The best of Edinburgh: Tips & ideas for Scotland’s beautiful capital

In this post we will give you an overview of Things to Do in Edinburgh, Scotland – main attractions, but also some hidden gems. But not only that. We will also give you tips on getting around, buy tickets or a City Pass, some unforgettable day-trips, personal safety & much more.

  • Who are we? That would be me & my daughter Lisa. She was in Edinburgh recently (december 2022) & was able to give me updated info on things to do, and many other useful tips & ideas for the next visitors to this beautiful city.
Daughter Lisa in Edinburgh on the lookout for things to do.
  • IMPORTANT: Throughout this post you’ll find affiliated links provided by affiliate marketing platforms like  TravelPayOuts, GetYourGuide & others. Links & ads that may help you plan your next trip to Edinburgh.
  • If you click on them & buy a ticket for a museum, book a tour or rent a bike a small commission of your purchase will go to me (paid by the provider, without any extra cost to you).

Edinburgh, a short Introduction

It’s easy to fall in love with the beautiful, Hilly capital of Scotland at first sight. Surely when you explore its medieval center – the Old Town – full of awe-inspiring historical buildings. Palaces, castles & old houses.

  • Edinburgh – in Gaelic: Dun Eideann – is located in the southeastern part of Scotland. Not far from the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. An estuary coming from the North Sea, pointing westward into the Scottish Lowlands.

A unique place where at every moment you may expect to spot a knight, a princess or a ghost come around one of the corners or out of the mysterious alleyways.

A feeling that gets even stronger when you head out of town and visit the beautiful Scottish Highlands in the northern part of the country full of past glory – medieval castles & old villages.

Scotland provides you with awe-inspiring landscapes, and a proud local culture & folklore. A unique country where past & present go hand in hand.

Overview of the Old Town of Edinburgh, with its famous Castle covering one of its highest hills.
Overview of the Old Town of Edinburgh, with its famous Castle covering one of its highest hills.
Festival city Edinburgh

Besides the monumental treasures Edinburgh offers, the Scottish capital is considered one the best festival spots in the world. A world center for the literary arts, comedy, local culture & high education. The festivals are spread all over the year, while in August there are two major ones. World famous festivals which attract people from all over the world (see below or index).

The Military Tattoo takes place every year in August.  One of many things to do & visit in Edinburgh Scotland.
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every year in August.

The best time to visit Edinburgh is during the Summer – June, July & August. Mainly because of the higher temperatures. However it’s possible to visit the city all year round. Important if you want to avoid the summer crowds & festival visitors in August.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Year round Edinburgh is known as a friendly, inviting & safe place to visit. A middle sized world capital to enjoy yourself & relax in one of the best walkable cities on the face of the Earth.

What ATTRACTIONS to visit in Edinburgh, Scotland

As the main goal is to give you an overview of Things to Do in & around Edinburgh, it’s important to know that this post – in general terms – is built up in the following way.

  • In the first part we’ll give you a description of the Most Famous Attractions of the Scottish capital. Like Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Real Mary King’s Close & others.
  • Followed by lesser-known Things to Do, or if you like the Hidden Gems of Edinburgh. Like the Firth of Forth Three Bridges, the Greyfriars Kirkyard, the National Museum of Scotland & others.
  • Finally, we’ll describe some worthwhile Day-Trips from Edinburgh. All of them leading you to the Scottish Highlands, but also places like Loch Ness, Stirling Castle, Glencoe Valley, Isle of Skye & others.

TravelTip: As this is an extensive blog post, we recommend you to study the Index above first. Besides the many THINGS TO DO in Edinburgh, there are loads of TravelTips throughout this post.

  • At the end of this post I will give you some general recommendations on flights, how to get to/from the airport, hotels & restaurants.

Top Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

The main attractions are generally also the MUST SEE’s for many first time visitors to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle + Royal Mile

At the top of things to do in Edinburgh stands its famous Castle.

Located on top of the Castle Rock Edinburgh Castle hovers over the beautiful old medieval city center of the Scottish capital. Situated at the high end of the famous Royal Mile.

  • Castle Rock is in reality a plug or neck which closes off an extinct volcano.
  • The Castle itself was used by Scottish Kings between the 12th & 17th century, but maybe even before that. It stands as one of the main symbols for Edinburgh, Scotland & its long history.

Some highlights within the thick, cold castle walls are:

  • The Crown Square, where you’ll find the
  • Grand Hall, and also
  • Scotland’s Crown Jewels, as well as
  • The mysterious Stone of Destiny
Coat of Arms of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.
Coat of Arms, Edinburgh Castle
  • The Stone of Destiny (origins unknown) is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy. It’s used for over a thousand years during the inauguration of the kings of Scotland & England. For that reason, next year the Stone will be moved to London for the coronation of King Charles III.

