30 Epic Things to Do in Edinburgh: Ultimate Guide by a Local

Shrouded in myths and legends and steeped in thousands of years of history, Edinburgh is a city like no other.

With an electric mix of architecture, winding cobbled streets, atmospheric alleyways, diverse festivals, plenty of green spaces and one of the best castles in Scotland – It’s hard to beat Edinburgh’s charm. Nearly every type of traveller will find something in this Scottish city to marvel at.

It’s been our home for almost a decade now, and we are so excited to share our favourite experiences and places to help you curate your journey.

Even if the sun doesn’t shine every day, Edinburgh is so incredibly stunning that “it breaks the heart again and again.”

It’s not surprising that in 1995, The Old and New Town of Edinburgh was recognised in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

From Harry Potter writer J. K. Rowling to Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson to Sir Walter Scott – this Scottish capital city has inspired many creative geniuses.

So, whether you have only a day or a week, this guide will help you pull together a fantastic itinerary of Edinburgh. Also, there are some great day trip options within easy reach.

We have covered much of what this city has to offer to first-time visitors, as well as some ideas to explore a little further in pursuit of different experiences for returning visitors.

Best things to do in Edinburgh

1. Soak up the Panoramic Views from Calton Hill

Located only a few metres off the east end of the busy Princes Street, Calton Hill is a public park housing several Greek-style historical monuments and landmarks. It is one of the best places in Edinburgh to get an interrupted panoramic view of the city’s dramatic skyline.

At the top, you will find the upside-down telescope-shaped Nelson Monument. You can climb 143 steps to reach a viewing platform at the top to admire some of the best views of Edinburgh.

view over Edinburgh skyline from Calton Hill

Another historic attraction on Calton Hill is the columned structure of the National Monument of Scotland. The construction of this 19th-century landmark remained unfinished due to lack of funds at that time and hence earned the nickname ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’.

We will highly recommend visiting Calton Hill at sunset. It takes only 5-10 minutes to reach the top through the steps on Regent Road. It is open to visitors every day, all year round.

2. Explore the Turbulent History of Edinburgh Castle

Sitting at the top of the historic Royal Mile, this magnificent fortress is a prominent part of the city’s iconic skyline. Steeped in over nine hundred years of history, its dramatic setting on an extinct volcanic plug provides a stunning view over the city.

The oldest surviving structure of Edinburgh Castle is the St. Margaret’s Chapel. It was built in the early 12th century by King David I. He named this small chapel after his beloved mother, Queen Margaret. However, historians believe that the origins of the fortress and the geological features of this area are much older.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has a chequered past. For many years, this was the home of Scottish kings and queens of Scotland, then it was turned into a mighty military fortress and later served as a prison. The control of the castle changed hands numerous times throughout history.

We would suggest spending at least two hours to explore all the hidden corners of the castle.

Visitors can see the famous Honours of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, Mons Meg, the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel, and the One O’Clock Gun. Follow our extensive guide to visiting Edinburgh Castle.

Tickets: Admission fees up to and including 31st March costs £18 online and £21 walk-up for adults.

From 1st April onwards, it costs £19.50 online and £22 walk-up for adults.

3. Step Back in Time in the Historic Royal Mile

A meander along the historic Royal Mile is an unmissable part of sightseeing in Edinburgh. The street is actually longer than a mile. The term ‘Royal Mile’ refers to a Scots mile – an old Scottish measuring unit which became obsolete in the 18th century.

The Royal Mile is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city. It runs from the historic castle to the Holyrood Palace.

Tron Kirk
The Royal Mile

This iconic street is lined with various famous city landmarks, souvenir shops, museums, traditional pubs and restaurants. During Edinburgh Festival in August, this area comes alive with entertaining street performances.

Some of the historical highlights of Royal Mile are the Scottish Parliament Building, St Giles’ Cathedral, The Real Mary King’s Close, John Knox House and the Museum of Edinburgh.

Also, watch out for the narrow alleyways known as closes in Scotland. Advocates Close, Anchor Close and White Horse Close are particularly very photogenic.

