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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
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
#3
Grassmarket

Grassmarket

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Steeped in history, the Grassmarket is located directly below Edinburgh Castle and is just a minute’s walk from the famous Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland. A vibrant and historic area, here visitors can soak up the medieval atmosphere while marvelling at one of the most iconic views in the city, the mighty Edinburgh Castle.A stroll over the George IV Bridge leads to the Greyfriars Bobby statue and through some of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets, including Candlemaker Row, Victoria Street, and West Port.The Grassmarket was traditionally a meeting point for market traders and cattle drovers, with temporary lodgings and taverns all around. It was also once a place of public execution, and a memorial near the site once occupied by the gibbet was created in 1937 to commemorate more than 100 people who died on the gallows in a period known as The Killing Time.Nowadays, the old market area is surrounded by pubs, clubs, shops, and two large hotels. Most buildings in the area are Victorian, with several modern buildings on the area’s south side.More
#4
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
#5
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
#6
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
#7
St. Giles Cathedral

St. Giles Cathedral

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The official church of the Church of Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral and its famous crown spire tower over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. With a history stretching back over 900 years, St. Giles is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate Thistle Chapel, and busy concert calendar.More
#8
Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat

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One of several peaks in the long-extinct volcanic ridge that towers behind Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat offers hill walking in the heart of the city. Set within the 640-acre (260-hectare) Holyrood Park, it’s also the site of a 2,000-year-old hill fort. On a clear day, the summit promises spectacular views of the cityscape.More
#9
Calton Hill

Calton Hill

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Looming over Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, Calton Hill is one of the seven hills that the Scottish capital is built on. Come here for 360-degree views that encompass Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and, on a clear day, the Firth of Forth.More
#10
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

Trip ideas

Top activities in Edinburgh

Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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3-Day Isle of Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies from Edinburgh
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Isle of Skye, The Highlands and Loch Ness- 3 Day Group Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands, Glencoe & Hairy Coos Tour from Edinburgh
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Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
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St Andrews & the Fishing Villages of Fife Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness, Glencoe & The Highlands Day Trip from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness Glencoe and The Highlands from Edinburgh
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Royal Mile Guided Walking Tour in Edinburgh
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Outlander Adventure Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
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3-Day Isle of Skye Inverness Highlands and Glenfinnan Viaduct Tour from Edinburgh
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Edinburgh

star-4
Amazing bus trip
Mary_P, Jun 2022
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
great way to see Edinburgh ..
star-5
If you do one thing in edinburgh...do this!
SAM_M, Jun 2022
Silent Disco Adventure Tour
just hope I never have to see myself!!
star-5
See the best of Edinburgh
Renee_N, Jun 2022
Edinburgh Sky to Sea Bike Tour by Manual or E-Bike
Do this trip if you have the time to see more than just the royal mile!!
star-5
The best tour we did in Edimburgh
Diego_C, Jun 2022
Walking Tour of Edinburgh's Old Town - History and Tales
she gave us very good recommendations about other tourist spots to visit.
star-5
Andy is the best!
Divya_Y, Jun 2022
Loch Ness and the Highlands Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
A great way to see the Highlands out of Edinburgh if you’re short on time.
star-5
Wonderful adventure
Elianna_S, May 2022
Edinburgh Sky to Sea Bike Tour by Manual or E-Bike
We were able to see and learn so much about Edinburgh in such a beautiful and relaxing way.
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Dancing on the Streets!
Jacqueline_C, May 2022
Silent Disco Adventure Tour
Put this on your list of things to do in Edinburgh.
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Dr Knox & Bobby
Richard_S, May 2022
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
We had a very enjoyable tour with Dr Knox and it was great to see his passion for Edinburgh and Bobby 🤣😂
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Ghost tour
leeann_w, May 2022
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour
Great tour if you enjoy history and mystery great wat to see edinburgh
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Perfect!
Rhys_A, May 2022
Loch Ness, Glencoe & The Highlands Day Trip from Edinburgh
We got to see so many sites.
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Such Fun!
Roxann_H, May 2022
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
Not only did we hear about the darker side of Edinburgh, we also got to see some beautiful and important monuments that we probably would have missed our own.
star-5
See Edinburgh in style with a scone!
Liz_T, May 2022
Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience
A great way to see Edinburgh whilst enjoying afternoon tea.
star-4
Great
Michele_L, May 2022
City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
It was a good way to see Edinburgh.
star-5
Relaxing way to see Edinburgh
Jason_H, Apr 2022
Private Walk: Edinburgh Old Town and New Town
The pace of the tour was not rushed and able to see many unique places in Edinburgh.
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Trip to the underground off Edinburgh
Simon_K, Apr 2022
Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh
I would totally recommend the tour to my friends who would like to visit Edinburgh.
star-4
Excellent overview
Kimberly_Z, Apr 2022
Walking Tour of Edinburgh's Old Town - History and Tales
You don’t quite see the entire Royal Mile but certainly enough to get an idea of the history and to help you decide where to visit while you are in town.
star-5
Great experience in Edinburgh!
Angela_D, Apr 2022
Rosslyn Chapel, Dunfermline Abbey and Stirling Castle Day Tour from Edinburgh
History, great views, and an opportunity to see some interesting places in Edinburgh and surrounding area!
star-5
Informative, fun, tailored to us!
Kristine_B, Apr 2022
Private Walk: Edinburgh Old Town and New Town
He made a perfect route that took us to all the places we wanted to see and shared the history of Edinburgh mixed with some of the fun stuff - Harry Potter inspirations and an Outlander filming spot.
star-5
Funny, engaging, packed with historical facts
Colin_T, Apr 2022
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends
I highly recommend this tour and hope to see Angus on stage one day soon, great guy, thank you!
star-5
Fun Tour
Lauren_B, Mar 2022
Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh
We were very entertained and got to see some places of Edinburgh we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
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All about Edinburgh

Time Zone
BST (UTC +1)

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.

People Also Ask

What is Edinburgh famous for?

Edinburgh is often said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s famous for its historic attractions, which include its castle and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old and New Towns, and its literary heritage. Edinburgh is also famously a festival city, home to the world’s largest art festival.

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What should I not miss in Edinburgh?

As well as visiting Edinburgh Castle and wandering around the Old Town and New Town, you should make time for the excellent National Museum of Scotland, whose collection includes everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to works by Scottish artists and designers, and a cloned sheep. Best of all, it’s free to enter.

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What is the most visited place in Edinburgh?

With up to 2.2 million visitors a year, the National Museum of Scotland is Edinburgh’s most visited attraction. Edinburgh Castle attracts a similar number of visitors each year, making it the city’s most-visited paid attraction. The Scottish National Gallery and St. Giles Cathedral are the next most visited attractions.

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How can I spend 3 days in Edinburgh?

With three days in Edinburgh you’ll have enough time to thoroughly explore both the Old and New Towns, as well as the city’s most famous attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Royal Yacht Britannia. You’ll also have time for a day trip to Rosslyn Chapel or North Berwick.

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Is Edinburgh a safe city?

Yes, Edinburgh is generally a safe city. You are unlikely to have any problems wandering around the city during the day. Even at night you’re unlikely to have any problems as long as you stick to the main streets and well-lit areas—it’s best not to walk across the Meadows on your own at night.

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Is Edinburgh expensive?

No. Edinburgh is not particularly cheap (and living costs for residents can be high) but neither is it expensive to visit compared to other major European cities—and it’s certainly more budget-friendly than London. Prices for hotels and eating out are quite high, but are balanced by the number of free attractions you can visit.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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What are the top things to do in Edinburgh?
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What are the top things to do near Edinburgh?
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