With winding alleys, hilltop landmarks and surrounding woodland creating picture-postcard views whichever way you turn, all making it a great place to explore. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers.
Many of the most popular tourist attractions are along the Royal Mile built along a steep hill running from Holyrood Palace up to the clifftop castle. It’s a great place to get a sense of medieval Edinburgh and there are Gothic churches, historic pubs, and dozens of small, courtyard spaces and passageways set off from the main road that offers unexpected discoveries, including seemingly secret stairways connecting the towns different levels.
A bustling and vibrant city, steeped in history and host to a variety of colorful festivals throughout the year, there is no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh.
Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
10) At number 10 is The Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of Scotlands most popular visitor attractions. Built on Clydeside, the former Royal Yacht Britannia was the British Royal Family’s floating holiday home during their foreign travels.
Sailing over a million miles around the world, from the time of her launch in 1953 until her decommissioning in 1997, she is now permanently moored in front of Ocean Terminal. Visitors can walk the decks and staterooms with an audio guide and learn about the ship’s fascinating history. Explore all five decks, including the Sun Lounge, the Engine Room, and the Royal Decktea-room, where many a Royal traveler enjoyed a cup of tea with a view.
See the State Apartments, where guests like Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill once slept, and visit the gleaming Rolls-Royce Phantom V, which once traveled on the ship, and is still aboard.
The tour, which you take at your own pace with an audio guide, lifts the curtain on the everyday lives of the royals and gives an intriguing insight into the Queen’s private tastes.
9) Number 9 is the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Open throughout the year, the Palace of Holyroodhouse stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, it is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland but is more famous as the 16th century home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots.
The highlight of the tour is Marys Bedchamber, home to the unfortunate queen from 1561 to1567. It was here that her jealous second husband, Lord Darnley, restrained the pregnant queen while his henchmen murdered her secretary and favorite, David Rizzio.
A plaque in the neighboring room marks the spot where Rizzio bled to death. Visitors can explore 14 magnificent historic and State Apartments, the romantic ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey and the remarkable royal gardens. A typical visit to Holyrood Palace lasts between 1 and 2 hours and families can explore the palace with a lively and interactive family audio tour.
8) At number 8 is the Loch Ness Explorer Tour
One of the most popular one-day tours from Edinburgh is a tour to Loch Ness, taking in some of the most dramatic scenery of the Scottish Highlands. En-route to Scotlands most mysterious loch, Loch Ness, there will be plenty of time to admire the wild, untamed beauty of Scotland.
See the snow-capped peaks of the Grampian Mountains, including Britain’s tallest mountain, cross the wilds of the Rannoch Moor and take in the dramatic scenery of Glencoe. Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately37 kilometers south-west of Inverness and its surface is 16 meters above sea level.
Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as Nessie. This is a fantastic tour to Loch Ness visiting a diverse range of classic Highland scenery including many ‘must-see’ sights and the chance to go monster hunting on Loch Ness.
7) Number 7 is the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the worlds leading botanical gardens and a renowned scientific center for the study of plants, their diversity, and conservation. Founded near Holyrood in 1670 by two doctors that studied medicinal plants, it moved to its present location in 1823.
It’s beautifully landscaped acres include splendid Victorian glasshouses, colorful swaths of rhododendrons and azaleas, and a world-famous rock garden home to over 5,000alpine plants. With over 10.000 plant species, the garden is divided into various areas each dedicated to a variety of vegetation.
The highlights are the Chinese Hillside, the Queen Mother’s memorial garden, and the woodland garden. Visitors can discover a history dating back nearly 350 years, learn about its plantings and walk around 70 acres of beautiful landscape. A pleasure for all the family, the Garden also offers a fantastic view of the capital’s skyline.
6) At number 6 is Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo, formerly the Scottish National Zoological Park, is an 82-acre zoological park in Corstorphine, a suburb of Edinburgh. The land lies on the south-facing slopes of Corstorphine Hill, from which it provides extensive views of the city.
Just a 10-minute journey out of the city center by bus or car, it is home to over 1,000 rare and beautiful animals and the UK’s only giant pandas. The zoo also contains many endangered animals, including chimpanzees, sun bears, Indian Rhinos and the amazing Giant Pandas.
The penguins are one of the main attractions at the Zoo and visitors can see them walking or swimming in the globe’s largest penguin pool. The chimps have a special interactive enclosure and visitors following the Budongo Trail can get up close and personal with them.
