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17 Fun Things To Do In Edinburgh

Heading to Edinburgh? Scotland's capital city with its beautiful buildings, history, and wonderful scenery makes for a perfect destination for a weekend break. Well connected by rail, road, and air, Edinburgh which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site has lots of interesting sights to see and things to do no matter which season you visit in. Many head to Edinburgh in August when the three-week Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes place featuring thousands of performers presenting shows suited to all tastes. It tends to get quite busy and crowded at this time though. If you are looking for a quieter time to visit, Autumn would be ideal as it is not yet too cold nor is it too crowded.

Thanks to our recent short break to Edinburgh, I've put together this fun list of things for you to see and do in the city. Have a read and you might find yourself planning your next weekend getaway to Edinburgh.

Royal Mile


The heartline of Edinburgh, this stretch of road called the 'Royal Mile' is steeped in history and connects the Palace of Holyroodhouse with Edinburgh Castle. Many of the popular attractions listed below are dotted along the Royal Mile, so when you are in Edinburgh, you are sure to end up at the Royal Mile. In addition to the tourist attractions, there are a number of other old & beautiful buildings, tourist-y shops, restaurants and bars along the Royal Mile. You might also come across street performers!

Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Street performer in Edinburgh

The Scottish Parliament


The Parliament building in Edinburgh is a very nice example of modern architecture. If you love architecture, you will love a visit to this building. Leaflets explain the idea behind the design and symbolism of the Parliament building. You can either explore the public areas (with the free maps/leaflets) at your own pace or join one of the free guided tours. You can even request for tickets for a seat to attend one of the many debates in the Debating Chamber or a Committee meeting. While we did not attend any debates due to lack of time, we did enjoy the tour of the premises.

The Parliament building is open to visitors Monday to Saturday and there is no need to book your visit in advance. Once you are done with the tour, you can head to the Palace of Holyroodhouse which is right opposite the Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament | Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

The Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament

Palace of Holyroodhouse


Palace of Holyroodhouse standing at the end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh. The Palace is open to visitors throughout the year and you can explore it at your leisure using the complimentary audio tour that is available. The highlights are the State Apartments and the Throne Room. Also not to be missed are the Great Gallery and the Holyrood Abbey. Note that photography is not allowed inside the Palace.

Adult tickets to the Palace cost £14; however, if you opt for a combined visit to the Palace, the Queen's Gallery and a Garden history tour then an adult ticket works out to £23.

Palace of Holyroodhouse | Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Queen's Gallery


Part of the Palace of Holyroodhouse complex, the Queen's Gallery exhibits works from the Royal Collection - fine paintings, drawings, prints, rare furniture and other decorative arts. It is open to the public daily and an adult ticket costs £7.20. As mentioned earlier, you can opt for a combined ticket (to the Palace and Gardens as well) for some savings.

The Queen's Gallery | Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX

The Queen's Gallery

Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat


A short walk from the Royal Mile and adjacent to Holyrood Palace is the 640 acre Royal Park, Holyrood Park. Located right in the heart of the city, it is like an oasis of calm and beauty. And towering over Edinburgh is the rocky summit of Arthur's Seat (the park's highest point) that offers fabulous views in all directions. Some parts of the path are steep and you will need a good pair of appropriate footwear. It can be a challenging climb for some but it is worth the views especially when the weather is great. A must visit.

Holyrood Park | Edinburgh EH16 5BT

Royal Yacht Britannia


The Royal Yacht Britannia, berthed in Edinburgh, is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Formerly it was home to The Queen and the Royal Family and has sailed around the world. You can plan a full day out to the Britannia or if short on time you can go for a 2-3 hours tour. Along with the entry ticket, visitors are given a complimentary audio handset that offers information about the Britannia's five main decks. You can explore the Bridge, the State Apartments and then head to the Crew's Quarters; finishing off at the Engine Room.

Britannia is around two miles from the city centre and there are frequent buses from the city centre. If you are driving down, there is ample free parking space. An adult ticket is priced at £16 while a child's (aged 5-17) ticket is £8.50.

The Royal Yacht Britannia | Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

Dynamic Earth


Dynamic Earth is one of Edinburgh's popular visitor attractions that tells the story of planet Earth and how our Earth works. With a high-definition 360° digital showdome and seasonal events and exhibitions (that are interactive and engaging), Dynamic Earth makes for a fascinating and educational day out for the entire family.

Ticket prices at the gate are priced at £15.50 for adults and £9.75 for children. If you purchase day tickets online you receive a 10% discount.

Dynamic Earth | Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AS

Dynamic Earth

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions


Another brilliant attraction that is great fun for all ages! One of the oldest purpose-built visitor attractions in Edinburgh, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions has a number of interactive exhibitions. World of Illusions has a number of classic illusions like the 'Maze of Mirrors' and 'Light Fantastic' where you can watch yourself stretch and shrink and grow! It is a lot of fun, especially for kids. Can get quite busy around peak times (school holidays), so plan accordingly. You will need at least two hours to get around the exhibits and attractions at a leisurely pace.

