Things to See and Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

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By: Heather Boag
Published: December 30, 2015
Last Update: December 26, 2022

Though it has plenty of attractions, Edinburgh is actually a fairly compact city. Visitors will want to bring their walking shoes though, as there are a number of hills to navigate as you make your way around town. With most must-see places located within the Old Town and New Town (roughly a 15-minute walk apart), Edinburgh is a city that’s probably best seen on foot. See a list of things to see and do in Edinburgh.

1. Edinburgh Castle

Home to the Edinburgh tattoo - and some pretty amazing views - Edinburgh castle is a royal fortress located on one of the highest points in the city. Continuously in use for 1000 years, the castle is excellently preserved - and the audio guides available on site give visitors an excellent overview of its history.Edinburgh Castle

2. Real Mary King’s Close

After being closed over in the 18th century, Real Mary King’s Close is a wonderful - and well preserved - look at Medieval Scottish life. Easy to find along the Royal Mile, book tickets in advance if you can, as it can become crowded. Watch out for ghosts!Real Mary King’s Close

3. Dean Village

A walk through Dean Village can make you feel like you’re gone back in time. Beautiful in winter or summer, stopping on the small bridge overlooking the bend in the river makes for the ultimate photo opp.Dean Village

4. Calton Hill

If you find yourself tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, Calton Hill provides an oasis just minutes from Edinburgh’s city center. With spectacular views as far as the Forth Bridge on one side, and over the city to the other, you’ll get the quintessential view of Edinburgh - and some peace and quiet, too.Calton Hill

5. Scottish National Gallery

This museum is home to most of the country’s fine art, as well as exhibitions that change seasonally. Newly joined with the neighboring Scottish Academy Gallery via an entrance from Princess Street Gardens, this is the country’s first world class art space.Scottish National Gallery

6. Camera Obscura

Get a 360 degree view of Edinburgh from Camera Obscura, located on Castle Hill in the Old Town. Over 150 years old, the Camera Obscura focuses light from the top of the tower into a large dish in a dark room below, resulting in an incredible view of the city. Plus, there are lots of activities for kids of all ages.Camera Obscura

7. Holyrood Park

Sure, it’s located a little outside the main tourist route, but you certainly won’t regret a visit to Holyrood Park. Walk to the top of Arthur’s Seat for stunning views, and a feeling of the Scottish highlands - without really leaving the city.Holyrood Park

8. Dr. Neil’s Garden

A local favorite, Dr. Neil’s Garden is about a 10-minute walk from the edge of Holyrood Park. You’ll need to walk through a parking lot to get there, but once you do, you’ll be able to admire the small ponds, bridges, and herb gardens.Dr. Neils Garden

9. St. Giles’ Cathedral

The historic City Church of Edinburgh, St. Giles’ Cathedral is a stunning example of gothic architecture. Regular guided tours to the roof and turret are available. You’ll find the Heart of Midlothian right outside, so if you do make it to the rooftop, spit for good luck. It’s expected!St. Giles’ Cathedral

10. The Scotch Whiskey Experience

No trip to Scotland would be complete without a trip to a whiskey distillery! A great introduction to scotch, visitors are able to sample a few varieties while learning about how whiskey is made.The Scotch Whiskey Experience