Edinburgh is a stunning and vibrant city no matter the season you decide to visit. In Winter you will find buzzing Christmas markets with an amazing atmosphere and in the Summer you will be met with the famous Fringe Festival. This makes Edinburgh the perfect destination all year round as there are always lots of events taking place. The only downside of Edinburgh is the weather but it's not as bad as you think, the cooler weather makes it great for wandering around and exploring the city. The weather also makes travelling fun as you never know what you're going to get!
The city is filled to the brim with history, every turn you take will have some history to share with you. Walking around Edinburgh you will find multiple narrow cobbled streets to get lost in and admire. The adorable cobbled streets will allow you to wind your way through the city as you appreciate the amazing views of the castle which sits on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the rest of the city. Edinburgh as a city treasures its history whilst combining new modern architecture to create a fantastic fusion of old and new, which really makes the city unique.
There is so much to see and do in Edinburgh from tourist attractions to seeing comedy shows or plays. This makes it hard to decide what to do, especially when you have a limited amount of time for a visit. To help you decide I have compiled an itinerary with the best things to see and do (in my opinion!) on your visit. The itinerary can be used for your whole trip or used to provide inspiration, I have also provided a few different options so that you can make it unique to your visit and suitable for your whole party. The only thing I have not included in this itinerary is seeing a show during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as this only takes place in the Summer. So if you are in Edinburgh during the Fringe make sure you head to the Royal Mile to partake in the numerous shows taking place!
Scroll below to find the best things to do in Edinburgh!
Day 1 - Morning
Visit Edinburgh Castle or Camera Obscura
To begin your morning in Edinburgh take a stroll up the Royal Mile, heading towards the castle. At the top, you will be granted with some beautiful views of Edinburgh City which makes a perfect photo opportunity! It is free to walk right up to the castle, you only have to pay if you decide to go inside. The castle is full of history as it has been around since the Iron Age, making it a great tour stop if you love history. As it is a desirable tourist attraction set right in the heart of the city centre, tickets often sell out very quickly. So make sure to book your tickets far in advance if you are planning to take a step inside the history. Tickets cost £18 for adults and £11 for children and can be booked online here:https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/plan-your-visit/tickets. The castle provides multiple places to visit inside including the Great Hall and St Margaret's Chapel. You are free to explore the castle as you like, or you can follow one of the helpful itineraries on the castle website to get around.
Instead, if you would rather admire the castle from the outside and history is not for you, then that is fine too. Another great option is to visit Camera Obscura, an attraction with over 100 illusions to explore and take fun pictures with your friends and family! Found just below the castle, it makes it easy to reach after taking in the views from the Castle. As it is set on a hill, the rooftop also provides some stunning views of the city and castle. There are over 6 floors, 100 illusions, a rooftop and a camera show to explore. I would highly recommend watching the camera show when you go as you get to see Edinburgh in a different way which you will never have seen before! Again I would recommend booking in advance to ensure your ticket place. You can book online at: https://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/. Tickets start at £14.95 for children and go up to £18.95 for adults, students can also get a reduced fee with a valid student ID. It is best to visit before or after the summer peak season as you will be charged slightly more between July and September.
Day 1 - Afternoon
Take Part in a Walking Tour
Personally, I love taking part in walking tours whenever I visit a new city. It is a fantastic way to get your bearings, explore the city, and learn lots of information about the history and culture whilst also meeting new people. The hosts will also be very passionate about the tours and city which makes it entertaining and fun! Wherever you visit there will be lots of different tours so you will be able to find one to suit you. For example, I know Edinburgh has a horror trail tour if you love learning about the dark side! Unfortunately, I have not done this tour so I will not be explaining more about it but I do have 3 different tour options which I have either done or have family who has done them. Therefore, I know they are good and highly recommended. Completing one of the tours below will be a great way to see the city and sights. If you would rather not complete a tour then feel free to explore in your own time.
