 70 hectares, and is home to a number of important buildings and monuments.

These include Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland; the Scottish Parliament building; and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey.

Holyrood Park is also home to a number of natural features, such as Salisbury Crags, a series of cliffs which provide stunning views over Edinburgh; Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano; and Dunsapie Loch, a freshwater loch.

The park is open to the public all year round, and is a popular spot for walking, cycling, and picnicking.

Address: Holyrood Park, Queen’s Dr, Edinburgh EH8 8HG

18. The Scott Monument

The Scott Monument

The Scott Monument stands in Princes Street Gardens, near to Edinburgh Waverley Train Station, which is named after Scott’s Waverley novels.

The Monument is a Gothic spire built in 1844 to honour Sir Walter Scott.

Part of Scottish history, Sir Walter Scott was a famous historical novelist and poet.

At 200 feet 6 inches high, visitors can climb the steps to the top of the Scott Monument for an exceptional view of Edinburgh city centre.

There are four levels with the first having the biggest viewing area but the top gives the best view by far.

Although the stairway of 287 steps is quite narrow and twisty, it’s worth the climb.

The Scott Monument also shows 64 characters from Scott’s novels. While a statue of the man himself with his dog sits quietly within.

Address: The Scott Monument, E. Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ


Why is Victoria Street in Edinburgh famous?

Victoria Street is located in the Old Town and is an extremely popular place to take photos.

It’s one of the prettiest streets in Edinburgh, with cobblestones, vibrant buildings and a slight curve, making it a favourite spot for tourist photos and adverts.

Is the Royal Edinburgh Ticket worth it?

The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is well worth it as it includes 48 hour use of the Hop on hop off bus tour.

As well as entry to Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

What is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival famous for?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the greatest celebrations of arts and culture.

For three weeks in August, the city of Edinburgh welcomes acts from around the globe.

Artists and performers take to hundreds of stages all over the city to present shows for every taste.

When is the best time for visiting Edinburgh?

The best time for visiting Edinburgh is between May and September, during this time the days are longer and the temperature in Edinburgh is usually pleasant.


  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

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