Tickets are priced as follows: Adults at £15.50, students (with ID) at £13.50 and children (5–15 years) at £11.50.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions | Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND

National Museum of Scotland


The National Museum of Scotland with its impressive collection of exhibits ranging from categories like art and nature to science and technology will take you on a journey of discovery through the history of Scotland. Begin your museum tour in the Grand Gallery and then head to the Natural World gallery to explore the wonders of nature. Not to be missed is the Millennium clock which offers a unique musical display every hour. The museum is quite big so you could easily spend the greater part of a day and still not manage to see everything. If you are staying in Edinburgh for a longer duration, you could do a couple of visits over a few days. Entry is free.

National Museum of Scotland | Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF

The Museum of Edinburgh


Compared to the National Musem of Scotland, this museum is quite small however it is worth a visit. Housed in an old building on the Royal Mile, this little museum has a number of iconic items like the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal Skye terrier whose story has inspired numerous film adaptations. You will also find costumes, clocks, Scottish pottery & porcelain and silverware among other things. A nice little museum where you could spend around half an hour or so. Free entry.

The Museum of Edinburgh | 142 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DD

The Museum of Edinburgh

The Museum of Edinburgh

Gin Distillery Tours


With a number of gin distilleries in the city all easily accessible on foot, by car or by public transport, Edinburgh is an ideal choice for a Gin Distillery tour. These guided tours are very interesting, covering the history of gin in the country, the botanicals used in the gin and the distillation process followed by a gin tasting session. Two of the popular distilleries offering such tours are Edinburgh Gin and Pickering's Gin. You can book the tours directly on their respective websites or you can book it through the hotel you are staying at.

Food Tours


Food tours have become quite popular over the last few years. All major tourist destinations offer such experiences and these tours are the perfect way to experience any city. Earlier in the year, we visited Poland and the food tour in Krakow was one of the highlights of our trip. Very friendly guide and amazing food! Coming back to Edinburgh, there are a number of companies that offer food tours in the city like Eat Walk Edinburgh whose 'Edinburgh Old & New Town' lasting around 3 to 3.5 hours is a fun way to enjoy good food, drink, and company while also learning about the rich history of Edinburgh. Another tour company you can check out is Secret Food Tours who offer 3 to 3.5 hours guided food tour of Old Town Edinburgh with tastings of traditional Scottish dishes and drinks.

Food tour in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle


Dominating the skyline of the city, Edinburgh Castle is a part of the World Heritage Site. The Castle has been an important residence of Scottish Kings and Queens over the centuries and has also withstood many sieges. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland with millions of tourists visiting each year. No wonder it is often very crowded and busy. There is lots to see and do at the castle and a guided tour is included in the ticket price – making it a great way to discover the castle's history with the knowledgeable guides.

Tickets (on-site) are priced at £18.50 for adults and £11.50 for children. There is a small discount if you purchase tickets online.

Edinburgh Castle | Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

St Giles Cathedral


With its beautiful crown spire and standing tall on the Royal Mile is St Giles’ Cathedral, the historic City Church of Edinburgh. The cathedral is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle. The Gothic style cathedral has some really remarkable features and is very beautiful from the inside with medieval heraldic carvings, wonderful stained glass artwork and an elaborately carved pulpit among other things. There is a paid rooftop tour that affords a beautiful view of the city from the bell tower.

Entry is free but there is £2 fee for a photo permit.

St Giles' Cathedral | High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE

St Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral

Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh


Set in over 70 acres the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh is the UK's second oldest botanical garden. The Herbarium at the  Edinburgh site is thought to be a world-leading botanical collection with more than 3 million plant specimens. It is an impressive botanical garden with lots of beautiful trees from around the world. Entry to the garden is free but there are tickets to visit the glass houses. Paid guided tours are also available.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh | 20a Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR

Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens


This beautiful garden lies at centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site. Located in the valley between the old and new towns with Edinburgh Castle towering above one end, the garden is of geological and botanical scientific interest. It is very popular with locals and visitors alike with many visiting to have a look at the floral clock which is said to make use of tens of thousands of plants in its design. The park although small is very well maintained with plenty of lawn space to relax and enjoy a picnic.

Princes Street Gardens | Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HG

Princes Street Gardens

Shopping


Edinburgh has a number of luxury retailers and popular stores but it is the small and independent shops that are the best places to pick up gifts or do some shopping for oneself. Head to the Old Town or even if you are just walking along the Royal Mile you will see a number of these small shops selling everything from ready-to-wear kilts to handcrafted jewellery, from fine Scottish food & drink to antiques. A nice place to pick up something in the traditional Scottish style.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Shopping in Edinburgh
Please note: The admission prices listed above are correct at the time of publishing this post but are subject to change.

