Underground, overground, on top of a volcano, on a boat – Edinburgh’s sights and attractions are as varied as they are exciting. Covering history, politics, royalty, the natural world and more, we didn’t have space to write about all of them so here are our favourites. If you’re not sure where to start, head for the Royal Mile. It’s bookended by two of the city’s headline attractions – Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House.
Standing majestically on top of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline. It’s home to St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, and the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles. Kings and queens have lived and loved in The Royal Palace. Enemies and pirates have suffered in the Prisons of War. Soldiers are honoured at the Scottish National War Memorial and military history told in the Regimental Museums.
For more than 400 years, Edinburgh University has been attracting students from all over the county and the world with its excellent academic reputation and buzzing city centre campuses. Its galleries and museums – Talbot Rice Gallery, the Anatomical Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum to name a few – are open to the public and house some rare and impressive collections.
Since opening its doors, the Edinburgh Dungeon has been attracting visitors with its dark tales and gory stories. Over 80-minutes you’ll take a trip around 1,000 years of Edinburgh’s horrible history and meet lots of sinister characters along the way. From famous cannibal Sawney Bean and serial killers Burke and Hare to torturers and plague victims, this live-action interactive horror show brings to life some of Edinburgh’s darkest moments.
Visit Edinburgh Zoo and you’ll be supporting some of the world’s most important conservation projects.
In return, you’ll see the only giant pandas and koalas in the UK plus the highly entertaining penguin parade.
This very royal park is right next to Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the Royal Mile. In it, you’ll find Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano which towers above Edinburgh and offers a magnificent viewing point. It’s also home to St Anthony’s Chapel, Holyrood Abbey, Salisbury Crag and Duddingston Loch.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Its handy location halfway down the Royal Mile makes St Giles’ Cathedral the perfect stop-off on your way from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood House. The stained glass windows will leave you aghast. It’s also where the annual Hogmanay Candlelit Concert happens.
The Real Mary King’s Close
Once the heart of Edinburgh, Mary King’s Close and the surrounding ‘wynds’ now lie beneath the streets of the Old Town. Dramatic guided tours tell real-life tales of this plague-infested, haunted and intriguing part of town.
Palace of Holyrood House
The Queen’s official Scottish residence, Holyrood House really is an opportunity to see how the other half live. Snoop around the Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers, the State Apartments or the current exhibition.
Whilst you’re at Holyrood House, don’t forget to go to Holyrood Abbey. Situated behind Holyrood House in Holyrood Park, what remains of this 12th century monastic building will set your imagination on fire.
Scotch Whisky Experience
Enjoy a wee dram and gawp at the world’s biggest private collection of Scotch – but only after a barrel ride through a visual distillery and a sensory exploration of the art of whisky blending. Booking in advance recommended, especially during November and December.
An ultra-modern building in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Scottish Parliament Building has so much more to offer visitors than a snapshot of government. History, art, literature and architecture tours, regular events and exhibitions make it a top Edinburgh attraction.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
It used to be where the royal family holiday, honeymooned and entertained. Now it’s an award-winning visitor attraction with a top-class tea room. Royal Yacht
Britannia is a short distance from the city centre in Leith.
Princes Street Gardens
This picturesque garden in the middle of the city is worth a visit for the Floral Clock alone. Made of at least 30,000 flowers, it’s not just pretty – it tells the correct time. There’s nothing else like it in the world.
Craigmillar Castle is a quieter alternative to Edinburgh Castle but you still get that great sense of medieval Scottish history. It’s where Mary, Queen of Scots took refuge and supposedly plotted to murder her husband.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Inside rare orchids, tropical palms, alpine flowers, an arboretum, a woodland garden, the largest collection of Chinese plants outside of China and 28 glasshouses make for a horticultural paradise only a mile from the centre.