4. Take in Breathtaking Views from Arthur’s Seat

Created by volcanic activity 335 million years ago, Arthur’s Seat is one of the most popular sites in Edinburgh to watch the sunset. Watching the Sun gradually disappear behind the horizon is an absolute treat.

Sitting at the edge of the historic Royal Mile, right next to the Holyrood Palace, the Holyrood Park spreads across a vast area of 650 acres. The highest point of the park is Arthur’s Seat at 251 metres.

View Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

There are numerous walking trails all around this park. The hike to Arthur’s Seat is moderately easy and well worth the effort to see the breathtaking view over the sprawling cityscapes of Edinburgh and beyond.

It takes around 1 -1.5 hours to climb the summit, depending on your pace and fitness level. Alternatively, the jagged cliffs of Salisbury Crags are also an excellent vantage point to admire the epic skyline of Edinburgh.

If you are a keen walker, you might be interested in taking a peaceful stroll around Duddingston Loch, Dunsapie Loch and St Margaret’s Loch – home to many wildlife and birds.

5. Unleash Your Inner Harry Potter in Victoria Street and Grassmarket

Frequently referred to as the fictional Diagon Alley of Edinburgh, Victoria Street is one of the most photographed streets in the city. It is like a magic alleyway that will make you disappear from the historic Grassmarket and pop you out at the iconic Royal Mile. The Colourful stretch of old Flemish-styled buildings with arch-shaped facades is bound to cast a spell.

Grassmarket is one of the most vibrant and liveliest places in the Old Town. In past centuries, public hangings used to take place here.

Victoria Street, most colorful street of Edinburgh
Victoria Street

Grassmarket has some of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh. One of them is the White Hart Inn, a 500-year-old pub where many famous people spent the night, including William Wordsworth and Robert Burns. It was also frequented by the notorious body snatchers of the 18th century, Burke and Hare.

Nowadays, Grassmarket is home to many events, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Also, you can visit the farmer’s market on Saturdays.

6. Explore the Prettiest Corners of Dean Village

Nestled in a deep valley on the Water of Leith, Dean Village is only a few minutes away from the busy Edinburgh city centre. This picturesque neighbourhood stands out for its colourful half-timbered houses, medieval cobbled streets and idyllic riverside settings.

For over 800 years, Dean Village was a bustling site with various thriving industries and mills that used to harness power from the Water of Leith. Look out for the millstones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies on the buildings. Dean Village used to supply milled flour and other grains to the residents of Edinburgh.

Dean Village
Dean Village Yellow House

One of the most impressive houses here is Well Court. The red sandstone building with its landmark clock tower, conical turrets and crow-stepped gables oozes charm. It was built in the late 19th century for the nearby mill workers.

Follow the riverside path towards Stockbridge to visit St. Bernard’s Well, a hidden gem of Edinburgh. This elegant Roman temple-like structure houses a beautiful statue of Hygieia – the Greek goddess of health.

7. Discover the Royal History of Palace of Holyroodhouse

The official residence of the British Monarch in Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. This grand palace stands at the east end of the Royal Mile with Arthur’s Seat in the backdrop.

This 16th-century palace was closely associated with Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie – two prominent royal figures in Scottish history. Visitors can explore the grand interiors and the collections of Flemish and French tapestries in the state apartments. Also, you can see the two thrones commissioned by King George V in 1911 in the Throne room.

Holyrood Palace

Outside the palace, you would find the ruins of the historic Holyrood Abbey, which played a pivotal role in Edinburgh’s history. It was founded in 1128 by King David I.

Stroll around the beautiful garden and search for Queen Mary’s Bathhouse. Also, the adjacent Queen’s gallery is worth a visit. It displays paintings, furniture and photographs from the Royal collection.

Opening Hours: 1 November – 31 March 09.30 am – 16.30 pm.

1 April – 31 October 09.30 am – 18.00 pm.

Ticket Price: Adult advance £18, on the day £19.50.

8. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Located opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard, the National Museum of Scotland is one of the best kid-friendly attractions in Edinburgh.

It features several exhibitions on natural and ancient history, ancient civilisations, archaeology and the history of Scotland. You can easily spend an hour or two discovering all the impressive collections this museum has to offer.