Other highlights in & around Edinburgh Castle are:

  • St Margaret’s Chapel
  • The National War Museum & Memorial, and on top of the castle
  • The Half Moon Battery

Besides an inspiring tour within the Castle walls, you’ll also get unforgettable views of the city & its surroundings.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the main street of Edinburgh’s old town. It runs from Castle Rock – on which top Edinburgh Castle is located – to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

  • The name derives from the fact that this particular street was often used by the Scottish monarchs for religious processions & other manifestations. From the 16th century on it also connected the Castle with the main royal residence of the Kings in Edinburgh.
  • The Royal Mile is round & about 1.81 km long, which in earlier times corresponded to a Scots Mile.
green plants near the glass window royal mile edinburgh scotland.
The Royal Mile (photo by Oriel Frankie Ashcroft on Pexels.com).

Besides shops, restaurants & bars you’ll find some of the main attractions along the Royal Mile. Like the Real Mary King’s Close, the Scotch Whisky Experience, the Camera Obscura & the World of Illusions.

Wandering the streets of the old town of Edinburgh is actually one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. And while doing that there’s a good chance you’ll end up at the Royal Mile again & again & again.

  • The Mile actually consists of the four smaller streets: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate & Abbey Strand.

A unique street in the heart of an inspiring medieval part of Europe.

Victoria Street

Another famous street in the Old Town – and probably the most photographed one – is Victoria Street. Mainly because of the colourful shop fronts which contrast heavily – more than elsewhere in the world – with the grey-stone buildings that characterise the center of Edinburgh.

Besides that, it’s one of the main shopping areas in town. More so, when you’re on the lookout for unique souvenirs or you are just another giant Harry Potter fan.

Tickets for Edinburgh Castle

As Edinburgh Castle is a popular attraction – high season & low – I would recommend you to buy your tickets in advance. Millions of people visit the castle every year.

You can buy them directly on the castle’s website (cheaper even online then at the gate) through the following link: Edinburgh Castle tickets.

Or, you can go for a guided tour (Highly recommended). There’s an interesting one – led by a local guide – which you can book through GetYourGuide.

To learn more about this specific tour (see reviews, 4.8 over 5), click on: Guided Tour of Edinburgh Castle.

Or else – for just a few pounds/dollars more – book the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED tour of the castle provided by Tiqets.

A unique tour which includes a guided introduction which actually starts with a walk along the Royal Mile (described above). A street – as you will learn of the local guide – blesses with a long interesting & fascinating, sometimes hilarious history.

  • WARNING: We recommend you to visit Edinburgh Castle as early as possible. If you can, before the crowds arrive. In some parts of the castle it can get really busy. When there, long queues had formed to get into the building where the Crown Jewels & Stone of Destiny are kept.

To learn more on the Tiqets-tour, click on following ad:

Travel Tip: If you, besides the Edinburgh Castle, also plan a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse & the Royal Yacht Britannia, we highly recommend you to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket (gaining time & money). This special ticket includes the Hop-on-Hop-off City Sightseeing Bus Tour which transports you to all the most popular things to do in Edinburgh.

For more info, go to (Tiqets): Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

TRAVELTips: Buy the Edinburgh City Pass or individual tickets?

The Edinburgh City Pass

Edinburgh doesn’t yet have a city pass which covers all the main attractions in & around town. For that reason, it’s best to buy individual tickets or sometimes a combined ticket (see below).

However there exists an Edinburgh City Pass. This 1, 2 or 3-day pass covers many attractions, but not the Top things to do – like Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse or the Vaults. Only other lesser-known attractions.

  • Besides the Hop-On-Hop-off-Bus City Sightseeing Tour & free Airport Transfer, it includes a Three Bridges Boat Tour, several Walking Tours (including the Harry Potter tour), a visit to the Holyrood Distillery, free entrance to the John Knox House, the Mining Museum, and some others.

In a few words, surely an interesting option – this Edinburgh City Pass which will save you time & money – but generally more suitable for travellers who visited the Scottish capital before & already visited the main attractions.

For more information, go to: The Edinburgh City Pass.

The Royal Edinburgh

Not a real city pass, but an interesting ticket – also gaining you time & money – which combines some of the top attraction, is The Royal Edinburgh, including:

  • Entrance to Edinburgh Castle
  • The Palace of Holyroodhouse
  • The Royal Yacht Britannia, &
  • Access to the Hop-on-Hop-off City Sightseeing Tour Bus which passes all these things to do in Edinburgh.

For more information, go to: The Royal Edinburgh Ticket, or click on the ad below:

Individual tickets

Alternatively you can buy tickets for every attraction or tour you want to do in Edinburgh individually. Buying them at the ticket office or in advance. Directly from the attraction’s website, or through a third party, like Tiqets or GetYourGuide.

  • When travelling in Europe – I recommend you to buy your tickets from Tiqets (HQ located in Amsterdam), or alternatively from GetYourGuide (HQ Berlin). Comparing prices & promotions between the two of them.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

At the “other” end of the Royal Mile – opposite Edinburgh Castle – you find the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Open to the public all year… well, almost (see below).

