Top Things to do in Edinburgh
20 February, 2023
7 mins read
We heard you are heading to Edinburgh, so, let’s get to know more about this amazing city before embarking on your journey. From Edinburgh's history, attractions, to the fun and exciting activities you can do there, we are going to tell you all about it!
A Glipmse of Edinburgh's History
Edinburgh is Scotland's capital and Scotland's financial, intellectual, and cultural centre. The city has existed since the Stone Age, but only rose to prominence during Roman times. The city has access to the North Sea, which allowed it to establish various ports and become an important trading city. However, the city became Scotland's capital in 1437 after replacing Scone.
Nowadays, the city is known for having beautiful green parks and historic buildings; in fact, the city has two UNESCO Heritage-listed towns called the Old and the New Town; and more than 75% of the buildings are listed, making it among the top listed sites in the UK after London. With 112 parks, the city is the greenest in the UK. To explore the city's most iconic landmarks, you should check out The Royal Mile, a trajectory that goes through most landmarks.
Let’s get to know about the top things to do in Edinburgh and the best Edinburgh attractions!
Explore Edinburgh's Iconic Districts and Towns
Edinburgh is full of beautiful and iconic districts and towns, so much so that it inspired J. K. Rowling while writing the Harry Potter series, as the writer stayed there for a while. The city has picturesque old towns that take you back in time, each with its unique character. This diversity in character is why exploring Edinburgh's districts and towns are among the top things to do in Edinburgh, as the town themselves can be seen as Edinburgh attractions.
Leith is an iconic part of Edinburgh that once had a troubled past; today, it is regarded as an icon and is bursting with culture. Leith is also known as "the Shore" and is the city's port area. Leith has various Edinburgh attractions, including the North Leith Parish Church, the South Leith Parish Church, The old Seamen's Mission, Lamb's House, and the Leith Docks.
Princes Street is Edinburgh's main street and has been so since 1770; it offers various views overlooking significant landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, has multiple shops, has a park called the princes Street Gardens and has various other landmarks such as the Scott Monument. This street alone is ideal for a beautiful day out shopping and taking many beautiful pictures.
The Old Town and New Town
The Old Town and the New Town are both UNESCO Heritage sites. The Old town is a must-visit as it contains some of the city's top landmarks, such as The Georgian House, Gladstone's Land, and the iconic Mary King's Close alleyway. The New Town is different from the Old Town, which has Medieval forts and castles; this town was built in the 18th century and has beautiful Neoclassic buildings.
Dean Village is a beautiful village close to Edinburgh's centre; it has gorgeous structures complemented by the river called The Water of Leith; this part of the city used to be a big player in the milling industry. Today, you can see the beautiful well, preserved old buildings, the old mills, and the beautiful water of Leith.
Explore Edinburgh's Historic Sites
Edinburgh has a variety of old castles, cathedrals, and ruins to visit. You cannot go to Edinburgh without seeing the following historic Edinburgh attractions. Edinburgh has monuments that take you back in time, giving you a feel of the city's historical character.
The Edinburgh Castle lies on Castle Rock, which has been used as a fortification place for 3000 years due to its unique location. The first well-known structure on the hill was Eidyn's Hill Fort, built by the Celt in 600 CE. The first Scottish king to reside on the hill was king Malcolm III Canmore who reigned in 1058. The Castle was captured on multiple occasions, besieged, destroyed, and rebuilt. The Castle contains the "fight for the castle exhibition", the historic "Great Hall", the Royal Palace, and multiple museums such as the National War Museum. It also features the Redcoat cafe and the Tea Rooms for a quick bite.
St Giles' Cathedral
St Giles' Cathedral is one of the most iconic Edinburgh Attractions, and visiting it should be among your top things to do in Edinburgh. This Cathedral was established in 1124 by King Edward the first and is located in the "Old Town". It follows Gothic architecture and has been operational for more than 900 years. It has witnessed pivotal events that have shaped the course of Scotland's history, mainly due to religious conflict.
Palace of Holyrood
Holyrood, meaning holy cross, was initially the place of the Holyrood Abbey, built by David the first in 1128. The Abbey had a room nearby called Holyrood House that belonged to the Abbot of Holyrood; in 1501, James IV built a residence for himself and Marget Tudor, which later, through various expansions, it became known as the Palace of Holyrood. Its most famous resident was Mary Queen of Scotts, James IV's daughter. It has various beautiful chambers, including the "State apartments", which have royal bed chambers. The Castle also contains the Royal dining room, the Privy Chamber, the Throne Room, the Great Gallery, and many more exciting rooms, not to mention the palace's extensive gardens, which are a must-see and the nearby Holyrood Abbey. Today it is also the official residence of the British crown when in Scotland.
