Edinburgh / Tourist attractions & Sightseeing

Things to do in Edinburgh: attractions

Top 20 Tourist attractions, sightseeing and what to do in Edinburgh Scotland

Edinburgh attractions

What to do in Scotland? Top 20 Places to visit in Edinburgh Scotland, tourist attractions, sightseeing, landmarks, hidden gems, must see places to visit and activities in this Scottish capital. The best things to do in Edinburgh?

What to do in Edinburgh: Top 20 Sightseeing & Landmarks

Edinburgh is a surprising city, where everyone can enjoy themselves. It is a city full of medieval history with castles, numerous museums, beautiful sightseeig and fun events. Tourism in the Scottish city is more than The Royal Mile or Edinburgh Castle. During your visit to Scotland's capital, it is advisable to consult the top 20 of our travel guide with the best and most visited Edinburgh tourist attraction, sightseeing, hidden gems and activities below, so that you do not miss any of the places to visit. Click on one of these highlights for more information about these unique sights, museums, must see landmarks and activities. What to do in Edinburgh Scotland?

Edinburgh Castle

1. Must see: Edinburgh Castle

The most famous tourist attraction and at the top of the 'Things to do in Edinburgh' list is the castle located on Castle Rock. Edinburgh Castle was built on volcanic soil and has served as a royal palace and garrison castle for centuries. Today, the castle houses a number of museums, such as the National War Museum. You can also see the Scottish crown jewels in the castle. Visit famous rooms such as the Great Hall and St Margaret's Chapel and learn about the Scottish monarchs and garrisons who have lived here for years. Important: always book your tickets in advance. More info 'How to book tickets for Edinburgh Castle'.

Things to do in Edinburgh

2. Sightseeing: Old Town & The Royal Mile

Old Town is the district of the Scottish capital, where most of Edinburgh's tourist attractions can be found. The Royal Mile is the main street of this Edinburgh area and consists of the smaller streets: Castlehill, Cannongate, Lawnmarket and High Street. The street runs from Castle Rock, on which Edinburgh Castle is located, to Holyrood Palace. On the Royal Mile you will find attractions such as St. Giles Cathedral, The Scotch Whiskey Experience and the World of Illusions. More info for sightseeing in 'Old Town'.

Holyroodhouse Palace

3. Palace of Holyroodhouse

A monastery was founded by King David I in the twelfth century at the lower part of the Royal Mile, which was soon expanded to become the main residence of the Scottish monarchs. Holyroodhouse was always the residence of the British Queen Elizabeth when she was in Scotland on state affairs. Holyrood Palace contains a number of highlights of the city, such as the Great Gallery, the King's Gallery and the Palace Gardens.

Calton Hill

4. What to do in Edinburgh: Visit Calton Hill

The volcanic mountain of Calton Hill is hundred meters above sea level high and gives you a beautiful view over Edinburgh and The Firth of Forth. The Edinburgh's Calton Hill is home to a number of well-known Scottish monuments constructed in a classical style, making the hill known as the 'Athens of the North'. You will find, for example, the Nelson Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument and the National Monument.

Scottish National Museum

5. National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland was formed in 2006 following after a merger of the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Museum. The museum has an extensive collection of Scottish antiquities, culture, science, technology, history and natural history. You'll find the must see museum on Chamber Street and the best; entry to the huge museum is free. There are six sections, which will take you a while. So schedule enough time for a visit.

Royal Yacht Britannia

6. Royal Yacht Britannia & Leith

For 44 years the ship was the official means of transportation for the British Royal Family by sea: The Royal Yacht Britannia. Today you can visit the yacht in Edinburgh's harbor town of Leith. Tour the royal family's five-deck yacht with an audio guide and learn about the state apartments and crew cabins. The Royal Yacht Britannia was best known for the large state banquets that were organized on deck.

📌 Tip: Would you also like to visit Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse? Then we recommend that to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. With this Royal Edinburgh Ticket also a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour is included. With this city pass you have arranged the important sights!

Real Mary Kings Close

7. The Real Mary King's Close

Cool things to do in Edinburgh? Opposite St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, you will find the Mary King's Close, an alley closed off by a gate. Today, the Real Mary King's Close is known as an underground network, in which myths and urban legends about murders and ghosts reign supreme. Scientifically, seeing the ghosts has been explained by the fact that the Mary King's Close was located near a polluted swamp whose fumes caused hallucinations. It's only possible to visit The Real Mary King's Close with a guided tour (book your guided tour online). Read more about visiting Mary King's Close.

