The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

Hey, fellow wanderers! Are you planning to visit Edinburgh and looking for things to do, or are you simply curious about Scotland? Well, look no further because here at Wonders of Scotland, I, Alisa, will be your host and guide. It’s been over a decade since I moved to the city that has given me the chance to experience life in Edinburgh from myriad perspectives. I’ll be writing more about this in my upcoming posts, but this particular entry is aimed specifically at those who are visiting Edinburgh for a short time and want to make the most of their stay.

So here is my list of the 10 best things to do in Edinburgh (both free and paid).

1. Stroll down the Royal Mile (Free).

I always suggest starting the introduction to the city with a leisurely walk through Edinburgh’s captivating heart, the Royal Mile. The cobbled streets are steeped in tales of ghosts and famous figures, making it the perfect place for an awe-inspiring journey through time. As you wander the enchanting streets, you might just catch a haunting melody drifting from beneath the city, played by the ghostly presence of a young bagpiper. And don’t forget to stop by the renowned David Hume statue, where tradition insists that rubbing his toe brings you good luck. But wait, there’s more! Imagine having a delightful conversation with none other than Elaine Davidson, a Guinness World Record holder for being the most pierced woman in the world. Edinburgh is brimming with extraordinary tales and encounters that will leave you utterly captivated. 

Get ready to explore, be amazed, and create memories that will last a lifetime! Don’t fancy exploring the city on your own? Why not join a free walking tour? I absolutely adore these tours as they provide a fantastic way to get a comprehensive feel for the city in a short amount of time. You’ll be guided by passionate locals who will share thrilling stories, historical tidbits, and insider tips that you won’t find in any guidebook. Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow travelers and make new friends along the way.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

2. Visit Edinburgh Castle (Paid).

Edinburgh Castle is a quintessential symbol of Edinburgh and a must-visit attraction when exploring the city. Perched atop a volcanic rock, the castle provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Boasting a storied history as a royal residence, military stronghold, and prison, Edinburgh Castle is a living and breathing slice of European history. I would recommend spending at least 3 hours exploring its grounds. It is a magical experience that you would not want to miss, especially if you would like to learn more about the city’s history and the royal family. Personally, my favorite part of the castle is the dog’s cemetery that dates back to 1837.

Ticket price at the moment of writing this post: £19.50.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

3. Climb Arthur’s Seat (Free).

I won’t lie, I am absolutely obsessed with Arthur’s Seat. It is probably one of my favorite places to be, especially when I need to clear my mind or exercise my legs. This ancient volcano turned hill is a mini gateway to the highlands, making it a perfect spot for adventure enthusiasts. The hill, although not too high, offers breathtaking views of the city, along with two scenic lakes. Make sure to dress appropriately before setting out on your journey to the top of the hill, as it can get very windy. At a height of 251 meters, it takes around 30-60 minutes to reach the top. But every step of the way is worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in Edinburgh.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

4. Explore the Underground City (Paid).

Another activity that I personally find very interesting and unique is exploring the underground city. This hidden gem is full of mysterious streets and underground vaults that tell the story of Scotland’s dark history. With chilling tales of ghosts and stories of how people in the 17th century used to live, this underground city is a must-visit destination for thrill-seekers and history buffs alike. Visiting the underground city offers a chance to learn about a part of Scotland’s history that is often overlooked. So if you’re looking for an offbeat adventure or just want to explore the hidden side of Scotland, make sure to add the underground city to your itinerary!

5. Try Local Cuisine (Paid).

Scottish cuisine may not be as renowned as French or Italian cuisine, but it’s a unique experience for anyone who enjoys hearty and filling food. One of the most famous dishes is haggis neeps and tatties, which is a traditional Scottish dish that consists of a savory meaty pudding served with turnips and potatoes. It may not sound very appetizing, but it’s a comforting and delicious meal that’s worth trying at least once. Fish and chips, Cullen Skink (a thick Scottish fish soup), and the famous Scotch broth are some other dishes that are a must-try when visiting Scotland. Moreover, whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, and it’s definitely worth exploring various distilleries to learn about the process of whisky making. Overall, Scottish food is a lot like the country itself – hearty, comforting, and full of character.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

6. Sunset on Calton Hill (Free).

Calton Hill is one of the most romantic places to visit in Edinburgh. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy panoramic views of the city without having to climb a steep hill like Arthur’s Seat. One of the most magical times to visit is during the sunset in summer, where the sky’s colors light up the whole city with a breathtaking view. Don’t forget to bring a hot drink, a snack, and a warm coat to sit down, relax, and take some fantastic photos.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

7. Spend Half of the Day Exploring the National Museum (Free).

If you’re looking for a fun and educational activity in Edinburgh, look no further than the National Museum of Scotland. This museum is jam-packed with several floors of incredible exhibitions, ranging from displays of Scottish heritage to fascinating Egyptian mummies (How cool is that?). You’ll definitely want to wear comfortable shoes and give yourself plenty of time to explore all the exhibits. The best part? Entry to the museum is completely free, making it a great budget-friendly activity for the whole family. Kids love the interactive exhibits and hands-on activities, so it’s a great spot for a day out.

P.S. Have you ever heard about Dolly the Sheep? Dolly was the first mammal that was ever cloned and she is now hiding somewhere in the National Museum of Scotland. Try to look for her, don’t miss it out.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

8. Walk the Water of Leith (Free).

For hikers and nature lovers visiting Edinburgh, I highly recommend trying out my favorite trail, the Water of Leith route. Whether you have a full day or just a few hours to spare, there’s plenty to explore on this 19.6-km point-to-point trail. The trail is generally considered an easy route, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. On average, it takes about 5 hours to complete, but many hikers opt for shorter segments. As you make your way down the trail, you’ll take in breathtaking views of the waterfalls, scenic views, and picturesque wooded areas. The trail is also popular with joggers and walkers, but you can still find plenty of peaceful moments to enjoy the tranquility of nature. It is especially intriguing for birds watchers like myself. So, take a break from the hustle and  bustle of the city and experience an unforgettable adventure on the Water of Leith route.

9. Explore Dean Village (Free).

If you’re looking for a charming and picturesque spot to explore in Edinburgh, you’ve got to check out Dean Village. The village nestled right inside the city, and it’s filled with stunning architecture, quaint walkways, and gorgeous views. It’s truly a photographer’s dream and your Instagram page would thank you for that!

The village, originally known as “Water of Leith Village,” was established in the 12th century as a milling center due to its ideal location along the Water of Leith river. It quickly grew in importance as a hub for grain milling and the production of paper, snuff, and other goods. In the present day, Dean Village has transformed into a peaceful residential area and a popular tourist destination. I guarantee that you will instantly fall in love with this charming little place.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

10. Visit the Royal Botanic Garden (Free).

Don’t forget to add Edinburgh’s Botanical Garden to your list of must-see attractions. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a massive 70-acre park that has become one of the most popular free activities in the city. With dozens of different gardens, exotic plants, and stunning landscapes, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Whether you’re interested in horticulture or just love the outdoors, the Botanical Garden is the perfect retreat. Just remember, while you’re wandering through the lush greenery, don’t try to feed the squirrels – they’re known for their ferocious bites (Trust me, I know what I am talking about).  Enjoy the gardens and have a fantastic time exploring the beautiful scenery.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh

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