  • Originally there was only an Augustinian Abbey on this spot – nowadays in ruins- founded by King David I of Scotland in the twelfth century.
  • It was James IV who decided to build a Gothic style palace next to it at the start of the 16th century. Meant to become the main residence of the Scottish monarchy. Not only for Mary, Queen of Scots – who occupied the royal apartments between 1561 and 1567 – but later on also for the English neighbours, like Queen Victoria & Queen Elisabeth II.

And that’s why you can visit the Palace all year, but not when the English Royal family is in town.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse houses the following highlights:

  • The Great Gallery
  • Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers
  • The ruins of the Holyrood Abbey
  • Holyrood Park (that is, the surrounding gardens).

For more information on the Palace & tickets (Tiqets), go to: Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Travel Tip: If you, besides Holyroodhouse, also plan to visit Edinburgh Castle & the Royal Yacht Britannia, we highly recommend you to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. This special ticket includes the Hop-on-Hop-off City Sightseeing Bus Tour which transports you to all the most popular things to do in Edinburgh.

For more info, go to (Tiqets): Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

TRAVELTips: Getting Around in Edinburgh

On Foot

The center of Edinburgh is ideal for walking. Although hilly you can get everywhere on foot. So the best suggestion on getting around is to bring some walking shoes.

  • That said, the medieval center of Edinburgh may be a challenge for people with serious mobility issues.

Besides walkable, the city center is easy to navigate. The Royal Mile functions as the lifeline of the city. From there you can explore the beautiful, mysterious closes (alleyways) that run north & south one by one.

Hop On & Off Bus

Alternatively there’s the option to use the Hop-on-Hop-Off City Sightseeing Tour Bus. An ideal way to discover the city, as it covers the whole city & main attractions (including the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith harbour).

The Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing bus is one of the popular things to do in Edinburgh.
The Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing bus tour in Edinburgh.

To reserve your ticket (valid for 7 days) click on (GYG): Hop on/Off City Sightseeing Tour Bus.

Public transport

Edinburgh has a 24 hour bus service, provided by several companies. Lothian is the most used one, certainly when you travel the central part of town.

You can buy single fares (a little over $2), but it may be better to buy a day-ticket (around $5,50).

For more info go to: Edinburgh Public Buses.

Alternatively you can use the tram. However, the tram only runs between the airport & the new town. Prices are comparable to the bus fares (see above).

For more info visit: Edinburgh Trams.

Taxi

Last but not least, you can hire a taxi/cab to get around. Several companies provide their services in Edinburgh & around (including Uber & Lyft).

For more general info on taxi services & costs in Edinburgh, go to: Edinburgh Taxis.

Airport transfer

There’s a segment on how to get to/from the airport at the end of this blogpost, but we’d like to recommend you here to buy your transfer – easy & affordable – beforehand through the following link: Airport transfer Edinburgh.

Britannia Yacht

Another attraction that gathers shiploads of visitors every year is the Royal Yacht Britania.

  • The yacht served the Royal family for over 40 years – until 1997 – as the main sea transport around the world. On almost a thousand state visits!
The Royal Yacht Britannia in Forth Ports Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Royal Yacht Britannia in Forth Ports Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

You can visit the Royal Yacht daily. It’s located in Edinburgh’s harbour town of Leith (3.5km/2.2 miles from the Old Town).

If you wish, you audio guide yourself through the state apartments, private rooms & crew cabins.

If possible, reserve some time – after your visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia – for the Leith’ harbour district itself. A nice, friendly bustling part of Edinburgh. Mainly known for its good restaurants, including some Michelin-starred ones.

Travel Tip: If you, besides the Royal Yacht, also plan a visit to Edinburgh Castle & the Palace of Holyroodhouse, we highly recommend you to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. This special ticket includes the Hop-on-Hop-off City Sightseeing Bus Tour which transports you to all the most popular things to do in Edinburgh.

For more info, go to (Tiqets): Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

Scottish’s Whisky Experience

For many a visit to Edinburgh or Scotland isn’t complete without tasting the national beverage, Scotch Whisky. Like it, or not!

A Scotch Whisky
Can’t leave Edinburgh without tasting a real Scotch Whisky.

At the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center – located on the Royal Mile – you can participate in the Scotch Whisky Experience. Being partly a museum about the History of Whisky, but also an interactive experience in which you learn more about the distilling process & the taste of different types of whisky.

  • At the end of the tour you’ll find the largest collection of Scotch whisky’s in the world.

Alternatively there are several Whisky Tours in Edinburgh. For more info, go to: Whisky Tour Edinburgh.

The Real Mary King’s Close

Another popular thing to do in Edinburgh is a visit to the Real Mary King’s Close. Located along the Royal Mile, opposite St. Giles’ Cathedral.

  • A close is a Scottish term for alleyway. Generally, a gated alleyway.

Inside the Close you’ll find an underground network of alleyways abandoned a long time ago, … but still haunted by ghosts from the past. Playing leading roles in the old Scottish tales, myths & legends – full of diseases, mystery & crime – told by local guides who can lead you through the mystical underground world of the Scottish capital.

