Top 10 Things to Do in Edinburgh

Top 10 Things to Do in Edinburgh

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN EDINBURGH

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, filled with history. Furthermore I was lucky enough to spend a month working there this year and was able to spend time visiting the best things the city has to offer. Here are my top 10 things to do in Edinburgh.

Please Note: This Page may contain Affiliate Links to tours, accommodation, products and transport. I may receive a small commission if you use the link, but this will cost you no extra. 

1. Hike up Arthur’s Seat

PRICE- Free

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat

Firstly, Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano in Edinburgh. It is located in Holyrood Park, next to Holyrood Palace, a short walk away from the Royal Mile. This point sits at 251m above sea level, and provides an incredible view of the city from the top. Most importantly, hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat takes around 30 minutes and is relatively easy to do. Also, Arthur’s Seat is the tallest of the 7 hills on which Edinburgh was founded.

Some believe that this hill was possibly the location of Camelot, King Arthur’s famous castle. Also, it has been said that the name stems from the Scots Gaelic, Àrd-na-Said, which means the “height of Arrows”. However, no one officially knows where the hill got its name from. Additionally, Arthur’s Seat has some creepy history. In 1836, 17 miniature coffins were found on the hill, containing wooden figures, the reason for this has baffled historians ever since. The hill has featured in many novels, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and One Day by David Nicholls.

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat

There is also a duck pond at the bottom of the hill, and many routes to walk around the park. Furthermore, it is a beautiful place to explore. Not many cities have such beautiful scenery within them, which definitely makes Edinburgh unique.

2. Explore the Castle

PRICE- Adult Ticket £19.50 (or £17.50 if bought online)

Secondly, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. It is positioned on Castle Rock. Castle Rock was formed over 340 million years ago after a volcano eruption. And it was first inhabited by humans in 900 BC. In addition, it is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland, receiving over 1 million visitors annually. Also, the castle is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, you can admire Britain’s Oldest Crown Jewels which are on display within the castle. The castle is known as the ‘defender of the nation’ and is an active military base. During August every year, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place on Castle Esplanade. To add, this is an absolute must-do whilst in Edinburgh. Also, there are guided tours you can join.

  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh

3. Discover The Real Mary King’s Close

PRICE- Adult ticket £16.50

Exploring Mary King’s Close is a very unique experience, allowing you to explore a real 17th century street. It is located beneath the buildings on the Royal Mile in the Old Town of Edinburgh. It is named after Mary King, a merchant burgess that lived here. This tour provides information on how the plague, or the ‘Black Death’, affected the residents of the close. The unsanitary living conditions and large number of rodents caused the bubonic plague to strike Edinburgh around 1645. Subsequently, causing many deaths in the city, including the residents of the close.

Also, the close featured many towering buildings, which are thought of as the world’s first skyscrapers. The close is now open to the public again after years of lying beneath the Royal Exchange untouched. Take a guided tour to learn about the history from live actors. Rumour has it that the close is one of the most haunted places in Scotland, with world renowned ghost stories. Moreover, there is a story about a little girl named Annie, who had lost her doll, which you can read about on their website. The close has even been featured on Most Haunted! Above all, I really enjoyed this tour, I’m a bit of a dark tourism enthusiast, so found it fascinating. Find out more via the links below.

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Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Pond Near Arthur’s Seat

4. Stop off for a Wee Dram

PRICE- £3-£10

A wee dram is Scottish Slang for a shot of whiskey.

The Ensign Ewart Pub is located on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. It is the highest pub in Edinburgh and the closest to the castle. Named after Ensign Charles Ewart, a Scottish solider famous for capturing the regimental eagle at the Battle of Waterloo. It is a cosy pub which dates back to 1680. It has a vast and ever changing whiskey list. Moreover, there is often live music played here and a food menu featuring traditional Scottish dishes. In conclusion, it is a perfect place to stop off for a wee dram, or even for Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Having a Wee Dram in The Ensign Ewart Pub

5. Visit The National Museum

PRICE- Free

Formed in 2006, this museum is one of the Top 20 most visited Museums and Galleries in the World. Housing an array of over 20,000 artefacts. There are collections about technology, science, natural history, world culture and Scottish history. One of the most famous exhibits is the stuffed body of Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first mammal cloned from an adult cell. There are many interactive exhibits making it a fun learning experience for the whole family.

You can take a free guided tour to find out more about the museum, which run on most days. Additionally, there is a rooftop that provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city. The museum is located on Chambers Street in Edinburgh and is free to enter. To conclude, this is one of the best museums I have visited, and you could easily spend a whole day exploring the whole museum. Also, the cafe serves very tasty fruit scones if you decide to refuel!