What to do in Edinburgh

8. Things to do: The Scotch Whisky Experience

At The Scotch Whisky Heritage Center you can participate in the Scotch Whisky Experience. The Experience is part museum, highlighting whisky, and part an interactive experience, where you will learn more about whisky distilling through a ride in a whiskey barrel. You really get to know the Scotch whisky through tasting. At the end of the tour you will enter the tasting room where you can view the largest collection of Scotch whiskys and try one or more whiskys depending on your ticket (more info about tours). More activities for whisky or gin lovers:

excursions Edinburgh

9. Day trips from Edinburgh (Scotland)

Edinburgh's central position makes it easy to make day trips to places of interest in the vicinity of the Scottish capital. You can take boat trips on the Firth of Forth. You can visit the Scottish Highlands with the sharp mountain peaks and famous lakes, such as Loch Ness. Or visit the coastline of Scotland with all kinds of fishing villages, such as St. Andrews. In this article the 13 best day trips in Scotland.

📌 Best deal: Are you staying in Edinburgh for more than two days? Then be sure to book this amazing day trip from Edinburgh to visit Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Scottish Highlands in one full day. With this day trip to the Scottish Highlands you will visit some highlights of Scotland together with a very enthusiastic guide.

Underground Vaults

10. Sightseeing: Underground Vaults

The infamous South Bridge Vaults are formed in the arches of the South Bridge. They are actually nineteen small rooms, where taverns, workshops and storerooms were located for the first thirty years after the bridge opened in 1788. After this, the Vaults were mainly used as living quarters for vagrants and criminals. Today the northern Underground Vaults are open to the public ghost tours (more info and reservation of Underground Vaults tours). The Southern Vaults only host private events, weddings, dinners and parties.

what to see in Edinburgh

11. St. Giles' Cathedral

The construction of the St. Giles Cathedral dates back to the twelfth century, but unfortunately nothing has been preserved of the original construction. The last major restorations to the cathedral date from the nineteenth century, giving the church as we know it today a Late Gregorian exterior and a Victorian interior. In the St. Giles Cathedral you will find the statue in memory of John Knox, the King's Pillar and the Green Men.

Visit Greyfriars Kirkyard

12. Greyfriars Kirkyard & Greyfriars Bobby

The cemetery of Greyfriars Kirkyard owes its fame to the legend of Greyfriar Bobby, the faithful Sky Terrier who continued to guard his owner's grave until his death. At the entrance of the cemetery, Bobby's tombstone can be seen on the spot where his supposed burial place can be found. The grave of owner John Gray is thirty meters north of the entrance. Greyfriars is also used as a filming location for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. More info for visiting the cemetery and the legend of 'Greyfriars'. One of the best free things to do in Edinburgh.

Arthur's Seat

13. Things to do: Hiking at Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat is the main hill, much of which make up Holyrood Park. At the top of the hill, which rises 251 meters above sea level, enjoy stunning views of Edinburgh and the surrounding area. The 360-degree view is more than worth the steep climb of about an hour. At the top you can also see the large compass and the remains of a hill fort. More info about how to visit 'Arthur's Seat Edinburgh'.

Edinburgh sights

14. Edinburgh sightseeing by bike

With a rich history, numerous beautiful landmarks and the green surroundings around Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh is the ideal city to discover by bicycle, especially since several highlights and tourist attractions are not within short walking distance of each other. Book this Edinburgh bike tour and go along important Edinburgh sights accompanied by an enthusiastic guide and listen to beautiful stories and anecdotes about the Scottish capital (more info and booking of bike tours).

Edinburgh tourist attractions

15. Princes Street Gardens

The boundary of the Old and New Town distrits is formed by the Princes Street Gardens. This is a park, where the museum The National Gallery of Scotland is also located. The park exists since 1820, after the Nor Loch was drained. The park is 150,000 square meters and is actually split into two parts by The Mound. The park is best known for the large annual Christmas market, the Scott Monument and the Floral Clock.

New Town

16. Sights in Edinburgh 'New Town'

Although not as beautiful as the historic Old Town, the New Town district also offers a number of interesting Edinburgh attractions. Visit for example: Georgian House, Princess Street, George Street, Charlotte Square, Circus Lane and St. Mary's Cathedral. New Town Edinburgh is less historic than the Old Town district, but still beautiful. Circus Lane, for example, is a fairytale scene to see, while Charlotte Square is a beautiful park with an imposing statue.