Part of the Real Mary King's Close, Edinburgh, Scotland. One of the many popular things to do in Edinburgh.
Haunted alley ways underneath nowadays Edinburgh await you.
  • In the past, most closes ran down rather steeply from the Royal Mile. Ending up at the outer wall of the city, the so-called Flodden Wall. That’s the main reason why the houses on the edge of town were the highest buildings in Edinburgh. Sometimes 14 stories high. In reality the first skyscrapers in the world.
  • In these “skyscrapers” not only many people lived, but also people of all classes. Rich, poor & and all in between. (With the richest people living on the mid level. Avoiding the nastiness below, as well as the need to climb up too many stairs.).

To learn more about a guided visit to the Real Mary King’s Close – recently named Scotland’s ‘Best Heritage Tourism Experience’, click on: A visit to the Real Mary King’s Close.

Edinburgh Vaults

A somewhat comparable experience is a visit to the Edinburgh or South Bridge Vaults.

For a few decades after the South Bridge was finished – in 1788 – a lively community settled under the arches of this historic road bridge. Taverns, small shops & storage rooms, which after they were abandoned later on converted themselves into living quarters for vagrants, petty criminals & prostitutes.

Today these haunted spaces rooms are partially open to the public, visited by guided tours who will tell the tale.

  • WARNING: Ideal for people who love scary tales. For others,… they may keep you from sleeping.

To learn more, click on: Edinburgh, Underground Vaults Tour.

Edinburgh Zoo

After all these horror stories it may be time to relax a little at the Edinburgh Zoo. Located at the edge of the city center.

The Edinburgh Zoo opened its gates over a century ago, in July 1913. Besides a diverse group of animals from around the world – although many of them are born in the zoo itself – it’s the only Zoo in the United Kingdom which houses koalas & pandas.

Besides a diversity in fauna, the zoo also offers unique flora. Ideal for “A walk in the park”.

To learn more, and/or buy your tickets in advance, go to (GYG): The Edinburgh Zoo.

The lesser-known Things to Do in/ or Hidden Gems of Edinburgh, Scotland

“The lesser-known things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland” doesn’t mean they don’t attract visitors. Hundreds of tourists visit the following attractions daily.

Generally though, you can say that they stand somewhat in the shadow of the attractions already described above. So called Hidden Gems you don’t wanna read about when back home!

Firth of Forth Three Bridges cruise

Three bridges cross the Forth near the city of Edinburgh. The Queensferry Crossing, the Forth Road Bridge & the Forth Rail Bridge.

The last being the most famous & impressive one, finished in 1890 & UNESCO World Heritage since 2015.

It’s possible to visit all three bridges on a highly popular cruise (90-minutes, with guided commentary), including also:

  • A close look at Inchcolm Island with its medieval abbey
  • Spectacular views of the Edinburgh skyline
  • Marine Wildlife along the way, including porpoises, seals & puffins.

To learn more about this unique tour, go to: Three Bridges Sightseeing Tour.

The Forth Rail Bridge, which connects Edinburgh with Aberdeen, Scotland.
The Forth Rail Bridge, which connects Edinburgh with Aberdeen, Scotland.

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is a a characteristic hill (251m/823ft) – actually an acient volcano – located centrally in Holyrood Park (a little south of the Palace of Holyroodhouse).

  • It’s uncertain where the name comes from, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if it has everything to do with the world-famous legend of King Arthur.

A popular green space within the city of Edinburgh to relax, but also to be active if you like. Daily many people hike up the hill for spectacular views of the city & its surroundings. Including views of the historic village of Duddington and several lakes.

The views from Arthur's seat over Edinburgh are spectacular.
The views from Arthur’s seat over Edinburgh are spectacular.

WARNING: The hike is relatively easy, but be careful in rainy weather or winter months when the paths to the top can become slippery. Use some good hiking shoes.

Besides the rewarding 360° view, you’ll also find the ruins of an old chapel & a fort on your way to the top.

You can climb the hill yourself. Or else, include a visit to Arthur’s Seat within a guided, but personal tour of Edinburgh.

To learn more, click on: Private Tour of Edinburgh.

Calton Hill

Another hill to climb – but in minutes instead of an hour – is Calton Hill. Also providing you with beautiful views over Edinburgh and The Firth of Forth.

On top you’ll find several remarkable monuments. Among which are the unfinished National Monument of Scotland (unfinished since 1829) & the Nelson Monument (inaugurated in 1816).

  • The National Monument – built with the Athenian Parthenon in mind – is to commemorate the fallen ones during the Napoleonic wars. It’s one of many grand public buildings in Edinburgh & why the city is called “Athens of the North” by many.
  • The Nelson Monument – shaped like an upside down telescope – is built to honour the famous Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar (South of Spain) in October 1805.

Besides the monuments and the nice views, Calton Hill is a bustling part of Edinburgh. Full of gift shops, bars, restaurants & the Collective Contemporary Art Gallery.