  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh

6. Tour The Edinburgh Dungeons

PRICE- Adult Ticket £17.95 (or £14 if booked online)

If you want to learn more about Edinburgh’s dark history there is no place better to visit than the Dungeons. The dungeons are an underground tourist attraction, featuring professional actors, special effects, rides and immersive exhibits. The dungeons includes a 17th century courtroom. You can learn all about Agnes Finnie, a woman that was accused of witchcraft in 1645 and executed on Castle Hill. There is a boat ride in pitch darkness, where you’ll be told about the infamous Sawney Bean. Sawney Bean was reportedly the head person of a 45 person clan that were known to kill and eat 1000 people in the 16th century. You’ll discover more about Burke and Hare, Scotland’s famous body snatchers, from the 19th century. In addition, the tour of the dungeons lasts around 70 minutes. Also, you can get 241 tickets if you travel by train to Edinburgh.

7. Admire the City from Calton Hill

PRICE- Free

Calton Hill is located in central Edinburgh, just along from Princes Street. Views of the city have often been photographed and painted from this hill. Several iconic buildings and monuments can be found at the top of Calton Hill. These include; the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Steward Monument, the Robert Burns Monument, the City Observatory, the Political Martyrs Monument and the old Royal High School.

  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh

However, the National Monument remains unfinished, it is dedicated to the Scottish soldiers and sailors that died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. The style of the monument was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. The foundations were laid in 1824, but money for the monument ran out in 1829, resulting in the work ending. Several attempts have been made to complete the monument. However, they have been met with a lack of enthusiasm from locals. Moreover, it is often known as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’. The Nelson Monument features a museum on the ground floor, which is free to enter. However, you can also climb the tower for £6. I highly recommend taking a short walk up to the top of the hill, and admiring the city views and exploring the monuments. Climbing up the hill is easy to do.

8. Climb The Scott Monument

PRICE- Adult Ticket £8

The Scott Monument is the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world.

The architecture style of this monument is Victorian Gothic. It is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy. Sir Walter Scott is depicted in a statue sitting with his dog on the monument. This monument is located in Princes Street Gardens, opposite Waverley Station. The Scott Monument is 200 feet and 6 inches high. You can climb to the top of the monument, via spiral staircases, there are 288 steps to climb! There is information about the history of the monument throughout. Above all, from the top of the monument you can see a panorama view of the whole of the city, which makes it worth climbing all the steps.

  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh

9. Take a Harry Potter Tour

PRICE- Free

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
The Elephant House

You can join an organised Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh or take yourself to the main sights. Firstly, the Elephant House is where it all began. J.K. Rowling would sit in this cafe and write her early Harry Potter manuscripts. Secondly, J.K. Rowling would wander around Greyfriar’s Kirkyard at times, and the names on gravestones would then become characters in her books. In the graveyard you’ll find a McGonagall gravestone, and also a Thomas Riddle gravestone (a.k.a. Lord Voldemort). Thirdly, George Heriot’s School in the city centre is rumoured to be the inspiration for Hogwarts. It isn’t hard to understand why, with its gothic architecture, and 4 houses which partake in a house competition yearly, striking similarities to Hogwarts.

Also, the curving Victoria Street with its colourful shops is rumoured to of been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It also featured in the Avengers movie (FYI). There are some Harry Potter souvenir shops on this street for you to explore. Lastly, you can visit the Balmoral Hotel, in Room 552, J.K. Rowling completed the last scenes of the final Harry Potter book here. Room 552 is now named ‘The Rowling Suite’ and contains her writing desk. You can stay in the room, but you’ll have to book ahead!

If you are a true Potterhead, you definitely have to explore these sites that provided the author with the inspiration to create a whole world of magic.

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Victoria Street

10. Marvel at the Artwork at the Scottish National Gallery

PRICE- Free

The gallery is located on the Mound just off of Princes Street and has one of the best collections of fine art in the world. Including pieces by; Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Constable and Turner. The largest section of the gallery is dedicated to Scottish paintings, from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. If you’re an art lover you can also check out the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Most people spend an hour exploring the gallery and admiring the beautiful pieces of artwork.

  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
  • Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh

Finally

To sum up, Edinburgh in my opinion is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is full of history, gothic architecture, culture and beautiful green spaces. Edinburgh has a lot of dark history and it’s not surprising it could inspire J.K. Rowling to create a world of witchcraft, wizardry and magic. There are not many cities which have so much greenery. I hope you enjoy this post, and it inspires you to visit Edinburgh too.

Happy Travelling,

Amy xo

Top 10 Things To Do In Edinburgh
Calton Hill

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