Edinburgh monument

17. Monument van Sir Walter Scott

In honor of the acclaimed Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, best known for the historical novel Ivanhoe, the Scott Monument was erected in the Princess Street Gardens. With 61 meters high, it is the second largest monument to a writer. On top of the spire you can see Scott with his dog after a day of writing. On the rest of the monument you can see dozens of other authors.

Dean Village

18. Dean Village & Water of Leith Walkway

In the Stockbridge district is Dean Village, which was an independent village in the shadow of Edinburgh until the nineteenth century. The village is around The Water of Leith, the main river that flows in Edinburgh. Dean Village was best known for its many mills, which were used to grind grain. The historic houses contain beautiful details and are surrounded by greenery. You can walk along the river via a public walking route. More info to visit 'Dean Village'.

Harry Potter excursion Edinburgh

19. To do in Edinburgh: Harry Potter Tour

In addition to London, Edinburgh is also a city where many locations from the Harry Potter books and films occur. Special Harry Potter Tours (more info & bookings) have been set up in Edinburgh for the Potterheads. In Edinburgh town, for example, visit Riddle's cemetery or the cafe where Rowling wrote her first books. Or book a tour outside the city to the Scottish Highlands, where you can ride the Hogwarts Express and visit sites such as the Glenfinnan Viaduct. More info 'Harry Potter Tours'.

Edinburgh tourist attractions

20. Royal Botanic Garden

The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are definitely a must see. You have free access, with the exception of the ten greenhouses. The botanical garden is part a scientific institution as well as a tourist attraction. The Royal Botanic Garden is 70 hectares in size and contains more than 100,000 different plants in different areas, such as the Rock Garden and the Woodland Garden. From the botanical garden you also have a beautiful view over the skyline of Edinburgh city.

Edinburgh activitis

21. Festival Month August

The month of August is by far the busiest month in Edinburgh. During this month it is definitely high season in the capital because of two appealing festivals. What to see? Edinburgh Castle will host the Royal Military Tattoo for several weeks, featuring the impressive displays of the military tattoos. The other three-week event is Edinburgh Fringe, which ranks among the world's largest arts festivals.

Camera Obscura - The World of Illusions

22. Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

A well-known attraction in Edinburgh is the museum Camera Obscura and World of Illusions in the former city observatory. The top floor of the museum contains the Camera Obscura, from which you have a beautiful view of the city. The World of Illusions is a highly interactive museum with over a hundred interactive elements. For example, visit the plasma spheres or the Shadow Wall. Get to know holograms and 3D realizations or walk through the famous Vortex tunnel.

museum Edinburgh

Extra: More museums in Edinburgh

There are also numerous museums in Edinburgh, many of which can even be visited for free. In the castle on the Castle Rock you will find the National War Museum and the Regimental Museum about the Garrison of Scotland. Find everything you need to know about Scotland's history at the National Museum of Scotland. In the World of Illusions you can learn more about optical illusions in an interactive way. If you opt for art, you can go to free museums such as the Scottish National Gallery. In addition, Surgeon's Hall is a wonderful museum about the history of medicine. In this article an overview of 14 museums in Edinburgh.

Popular Activities & Things to do in Edinburgh

Need more inspiration for things to do in Scotland's capital? What to do in Edinburgh? In addition to the above sights, monuments and must see landmarks in Edinburgh, here are some popular tours and sightseeing activities in Edinburgh:

Where are the highlights in Edinburgh?

FAQ Places to visit in Edinburgh - Things to do in Scotland

What are the Top 10 sights in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh's main tourist attractions lie on the Royal Mile, with the impressive castle on one side and the palace of Holyroodhouse on the other side of the Royal Mile. Other highlights and landmarks include the Royal Yacht Britannia, Calton Hill, Arthur's Seat, Greyfriars Bobby's cemetery and the dark side of Edinburgh in the Underground Vaults. In this article you can read all about the Top 20 Edinburgh Sightseeing.

Can I visit the castle for free?

No, without tickets you can only view the castle from the outside. You must buy tickets to visit the castle, including the rooms and exhibitions. More info about Edinburgh Castle tickets.

What are fun things to do in Edinburgh?

The best tours in Edinburgh all have to do with the dark side of the city. Visit Greyfriars graveyard at night or go underground at The Real Mary King's Close or at the Underground Vaults. You can take a fun Harry Potter tour with children and whiskey enthusiasts can visit the Whiskey Experience. More info about Edinburgh activities.

What museums does the Scottish capital have?

The most famous museum is the National Museum of Scotland, which can be visited for free. Other popular museums include The World of Illusions with the Camera Obscura, the Scottish National Gallery and numerous small museums on the Royal Mile. In this article you can read all about the Museums in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh attractions
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