National Museum of Scotland

From ancient Egyptian artefacts to ceramics, cultural diversity to wildlife – you can find everything under one roof. Some highlights include Dolly the Sheep, the millennium clock and Lewis chessmen. Also, the Grand Gallery looks very photogenic.

They regularly host several events, including guided tours, workshops and temporary exhibitions.

Don’t forget to visit the rooftop of the museum. It is free and provides a stunning panoramic view over Edinburgh rooftops. If you can’t find it, ask any member of the staff for directions.

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm.

9. Enjoy Romantic Strolls in Circus Lane and Stockbridge

Travellers visit Circus Lane to admire the vibrant floral displays, cute Georgian mews houses, colourful doors and the picturesque settings of the imposing St Stephen’s Church in the background. This cobbled street is a popular spot with local photographers and tourists.

Regarded as the prettiest street in Edinburgh, Circus Lane was originally a back alley built to cater for the horses, carriages and stable servants of wealthy residents of nearby Royal Circus in the 19th century.

Circus Lane

Circus Lane lies in the bustling neighbourhood of Stockbridge. From indulging in tasty street food in the farmer’s market to feeding the ducks at Inverleith Pond – there are loads of amazing things to do in Stockbridge.

Packed with trendy cocktail bars, cosy cafes, gastro eateries and several independent shops, Stockbridge is famous for its cool bohemian vibe. Also, it is a few minutes away from some of Edinburgh’s open green spaces and art museums.

10. Marvel at the Priceless Paintings of the Scottish National Gallery

Housed in an elegant 19th-century neoclassical building just off Princes Street, Scottish National Gallery is the leading art gallery in Scotland. It is undoubtedly one of the best free visitors attractions in Edinburgh. You can easily spend an hour or two discovering priceless art.

Established in 1859, it showcases an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures from the early renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. Here you’ll find many famous masterpieces by legends like Raphael, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Velázquez and Vermeer.

Also, there are paintings by several Scottish artists. Look out for Edwin Landseer’s famous painting ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ and Henry Raeburn’s much-loved ‘The Skating Minister’.

The nearby Royal Scottish Academy is also part of the Scottish National Gallery and hosts many temporary exhibitions.

Opening Hours: Open daily, 10 am-5 pm.

11. Test Your Limits and Climb Scott Monument

Standing proudly in East Princes Street Garden, Scott Monument is dedicated to one of Scotland’s most legendary writers, Sir Walter Scott.

This Gothic structure at the heart of Edinburgh is the second-largest monument to a writer, anywhere in the world. A statue of him with his beloved dog, Maida, sits at the base of this memorial.

Scott Monument

Constructed in mid 19th century, Scott Monument is a famous landmark in the city and an iconic part of the skyline. The exterior of the tower is adorned with several small statues of Scottish writers and various characters from Scott’s novels.

Do you know you can actually climb Scott Monument? There are viewing platforms at different levels offering gorgeous views of Edinburgh rooftops and the surrounding hills. Inside, you can visit the exhibitions showcasing the life and legacy of Sir Walter Scott. There are 287 steps to climb up to the top. The last few steps are quite steep and narrow.

12. Admire the Interiors of St Giles Cathedral

Founded in 1124, St Giles Cathedral is one of the prominent historic buildings in Edinburgh. It’s technically not a cathedral – rather a church that stands right on the iconic Royal Mile with distinct crown spires, popularly known as lantern towers. The architecture is impressive and worth a visit inside. 

Step inside this medieval building and learn the riveting tale of reformation when John Knox was a priest. They have guided rooftop tours available as well. The view of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Old Town is stunning from the top.

St Giles Cathedral

The highlight of your visit would be the Thistle Chapel, situated at one corner of the church. It has ornated roofs and impressive wood carvings, including coats of arms of the sixteen nights, swords and thistles. Also, don’t miss the large stained glass window above the main entrance depicting the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns.