There are also lots of interactive activities for kids, a busy program of educational events, keeper talks and hands-on animal encounters. With plenty of children’s play areas, restaurants, picnic spots, and a fantastic gift shop, EdinburghZoo makes an ideal family day out.
5) Number 5 is the National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the adjacent Royal Museum, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. From dinosaurs to design, the museum boasts hundreds of objects spanning thousands of years and originating from countries across the globe.
The museum’s five floors trace the history of Scotland from geological beginnings to the 1990s, with many imaginative and stimulating exhibits. Marvel at ancient wonders and treasures from around the world and Scotland, in an almost endless array of galleries and exhibitions.
See a full T-Rex skeleton, the Millennium Clock, Dolly the world’s first cloned sheep, and much more. A museum that’s well worth a visit with audio guides available in several languages.
4) At number 4 is the Battle of Bannockburn experience
Robert Bruce, King of Scots, faced an English army led by Edward II in June 1314. The English army was bigger, better equipped, and more experienced however, they lost to the fiercely determined Scots.
The Battle of Bannockburn is an incredible interactive adventure that will change what you think about Scottish history and shake you up with a realistic 3D battle experience as you come face to face with soldiers, knights, and pages on both sides of the conflict.
Witness the sights and sounds of battle, take your place in the Battle Room and see ancient battle strategies, weapons, and armor. Harnessing state of the art 3D technology, visitors can experience medieval combat like never before to learn about this crucial event in Scottish history.
The center also contains an award-winning cafe and gift shop, while the outdoor grounds contain a medieval garden, commemorative area and Pilkington Jackson’s iconic statue of Robert the Bruce.
3) Number 3 is Arthurs Seat
The spectacular landscape of Arthurs Seat and Holyrood Park is the backdrop to the CapitaLand best enjoyed in summer when there’s good visibility and the landscape is dotted with heather and wildflowers.
The rocky peak of Arthur’s Seat was carved by ice sheets from the deeply eroded stump of a long-extinct volcano and is a distinctive feature of Edinburgh’s skyline. Arthur’s Seat can be accessed from the bottom of the Royal Mile and the park is also the site of a large and well-preserved fort.
Once at the very top at 250m, visitors are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views across the city and out to the coast. It’s an energetic climb but well within the capabilities of most people, though trainers or hiking boots are recommended. There are various walking routes, with the red route being particularly scenic as it’s a circular walk from Holyrood Palace.
2) At number 2 is The Three Bridges and Inchcolm Island Cruise
Enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Firth of Forth while a live guide provides rich, interesting commentary as you go. The Firth of Forth is the estuary of several Scottish rivers including the River Forth. It meets the North Sea with Fife on the north coast and Lothian on the south. Let the serene scenery wash over you and see the Edinburgh skyline, the Kingdom of Fife, and the Three Bridges in one sweeping panorama.
Venture out to the calm seclusion of Inchcolm Island and if you choose, hop-off for an optional walking tour of the ancient monastic island and explore the island’s historic Abbey that is one of the best-preserved group of monastic buildings in Scotland. The Island is also a haven for wildlife and is well known for its wartime coastal defenses.
During your cruise lookout for the marine wildlife including many seabirds, seals and watch out for the occasional porpoise. Binoculars are available to hire for a small, refundable deposit. Visitors can relax onboard in the observation lounge or on the outside decks and listen to the guided commentary.
1) And at number 1 is Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is built upon the massive Castle Rock, part of an ancient extinct volcano. The top of Castle Rock is more than 120 meters above sea level and it stands 80 meters taller than the land surrounding it to the north, south, and west so it can only be easily reached from the east. This historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh and has played a pivotal role in Scottish history, both as a royal residence and as a military stronghold.
The castle last saw military action in 1745 and from then until the 1920s it served as the British army’s main base in Scotland. Today it is one of Scotlands most atmospheric and popular tourist attractions. Dominating the city from its great rock, Edinburgh Castle is an absolute must-visit spot.
Well defended on its tall volcanic crag, not only has it witnessed royal ceremonies and feasts, but also cruel battles and ruthless politics. Visitors can discover its rich history that still remains a great source of inspiration as well as the important national symbols it hosts such as the Stone of Destiny and the Honours of Scotland. A range of visitor facilities is on offer at Edinburgh Castle, from food outlets to guided tours.
So that sums up our top 10 things to do in Edinburgh, we hope you enjoyed it.