The Nelson Monument on the top of Calton Hill, looking like an upside down telescope.
The Nelson Monument on the top of Calton Hill.

TRAVELTips: On Personal Safety

Concerning Personal Safety in Edinburgh we can be short.

Edinburgh is just one of the safest cities in the UK. This doesn’t mean, of course, there’s no (petty) crime, but no more or less than any main tourist area in the world.

The only warning we’ve received beforehand is to be careful at night on Calton Hill. Being an area full of pubs and clubs, which sometimes results in a fight or assault. So just be careful going out there …

Besides that, we would like to recommend you to avoid the closes or alley ways at night. They generally are safe, but some are, besides narrow, still pitch dark … & you never know what’s around the corner.

And by the way, after a ghostly tour of the Mary King’s Close – full of horror stories of mystery & crime – you don’t want to be there at night anyway. In short, stay on the main street at night.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Among the worthwhile lesser-known things to do in Edinburgh we also like to mention the 17th century Greyfriars Kirk (church) & Kirkyard (cemetery).

  • Although a long history, the graveyard owes its fame mainly because of the legendary dog Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was the faithful Sky Terrier who after the death of his owner guarded his grave for years & years – until his own death.
  • Nowadays you can spot Bobby’s tombstone at the cemetery’s entrance, while a statue of him can be found opposite the graveyard’s gate. Although a cold statue nowadays, the dog’s golden nose proves how many visitors still provide him with sweet pats while taking pictures.

Besides this famous dog, the Greyfriars was an inspirational source for many characters in the J.K. Rowling’s famous books about Harry Potter. The author wrote most of her books in one particular cafe in Edinburgh cafe – the Elephant House (temporarely closed – latest update: January 2023) & nowadays lives in town.

As happens all over & under the old town of Edinburgh the cemetery is visited daily by ghosts. If you want to know more about them & the stories full of murder, mystery & crime, get yourself a tour of the haunted Kirk & Kirkyard.

To learn more on this tour, click on: Greyfriars Kirkyard Tour.

The National Museum of Scotland

Although a lot of visitors never heard of this museum, in reality it’s one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. An attraction for young & old, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

It makes you walk through Scotland’s rich history, but in a broad sense. That is, from the earliest days to modern times. Moreover, it treats history in an interactive way. An interesting & fun way to learn something about this fascinating country & its local culture.

The thousands of objects are spread over several galleries. The biggest one – the imposing sky-high cast-iron Grand Gallery – is worth a visit in itself. One of the highlights in this central gallery is the Millennium Clock, which strikes every hour with accompanying music & colourful lights.

Besides this Grand Gallery there are galleries dedicated to Art, Design & Fashion Galleries, the Natural World, Science & Technology, History & Archeology, and World Cultures.

The museum is located near the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Highlights:

Some of the highlights – besides the mentioned Millennium Clock – are:

  • Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned animal (in a stuffed version nowadays).
  • One of the typical, extravagant suits of the Scottish popstar Elton John.
  • Egyptian, Roman, Celtic & Viking artefacts.
  • Several F1 racing cars (Jackie Stewart, David Coulthard)
  • A T-Rex skeleton.
  • Items which belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • The Lewis Chess Pieces (used in a famous scene of the first Harry Potter filmHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
  • The Scottish Maiden, an early beheading machine which predated the more famous French guillotine.
  • A Lego model of the museum.
  • & many, …many more.

And, IMPORTANT…don’t forget to visit the rooftop terrace with amazing views of the city of Edinburgh & around.

You can visit this museum for FREE. However, if you like, you can get a private tour of the highlights of the museum.

To learn more, click on: Guided Tour of the National Museum of Scotland.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

This unique museum is located in the former observatory in the Old Town of Edinburgh. A six-storey tower on Castle Hill. It’s actually made up of two parts.

The Camera Obscura on the top floor which awards you with beautiful views of the surrounding city. While the World of Illusions is an interactive museum concentrated around….surprise surprise…. Illusions. That is, optical “Illusions”.

To see it is to believe it.

To learn more, and/or book tickets in advance, go to: Camera Obscura & World of Illusions.

St Giles’ Cathedral

A stately monument you can’t miss. Located in the heart of Edinburgh, along the main street, the Royal Mile.

  • The Cathedral – dedicated to Saint Giles, patron saint of the lepers – was founded in the 12th century. In all probability commissioned by King David I (who we mentioned earlier on as the initiator also of the construction of the Augustinian Abbey nearby).
Outside view of St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh.
St. Giles’ Cathedral.

Originally a catholic church built in Romanesque style it was replaced by the current Gothic construction in the 14th century & converted into a Protestant church in 1559.

  • The first minister of St Giles’ Cathedral – or the High Kirk of Edinburgh – was John Knox, the most famous leader of the Scottish Reformation.
  • In Edinburgh’s center you can find & visit the John Knox House & Museum. Although the minister lived there only for a short time – to die actually – it’s one of the oldest medieval houses along the Royal Mile & absolutely worth your visit.