13. Be Royalty for a Day at Royal Yacht Britannia

A floating palace moored in Leith, Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the top tourist attractions in Edinburgh. This Royal vessel has sailed one million nautical miles, hosted several State Receptions and dignitaries, and a few Royal honeymoons – she served the Royal Family for over forty years.

Built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co in Clydebank, Scotland, Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953. It sailed her first overseas maiden voyage to the Grand Harbour of Malta in 1954.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Explore the five decks of this ship, the State Apartments, State Drawing Room and the Sun Lounge, which was the Queen’s favourite room here. Also, you can uncover the stories of the crew members and learn about their life at sea. Britannia’s fascinating tale of its epic voyages around the globe to its retirement in Edinburgh will intrigue you.

If you fancy a bite with a stunning view, pop into their onboard restaurant, The Royal Deck Tearoom.

Price: Adult £18.50 and child £9.25.

14. Commune with Nature at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Just a mile away from the city centre, The Royal Botanic Garden is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. Home to some of the extensive collections of living plants and more than 13,500 species, this sprawling 70 acres of green space is one of the best places to walk in Edinburgh.

Founded in 1670, this is one of the oldest gardens in the UK. Enjoy the vast collections of plants at the Chinese Hillside, climb to the highest point of the Garden Rock, follow the Beech Hedge and Herbaceous Border or meander around the large Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Also, there are many vantage points offering fantastic views of Edinburgh’s skyline.

The lovely Victorian Temperate Palm House is a must-visit. Entry to the garden is free except for the glasshouses, which require tickets. During the winter months, Royal Botanics hosts Christmas at the Botanics – a popular family-friendly event.

Opening Hours: Daily, November to January 10 am-4 pm; February and October 10 am – 5 pm; March to September 10 am-6 pm.

15. Get Spooked in Greyfriars Kirkyard

If you are a Harry potter fan, Greyfriars Kirkyard should be a must-visit place in your Edinburgh itinerary.

As you stroll around the graveyard, you will spot the name of some of the beloved Harry Potter Characters. Watch out for the names of Tom Riddle, McGonagall, Mad-eye Moodie, and Potter.

The author J.K. Rowling penned some of the chapters of the Harry Potter series at the nearby Elephant House Cafe.

Greyfriars Bobby

Another unmissable attraction is the adorable bronze statue of the famous Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. Tourists often rub its nose for luck.

The story goes that Bobby guarded the grave of his master in Greyfriars Kirkyard for 14 years after his death in 1872. Bobby became very famous in his lifetime, and people from all over Edinburgh used to come to watch and feed him.

Greyfriars Kirkyard is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city.

16. Sit Back with a Picnic at Princes Street Garden

This Scottish city doesn’t have any shortage of open green spaces. But Princes Street Garden at the heart of the city centre is a special one. It is a great place to hang out beneath the imposing Edinburgh Castle and enjoy a picnic.

In summer, you will find the garden teeming with locals and tourists sunbathing and chilling out. During Christmas, this ground transforms into a winter wonderland. In East Princes Street Garden stands Scott Monument, an iconic landmark of Edinburgh. Centrepiece of the westside garden is the beautifully ornate Ross Fountain.

You can also see many statues here. Look out for the Statue of Wojtek, a soldier bear who carried ammunition during World War II.

Also, visit the gingerbread-looking Gardeners Cottage, the former home of the head gardener. Today this dinky house is a popular photo spot in Edinburgh.

Another point of interest is the Floral Clock, the first floral clock in the world, dating back to the early 20th century.

17. Take Some Unforgettable Day Trips from Edinburgh

If you are visiting this city for a little longer, we highly recommend adding a few of the best day trips from Edinburgh to your visit.

Take a day trip to Glasgow, famous for various museums, Victorian and art nouveau architectures, colourful urban mural trail, legendary music scenes and nightlife.

A day tour to visit the incredibly beautiful Loch Lomond is a must. Take a boat cruise and explore Luss, one of the prettiest Scottish villages on the bank of Loch Lomond.

Catch a train from Edinburgh Waverley to the coastal town of St Andrews. Frequently referred to as the home of golf, the Old Course is one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

The picturesque fishing village, St Abbs in the Scottish Borders, has featured in the Avengers the Endgame movie and is worth a visit.

