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Things to do in Edinburgh

Things to do in  Edinburgh

Welcome to Edinburgh

Steeped in Celtic and medieval history—and fondly nicknamed Auld Reekie—Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage–listed city widely considered the prettiest in Scotland. Edinburgh Castle’s mighty fortifications dominate the skyline, while the Royal Mile sweeps through the old town to the city below. From the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to the Edinburgh Fringe, the city hosts a stellar selection of festivals and celebrations that draw crowds from all over. No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a taster of Scotch whisky, and if you’re looking for a change from the city streets, the soaring peaks of the Scottish Highlands are never far away.

Top 10 attractions in Edinburgh

#1

Royal Mile

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Bookended by Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile (it's actually slightly longer than a mile) is the grand center of Edinburgh's Old Town. The Royal Mile is dominated by granite, giving it a dark, Gothic feel, and lined with majestic buildings - banks, churches, courthouses. It was first modeled in the 12th century, when it was called Via Regis (the Way of the King). It’s not many thoroughfares that can claim to follow a path carved out by a glacier! Even though these days it's Tourist Central - it's jam-packed during the Edinburgh Festival, and year-round is heavy on the tartan'n' shortbread kitsch - it still somehow manages to maintain its feeling of splendor.More
#2

Edinburgh Castle

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Look up anywhere in Edinburgh's old town and you'll see Edinburgh Castle, seeming to grow out of the blackened cold volcano that forms its plinth. There's evidence of human habitation on this spot that dates back to 900 BC, and the Castle has been a royal stronghold since the Middle Ages. The place is steeped in history. There’s the Honours of Scotland – the oldest crown jewels in the United Kingdom, no less – and the Stone of Destiny, the coronation seat of ancient kings. There’s St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building, and a cluster of military museums. You can take guided tours and see costumed performers bring the history of the Castle to life.More
#3

Edinburgh Old Town

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The historic heart of Edinburgh and home to many of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, the atmospheric Old Town became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. Watched over by the striking Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town is most famous for the central boulevard which runs between the hilltop castle and the Royal Palace of Holyrood, four sequential streets known as the Royal Mile. The main starting point for walking tours of the city, the Royal Mile is teeming with landmark buildings and iconic sights. The 12th century St Giles Cathedral, the National Museum of Scotland, the John Knox house and the underground streets of Mary King's Close are all popular visitor attractions, dotted between the throngs of souvenir shops, historic pubs and cafés. The final section of the Royal Mile, Canongate, is the most architecturally varied, with the 16th century Canongate Tollbooth and Canongate Kirk, the modern Scottish Parliament complex and the wacky Our Dynamic Earth building.More
#5

Forth Bridge

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The iconic Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge that arches over the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Situated 14 kilometers from Edinburgh’s city center, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was designed by English engineers, John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. The bridge and its associated railway infrastructure is owned by Network Rail. The distinctive red bridge, which links the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry, was opened by the Prince of Wales in March 1890, although was only classified as a UNESCO site on its 125th anniversary in 2015. The bridge spans a total length of almost 2500 meters and is an iconic symbol of Scotland’s engineering and architectural prowess and ingenuity. It also transports approximately 200 local and intercity trains across the Forth every single day.More
#6

Stirling Castle

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In a country of castles, Stirling Castle may just be the ultimate royal stronghold. In fact, it was once rumored to be the home of King Arthur and his knights. Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle dominates the surroundings, looming over it from a plug of volcanic rock. This impressive pile has seen it all, from a sacking by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie Braveheart in 1993. The castle has been involved in some famous battles (most notably the Battle of Bannockburn, after which Robert the Bruce took the castle from the English), but it was also a royal residence. The Stewart monarchs roamed the gardens, watching archery, playing bowls and mingling with peacocks and cranes. Mary Queen of Scots is said to have fell in love here. Kings hunted red deer and wild boar in the park.More
#7

Palace of Holyroodhouse

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The Palace of Holyrood House, most often called Holyrood Palace, faces Edinburgh Castle along the length of the Royal Mile. Like its majestic companion, it's riddled with some of Scotland's most potent history. The Abbey in the grounds was founded in 1128, and the palace itself is baroque. These days Holyrood Palace is the Scottish residence of Queen Elizabeth II, but it's probably best known for its association with another royal figure, Mary Queen of Scots. She was married here, lived here and saw her secretary murdered here. As you'd expect, the apartments are lavishly decorated and the collection of tapestries and paintings top-notch. Drift around the gardens and make believe you're a monarch.More
#8

St. Giles Cathedral

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With its famous crown spire towering over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town and a history stretching over 1,000 years, St Giles Cathedral is one of the city’s most acclaimed religious buildings. Founded in the 1120s, the Cathedral has a long and illustrious history at the center of Scottish Catholic worship. From being ransacked and burned by English troops under King Richard II to hosting John Knox’s famous Reformation sermon in 1559 (a statue in Knox’s honor now stands in the nave), St Giles has seen it all. Today, most of the cathedral’s Gothic structure dates back to the 19th century with highlights including the exquisite stained glass windows, some of the finest in Scotland and the legendary Thistle Chapel, once home to the Knights of the Order of the Thistle. As well as holding regular services, St Giles’ Cathedral is also renowned for its choral and organ recitals held on its grand Rieger organ, with many free musical events throughout the year.More
#9