Explore Edinburgh's Museums and Galleries
As Scotland's cultural capital, it is no surprise that Edinburgh has many must-visit museums and galleries; this is why visiting these Edinburgh attractions should be among your top things to do in Edinburgh.
Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is among the oldest in the city, having roots dating back to the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland's collection in 1780, which was later on public display in 1851 and formed the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. The museum was a merger between two former ones, which are the Royal Museum of Scotland and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. The museum focuses on human history, art, science, and natural history.
The National Gallery of Scotland
The National Gallery of Scotland is one of the finest in the world; it was opened to the public in 1859 and is part of the National Galleries of Scotland. This gallery has a wide range of art styles, from Renaissance to Post-impressionism.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is another gallery that's part of the National Galleries of Scotland; it does focus, however, on portrait art and has paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints.
Explore the city's food scene.
Edinburgh is a multicultural city, resulting in a mix of different cultural elements that can be found across the city. Even though the Scottish character is dominant, you will still find other cultural elements in things such as food, art, and architecture.
Chocolatarium (Make Your Own Chocolate!)
The Chocolatarium is one of the hidden Edinburgh attractions; it combines food and learning in a unique experience. The Chocolatarium is a small chocolate factory that shows you how chocolate is made and lets you sample over 40 different flavours of chocolate. This tour is a 90-minute tour of absolute magic. Make sure to add this to your list of the top things to do in Edinburgh.
Visit a Food Market
You can always head to a local food market to sample authentic Scottish staples such as Scottish bread, jams, pastries, juices, and quick bites. The most famous food markets in Edinburgh are The Pitt Market, Waverley Market, and the Stockbridge Market. You can also partake in the various food festivals that take place across the city.
Sample Some of The Finest Food in Town
Edinburgh is full of unique restaurants, with some of the most popular being:
Kanpai, a Japanese restaurant.
Fhior is a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant.
The Bon Vivant, a Scottish restaurant.
Aurora is an innovative restaurant.
Café St Honoré, a French Bistro.
Get Beautiful Skyline Views
Edinburgh is graced by a beautiful landscape made up of hills and green fields; the city also has breathtaking views of some incredible architecture. There are also numerous unique spots to view Edinburgh's impressive skyline. The places with the best views or offering the best views include
The Scott Monument
The Scott Monument is one of Edinburgh's landmarks and is a beautiful Gothic monument. Viewing the city from its top is a fantastic experience. Even though it takes 287 steps to reach the top, it is definitely worth the effort and is among the top things to do in Edinburgh.
Arthur's seat is the location of an old volcano that formed most of Holyrood park; it offers beautiful views of the city skyline and is a favourite among locals and tourists alike.
Calton Hill is another beautiful natural formation that allows for beautiful views of the city; it is also home to various galleries and beautiful Classical structures. The National monument is the hill's most famous landmark and is inspired by the Greek pantheon of Athens.
Edinburgh is definitely a must-see, and to experience the city to the fullest, we recommend that you do the following thing if you're wondering what the "top things to do in Edinburgh are". The top things to do are:
Walk The Royal Mile, where you can see plenty of Edinburgh attractions.
Explore the city's streets on foot and marvel at the architecture's beauty.
Explore the city's food scene and eat like a local.
Lastly, get beautiful skyline views of the city.
Don't forget to capture your journey throughout your stay and try to create as many memories as possible, and to check some of our favourite Edinburgh accommodation options we offer:
1. What are some things to do in Edinburgh for free?
There are various places to visit for free in Edinburgh, which includes the Arboretum, the Scottish National Gallery with a one-pound optional donation, the historic St Giles Cathedral, the Museum of Childhood, Dean Village, and many more.
2. What are some crazy things to do in Edinburgh?
Climb up Arthur’s seat, an old volcano; check out the death masks at the National Portrait Gallery; visit the Surgeon’s Hall museum; watch the Penguin’s parade at the zoo; visit the Gorgie City Farm, among many more fun activities.
3. What are some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh?
Some of Edinburgh’s most popular restaurants are Kanpai, a Japanese restaurant; Fhior, a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant; The Bon Vivant, a Scottish restaurant; Aurora, an innovative restaurant, and Café St Honoré, a French Bistro.