History lovers would love exploring the history of Stirling. The bustling city is full of many historical sights.

18. Enjoy a Taste of Haggis

No visit to Edinburgh is ever complete without tasting the national dish of Scotland, haggis. Love it or hate it, you have to try this famous dish at least once. You never know. Maybe you might turn into a fan of this savoury pudding.

Haggis is typically served with a generous portion of mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips) and accompanied by a dram of whiskey.

It tastes like crumbly sausage, with an earthy texture and peppery flavour. It is made by combining sheep’s plucks – chopped liver, heart and lungs with oatmeal, onions, salt and spices and cooked in a sheep’s stomach.

Some of the best places to try haggis in Edinburgh are Arcade Bar Haggis and Whisky House and Whiski Bar & Restaurant. Other delicious Scottish dishes you might be interested in trying are Cullen Skink, full Scottish breakfast, black pudding and Scotch Pie.

19. Watch a Live Performance at the Edinburgh Festival

August is the most happening month in the city’s calendar. Edinburgh comes alive with an array of festivals and events. More than 2500 performances take place every day in August at various venues around the city.

The Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. Hundreds of street performers entertain the audience in the Royal Mile, Grassmarket and Princes Street Garden.

Edinburgh Fringe Street performers

Also, you can enjoy several standup comedy shows, ballets, operas, cabaret and musicals by renowned local and international artists. We would strongly recommend seeing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an experience of a lifetime. The jaw-dropping performances of military pipes and drums come alongside traditional Scottish highland dance. Tattoo tickets sell out months in advance.

The month-long festivities end with the annual fireworks display. Thousands of locals and tourists gather at various vantage points to witness this breathtaking display.

20. Uncover Gourmet Delights in Leith

Away from the city centre, Leith is a vibrant and culturally diverse corner of Edinburgh. The Water of Leith flows through the heart of this neighbourhood. It has a rich maritime history and was once an important industrial hub of Scotland.

The Shore of Leith

Today, this area is bustling with trendy shops, hip coffee shops and cosy pubs. From fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants to delicious street foods, Leith is a must-visit destination for all foodies visiting Edinburgh.

You can find some of the city’s best restaurants in Leith. Some of our favourites are Fishers, Teuchters Landing, Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. Also, the full Scottish breakfast at Roseleaf Bar Cafe is a reason alone to visit Leith.

If you are here on Saturday, head to the farmer’s market for fresh local produces.

21. Explore Underground History at Real Mary King Close

Steeped in history, the Real Mary King Close lies underneath the busy street of the Royal Mile. This family-friendly attraction takes you back in time and tells the unheard stories of the Edinburgh Old Town.

An hour-long guided tour is the only way to explore this historic close and the surrounding maze of narrow alleyways and tenement houses from the 17th century.

It is named after Mary King, a local businesswoman who was a resident of this close. An expert guide will tell you about the life of some of the notable residents who once lived here. Also, you will learn intriguing tales about the deadly plague that ravaged Edinburgh and this close in past centuries.

Over the years, this site has been associated with various folklore, legends and paranormal activities. It was featured in several books and on television as one of the haunted places in the UK.

Price: Adult £21 and child £15.

22. Enjoy Yourself in Edinburgh Christmas Market and Hogmanay

We are perhaps a bit biased, but this city hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. It shines bright with festive spirit at this magical time of the year.

You can find the beautiful Edinburgh Christmas Market in the Princes Street Gardens. There is an array of beautifully decorated chalets selling everything from hot mulled wine to Christmas decorations.

Also, there are plenty of fun rides and activities for all age groups. Younger visitors would love the Christmas Tree Maze, Santa’s Grotto and Nativity Carol Concert. You would love skating at the Alpine ice rink located on George Street.

Hogmanay is an integral part of the Edinburgh Christmas celebration and Scottish tradition. The three-day-long festivity starts with a torchlight procession.

On New Year’s Eve, there are spectacular fireworks displays from the castle. Locals and tourists enjoy themselves at the world-famous Hogmanay Street Party with live music and a delicious selection of street food and drink.