Calton Hill

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Looming over the Royal Mile and Princes Street, Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills and part of the capital’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town. While locals know it as a picnic spot and recreation area, for visitors the main draw to Calton Hill are the spectacular views – look out over the city from the summit and you’ll enjoy a panoramic view spanning Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, all the way out to Leith and the Firth of Forth. Calton Hill is also home to a number of prominent Edinburgh landmarks, including the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the City Observatory and the National Monument of Scotland, an unfinished tribute to Scottish servicemen inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. The hill is also the center of festivities for the annual Beltane Fire Festival in April, and hosts a number of summer festivals and events.More
#10

Grassmarket

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Steeped in history, the Grassmarket is located directly below Edinburgh Castle and is just a minute’s walk from the famous Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland. A vibrant and historic area, here visitors can soak up the medieval atmosphere while marvelling at one of the most iconic views in the city, the mighty Edinburgh Castle. A stroll over the George IV Bridge leads to the Greyfriars Bobby statue and through some of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets, including Candlemaker Row, Victoria Street, and West Port. The Grassmarket was traditionally a meeting point for market traders and cattle drovers, with temporary lodgings and taverns all around. It was also once a place of public execution, and a memorial near the site once occupied by the gibbet was created in 1937 to commemorate more than 100 people who died on the gallows in a period known as The Killing Time.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Edinburgh

Recent reviews from experiences in Edinburgh

star-5
Well worth a visit
Paul_B, Sep 2020
The Royal Yacht Britannia Admission Ticket
A must to visit in Edinburgh, and well worth the visit.
star-5
Lovely day
Sukhjit_D, Aug 2020
Edinburgh Full-Day Guided Private Tour in a Premium Minivan
You will be able to see the highlights of Edinburgh in a day and it’s excellent way of travelling especially now because of COVID-19.
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Covid-19 visit
Adam_S, Aug 2020
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions Entrance Ticket
Will return when next visiting Edinburgh to see the Camera Obscura and to get photos on the roof terrace without rain 😉🤣
star-5
This tour won’t leave you ‘hanging’!
Anthony_G, Aug 2020
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
We did this tour on a warm sunny summer night.
star-5
Wonderful tour
David, Aug 2020
Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
When you like to see more of Scotland besides Edinburgh, I would highly recommend to book this tour.
star-5
Edinburgh
ksparkinson, Feb 2020
Edinburgh Sky to Sea Bike Tour by Manual or E-Bike
I got to see and learn a lot about Edinburgh.
star-5
Great Fun
Kellie D, Jan 2020
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions Entrance Ticket
Many different attractions and illusions which are great for for everyone, would really recommend as something fun to do while in Edinburgh.
star-4
Nice way to see Edinburgh
venjot, Dec 2019
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Similar to many HOHO bus tours in other cities, if this is your first time to see Edinburgh, it is a good way to get a glimpse of the attractions - especially if you have little time
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Enjoyable and Interesting Tour
joy1, Nov 2019
Chauffeur Driven Private Sightseeing Tour of Edinburgh
Having only one day in Edinburgh as part of a cruise stop, we wanted to see all of the key historical points of interest.
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Walking tour w/a side of Murder and Mystery
leandacarr, Nov 2019
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
I would definitely recommend to someone who is only in Edinburgh for a short period and wants to see some of the sites with a side of history.
star-5
Great intro to Edinburgh
ratedralph, Oct 2019
Highlights & Hidden Gems With Locals: Best of Edinburgh Private Tour
Our guide showed us both the major attractions of the city plus, of course, the hidden gems.
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Best 1 Day tour
Blommietjie, Oct 2019
Loch Ness, Highlands and Whisky Distillery Day Tour from Edinburgh
Got to see most of the highlights in 1 full day.
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Seeing a new side to Edinburgh
lms162017, Sep 2019
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
This was a great opportunity to see new ares of Edinburgh that I hadn't traveled to before.
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St Andrews & Fife
akrtks, Sep 2019
St Andrews & the Fishing Villages of Fife Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
Enjoyed the entire tour and would recommend it for anyone wanting to see Scotland outside of Edinburgh.
star-5
Great day out of Edinburgh
elisabetkulle, Aug 2019
Loch Lomond, Stirling, and Glengoyne Distillery Tour from Edinburgh
Great stops and Glengoyne is a wonderful small distillery to visit.
star-5
A good day out
LightPacker364956, Aug 2019
Loch Lomond, Kelpies & Stirling Castle Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
I, my wife and 2 friends arranged this trip in order to visit some of the countryside surrounding Edinburgh (we were attending the "Fringe").
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Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle
BryanF673, Jul 2019
Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies from Edinburgh
Stirling Castle could have used a little more time for touring, but still great to visit.
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Edinburgh Trip
May M, Jun 2019
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Stops were right smack the places I wanted to visit.
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Great way to see Roman Ruins
Cosmopolitan590459, Jun 2019
Hadrian's Wall, Roman Britain & the Borders Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
We were able to see both Hadrian's Wall and Vindolanda from our home base in Edinburgh.
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Edinburgh Historical Walking Tour
tstark9119, May 2019
Historical Walking Tour with Optional Skip the Line Entry to Edinburgh Castle
Many things to see and understand about the city, the castle and the history of Edinburgh.

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