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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
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Edinburgh Castle—with its fortress walls, cobbled promenades, and winding stone steps—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; period artifacts, such as the Scottish Crown Jewels; and dark dungeons that illuminate the castle’s storied past.More
#2
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
#3
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
#4
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
#5
Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

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Originally built as a Norman defense in the 11th century, imposing Alnwick Castle has been expanded piecemeal over the years, and encompasses medieval, Gothic, and neoclassical elements. The castle—about 85 miles (137 kilometers) from Edinburgh—has caught the eye of location scouts, who picked it to serve as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films and Brancaster Castle inDownton Abbey.More
#6
Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

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Straddling both the Scottish Highlands and the Lowlands, this island-studded loch boasts the largest surface area of any of Scotland’s lakes. It’s also one of its most famous, thanks in no small part to a well-known Scottish folk song that speaks of its “bonnie banks.” The lake’s mirror-clear waters reflect the crags and peaks that rear up around it, most notably the 3,195-foot (974-meter) Ben Lomond on its eastern shore, whose summit offers views of both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.More
#7
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
#8
National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

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Set across two buildings—one Victorian and one modern—and featuring a collection of more than 20,000 artifacts, the National Museum of Scotland is one of Edinburgh’s top visitor attractions. The diverse exhibits cover anything and everything to do with Scotland, including natural history, art, fashion, science, and archaeology.More
#9
Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel

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Propelled into the limelight by Dan Brown’sThe Da Vinci Code, this 15th-century chapel is well worth a look, even for those with no interest in Knights Templar conspiracy theories. The Gothic exterior—with its flying buttresses, pinnacles, and pointed arches—hides an elaborate interior, full of stone carvings rich in symbolism.More
#10
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

Trip ideas

Top activities in Edinburgh

The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
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3-Day Isle of Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
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Ghost Bus Tour of Edinburgh

Ghost Bus Tour of Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
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Full-Day Trip to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands with Lunch from Edinburgh

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Small Group Royal Mile Walking Tour with Optional Entry to Edinburgh Castle

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Loch Ness and the Highlands Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian's Wall Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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Recent reviews from experiences in Edinburgh

star-5
Great walking tour to learn about the history of Edinburgh
Tracy_H, Jan 2022
Old Town Historical and Underground Tour
We went to the underground rooms too which was good to see and walked down the golden mile.
star-5
Andrew gave an...
Rebecca_P, Dec 2021
Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh
I would recommend everyone to see the vaults whilst in Edinburgh and our tour guide was amazing
star-5
Amazing afternoon tea🥰🥰
Steven_B, Dec 2021
Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
will will definitely return in the summer.
star-5
The tour guide was very...
Tracy_S, Dec 2021
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
I would definitely recommend this to anyone I knew was going to visit Edinburgh.
star-5
Christmas Tea
Michele_D, Dec 2021
Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
Driving around the streets of Edinburgh we got to see the sights and lights
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Incredible Look into the Highlands
Bella_J, Dec 2021
Loch Ness Glencoe and The Highlands from Edinburgh
I couldn’t believe the views we got to see and all in one day!
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Must do tour
Stephanie_j, Dec 2021
The Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh
Great tour ,fantastic way to see and learn absolute sh*t# about the city , certainly a great alternative tour of Edinburgh .
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Good tour
Clair_B, Nov 2021
Ghost Bus Tour of Edinburgh
Good to see Edinburgh at night.
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A fantastic evening - highly recommend
SARA_W, Nov 2021
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
It is a great way to see a different side of the city that you wouldn’t see walking around by yourself.
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Quirky Tour Guide Leads to Great Fun
Chelsea_W, Nov 2021
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
It was a really nice experience, especially if you are only in town for a short amount of time and really want to see a different side of the city.
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Lovely city bus tour
henrieta28, Oct 2021
Edinburgh Hop-on Hop-off City Tour
Great experience and option to see the most popular attractions in lovely historical city such as Edinburgh.
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Historic Edinburgh
Anne_S, Oct 2021
Small Group Royal Mile Walking Tour with Optional Entry to Edinburgh Castle
We chose the tour option to see the castle, and enjoyed seeing how the the castle was set up.
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Sightseeing adventure
ELIZABETH_C, Oct 2021
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Getting to see all the sights of Edinburgh in one experience!
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I recommend Hellish!
Gracie_E, Oct 2021
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
Great tour guide, entertaining, fun and great way to see a different side of Edinburgh for a very reasonable price and not a huge time investment.
star-5
Excellent way to visit...
Corinne_M, Sep 2021
Edinburgh Sky to Sea Bike Tour by Manual or E-Bike
Excellent way to visit Edinburgh and see so much.
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Fun
Christine_N, Sep 2021
The Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh
It was a good way to see more of a lovely city.
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Small Group Size with More Attention to You!
Matthew_T, Sep 2021
Royal Mile Guided Walking Tour in Edinburgh
Stuart for sure helped me get a good bearing of where to visit at Edinburgh.
star-5
Great experience in Edinburgh
Kate_B, Sep 2021
Small Group Edinburgh Underground Vaults Historical Walk with Private Option
Well worth an visit to see another side of Edinburgh.
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The Highlands and Loch Ness
Janet_C, Aug 2021
Full-Day Trip to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands with Lunch from Edinburgh
If you want to see the highlands of Scotland then Viator tours are reasonably priced and value for money.
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Fantastic tour
Jandryle_T, Aug 2021
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Wonderful experience to see the city and target specific areas you want to spend more time with.

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
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