23. Release Your Inner Child at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions 

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is located at the top of the historic Royal Mile, close to Edinburgh Castle esplanade. If you are not familiar with Camera Obscura, it’s a Latin term for dark chamber and is related to the earliest version of the modern-day camera.

Established in 1835, Camera Obscura is a six-floor building having plenty of entertaining and interactive optical illusions suitable for all age groups. The mindblowing puzzles, mirror maze, and vortex tunnel are thoroughly enjoyable.

The Camera Obscura is still in use and can project the buildings and streets of Edinburgh up and close for visitors. The rooftop terrace offers a superb panoramic view of the sprawling city and the Firth of Forth.

Price: Adult £20.95 and child £16.95.

24. Visit Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art lies at the West End of Edinburgh. You can also walk here from Dean Village following the Water of Leith pathway. Sitting side by side, there are actually two separate buildings – Modern One and Two.

You will find an extensive collection of modern and contemporary artworks by reputed Scottish and international artists.

There are many interesting outdoor sculptures and art installations on the surrounding ground. The landform by Charles Jencks in front of Modern One looks stunning.

Modern One houses masterpieces by famous artists like Matisse and Picasso. Modern Two hosts various temporary exhibitions all year round. As you enter the building, you will notice a giant 7.3 metre-tall sculpture, Vulcan. Their permanent display includes the recreation of Edinburgh-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio.

Opening Hours: Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm.

25. Take a Tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience

If you are a whisky enthusiast, a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of the Royal Mile will surely interest you. After all, whisky is the national drink of Scotland.

Established in 1988 on the former premise of a school, this visitor attraction in Edinburgh Old Town offers various guided tours to showcase Scotland’s rich history of the whisky industry. It houses the world’s largest collection of whisky bottles. They also have a restaurant and whisky bar on site.

They offer different types of tours. Their expert guide will demonstrate the methods and skills of making scotch whisky. The tour concludes with a wee tasting. Also, you can bring a small bottle back home with you. Audio guides are available in 20 languages. The tour price starts from £21 per adult.

Opening Hours: 10 am – 5 pm.

26. Explore the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Situated on Queens Street, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has a superb selection of photographs, sculptures and portraits of some of the most famous Scottish personalities from past and present.

Also, you would be amazed by the glittering friezes and murals of this neo-gothic architectural gem of Edinburgh. The beautifully painted mural at the main entrance hall will surely impress you.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

From Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie to Tilda Swinton and Flora Macdonald – You can see all their beautiful portraits here.

This gorgeous red sandstone building was donated in the 19th century by John Ritchie Findlay – the proprietor of The Scotsman newspaper.

It is an amazing free attraction in Edinburgh to spend a rainy day.

Opening Hours: Open daily, 10 am to 5 pm.

27. Discover Writers Museum & Makar’s Court

Located at Lady Stairs close, just a few steps off the Royal Mile, the Writers Museum houses a magnificent collection and memorabilia of three legends of Scottish literature – Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

This picturesque house was built in 1622 by Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, an Edinburgh-based wealthy businessman. Today, the fairy-tale-looking turret draws tourists to this humble museum.

Highlights of your visit would be the first edition of Scott’s Waverley, Burn’s writing desk and a rare cast of his skull, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s personal items. Also, you would get to know a lot about their literary life.

Just outside the Writers Museum lies Makar’s Court, an open space where famous quotes of Scottish writers are etched on flagstones – possibly the most fitting feature to honour Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm.

28. Admire the Grand Architecture of the Forth Bridge

An iconic landmark of Scotland, Forth Rail Bridge is an engineering marvel over the Firth of Forth – the estuary of the River Forth.

Located about 10 miles west of Edinburgh City Centre, this bridge connects two villages of Scotland – North and South Queensferry.When this rail bridge was completed in 1890, it was the longest single cantilever bridge in the world. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015.

Forth Rail Bridge

There are several sightseeing tour companies that offer guided trips to the Forth Bridges. Alternatively, hop on board Lothian Bus service 43 from Princes Street to South Queensferry. Also, it takes only 15 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley to Dalmeny by train.

