Straddling the ancient and modern worlds, the historical city of Edinburgh boasts a thick concentration of well-preserved historic sites perched atop a series of hills overlooking the North Sea, which provides travelers with scenic vistas of a heavenly landscape.
From blissfully wandering around Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town to learning about Scottish history at Edinburgh castle, the capital city of Scotland will treat you with a blissful travel experience.
Read on to discover a well-curated list of the top things to do in Edinburgh.
Find Places To Stay In Edinburgh, Scotland
Top Edinburgh Attractions
The Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is the former home to Scotland’s most prestigious kings and queens, such as Mary Queen of Scots. Nowadays, it’s home to the Honours of Scotland (Crown Room) the oldest Crown jewel in Britain, made of gold, silver, and precious stones.
Other highlights of Edinburgh Castle include the Great Hall, built for King James IV, and the Romanesque-style St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
The bustling Royal Mile is a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town. While meandering through this history-filled location, expect to come across some of Edinburgh’s top attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the palace of Holyrood House, and the Edinburgh Museum.
This ancient street is also filled with an array of stores, cafes, restaurants, and pubs.
From Sunday to Friday, the Royal Mile hosts the Royal Mile Market, a traditional Scottish market made up of independent maker-designers selling jewelry, art, gifts, and apparel.
Queen’s Gallery at the Holyrood Palace
Standing majestically across from the Scottish Parliament, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Royal Residence in Edinburgh. Its main highlight is the Queen’s Gallery, which displays works of art from the Royal Collection
Here, you can also visit well-manicured gardens, the remains of 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, a series of lavish state apartments decorated with furniture, paintings, and historic objects, and the alluring Throne Room, boasting a pair of thrones commissioned by King George V in 1911.
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
Arthur’s Seat (at Holyrood Park)
Adjacent to the Holyrood Palace lies the Holyrood Park, also known as Queen’s Park or King’s Park. Open to the public, this glorious royal park is famous for its picturesque landscape made up of hills, lochs, glens, ridges, basalt cliffs, and patches of gorse.
One of the park’s most visited sights is Arthur’s Seat. Sitting 823 ft above sea level, this ancient volcano is a prime spot for watching the sun setting above the Edinburgh skyline.
Address: Queen’s Dr, Edinburgh EH8 8HG
Edinburgh Old Town
One of the best ways to experience Edinburgh’s history and culture is by walking through the medieval Old Town, the oldest part of the city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There, be sure to visit the award-winning Scottish Parliament building, often regarded as the home of Scottish democracy.
Another must-visit in Edinburgh’s Old Town is the Scott Monument, built for Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.
Don’t pass up the chance to also visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse (Holyrood Palace) —the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland — where you’ll see the famous royal State Apartments.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a great place to learn about different aspects of the story of Scotland through the country’s national collections of portraits. Beautifully set within a great red sandstone neo-gothic palace, the museum has a dazzling collection of portraits
famous historical figures such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
Address: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Need to escape from Edinburgh’s hustle and bustle? Then, head over to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Dating back over 300 years, this sprawling garden is home to over 13,000 different species of plants and over 3 million herbs from around the world.
This family-friendly garden also offers fantastic views of the capital’s skyline, featuring major attractions such as the beautiful Edinburgh Castle.
Address: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery is Home to one of the greatest art collections in the world. Located in a neoclassical-style building in central Edinburgh, close to Princes Street, the gallery is home to the country’s national collection of fine art, spanning international and Scottish art from the beginning of the Renaissance up to the start of the 20th century.
Must-see artworks at the Scottish National Gallery include Woman Drying Herself by Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh’s Olive Trees, and Haystacks, by Claude Monet.
Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Are you visiting Edinburgh during the summer? Then, don’t miss the chance to experience the lively Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Considered one of the most popular summer festivals in the UK, the event takes place every August and features a robust lineup of more than 59,600 opera, theatre, dance, circus, and music performances.
Edinburgh’s New Town
While roaming the streets of New Town, go to the Princes Street Gardens, perfect for jogging, biking, or escaping the urban sprawl. Then, take off to Edinburgh’s main shopping street: Princes Street, lined with tempting boutiques and the ultimate destination for laid-back self-indulgence.
The National Monument of Scotland
The National Monument of Scotland is a national memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Designed during 1823–6 by and modeled upon the Parthenon in Athens, the monument stands on top of Calton Hil, one of Edinburgh’s most famous sunset spots.
Address: Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5BN,
Are 3 days in Edinburgh enough?
Yes. For first-time visitors, it’s ideal to spend two or three days in Edinburgh, which gives enough time to explore the city center and see the main sites.
Are 2 days enough in Edinburgh?
Two days is a great amount of time to spend in Edinburgh and explore the city’s main attractions.
What is not to miss in Edinburgh?
The top attractions in Edinburgh are:
- Edinburgh Castle;
- Royal Mile;
- Queen’s Gallery at the Holyrood Palace;
- Arthur’s Seat (at Holyrood Park);
- Edinburgh Old Town;
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery;
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh;
- Scottish National Gallery;
- Edinburgh’s New Town;
- The National Monument of Scotland.
What is the most-visited place in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid-for attraction and Edinburgh’s most visited place.
What is the most famous thing about Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is famous for being filled with historic attractions, and UNESCO World Heritage sites that date back to literal centuries.
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