Edinburgh is a city steeped in history and rich culture. From its castle overlooking the city to the delicious haggis and Scotch whisky to the importance of unicorns, there’s no short of fun and interesting things to do in Edinburgh. In fact, you’ll be dreaming of returning as soon as you leave. That goes for all of Scotland, for that matter. Read below about some awesome things to do in Edinburgh and enjoy your time in the beautiful Scottish capital!
Free Walking Tour
As always, a free walking tour is the best place to start your journey. You’ll get a feel for the layout of the city and you’ll learn some interesting facts you didn’t know before. If Sandemans Tours are available, which they are in Edinburgh, then we highly recommend this tour company. They offer other tours like Harry Potter or Edinburgh Castle, etc….
The iconic symbol of Edinburgh, this castle has a long and awesome history. Probably one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh, expect a crowd. However, during our visit in March, the crowds were quite light which was a pleasant surprise. We took a guided tour, which was well worth it.
You’ll get some fantastic views from Edinburgh Castle and learn about all that has taken place, like some inspiration for a bloody Game of Thrones event (aka the Red Wedding). There are also some fantastic exhibits and museums within the castle grounds so plan on spending some time here!
The place where you’ll find the most tourists hanging about, the Royal Mile is the most happening spot in Edinburgh. Don’t let the tourists deter you though. Take a walk and see the architecture that makes Edinburgh so unique. Or catch a glimpse of Scotland’s national animal, the Unicorn, behind St. Gile’s Church.
Peek down an alleyway or two and get lost wandering one of the many narrow corridors that connect the city streets. The Royal Mile takes you from Edinburgh Castle down to parliament so there are many sights to see just on this one street!
Are you fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter? If so, then you’re in for a real treat in Edinburgh! From the hotel where she finished the 7th and final book to the school that inspired Hogwarts, you’ll find plenty of Harry Potter lore in Edinburgh. Check out our post on Harry Potter in Edinburgh for some great tips on what to see while you’re in town and jump into a magical world!
This graveyard has a lot of history buried within it and some fantastic headstones to appreciate. While a lot of stones are eroded there are still many with their wonderful detail. We’ve been during both day and night and both visits were spectacular. You’ll find there’s a furry hero waiting for you at the entrance and also some relatives to He Who Must Not Be Named. Oh, and you’ll find a headstone for the worst poet in history who shares his surname with Minerva McGonagall.
The Writer’s Museum
A special museum hidden off to the side of the Royal Mile, the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh makes for a unique visit. Literary works are king in Edinburgh and the Writer’s Museum lets you appreciate that fact. Enjoy a look into the lives of famous authors like Robert Louis Stevenson who brought you Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet and Sir Walter Scott, the writer of Waverley.
St. Giles Cathedral
Having survived the Reformation, St. Giles Cathedral is a Presbyterian church with loads of history and interesting tales. We highly recommend taking a walking tour so you can hear some of the great stories that took place here. Catch a glimpse of influential figure John Knox’s statue inside and enjoy the beautiful stained glass.
Edinburgh Spooky Tour
From ghosts to grave robbers, there are endless tours throughout Edinburgh that seek to frighten you. If that suits your fancy then be sure to book one!
Try Some Haggis and Mash (and other Scottish goodies)
A popular Scottish dish, haggis and mash is quite delicious. Having previously heard mixed reviews about this meal we tried it for ourselves and we weren’t disappointed! It goes great with some Scotch whisky, as does the lamb shank. Try Makars Gourmet Mash Bar if you’re interested in some Scottish grub!
One of the best views around Edinburgh, catch a glimpse of beautiful Scotland from above. Once an extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat provides a panoramic view and is an easy walk. You can’t say no to that!
Even if you’re not a fan of liquor, you need to at least sample Scotland’s precious drink. Scotch whisky is quite special and the stories behind it make it that much more enjoyable to drink. There are plenty of tours that offer whisky tasting but we highly recommend checking out Little Fish Tours for an absolutely fantastic whisky tasting experience in Edinburgh. Hear tales and folklore while learning all about Scotch in the upstairs of the Waverley Bar. If your guide’s name is Greg then get excited!
The most charming street in Edinburgh, Victoria street is vibrant and full of Harry Potter. It’s more than that, but yes, it served as inspiration for Diagon Alley. From charming little shops to one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh (up next!), Victoria Street deserves a stroll and definitely a few pictures.
Arguably the best joint to grab a cheap and delicious bite in Edinburgh, Oink is extraordinary. The interior is small but forgo sitting inside and grab a bench in the Grassmarket Square just beyond Victoria Street. Trust us, you want to try this place. Get the Grunter!
Lastly, Enjoy Some Bagpipes!
It wouldn’t be Scotland if there weren’t bagpipes. Whether you want to hear them or not, you will!
Summary of Things to Do in Edinburgh
While we wished we would have had more time in Edinburgh, we were able to do a lot of things and experience so much. Without a doubt, Edinburgh, or all of Scotland, is our favorite place in the UK. Having stayed in the British Isles for 10 weeks, we experienced quite a lot. We hope you’re able to travel to Scotland and see the enchanting city that is Edinburgh for yourself.