10 Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh has become my favorite city in the world. From Edinburgh, you can reach virtually anywhere in Scotland, but you can spend a week there without ever leaving the city. 

Here are just some of the things to see and do there.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens

The castle sits on top of a basalt deposit left by a long extinct volcano. Bronze Age artifacts have been found at the site, but the origins of the first fortress on the site date back to the 6th Century, built by King Edwin, after whom Edinburgh was named. The existing buildings date as far back as the 12th Century.

Every day at one o”clock, a cannon is fired from the castle. The cannon was originally fired to help ships moored in the bay to set their chronometers. One o’clock was chosen because it was the least expensive time to fire the cannon (once versus 2 to 12 times).

Over the centuries, the castle has been a garrison, royal residence, and even a prison. Today the buildings contain museums dedicated to various historical Scottish Military units and the Scottish Crown Jewels. From the castle, you can get an excellent panorama looking out over the “New Town” section of Edinburgh, and on to the bay

In August, the Scottish Military Tattoo takes place at the castle every night for 3 weeks, rain or shine. At this time, military bands and orchestras are brought in to perform from all over the worlds. Tickets can be obtained to attend this performance, and options can include dinner in the castle. 

Walk the Royal Mile

Old town Edinburgh and Edinburgh castle in Scotland UK

Actually about 1.3 miles in length, the Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. There are numerous places to see along the Royal Mile, including shops, museums, and churches. The museums include the Writers’ Museum, the Museum of Childhood and Canongate Tollbooth. St. Giles Cathedral, where John Knox preached to start the Scottish Protestant Reformation is located here, as is his home, which is now used for the Scottish Storytelling Center. Visitors can also get an appreciation for the life that residents had in this section of “Old Town” by walking down the numerous “closes” that run from the street.

The Royal Mile is also busy in August. Not only is the Military Tattoo happening at the Castle, but Edinburgh is also hosting the Fringe Festival, and many of the activities with it are taking place right on the Royal Mile.

Visit Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace

The Holyrood Palace is at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle. Its origins begin with a 10th century abbey built by Scottish King David, and the abbey ruins and garden can still be visited today. Holyrood Palace has been the Edinburgh residence of the British Royalty for centuries and Queen Elizabeth will stay there when she is in town. When she is not there, visitors can tour inside the palace, and visitors can also visit the abbey ruins and gardens.

Go Aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia was the last of the British Royal yachts, starting back with King Charles II in 1660. The Britannia was commissioned in 1952, and stayed in service until 1997. Visitors can have Tea on the yacht, and tour the facilities on the yacht, including the game room, sleeping quarters, dining facilities and kitchen, and the infirmary. In wartime, the yacht was intended to be used as a hospital ship.

The yacht is located in the harbor in Leith.

Walk to Calton Hill

Beautiful landscape of Edinburgh city in Scotland at sunset from Calton hill famous landmark during the sunrise. Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground facing the Medieval castle and the downtown

Located on the eastern end of the Princes Street Garden, this hill holds the following:

  • The National Monument – a memorial to the Scottish Soldiers and Sailors who served in the French Wars. Although started in 1822, the monument has never been completed.
  • The Nelson Monument – a memorial to Admiral Horatio Nelson, the monument gives excellent panoramic views of the city.
  • The Burns Monument – Edinburgh’s memorial to Scottish Poet Robert Burns

Walk to King Arthur’s Seat

Overlooking Edinburgh from King Arthur’s Set. Holyrood Palace and Abbey are in the Forecground

Located near Holyrood Palace, visitors can walk to the top of King Arthur’s Seat and get another excellent view of the city.

Visit the Scottish National Gallery

Scenic view of Edinburgh Castle, as it rests on castle rock, and the Scottish National Gallery.

The National Gallery is renowned as being one of the world’s greatest collections of fine art, including not only Scottish painters, but also masters from across Great Britain and Europe including works from Vincent Van Gogh.

Visit the Princes Street Gardens

Looking up from the Princes Street Garden

Located just below Edinburgh Castle, the Princes Street Gardens separate New Town and Old Town Edinburgh. The gardens are built in an area that at one time was a lake, but became so polluted that the town drained the lake and turned it into a garden area.

Visit the Scotch Whisky Experience

Edinburgh, Scotland – Nov 20, 2021: The sign for the Scottish Whisky Experience in Edinburgh

Located just outside of Edinburgh Castle, the Whisky Experience houses the worlds largest private collection of whisky, and gives classes on blending whisky, and tastes and smells related to making whisky. There is also a demonstration in how whisky is made.

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