Facades that range from Gothic to glamourous, historical monuments that meet quaint pubs, a historical city center bustling with contemporary life, the following seven best places to visit in Edinburgh uncover the past and present beauty of the city.
Explore the bustling and exciting ambiance of Waverley Station, stroll down the Royal Mile to trace the regal history leading right up to Edinburgh Castle, or wander along the historic cobblestone streets at your pace, stopping at sites on the way.
With a rich sense of Scottish culture that entices visitors of all ages, you can explore the fascinating charm and vibrant reputation of the city during experiences that highlight the endless number of things to see during your trip.
Set upon Castle Rock at the end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic symbol of the city it overlooks and beyond. From princes to paupers, prisoners and pirates, many have set foot on the castle grounds to create tales of times gone by, shared through re-enactments and knowledgeable guides.
Be sure to step inside the Great Hall and St Margaret’s Chapel, or witness the one o’clock gun once used by mariners to set their clocks. View the Crown Jewels in the Royal Palace and marvel at the Stone of Destiny, a vital tool incorporated into the inauguration of the monarchy for centuries.
Step inside a world far from today and let character guides walk you through a day in the life of residents of the real Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th-century underground street.
From the poet Robert Ferguson to chambermaids and plague doctors, each stone room can give off an eerie ambiance of a past hidden beneath the Royal Mile.
Mary King’s Close was once alive with residents roaming the underground passageways, trading, and cleaning clothes, and a visit to the site will allow you to engage in its myths and mysteries.
A significant presence in Edinburgh, Holyrood House is the Queen’s residence each year during Royal Week and has been visited by dignitaries and curious travelers for centuries. Mary Queen of Scots called Holyrood home in the 16th century and memorabilia from her time at the palace continue to decorate the galleries.
Portraits of Scottish monarchs line the walls of an elegant room used for banquets and receptions. The Holyrood Abbey is breathtaking and the palace gardens brim with color, accentuated by uninterrupted views of Holyrood Park.
Bustling and busy, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile starts at the site of an extinct volcano and runs for what is known as a Scottish Mile, connecting the Palace of Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle. Restaurants, bars, and stores offer everything from souvenirs to Scotch whiskies.
Old-town charm and quaint buildings offer churches and bookstores, winding down lanes that lead to hidden gardens or treasured shops. The Royal Mile lends itself perfectly to cinematic wonders and is home to the Elephant House Cafe where Harry Potter was written. Take your time as you step from one Royal Mile highlight to the next.
The striking Scott Monument stands as an impressive memorial reaching 200 feet tall. The tower, blackened over time, is a Gothic-looking masterpiece and one of the world’s largest monuments dedicated to a writer.
A marble statue carefully positioned in the Gothic structure honors Sir Walter Scott and his faithful dog, and is brought to life with soaring columns and spires. Neatly landscaped lawns and flower beds provide a strong contrast to the bronzes and blacks of the monument’s facade.
Take a breath from Edinburgh’s fast pace and step into nature at Arthur’s Seat, the peak of what was once an active volcano, covered in inviting green grass. While the origin of its name is unknown, legend has it that there is a connection to King Arthur, perhaps the site of Camelot.
The hill is popular with climbers, with fantastic views over Edinburgh for all who get to the top. If a gentle amble is more your style, take a stroll on one of the paths around the park, stopping for a picnic or simply to enjoy your surroundings. Visit the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel and rest a while next to St Margaret’s Loch.
Fabulous flavors act as a guide through Edinburgh as you uncover the distilling process, smooth taste, and how the Scots get it just right. The five-star experience can take novice whisky drinkers and those who consider themselves connoisseurs into a space that offers the largest collection of Scotch whisky in the world.
Combined with a little history of the fine craft, you can uncover a distinctive flavor in every tasting. Meet the whisky makers and find unique treats, such as whisky-infused chocolates, quaichs, or bottles of your favorite Scottish brand.
From bagpipes to heritage bars, monuments to dramatic castles, Edinburgh offers a great example of tradition combined with modern flair.
Explore the city’s history above ground and below, taking time to wander through Holyrood Park and embrace the awesome Scottish hospitality offered by locals. For more ideas and to plan your trip, visit our Scotland Tours & Vacations or find inspiration in our Scotland Travel Guide.