If you have time, we recommend you take a boat trip from South Queensferry to the picturesque island of Inchcolm.

29. Enjoy Strolls on the Grounds of Lauriston Castle

Away from the hubbub of the busy city centre, Lauriston Castle is a hidden gem of Edinburgh. The history of this castle dates back to the middle ages. Completely Destroyed during the Earl of Hertford’s raid around 1544, Lauriston Castle was rebuilt in 1590.

Once there, explore the grand interior of this Edwardian tower house. If you hear some eerie footsteps inside, don’t worry. It must be the resident ghost, who hasn’t reportedly harmed anyone yet.

This historic house has lovely grounds with a nice little pond, an award-winning modern Japanese garden, and an Italian garden. Also, you would admire the gorgeous view across Edinburgh and Fife coastline. The woodland around the castle is very scenic, especially in spring, with bluebells lying all around.

Opening Hours: 1 April – 30 September, 8 am – 7.30 pm and 1 October – 31 March, 8 am – 4.30 pm.

Price: £8.00 for adults.

30. Build Sandcastles at Portobello Beach

Just a few miles from Edinburgh City Centre, Portobello is a seaside suburb with a sprawling sand beach stretching over two miles. In summer, it’s a popular spot with sunbathers, swimmers, and volleyballers.

Take a stroll along the charming promenade. It is lined with busy pubs and cafes, chippies, arcades and ice cream shops. Plus, this award-winning beach hosts events like the Big Beach Bush and an annual music and sandcastle competition event. Catch the local bus service 15 or 26 from Princes Street to get here.

So, in short, Portobello would be a perfect spot for a breezy beach day in summer.

How Many Days to Spend in Edinburgh

You will need to spend at least two days visiting some of the main attractions in the city. Check out our detailed 2-day itinerary of Edinburgh. But if you want to explore the city’s nooks and crannies more closely, you can easily spend a week here. You can also add some great day trip destinations to your itinerary. 

But if you are really short on time, it’s possible to see some of the highlights in a day.

Best Time to Visit Edinburgh

Although this capital city is a delight to explore all year round, June to August is the perfect time to explore Edinburgh.

The weather remains relatively dry, pleasant and warm, with longer daylights. Usually, July is the hottest month here. Also, it is an ideal time to enjoy various festivals. But this is also the peak tourist season. So, expect long queues at the attractions.

Scottish weather is famous for being unpredictable. You may experience all four seasons in one day. So, carry an umbrella or a rain jacket when you go out.

Edinburgh is also a great destination for a short winter city break in the UK. It hosts a lovely Christmas market.

Map of the Tourist Attractions

Here is a map of all the Edinburgh tourist attractions mentioned in this article. We have also marked some of the best cafes, restaurants, and pubs for you. Save this Google Map on your phone to use it later. Also, you can use it offline.

How to Get Around Edinburgh

Most of the attractions mentioned in this article are spread across the historic Old and New Town. The area is not that huge. So, the cobbled streets of Edinburgh are best explored on foot.

This city has an excellent public transport system. If you are venturing out of the city centre, catch a local Lothian Bus service.

Buses run frequently day and night. It costs £1.80 for a single journey and £4.50 for a day ticket. Also, the tram runs regularly from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew’s Square.

We hope this article on the best things to do in the city of Edinburgh was helpful to plan your trip. Read our other travel guides of Scotland to fuel your travel inspirations further.

5 thoughts on “30 Epic Things to Do in Edinburgh: Ultimate Guide by a Local”

  1. Excellent. This should be used as a leaflet of Edinburgh for tourist and sightseeing.
    Informative and interesting, make you want to get up and go do.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful info. Is there a working link to the ‘detailed 2-day itinerary of Edinburgh” ? Would love to see it.

  3. hi .. Thank you very much for this detailed information. I was just thinking what else could be there in Edinburgh other than castle but this blog has opened my eyes. I am visiting Edinburgh this July and it will be drive. Can you suggest if can get ample parking space within these attractions you have given? Or it not worth using private car but better to use public transport? And what is average parking pricing in Edinburgh? Thanks a lot again.

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