Surrounded by volcanic hills, overlooking the sea and offering some of the most picturesque landscapes in all of Europe, Edinburgh is a city straight from a fairy tale. Its beauty and the unique atmosphere are further enhanced by the traditional architecture. From the medieval charm of the Old Town, the bull-nosed Castle rock and the palisade of Salisbury Crags, to the modern appeal of the New Town, Edinburgh is a city of great variety, in which everyone will find something to fall in love with. Often called the Athens of the North, Edinburgh fully deserves the nickname, for it is a city of high culture and bright ideas, of literature, art, philosophy, and science. But the Scottish capital is not only for the thinkers, as it’s just as popular for the abundance of crowded pubs, decadent restaurants, and wild nightclubs. Edinburgh’s diversity is what draws thousands of tourist every year, many of which visit it several times in a row, eager to find something new by exploring it even deeper, as Edinburgh never ceases to surprise and entertain.
Top 10 Things to See and Do in Edinburgh
A fantastic tour of the world-famous castle, which is the most prominent icon of Scotland in the city. The castle was recently voted as the top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and is the most renowned castle with its complex building history – its oldest part, St Margaret's Chapel, was built as long ago as the 12th century.
This site is the perfect place to admire the landscape and cityscape of Edinburgh, as it is a natural vantage point with an overlook on the city. The historic landscape lies in the heart of the city, and its hills and cliffs provide Edinburgh with a unique spot, and the surroundings of it have plenty of medieval forts and fortifications.
The Craigmillar Castle is one of, if not the most, well-preserved fortifications in Scotland. The castle remains the character of a true medieval structure to this very day – its construction began in the 15th century and took over two hundred and fifty years to become complete, built around an L-shaped tower house.
Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands
Take a relaxing day trip through the most well-known landscapes of Scotland, starting from Loch Ness and ending in the Scottish Highlands. The trip comes with a well-oriented guide, who explains the history of the impressive landmarks. You can travel in a luxurious Mercedes minivan in a small group and you may even opt-in for a cruise along the lake of Loch Ness.
West Highland Lochs and Castles
This one is sure to take a whole day off of your mind with its full-day sightseeing trip along the West Highlands of Scotland, starting from Edinburgh. The trip takes only a handful of people so you can make sure the guide will pay attention to your every question and inquiry. You also get a discount card for selected Edinburgh attractions at the end.
Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian's Wall
Book a guaranteed spot on the trip through legendary locations of Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian’s Wall, which provides an interesting bit of history while keeping you comfortable inside of the ventilated travel vehicle. You can focus on the scenery inside of the open-roof car and later on admire the Chapel which was the filming place of The Da Vinci Code.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
This tourist attraction allows you to see first-hand the former floating palace of The Queen. Britannia has sailed more than a million miles during its forty years of service and has been a host for banquets and parties for the most important people in the country, as well as being the home to the Royal Family for some time.
1-Hour Real Mary King's Close Underground Tour
Explore the underground beneath the city of Edinburgh and delve deep into the labyrinth of nooks and tunnels dug beneath the Royal Mile. The tour includes an educated guide in a costume who will tell you the stories of 17th-century Scotland – all for an affordable price. You can expect a lengthy lecture on captivating mysteries of the subterranean streets of the underground.
Edinburgh Gin Distillery
The Gin Distillery of Edinburgh is located in the heart of the city and is a unique and unusual attraction. Edinburgh is well-known for its exquisite gin, and this is exactly the place where all of those opinions stem from. Here you can both get a lesson on the history of gin and the distillery itself, as well as taste the products of the renowned brand.
Locked in Edinburgh
This one is the most famous and well-received escape room in Edinburgh, based around real rooms and not purpose-built sets of decorations. The action of the escape room takes place in the now abandoned Edinburgh’s old Vet School. You can expect an old-fashioned laboratory, as well as an anatomy theatre and even an animal hospital.
Other Things to See and Do
National Museum of Scotland
Not only is this one the most admired museum in all of Scotland, but it is also in the top 10 of UK visitor attractions and in the top 20 of the most visited museums and galleries all over the world. The museum is fresh after an expensive renovation and redevelopment and houses a wide array of over twenty thousand artifacts from different time periods.
Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden is located only a mile from the centre of the city and offers over seventy-two acres of marvellous scenery to admire. Being one of the finest botanic gardens of the world, this one provides entertainment for the whole family with its gorgeous view of the capital’s skyline. The glasshouses of the garden each depict a different climate zone.
Scottish National Gallery
Being one of the top visitor attractions of Scotland, the National Gallery houses its biggest collection of art from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The gallery is free to visit and holds masterpieces of such famous artists as Raphael, Velasquez, Vermeer, Monet, Cézanne and even some of Van Gogh, having one of the most appealing collections in the entire world.
