Things to do in Edinburgh

Scotland has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I was there for 4 days but could have stayed much longer. There are so many activities to keep you busy in Edinburgh, rain or shine. Here are my top recommendations for things to do in this magical city 

  1. Explore Edinburgh Castle – Situated on top of Castlehill, it’s hard to miss this historic landmark that dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. Take a tour or simply marvel at the exterior of this impressive 12th century fortress and World Heritage Site. Avoid queues and purchase your ticket online here https://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held here every August and is well worth checking out if you’re thinking of making the trip at this time of the year.
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Edinburgh Castle.

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2. Check out the world’s largest monument dedicated to a writer (Scott Monument) – This Victorian Gothic monument is dedicated to Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott. You can climb the 287 steps to the top for a spectacular view of the city or simply take it all in from below. It’s located on Princes Street, right in the heart of all the action. 

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The Scott Monument, East Princes Street Gardens.

3. Climb to the top of Calton Hill – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the location of several historic monuments such as the National Monument of Scotland, the Dugald Stewart Monument (dedicated to the Scottish philosopher) as well as the Nelson Monument. This a perfect place to get away from the city and marvel at the spectacular panoramic views of Edinburgh. 

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4. Learn something new at Surgeons’ Hall Museum – By far the best museum I’ve ever been to. If you’re even slightly interested in anatomy and the history of medicine, this museum is a must see. They have everything from real skulls and skeletons to wet specimens of various organs, all beautifully displayed inside the Royal College of Surgeons (founded in 1505). Photography NOT permitted inside as the museum contains human remains – not for the faint of heart!

5. Get spooked on a Ghost Tour – There are a few tours to choose from – I did the City of the Dead ‘Underground City tour.’ We were taken into the South Bridge Vaults where a population once lived in less than ideal conditions. If you’re interested in learning about the darker side of Edinburgh’s fascinating history – this is the perfect tour for you. Very spooky & well done (that’s saying a lot because I don’t scare easily!) Book online here: https://www.cityofthedeadtours.com/.

6. Illuminate your mind at Camera Obscura  – Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a fun and interactive attraction for the entire family. Located in Old Town, Camera Obscura has a variety of hands-on optical illusions and a rooftop terrace with 360 degree panoramic views of the city. Unique way to spend a couple of hours (especially if it’s raining!)

7. Get in on a secret at Dunbar’s Close Garden (aka secret garden) – Escape the city in this peaceful hidden gem just moments from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile. Had I not done some research before my trip, I would have missed it. Grab a coffee or a bite to eat and have a little down time in this tranquil oasis.

8. Have a drink at one of Edinburgh’s many haunted pubs – Edinburgh is believed to be one of the most haunted cities in the world. There are a number of landmarks with reports of paranormal activity – pubs are no exception. While you’re out exploring, why not stop in for a drink at the Banshee Labyrinth (claimed to be Edinburgh’s most haunted pub), the Last Drop Tavern or the White Hart Inn and see for yourself?

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The Banshee Labyrinth,  29-35 Niddry Street.

9. Marvel at the architecture of St. Giles’ Cathedral – Founded in 1124, St. Giles’ Cathedral is located just off the historic Royal Mile. The architecture is incredible, as are its ornate monuments and colourful stained glass. Make sure to take a look inside; the interior is breathtaking.

10. Expand your mind at the National Museum of Scotland – Fascinating museum! Do not miss the miniature coffins found at Arthur’s Seat in 1836. They are believed to be linked to the Burke & Hare “Anatomy Murders” that took place between 1827 & 1828 where the pair murdered their lodgers in order to sell the bodies for profit. There are several stories about these creepy dolls (from toys to witchcraft) but the most common belief is that they were used as a mock burial for the 17 murder victims (only 8 have survived from the 17 found at the site). Top tip: head up to the terrace for a rooftop view of the city.

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11. Take a stroll down the Royal Mile – There is so much to see and do along this historic street in the heart of Edinburgh. Pop into this traditional Scottish market and check out the unique items on display from a variety of independent sellers. The Royal Mile Market is located at 175 The Royal Mile and is open everyday from 10am-6pm.

Gladstone’s Land, located at 477B Lawnmarket is one of Edinburgh’s oldest buildings on the Royal Mile. It is a surviving high-tenement house, acquired and restored by the National Trust for Scotland, saving it from demolition. It is now a popular tourist attraction, providing visitors with a glimpse into life in the 17 century. Tours can be booked online here https://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Gladstones-Land/.

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Gladstone’s Land, Old Town.

12. Get creative at the Fringe Festival – It was a coincidence that I was there during the Fringe Festival but I’m so glad that I was! Loads of performers lined the streets (some really talented ones) and although I’m not one for big crowds, the energy was so great that I didn’t mind it one bit. I even took in 4 shows – the best was called “Father of Lies” which was a theatre performance based on a true story that was a combination of Rosemary’s Baby & Making a Murderer – well done guys!

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13. Eat and drink like a local – Make sure to stop at the Whiski Rooms (located at 4-7 North Bank Street) and try Scotland’s national dish – haggis (if you’re not familiar with what haggis is made out of, please don’t google it…try it first – trust me on this). I decided to try the haggis spring rolls (just in case I wasn’t a fan) and I quite enjoyed them. Also, if you’re a whisky drinker like myself, Scotland is the place for you! They have a variety of whiskies to choose from – ask your server for their recommendation. Don’t forget about the Scottish meat pies – they are everywhere and for a reason, they’re delicious.

14. Get shopping, vintage style – There are plenty of unique shops in Edinburgh; one of my favourites is Godiva Boutique (located at 9 West Port) just before you get to Grassmarket (bustling area with a variety of bars and restaurants – well worth checking out, especially on Saturdays when the market is on). Shop for one of a kind, made-to-measure clothing in this reasonably priced boutique and then grab a well deserved pint at the Last Drop Tavern (one of Edinburgh’s many haunted pubs).

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This city is incredible, I’m so grateful that I was able to spend some time here. Goodbye for now, Edinburgh ☔

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One of my favourite quotes: “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

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