While in the 15th & 16th centuries the cathedral was extended, many major changes were added during the last couple of centuries.

As imposing the view is of the cathedral’s exterior, the more impressive is its interior. Stained glass windows. Aisles & chapels. Unique furniture, statues & memorials of many famous Scotsmen & women (including the Edinburgh writer Robert Louis Stevenson, whose grave is to be found on Samoa).

In short, the St Giles’s Cathedral is a MUST SEE while in Edinburgh.

Stevenson’s Edinburgh

BookTip: Among the 21 books Robert Louis Stevenson left us, one was about his home city. A book highly recommended & available at every bookstore in Edinburgh.

Book cover Robert Louis Stevenson' book about Edinburgh.

Logically Stevenson’s mysterious birth place & its inhabitants served him as a source of inspiration for his books. The famous novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, for example, was partially based on a fellow townsman. Namely, William Brodie – better known as Deacon Brodie – who lived a century earlier than the writer.

Brodie was a respected citizen of Edinburgh in his days. A cabinet-maker during the day – also deacon of a trades guild – while at night he regularly converted himself into a burglar. An activity he mainly needed to maintain his gambling addiction. In the end he got caught, executed & transformed into another ghost story of Edinburgh.

Besides Stevenson using the story – somewhat differently – in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, nowadays you can still find a local pub along the Royal Mile listening to the name Deacon Brodies Tavern.

TRAVELTips: Take a break…

IMPORTANT: You can run from attraction to attraction of course, but it’s recommendable to take a break once in a while. Not only on a terrace, in a cafeteria, bar or restaurant, but also while exploring the city itself.

There are many places to do that, but we have chosen two specific ones that may relax you a little, namely: Princes Street Gardens & the Royal Botanic Garden.

Princes Street Gardens

Being in reality a beautiful park on the border of the Old & New Town. A perfect place to rest a while, escaping the busy touristic center.

Logically more relaxing when the sun is shining, it is also a nice escape during the winter months. Surely during the holidays when there’s a Christmas market, including a large Ferris wheel & an ice skating rink.

Besides that, a big party is organised in Princes Street Gardens every New Year’s Eve.

  • In Scotland the celebrations around New Year’s Eve are called Hogmanay & are actually celebrated all over town, with spectacular fireworks at Edinburgh Castle, concerts, dance, street food & bars.

In the park you can also find:

  • The Scott Monument (in honour of the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott).
  • A special clock, namely the Floral Clock.
  • The recently restored Ross Fountain
  • While – at the eastern end of the park – there’s the National Gallery of Scotland, full of Scottish & European artworks.
The Ross Fountain at night in Princes Street Gardens.
The Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens.

TRAVELTips: Concerning the weather in Edinburgh

The UK is worldly known for its foggy & rainy weather. Scotland is no exception.

As Edinburgh is located at a high latitude you may expect it to be chilly most of the year (the average temperature annually is 9°C/ 48°F). Although the nearness of the sea – resulting in a maritime climate – causes the temperature to rise a little bit higher in Edinburgh in comparison with places more inland.

That said, if visiting during a warm summer’s day or an old-fashioned winter’s day, blue skies can always be expected. A beautiful contrast with the grey buildings & monuments so characteristic for the Scottish capital.

TravelTip: For Edinburgh, it’s best to prepare yourself for all kinds of weather. Always bring an umbrella or light raincoat, because …. well, you’re in the UK.

The Royal Botanic Garden

Another one of the lesser-known, but actually MUST things to do in Edinburgh: the historic Royal Botanic Garden.

Another beautiful green area which combines scientific & touristic purposes. The Botanic Garden has a long history – the garden was founded in 1670 – and nowadays there are no less than 70 hectares to explore.

Besides the inspiring & relaxing settings of the Garden, you can enjoy a beautiful view over the skyline of the city of Edinburgh.

Entrance is FREE with exception of the greenhouses, which you can enter for a small fee.

Highly recommended. A visit you won’t forget!

Dean Village

Another relaxing outing near Edinburgh is a visit to Dean Village. It’s located only 2km/1.2m walking/biking distance – northwest of the old city center.

Dean Village is one of the oldest of the villages that formerly lay outside old Edinburgh’s boundaries. Formerly known as the Miller’s village. Nowadays it’s foremost a popular, quiet residential area – which fortunately resulted in the rescue of many former workers’ cottages, warehouses and mill buildings – and secondly a tourist attraction.

Impression of Dean Village in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Impression of Dean Village, Edinburgh

You can easily visit Dean Village on your own. But if you like, GetYourGuide offers a nice biking tour in & around Edinburgh which includes a visit to Dean Village.

To learn more, go to: The Edinburgh 20 Mile Cycling Tour

Festival City Edinburgh

Edinburgh is world-famous for its festivals. Especially during the Summer.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Because of two festivals the month of August is by far the busiest month in the Scottish capital. At Edinburgh Castle you can admire the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A festival that lasts for weeks.