St Giles’ Cathedral
Discover the history of a thousand years old Church of Scotland right in the middle of the city. The Cathedral was founded by St Giles in the 1120s and was the primary church of John Knox during the Reformation, being referred to as the Cradle of Presbyterianism. Admire the beautiful stained windows of the Cathedral and the impressive Rieger organ, installed in 1992.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
If you’re looking for some contemporary art piece to look at, you certainly must see the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art. The modern art part is located in a neoclassical building, constructed in 1825, with a lawn in front of the building designed by Charles Jencks. The lawn itself is home to a sophisticated sculpture park, which is a must-see on its own.
The Scottish Parliament
Just like the British Parliament, the Scottish one is free to visit by every tourist, whether foreign or not. You can take a tour through the debating chamber and see the court in action on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. There are also guided tours of the building on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, which themselves are also free of charge.
City Art Centre
This art gallery is probably one of the most refined in all of Scotland and has as much of six separate exhibition locations, providing a most impressive arrangement of visual arts of all kinds. Come visit the Art Centre if you’re an appreciator of culture, as you will surely find something to fit your palate.
National War Museum
The walls of Edinburgh Castle hide in their midst a site worth visiting – the National War Museum. The museum lets you discover the impact of war on Scotland and the histories of veteran soldiers. Find out why the Scots went to war and how they did it, trace the warfare technology and gaze upon the military armament displayed on the site.
While most of the famous and well-renowned art resides inside of the City Art Centre or the National Gallery, the Upright Gallery is a home for independent artists all over Scotland to display their works. This small art gallery is located in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, and specialises in promoting up and coming contemporary artists.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
This exceptional art gallery specialises in portraits, displaying exhibits which range across the years. Located in one of Edinburgh’s most recognised buildings, the gallery is on Queen Street in the middle of the city and presents portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, among numerous other pieces, such as Alan Cumming.
National Library of Scotland
If your strive for knowledge is your propelling motor, you absolutely must visit the National Library of Scotland, which homes the most extensive collection of literature in the country with over twenty-four million printed items, including around a hundred thousand manuscripts and more than two million maps from different periods.
The Fruitmarket Gallery
This one is yet another home for contemporary artists, displaying not only Scotland's domestic artists but also ones from all across the globe. The gallery, located in the middle of the renowned Edinburgh's Market, is free of charge to visit and works directly with artists to create exhibits, commissions, and publications to celebrate modern art.
Museum Collections Centre
This relatively new addition to the attractions of Edinburgh now holds the historical artifacts from the reserve collections, which is not permanently shown to the public. Until now, such items were stored in warehouses, but now they have gained public access due to the Collections Centre, which assembles all of them in a specially adapted spot on the Broughton Market.
If you're passionate about yachts and ships and ferries, take a walk to the Queensferry Museum, located in the South Queensferry burgh. The museum is situated near two magnificently-built great bridges spanning over the Forth. The collections of the museum trace the history of the people of Queensferry and retrace the historic ferry ride to Fife.
Museum of Childhood
A perfect place to visit with kids – the Museum of Childhood presents a wide arrangement of objects and stories related to childhood, whether contemporary or historical. Take a walk along exhibits of toys and games which children in the past used to pass the time and entertain themselves – all of that and more for no admission fee.
Surgeons’ Hall Museums
This award-winning museum is home to the largest and most famous pathology collection in the United Kingdom. The Surgeons’ Hall was recently reopened in 2015 after a redevelopment project, leaving one of the oldest museums in Scotland fresh and renovated with its collection which has begun amassing as far as in 1699.
Witness the history of planet Earth in this unique museum dedicated to the development of our home world. You can experience and learn about the forces of nature which shaped and created our planet, take a journey through space and time to the beginning of the universe, and even take the 4D digital adventure through the history of the galaxy.
The Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court
This museum is dedicated to the great works of Scotland’s most renowned writers across the years. These include Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote the famous Treasure Island, Sir Walter Scott, with his Lady of the Lake, and Robert Burns, probably the most recognised Scottish poet who wrote such masterpieces as Tam o’ Shanter or Ae Fond Kiss.
Museum on the Mound
You may not believe your eyes – this museum is fully dedicated to money and its history! Here you can see a million pounds, take a try at cracking a safe by yourself, build a model house of your own and see the oldest banknote of Scotland. The museum was opened in 2006 and is open all throughout the year – without any admission fee.
If you’re looking for a calm spot to relax and unwind after all of that sightseeing and touring, take a tranquil walk through the green space of Jupiter Artland. The park is located just outside of the city centre and features long roads of green grass and trees, surrounding the swirly river, and providing an outlook on the displayed works of art.