Things to do in Edinburgh

Pauline

24 November 2019

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Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. It is a wonderful city to explore. Scotland is full of history and you can feel it in Edinburgh. There are so many stories, so many architecture styles… it’s a beautiful city that can only be loved by everyone. It’s also the birthplace of Harry Potter.

 

Here is a list of 13 things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

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1 – Edinburgh Castle

 

edinburgh castle

 

 

Edinburgh Castle is a famous fortress that dominates the skyline of the capital of Scotland. Located on Castle Rock, this castle is the longest inhabited site in the UK. It is also a military site and Scotland’s most visited paid attraction. It’s a beautiful historical site, definitely worth a visit!

 

The entrance costs £17.50 online or £19.50 on-site. I’d recommend booking online as soon as you can. Regardless of the £2 saving an online booking provides, you will get more available visit slots and will be able to organise your trip better. Also, you won’t have to wait as much at the entrance of the castle. The queue to get it can be very long.

 

Inside, you will enjoy the castle, the chapel, royal jewels and a wonderful view of Edinburgh.

 

2 – Arthur’s seat

 

arthurs seat edinburgh

 

 

Arthur’s Seat is the highest point of Holyrood Park. The ancient volcano sits 251m and is only a short walk from the Royal Mile. It’s about 1h walk to go from the old town to Arthur’s Seat. From there you will get beautiful views of the city and the castle!

If the weather is not nice, which happens often in Scotland, it wouldn’t be worth going. However, if it’s nice weather, I just can’t recommend it enough! It’s beautiful and so nice to get out of the city for a bit. Also, it’s free!

 

 

3 – Old town walking tour

 

 

If you want to know more about the history of Edinburgh, a walking tour of the Old town will be ideal. There are many walking tours in Edinburgh, I’d recommend the free walking tour of either Sandemans or City Explorer.

 

The guide will take you all around the old town and tell you stories about Edinburgh and its people. The reason why this tour is great is that it covers a lot of ground in terms of content. The guide will mention very various things such as the unicorn (Scotland’s national animal), Harry Potter and JK Rowling, murder stories, politics… It will paint a very good picture of Edinburgh. If you feel like digging into some aspects, you can then go on more specific tours.

 

4 – Camera obscura

 

 

Camera obscura is located in Edinburgh Old town, near the castle. It’s a unique experience where you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views over Edinburgh. You will get access to 6 floors of interactive exhibitions! It is so much fun!

 

The entrance fee is £16 for adults on their website or on the app Get Your Guide.

 

 

5 – Harry Potter walking tour

 

 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? You will love Edinburgh then! If London is all about the movies, Edinburgh is all about the books. JK Rowling wrote most of the books in cafes such as The Elephant House and was very inspired by the place.

 

If you go on a Harry Potter walking tour you will discover everything you need to know about Harry Potter in Edinburgh in less than 2 hours! The guide will tell you about the history of the author and the books but also how Harry Potter changed the face of children’s literature. S/he will bring you to all the main spots whether that’s where she wrote the books or sourced her inspiration.

 

Many companies offer these tours. They generally cost between £12 and £20. Get your guide offers a good Harry Potter walking tour for £12.

Alternatively, the company City Explorers offers free Harry Potter walking tours everyday at 2pm. (tip based)

 

6 – Discover the Scottish cuisine

 

 

When you go to Edinburgh, you’ve got to try the typical Scottish food! And if ever you wonder, no it is not the same as english food! Of course England and Scotland share some pub classics such as pies or sausage and mash but they both also have very distinct dishes.

 

In Scotland, the main specialty is the haggis. Made of pork belly, it’s a hit or miss. Personally, I love it and can’t get enough of it but we’ve got to acknowledge that it is “special”.

Of course, who says Scotland says whiskey too! In each pub, you will find a wide variety of whiskey, give it a try!

 

Edinburgh is full of traditional pubs where you can find the best of the Scottish cuisine. You should be paying about £10-11 for a main course, anything above that would be a bit expensive.

 

Another option is to go on a food tour! That way you get both, a great meal and interesting explanations.

 

 

7 – New town walking tour

 

 

Edinburgh is formed of the old and the new town. They are both very different. The old town is over 1,000 years old and quite dark and compact, very medieval. The new town is very opened, wide streets and light. Although it’s named the new town it is over 200 years old and full of history as well. It was built when the kingdoms of Scotland and England were united to form the United Kingdom in 1705.

 

 

City Explorers offer free walking tours in the New Town. The guide will take you from the royal mile down to Princes Street Gardens, Charlotte Square and St George Square. S/he will tell you everything about the modern history of Edinburgh including the Scottish enlightenment, Scottish politics, relationship with England and many more.

