Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s most charming cities, filled to the brim of things to do, sights to see and experiences to be had. With well over a thousand years of rich cultural history, Edinburgh has to be on your “travel lust list”. It’s easily one of my favourite cities (and not just because of the cool bars). Honestly, you’re bound to find a heap of the best things to see in Edinburgh.
After living in Edinburgh for over five years, I have come to call it my Scottish home. The city is charming, with some of the most breathtaking architecture in the UK.
Take a look at some of the best things to see in Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic city, with so much to see!
1.) Watch the sunrise from Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is the ancient and main peak of the hills within the boundaries of the city, Edinburgh. A short hill walk of 40 minutes or so and you will reach the top of the peak. Trust me when I say, all that effort will be worth it for the best vistas of the city.
Whenever I had friends and family come over to stay, we would set one morning aside and wake up super early to catch a glimpse of the glowing sunrise over the city. It’s magical to witness.
Eerily and very recently researchers found a range of small coffins buried into the side of Arthur’s seat – that housed a range of figures. Buried hundreds of years ago, there is still no conclusive understanding of the significance of these rather eerie finds. Spooky.
It really is one of the best things to see in Edinburgh, well, as long as you don’t mind a stroll.
2.) Go underground at Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close is one of Edinburgh’s secret cities. Once part of the old town, these 16th-century narrow walkways and streets were built upon and buried in the name of creating a more ‘developed’ Edinburgh.
It’s so incredible to see and easily one of the best things to see in Edinburgh.
Plus, it’s now open to the public, you can wander around these (hundreds of years old) streets that are considered to be haunted by its old residents.
3.) Eat a picnic at Lauriston Castle
This medieval castle stands just outside the remit of the city. Hire a car or take public transport to this glorious castle.
In summer, I regularly took a picnic to enjoy the expansive gardens that are always open to the public.
4.) Visit the Old Town & The Royal Mile
This should come as no surprise to anyone but take a stroll down (or up, if you are feeling fit) the Royal Mile. I loved walking down, on a cold (but dry) winter day with a hot chocolate in my hand.
It’s a great place to take a stroll and there are some amazing independent cafes and eateries closer to the Scottish Parliament building to grab a delicious bite to eat.
This is one of my favourite areas of the city and it’s perfect for a stroll. It’s easily one of the best things to see in Edinburgh if it’s your first time here, too.
5.) Visit the (not so) New Town
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old, the New Town forms a part of Edinburgh that stands in contrast to its ancient buildings.
Characterised by its long straight streets Georgian architecture was designed in the 18th Century to remove Edinburgh from the ‘squaller’ of the old town.
Take a wander around the streets and enjoy the picturesque Princes Street Gardens, which was not always so nice.
Being an ancient loch, this historic body of water quickly became a sewage dump for the residents of Old Town Edinburgh in the Middle Ages.
6.) Find the Palace of Holyrood
Visit the official home of the British Monarchy in Scotland. Situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile, this palace has been the residing home of kings and queens for almost 500 years.
Even now the British Monarchy still stays here while on official visits to Scotland.
7.) See the Millennium Clocktower
Standing almost ten metres high, the Millennium Clock echoes the form of a medieval cathedral.
With many chambers comprising four sections: The Crypt, The Nave, The Belfry and The Spire – the clock is an intricate artistic timepiece to see.
Take note of the details within the clocks – as time goes by it lets go of more and more secrets for you to discover.
8.) Explore Edinburgh Castle
On top of a rather ominous extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is the tallest structure in the whole city. The castle itself is steeped in a rich and bloody history that is worthy of a film script.
Take note of some of the peculiar artefacts inside and listen for the cannon that goes off at 1 pm every day (except Sundays, so you can have a lay-in). It’s well worth a visit, and probably the most iconic and easily one of the best things to see in Edinburgh.
9.) Stroll around the Meadows
On a sleepy Sunday afternoon, the meadows are the best place to go.
Take a book, a bottle of wine, and some friends and enjoy the expanses and green spaces of this place. Lots of locals go here on weekends and it is the perfect place to chill out with friends… on a sunny day, of course.
For a luxurious hotel, check into the Principal Edinburgh on Charlotte Square; it’s gorgeous!
10.) Make a kilt
Everyone knows about a Scottish Man and his kilt.
Yes, it’s true – a ‘real’ Scot will never wear any underwear underneath, so if it’s a windy day, make sure to steer well clear of a traditionally dressed Scot.
11.) Have a Scottish afternoon tea
There are so many amazing places to eat & drink in Edinburgh and If you are looking for a very special experience, then Balmoral Hotel has one of the best afternoon teas in all of Scotland.
The Palm Court at The Balmoral is one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious venues and offers its patrons a tasty afternoon of treats and scones that are lovingly made in the city itself. Delicious.
12.) Enjoy the Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, also known simply as “The Fringe” is the largest performance art festival in the world. Most shows are free or cost very little.
There are many amazing shows and acts to see from the downright funny, famous and peculiar – this festival caters for everyone.
Honestly, it’s my favourite time of the year in the city and easily one of the best things to see in Edinburgh if you’re visiting during Fringe.
13.) Explore the Royal Botanic Garden
Take a stroll down to the Royal Botanic Garden to rest. it’s one of the world’s most prestigious scientific centres that is home to some of the rarest plants in all the world.
14.) Taste some vintage Scotch whisky
If you’ve never tried Scotch whisky, well now is your chance. Head to the “Scotch Whisky Experience,” where they not only teach you all about Scotland’s most important export (Surprisingly, it’s not Sean Connery) but you will be able to experience and taste some of the very best malts from across this amazing country.
Don’t worry if Whisky isn’t your thing, you can try one of Edinburgh’s many amazing cocktail houses, old-style pubs and glorious wine bars that line the city.