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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

Royal Mile

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The atmospheric Royal Mile thoroughfare cuts through the historic core of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, extending for slightly more than a mile from Edinburgh Castle all the way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Both sides of the partly pedestrianized street are bordered by historic granite buildings bearing shop display windows piled high with symbols of Scotland, from tartan to whisky to shortbread. In between the former tenements and taverns are darkened arm-width-wide alleyways, known locally as closes.More
#2
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Edinburgh Castle has loomed over Scotland’s capital city for more than 1,000 years. Steeped in history, the former royal residence is now a museum, featuring detailed exhibits and period artifacts that illuminate the castle’s storied past.More
#3
Grassmarket

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.Nowadays, the old market area is surrounded by pubs, clubs, shops, and two large hotels. Most buildings in the area are Victorian, with several modern buildings on the area’s south side.More
#4
Edinburgh Old Town

Edinburgh Old Town

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The historic heart of Edinburgh, UNESCO-listed Old Town, is home to the city’s most visited sights. Its central artery is the Royal Mile, which connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is lined with top attractions including St. Giles Cathedral, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, and the Scottish Parliament Building.More
#5
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

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Founded in 1835, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions is one of Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attractions. Located on the top floor, the Camera Obscura provides real-time views of the city, while the five floors below it are crammed with puzzles, optical illusions, and interactive exhibits that fool the eye and the mind.More
#6
Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

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Perched above the city of Stirling on a chunk of volcanic rock, this mighty Scottish fortress has seen it all, from attacks by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie “Braveheart” in 1993. In addition to the impeccably recreated Royal Palace interiors and the sheer amount of history held within its robust walls, the castle also offers superb views over Stirling and Scotland’s green hills and valleys.More
#7
Forth Bridge

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
#8
St. Giles Cathedral

St. Giles Cathedral

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The official church of the Church of Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral and its famous crown spire tower over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. With a history stretching back over 900 years, St. Giles is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate Thistle Chapel, and busy concert calendar.More
#9
Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace of Holyroodhouse

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Set amid splendid gardens at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of the British royals, who first decamped here from nearby Edinburgh Castle back in the 15th century. The complex grew from a 12th-century abbey, whose ruins can still be seen on the grounds, into a full-fledged Baroque palace complete with elaborate plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings, and a number of tapestries. The palace is perhaps most famous for having hosted to the rather unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, whose beloved secretary was slaughtered here by her jealous second husband.More
#10
Calton Hill

Calton Hill

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Looming over Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, Calton Hill is one of the seven hills that the Scottish capital is built on. Come here for 360-degree views that encompass Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and, on a clear day, the Firth of Forth.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Edinburgh

3-Day Isle of Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
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Isle of Skye, The Highlands and Loch Ness- 3 Day Group Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness, Highlands and Whisky Distillery Day Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness Glencoe and The Highlands from Edinburgh

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Loch Ness Glencoe and The Highlands from Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
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Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
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Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience

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Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian's Wall Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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Fright Night Tour

Fright Night Tour

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Small Group Royal Mile Walking Tour with Optional Entry to Edinburgh Castle
Many things to see and understand about the city, the castle and the history of Edinburgh.

A local’s pocket guide to Edinburgh

Will Thompson

Will lived and studied near Edinburgh during his university years. He also worked for the Fringe Festival during the summertime.

The first thing you should do in Edinburgh is...

download the Transport for Edinburgh app. Bus and tram are by far the easiest ways to cross the city.

A perfect Saturday in Edinburgh...

includes a trip to the Camera Obscura, lunch on the Royal Mile, and a walk around Holyrood Park or the Royal Botanical Gardens. Finish up with dinner and drinks in New Town.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a whole month of art and theatre. You never know what you might see, especially with the Street Events along the Royal Mile.

To discover the "real" Edinburgh...

head south of Princes Street and towards the Meadows where you can enjoy all the great Edinburgh architecture, as well as the city’s parks.

For the best view of the city...

you should hike to Arthur’s Seat at the top of Holyrood Park. If you want an easier walk, take a quick trip up to Edinburgh Castle instead.

One thing people get wrong...

is believing that fried Mars Bars are something locals actually eat. However, if you do want to try one, you’ll find them in some Edinburgh chip shops.

Frequently Asked Questions