  • The 2023 Royal Military Tattoo takes place between 4 & 26 of August. If interested, I’d recommend you to buy your tickets well in advance at: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The annual Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.
The annual Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.

TravelTip: GetYourGuide offers a special tour around this event. A guided day-trip to the Northern Scottish Highland, ending up at the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.

For more info, go to: Scottish Highlands & Military Tattoo Tour.

Edinburgh Fringe

At the same time, you can visit the other three-week event called the Edinburgh Fringe. One of the largest Art festivals in the world.

  • In 2023 the festival will take place between 4 & 28 of August. To learn more, go to: Edinburgh Fringe.
Other Edinburgh festivals

The festivals above are the main & most famous, but Edinburgh offers others during the year. Including a film festival, festivals around jazz & blues, books, story telling, science, as well as an International Children’s Festival.

For an overview, go to: Edinburgh Festivals.

TRAVELTips: On Eating Out in Edinburgh

As anywhere else Edinburgh has its own culinary delicacies you must – or rather may – try when there.

Probably the most famous is Haggis. A mix of chopped sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver, and lungs) with onion, oatmeal, suet (meat fat), specific spices & stock (bone broth). It’s traditionally served with “Neeps (Rutabaga) & Tatties (Potatoes), but also comes with a traditional Scottish breakfast.

  • Although it doesn’t attract many at first, most people who try it are surprised by its flavour.
A hearty Scottish breakfast, including Haggis & Black Pudding.
A hearty Scottish breakfast, including Haggis & Black Pudding.

Other traditional food products of Edinburgh & Scotland we’d like to mention are:

  • Fish & Chips (all over town)
  • Scottish (smoked) Salmon
  • Aberdeen Angus Beef
  • Scottish Bannock (flat bread)
  • Scottish Porridge
  • Black Pudding (blood sausage, served with every Scottish breakfast)
  • Scottish Shortbread, a sweet biscuit.
  • Cranachan, a dessert made of fresh raspberries, Scottish oats and whisky.

Concerning drinks:

  • Whisky
  • Scotch
  • Scotch ales (beer)

TravelTip: As Edinburgh is rather small for the many visitors it receives during the year, it’s highly recommended to make Reservations for Dinner. During the day though it’s rather easy to hop in one of the many bars & restaurants for a drink and/or a bite.

Besides that, we like to recommend you to some food-experiences Eatwith offers in Edinburgh.

To learn more visit their website: Eatwith

Day-trips around Edinburgh, Scotland

Let’s continue with the most popular day-trips from Edinburgh, Scotland. Day-trips in which history & nature play the leading roles.

Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

By far the most popular tour leads you to she stunning Scotland’s Highlands. Including a visit to the famous lake of Loch Ness (Loch actually means lake).

  • Loch Ness is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the Scottish Highlands. Its name derives from the River Ness, an outlet of the lake to the north.
  • However the lake is best known for the Loch Ness Monster which supposedly – according to Scottish folklore – inhabits the lake.

While on the road to search for the Loch Ness Monster – “Nessie” for locals – you pass scenic villages, medieval castles, awe-inspiring nature, including the Glencoe Valley.

  • Glencoe Valley is famously known for shots in the Bond film Skyfall, the Outlanders series & the Harry Potter films. Although the leading roles are gone, you’re surely gonna meet some friendly inhabitants representing the local culture. As well as unique flora & fauna, like the unique hairy Highland Cows.

Come Winter:

Come Summer:

To learn more about this guided tour, click on: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour.

WARNING: Although you continually get beautiful views of the Scottish nature all around & the (local) guide entertains you all the way with interesting and often Scottish tales & music, you’ll spend lots of time in the bus on this tour & others.

  • A good alternative is to spend a few days in the Scottish Highlands (like a 3-day trip, see below).

Day-trip to Loch Lomond, Kelpies & Stirling Castle

This is another popular tour which is more focused on the Scottish past (besides the beautiful unique nature of the highlands). Including visits to:

  • Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater lake of Scotland – of Great-Britain even.
  • The Kelpies are two impressive horse-head sculptures (height: 30m/ 98ft) depicting … well “kelpies”, which according to Scottish folklore are shape-shifting water spirits.
  • Stirling Castle is one of the largest & most important medieval castles in Scotland. It served as a residence to the Scottish monarchs, but several of them were also crowned there. Among them Mary, Queen of Scots.

Besides impressions of the beautiful Scottish Highlands & the stops mentioned, the local guide will tell you all about historical figures like Braveheart‘s William Wallace, Rob Roy MacGregor & other local heroes on this tour.

To learn more about this history & nature tour, click on: Loch Lomond, Kelpies & Stirling Castle Tour.

Outlander Day Tour

Another highly popular guided tour is especially organised for the many fans of the TV show Outlander. A day-trip which includes visits to three castles & the medieval village of Culross (“Cranesmuir”).