The first walking tour option is the Sandemans Free Walking Tour whichhas tours in over 30 cities! The best part about these tours is that they are free! Instead, you can provide the tour host with a donation of your choice at the end, if you enjoyed the tour. I loved the Edinburgh Walking Tour as the guide was enthusiastic and showed us lots of the main sights in Edinburgh. This is great when you only have a limited amount of time in the city. You will leave the tour with lots of knowledge about the city as well as some fun stories to tell friends and family. The tours run twice a day at 11 am and 2 pm, lasting around 2.5 hours, they can be booked in advance here: https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/edinburgh/free-tour-of-edinburgh/. Running in English, German and Spanish they are great for travellers visiting the city.
The second tour option is one of my personal favourites, a Harry Potter-based tour! The tour takes you around Edinburgh where the original Harry Potter books were written. You will come across the influences used to write the books and see where Hogwarts was based! The Potter Trail is a fun tour with a Harry Potter-obsessed guide who will make you remember Edinburgh. The tours are perfect for anyone as they are fun and you get to explore the city in a new way rather than just seeing the main sights. Just like the tour above, this one is also free and relies on gratuities. To take part in the magic book online at: https://www.pottertrail.com/. The tours run for 1.5 hours at 12 pm and 4 pm.
Lastly, if you would rather escape the streets of Edinburgh, why not head beneath them?! To do this you can partake in the Real Mary Kings Close tours. Beneath the streets of Edinburgh, you will find a hidden close stuck in history where you will see the real dark history of Edinburgh. The tours take 1 hour and run throughout the day until 9 pm. The tours are fun and filled with history as you learn more about your guide's character and the role they had within the close, whilst exploring over 400 years of history from epidemics to royal visitors. To ensure your visit book here: https://www.realmarykingsclose.com/.
Day 1 - Evening
After your walking tour head down to the bottom of the Royal Mile where you will be greeted with a stunning view of an ancient volcano which forms one of the peaks in Edinburgh. You can even follow an easy path up to the top of the peak of Arthur's Seat where you will be rewarded with breathtaking360-degree views around Edinburgh and the nearby estuary. On a clear day, Arthur's Seat is a great place to watch the sun go down and relax. It is free to climb to the top but make sure you head left at the bottom to follow the main path, if you go right it will take a lot longer to climb as it is more rocky terrain!
Day 2 - Morning
Scottish National Gallery or National Museum of Scotland
To have a relaxing start to your second day in Edinburgh, head to one of the main museums. For art lovers visit the Scottish National Gallery, a Neoclassical building which holds a stunning collection of fine art. You can wander around here for hours, admiring the artwork and Scottish history. Like many attractions in Edinburgh, it is free admission but they do ask for donations to help maintain the running of the museum. It is easy to visit the museum as it is located in the centre of the city and they are open between 10 am and 5 pm every day.
The National Museum of Scotland is also available if you would rather learn about Scottish history, culture and antiquities. With over 7 floors filled to the brim with history and information, you will discover lots of information about Scotland, Fashion and the Environment. Once again, this museum is open daily between 10 am and 5 pm with free admission.
Day 2 - Afternoon
To round up your trip to Edinburgh you must visit the famous Princes Street. Set beneath the Castle, you can capture some great pictures of the castle and the Scott Monument above Princes Street Gardens. The castle appears to be clinging to the edge of the cliff which is an amazing view and picture! Princes Street and George Street just behind have numerous shops for you to visit. It is a great shopping area to take home some souvenirs or new clothes from Scotland! This is also the perfect place to catch the tram or bus to reach the train station, airport or other locations in Edinburgh and Scotland.
Overall, Scotland is a beautiful destination to visit. I love visiting Edinburgh as each time I go I find something new to explore and admire. It is a truly stunning location and a great city break with lots to see and many shows and plays to watch all year round.
If you have more time in Edinburgh, here are some other great things to do:
- The Royal Botanic Gardens
- Calton Hill
- Palace of Holyroodhouse
- Edinburgh Zoo
- St Giles' Cathedral
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever visited Scotland. What was your favourite part about the city? I love the atmosphere and friendly vibe of everyone you meet.