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Top 10 Things To Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is a historic and beautiful city in Scotland that’s packed with fun festivals, iconic attractions, unique museums, beautiful neighborhoods, and opportunities to taste some delicious homegrown spirits. Families, couples, and solo travelers love exploring the highlights and soaking up the serene scenery of the gently rolling hills. Here are our top picks for things to do in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.

Arthur’s Seat Cityscape view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat
Credit: Cityscape view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat by © Pichetw | Dreamstime.com

Arthur’s Seat

What Is It? One of the most well-known sites in the entire region is Arthur’s Seat. 

Why Do It? It’s located in Holyrood Park and offers impressive views of the surrounding landscape from this high point. It is an extinct volcano, and legend says that this is where Camelot was located and how the site got its name. You can hike the uphill trail to the top, but make sure to wear sturdy boots and bring plenty of water. 

Good to Know: There are no admission fees for this essential Edinburgh experience, and Holyrood Park is open 24 hours a day all throughout the year.

Calton Hill From Calton Hill, Edinburgh looking towards Leith
Credit: From Calton Hill, Edinburgh looking towards Leith by © Georgesixth - Dreamstime.com

Calton Hill

What Is It? Awesome panoramic views can also be taken in at Calton Hill, which is east of New Town and one of Scotland’s very first parks. 

Why Do It? The site is closely associated with the literary work of Robert Louis Stevenson, and iconic monuments and buildings are located here. The acropolis here is an unfinished monument that was designed to be a replica of Athens’ Parthenon. Nelson’s Monument is also here to remember the British admiral who led a victorious charge at Trafalgar. 

Good to Know: The climb to the top of the hill is pretty easy and particularly scenic at sunrise or sunset.

Scotch Whisky Experience The Scotch Whisky Experience
Credit: The Scotch Whisky Experience by The Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotch Whisky Experience

What Is It? Scotland is well-known for its whiskey, and you can try some for yourself at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. 

Why Do It? There are various tour options that show guests how whiskey is made, what the production facilities look like, and include tastings. 

Good to Know: There’s also an on-site restaurant, coffee shop, and whiskey bar for enjoying modern Scottish cuisine. 

Edinburgh Gin Distillery Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Credit: Edinburgh Gin Distillery by Edinburgh Gin Distillery

Edinburgh Gin Distillery

What Is It? Whiskey and scotch aren’t the only spirits that Edinburgh is known for. There’s also a great gin distillery in town that’s popular among tourists and locals. 

Why Do It? Celebrate the city’s gin-making heritage by taking a Gin Discovery Tour, Gin Connoisseur Tour, or Gin Making Tour. Favorite spirits made here include Seaside Gin, Cannonball Gin, and Christmas Gin, as well as specialty liquors made with raspberry, elderflower, rhubarb and ginger, pomegranate and rose, and plum and vanilla. 

Good to Know: The distillery has one location in the heart of the West End and another at the Biscuit Factory in Leith.

Royal Botanic Garden Royal Botanic Garden
Credit: Royal Botanic Garden by rbge.org.uk

Royal Botanic Garden

What Is It? Spanning dozens of acres, the Royal Botanic Garden is a lovely place to relax and slow down your pace of travel. 

Why Do It? There are thousands of exotic plans here in climate-controlled greenhouses and a particularly impressive rhododendron collection. The garden is open every day except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. 

Good to Know: For refreshment, you can grab a meal, snack, or drink at the Gateway Restaurant, Terrace Café, or East Gate Coffee Bar.

Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle
Credit: Edinburgh Castle by bigstock.com

Edinburgh Castle

What Is It? The most recognizable landmark in this region is Edinburgh Castle, which is also one of the most-visited attractions in the country. 

Why Do It? Top sights to see here include the Mons Meg gun, St. Margaret’s Chapel, the crown jewels, and the vaults under the Great Hall. 

Good to Know: This has been the home to kings and queens and also served as a military prison.

National Museum of Scotland National Museum of Scotland
Credit: National Museum of Scotland by National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

What Is It? To learn about the city of Edinburgh and get a better overall understanding of the region, make sure to visit the National Museum of Scotland. 

Why Do It? There are tens of thousands of artifacts here that range from art to dinosaurs and world cultures.

Good to Know: Families with children enjoy coming here because there is so much to see and learn about.

Shopping on Victoria Street Victoria Street Edinburgh
Credit: Victoria Street Edinburgh by bigstock.com

Shopping on Victoria Street

What Is It? Shop-a-holics will definitely enjoy taking a stroll down Victoria Street to browse the shops. 

Why Do It? There are lots of independent boutiques here that sell clothing and books, as well as lots of dining and drinking opportunities to refuel mid-day. 

Good to Know: Also on this charming street, you can see the inspiration for the Harry Potter books, buy Harry Potter memorabilia, and visit the famous jokes and novelties shop called Aha Ha Ha.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Credit: Camera Obscura and World of Illusions by camera-obscura.co.uk

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

What Is It? For a unique museum experience, make a stop at the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. 

Why Do It? It is along the Royal Mile and packed with puzzles and optical illusions that are fun to experience for both adults and kids. The actual Camera Obscura is a large dome structure where you can see a projection of the landscape onto a viewing table. Favorite features include the vortex tunnel, mirror maze, a humorous tour guides. 

Good to Know: This is actually the oldest tourist attraction in the city and has been entertaining visitors since 1835.

Compare Old Town and New Town Old Town Edinburgh at night
Credit: Old Town Edinburgh at night by © Vichaya Kiatyingangsulee - Dreamstime.com

Compare Old Town and New Town

What Is It? Old Town is a section of the city that is densely populated and has many traditional houses and narrow alleys. 

Why Do It? August is a fun time to visit Old Town because it’s when the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival takes place. The other part of town is called New Town, which has grand squares and wide avenues that date back to the 18th century. 

Good to Know: This is a great area for designers shopping and learning about art and architecture. Take some time to explore and compare both sections to town to see which one appeals to you the most!

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