  • One of the Castles – Doune Castle (“Castle Leoch” in the series) – was once also a filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Other highlights on this tour – besides enjoying a tour of the Scottish Highlands – are beautiful views of the Forth bridges, an exploration of the ruins of Mary, Queen of Scots’ birthplace & a visit to the imposing Blackness Castle, which is known as the ‘ship that never sailed’ because its resemblance to a giant stone boat.

To learn more about this tour, click on: Outlander Adventure Day Tour.

Impressions of the Outlander Tour.

Tour of Roman Britain, including Hadrian’s Wall

Finally, a day trip which covers the Roman history of Britain. Including a visit to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall.

  • Britain was conquered by the Romans under emperor Claudius in 43 AD. It served the empire as a Roman province until 410 AD.
  • In the second century two emperors – Hadrian & Antoninus Pius – builded two walls to protect their territory against the “Barbarian” tribes to the north. One of them is known as Hadrian’s Wall & the other more to the north as the Antonine Wall.
Remains of Hadrian's Wall, Scotland.
Remains of Hadrian’s Wall, Scotland.

Besides a visit to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, on this tour you’ll also get an idea of the beautiful natural region south of Edinburgh. Getting to know other traces left behind in Scotland by the Romans, little villages along the way, as well as the ruins of the Augustinian Abbey at the border town of Jedburgh.

Ruins of the Augustinian Abbey, Jedburgh, Scotland.
Ruins of Jedburgh Abbey.

To learn more about this history & nature tour, click on: Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Britain Tour.

A 3-Day-trip to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh

For visitors that stay a while longer in Edinburgh – let’s say at least a week – there’s this option to visit the Northern Highlands, focused around the beautiful Isle of Skye. Nature at its purest.

  • The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides Archipelago of Scotland. Nowadays connected to the mainland by the Sky Bridge or the Mallaig – Armadale Ferry.
  • The Island knowns a long history. Archeological digs have lain open many traces, among which are the Celts and Vikings. Until late in the 13th century the island was considered Norwegian territory.

It’s mainly attracting people because of its rugged landscape, some beautiful highland lakes, small fishing villages & medieval castles. When you get a picture of Scotland’s nature before you’ve ever been there, it’s generally taken in this mysterious part of Scotland.

While the many natural & cultural-historical highlights of the Isle of Skye are the main focus, most (guided) tours also include visits to other attractions on the way. Like for example Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, the Kelpies, the Glencoe Valley, the Highland Folk Museum & many others. Besides that, you’ll stay two nights in the small & beautiful capital city of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness.

If you want to learn more about these special tours, click on: Isle of Skye Tour from Edinburgh.

Click on the following link to get: An overview of all day-trip tours from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Last TRAVELTips: Before you visit Edinburgh….

The Best Flight to Edinburgh, Scotland…

There’s a chance you’ve already booked your flight, but if not and you’re still searching for the best & cheapest flight … I – for one – recommend CheapOair.

A website that in a few seconds checks all flights available at that moment and compares prices & flight times.

To learn more, visit: CheapOAir.

How to get from/to the Edinburgh Airport (EDI)

The cheapest way is to leave or return to Edinburgh Airport is to catch a tram or bus. You’ll find them just outside the airport, passing the old & new town of Edinburgh on their route.

If you want to avoid dragging your luggage around too much, I highly recommend you to pre-Book an affordable one or two-way Bus Transfer from/to the Edinburgh Airport – through the following link: Bus transfer to/from Edinburgh Airport.

  • WARNING: If you buy the special Airport Transfer online Print your voucher beforehand!, as the driver somehow won’t or can’t accept the digital version on your phone.

If you – because of arrival time or luggage – prefer a Private transport, click on: Private Transfer from/to Edinburgh Airport.

Find accommodation in Edinburgh

The choice for a certain hotel s always something personal. And has to do with many factors, like price, luxury, location, style & others.

That’s why the best I can do is refer you to a website that give you a good overview of the best hotels & apartments.

Expedia is a well-known, reliable platform which provides you not only with the best price, but also with reviews of customers who’ve already been there.

  • A little personal advice on reading reviews: Instead of reading them all, it’s best to skip the 1, 2 & 5-star reviews, and concentrate on the 3 and 4-star reviews. They normally give you the best idea if a certain accommodation is the best & fits your wishes.

That said, a professional website we’d like to recommend is Expedia.

Click here: To find the best hotel for you

Find the best restaurant in Edinburgh

For restaurants, it’s the same story. A very personal choice, depending on taste, your budget, location, …

Besides, referring you to Google Maps – we’d like to present you anew to the unique food-experiences Eatwith offers in worldwide. Courses, workshops, private dinners, food tours, …. you name it.

To learn more: Eatwith

Stained-glass window, St.Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Stained-glass window, St.Giles Cathedral.

Edinburgh is a unique place, ready to provide you with lifelong memories.

We hope this post will help you to plan the perfect visit to Edinburgh. The proud capital of beautiful, mysterious Scotland.

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For an overview of all travel posts of my blog, go to: My Home Page.

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