41 comments:

  1. After reading your post, I again realise how beautiful Edinburgh is and that I really need to visit Scotland one day! You mention a lot of nice things to do in Edinburgh. Is it possible to do all seventeen things in one day? or two days? What would you recommend? I would love to do one of the food tours or the gin distilleries tours.

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    1. Nope, it wouldn't be possible to do all the 17 things in one day. Two days, yes, but it might still feel rushed. I would recommend at least 3 days to take in everything and explore at a relaxed pace.

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  2. Ooh I knew whisky was famous in Edinburgh, but I had no idea about the gin distillery tours, that is much more my cup of tea! I didn't make it up Arthur's Seat last time I went either, but I hear the views are definitely worth the walk :)

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    1. True, when people think of Scotland, the first thing that comes to mind is Whisky. However, Scotland produces more than half of the Gin distilled in the UK; a fact that even I wasn't aware of until recently.

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  3. All of the architecture is so beautiful. I have never taken a tour of a castle and would to visit the Edinburgh Castle. I can see why it is so popular as it's filled with so much history! I'm also a huge whiskey fan so that is another thing I would love to explore here.

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    1. You could try the Scotch Whisky Masterclass experience (very near Edinburgh Castle) that offers a private viewing of one of the world's largest collection of Scotch Whisky along with comparative tastings of a few whiskies.

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  4. This is an amazing list of things to do in Edingburg. I visited a few years ago and I didn't cover all of there! Arthur's Seat was the first thing that I did and I remember how jetlagged I was walking all over the city. A great time and they also have a good night life there too!

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  5. This was just what I needed ! A nice concise and crispy article on Edinburgh. Its so near, yet haven't been able to make a trip there, but next time I am definitely taking a trip to Edinburgh, and keeping this in bookmark. The pictures have come out really amazing, and I really would love to visit the castles.

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    1. Thanks, Arnav. And glad you found this list useful.

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  6. I never get bored in Edinburgh. Something for all ages and so beautiful

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    1. Yes, there is something for all ages, so no one gets bored!

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  7. I love edinburgh. We love the musuem best but the castle is good too

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  8. An amaxing city - dont think i ve visited half of these stunning places - planning my next trip already

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  9. Edinburgh is such a fantastic place to go to. It should be on everyone's bucket list. I have been loads and still haven't done everything there is to do.

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    1. Yes, the city has so many things to see and do. Even we did not manage to see everything.

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  10. I've never been but would love to go! Looks amazing!

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  11. Edinburgh Fringe do it at least once

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  12. I've never been to Edinburgh but it's always been somewhere I've wanted to visit. The gin distillery tours look brill!

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  13. Never been but would LOVE to go, especially the vaults, and underground streets, rich history

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  14. I have never been but supposed to be going in November - looks amazing and so many gorgeous things to see and do!

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  15. Looks absolutely stunning would love to visit . Would make a change from here in not so sunny Manchester lol

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  16. I've never been to Edinburgh I'm all the way down on the south coast so it's quite far! I would love to visit the castle though

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  17. I've never visited but it does look a good place for sightseers, I'm starting to appreciate places like this more as I get that little bit older

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  18. ive never been but after reading your fab blog i think id really like to visit Edinburgh castle

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  19. i have never been but my mum and dad go couple times a year think i am going sometime next year with them x

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  20. Looks fantastic I would love to go x

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  21. I have not visited yet bu intend to soon and top of my list is Edinburgh Castle!

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  22. I've never been to Edinburgh, the gin distillery tours look good

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  23. We have been to Edinburgh - I really enjoyed visiting the castle

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  24. We've been twice, and explored as much of it as we could, it's one of the most amazing and historic cities in the UK and we'd visit again anytime!

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  25. I have never been to Edinburgh but it's on my list! It looks lovely x

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  26. I went there a long time ago and loved it there. It was only a short visit so would love to go back and see the sights.

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  27. It has to be the castle ... Especially when the Tattoo is on!

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  28. Wow amazing, I would love to visit with my children, so quaint and full of history great guide and I love the nessy ornaments did you buy it ?! Xx

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  29. I went when I was a child so don't really remember it now, would love to go again to experience it as an adult.

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  30. I have never been to edinburgh it would be a nice place to visit though

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  31. I haven’t been but I’d love to try the dynamic earth experience

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  32. Ooh yes, we went a couple of years ago and it was just gorgeous! I loved the Castle - the scenery is stunning from there

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  33. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh, but it looks absolutely amazing! I would imagine it's a magical place to visit especially the Castle :)

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  34. I have never been but I'd love to go, especially at Christmas time, everywhere seems more magical at Christmas lol x

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  35. I haven't ever been but the royal mile looks good

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