 

 

It is very different from the old town tour. First of all, it only covers the history of Edinburgh over the past 3 centuries. Secondly, the look of the new town is completely different from the old town. It doesn’t seem like you are in the same city at all! But yet you are. It’s very interesting to go on both tours as it will give you a more complete picture of the city.

 

8 – Scotch Whisky experience

 

 

Who says Scotland says whiskey! Located at the top of the Royal Mile, the Scotch Whisky Experience is perfect if you want to discover the history of this scottish whiskey. You will cover over 30 years of stories and get to taste the whiskey!

 

They offer various tours and masterclasses ranging from £16 to £75 on their website. You can also book it on Get your Guide for £17 (guided tour and whiskey tasting).

 

 

 

9 – Shopping on Princes Street

 

 

Princes Street is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. You will find pretty much any shop you can think of including the main clothing chains such as Primark or H&M. Whatever you need, it will be there. Please note it can get very crowded on saturdays.

 

 

10 – Ghost tour

 

 

Edinburgh is one of the most haunted city in the world. It didn’t quite used to be the place it is now and there were many murders at some point in time. These murders then became ghost stories. There has been many reports over the years.

For that very reason, you will find a lot of ghost tours in Edinburgh. They generally cost about £12-£20 but as for the other tours you can also find a free ghost tour with city explorer.

 

They run at night, starting between 5pm and 9:30pm.

Of course the guide will take you in narrow and dark alleyways but also to the graveyard to tell you the best ghost stories about Edinburgh.

Most of the guides are actors rather than historians and they know how to spook you! It’s a very good experience although a couple of these stories are a bit creepy.

 

 

11 – Scott Monument

 

 

Located on Princes street, Scott Monument was built as a tribute to a very famous scottish writer, Walter Scott. Today It’s not very common to read his books but back in the days, he was a very popular author. He is also famous for having massively contributed to the cultural development of Scotland. In 1822, he managed to convince George IV, king of England, to come to Scotland and wear a kilt.

It was the first time in 200 years that an english monarch would visit Scotland. It is also important to note that at that time wearing Tartan (scottish pattern) was forbidden and by wearing a kilt in its traditional pattern, King George IV started a change in Scotland.

 

For this reason and many others, Walter Scott was extremely loved by the Scottish.

 

Scott monument is 61 m high (200ft) and can be visited. Tours are organised everyday and you can go up to the mid-tier of the tower and enjoy the view!

 

 

12 – Grab a drink on Rose Street

 

 

Located in Edinburgh new town, Rose Street is the parallel street in between Queens street and Princes Street. It’s full of tiny bars and pubs. Perfect for an evening out! You can go for cocktails, coffee or the full scottish experience: pub food, beer and whiskey. It’s a very nice street, always good fun!

 

I particularly recommend The Rose Street Brewery. Located just behind Primark, this typical scottish pub makes succulent scotch eggs, mac & cheese, haggis and Irish coffees!

 

 

 

13 – Have a wander

 

 

The city centre of Edinburgh is actually quite small, you can walk around easily. It goes a bit up and down so it can be a bit sporty but rather than that it is very small. You won’t need to take a bus or anything, you can just walk everywhere. It has nothing to do with London for example. For that very reason, it’s a great city to just have a wander. As silly as it may sound, one of the best things to do is just to walk around and get lost. You will always come back somewhere you know.

 

 

If you really want to understand what Edinburgh is all about and feel the city, wandering around is the best thing to do. Here are a few things worth checking:

– Royal Mile

– Old parliament

– New parlement

– Bobby the dog

– Friars Graveyard

– Scott Monument

– Edinburgh Castle

– St George Square

– Charlotte Square

 

 

Edinburgh is full of history and stories. There are so many things to do in Edinburgh. It’s also a great starting point to explore the rest of Scotland. You can go on many day trips such as Loch Ness, the Highlands or Loch Lomond.

 

 

 

Plan your trip to Edinburgh, Scotland

 

 

If you want to experience Scottish culture during your stay in Edinburgh, here are some interesting facts about Edinburgh.

 

Travelling to Scotland soon and want to know what services and apps I use when I travel to Edinburgh? 

Here is a list of my favourite travel apps. I use them all of the time and can’t recommend them enough! They always make travels so much easier!

 

I always book my flights through either: 

Skyscanner to find a cheap flight ticket (especially in Europe)

– Momondo to find a cheap long haul flight and inspiration

 

I book my train tickets through:

– Trainline App

– National Rail

 

In terms of accommodation, I use the following: 

Booking.com for hotel deal

Airbnb for shared accommodation

 

For day tours and entrance tickets I use:

Get your Guide

Viator

 

For theatre plays and musicals in Scotland, I always book through:

ATG Theatre Group

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About me

 

breakaways coober pedy SA

 

Hi! I’m Pauline, a French expat in the UK!

 

I’ve lived in several countries and travelled around Australia for a year!

 

Now I’m sharing all my travel tips and cultural facts with you!