Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh. So many places to visit, so many things to do, so much history to learn about! This dark and mysterious Scottish capital is full of amazing surprises, great landscapes, and Harry Potter vibes. With its UNESCO World Heritage Old town, its cobbled streets and Gothic buildings it quickly became my favorite city in the UK.

Overall, Edinburgh definitely calls for a perfect city trip with good flight connections from all the major European cities. We’ve spent 3 days in Edinburgh and here are some of the things I’d recommend checking out if you’re headed to this historic city.

Walk down the Royal Mile

One of my favorite things we’ve done in Edinburgh was definitely walking down the Royal Mile. You start off at the Edinburgh Castle and walk all the way to the Holyrood Palace which will take you approximately 15 minutes. It’s a great way to get a sense of how historic the city is, see some of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh and listen to the traditional Scottish bagpipers. I’ll admit, walking down the mile feels a bit touristic but the views along the way are definitely worth the walk.
Fun fact: the Royal Mile is not exactly a mile long but a mile and 107 yards. Close enough.

Along the Royal Mile you will pass a Parliament Square which is built on the old graveyard of St Giles Kirk.

Edinburgh Castle

If you plan to visit Edinburgh I’m sure you won’t miss the castle as it sits on the top of an extinct volcano. It is also where the 1 pm gun is fired every day (except Sundays), so be sure to not miss this one out.

Edinburgh castle – a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. The entrance ticket will cost you £18.50 but be sure to purchase it in advance!

Victoria Street

Visit one of the prettiest and photogenic streets of Edinburgh. With its ancient stone facades and cute little shops, it’s the place where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration for the famous Diagon Alley in her Harry Potter books.

Local tip: if you like pork burgers make sure to check out Oink on Victoria street. It serves THE best pulled pork sandwiches in Edinburgh! Oh, how I wish I could have one right now…

Victoria street – one of the prettiest streets of the city full of unique shops.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in central Edinburgh. It’s yet another place where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration for the character names in her Harry Potter books. Throughout the graveyard one can find tombstones of Rom Riddell (Riddle), Moodie (Moody), McGonagall and others.
For all the Harry Potter fans – please make sure to stay respectful when visiting as this is an active church and graveyard.

At the entrance of the graveyard you can also find a grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal Skye terrier who is believed to have sat next to his owner’s grave for 14 whole years. His statue can be found on the corner of Candlemaker’s Row and George IV Bridge.

The entrance of Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Visit the free museums

For example, the National Museum of Scotland, which is one of the biggest museums in Scotland. To be honest, we firstly weren’t planning on visiting this one. We went inside to warm ourselves up from walking around the Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is right next to the museum. However, the size and the collections this museum holds positively surprised us so we stayed there for quite a while. If you decide to visit it, be sure to check out the natural history section with loads of dinosaurs and meteorites.

The National Museum of Scotland – one of the biggest museums in the country.

We’ve also visited The Writers’ Museum which is located close to the royal mile. It presents the lives of three of the foremost Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Writers’ Museum

Local tip: The museums in Edinburgh are usually admission free but you are expected to give a donation of your choice.

Visit a local pub

I’m sure you realized by now that Scotts are famous for their whiskey, beer and gin. Therefore, one of the things you absolutely should do in Edinburgh is visiting a pub. If you want to visit one away from the touristic crowds I’d recommend the Jolly Judge pub. It’s located just around the corner from the Writers’ Museum. It’s a small basement pub with log fire and cosy atmosphere.

One of the things you can’t miss out on in Edinburgh – grabbing a drink in a local pub!

Dean’s Village

If you’re looking for the most picturesque place in Edinburgh then make sure to put Dean’s village on your list! Only 10 minutes from the center, this residential area is like an oasis in the middle of Edinburgh. An oasis with ridiculously cute buildings that is.

Hike to Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s seat is probably one of the best places for great views over Edinburgh. Only after visiting it I actually learned that Arthur’s Seat forms the largest part of a volcano that used to be in Edinburgh.

We started our little hike at the end of the Royal Mile (at Holyrood Palace) and in about 30 minutes of easy walking, we found our way to the top. The hike is very easy but I would still recommend wearing comfortable shoes and a good jacket as it can be pretty windy on the top.

Vintage Shopping

One of the things I was pleasantly surprised about Edinburgh is how many vintage and second-hand shops it has. Some of them include Herman Brown, W. Armstrong & Son, and Those Were The Days. Whether you want luxurious pieces, funky 80s gear or a party dress, be sure to check them out!

W. Armstrong & Son – an awesome vintage shop located at theGrassmarket in the Old Town.

Try haggis and a fried mars bar

Oh, Scotland, you truly are amazing but your traditional food is… well, interesting! We decided to give haggis (a savory meat pudding) a try and tried not to think too much about the ingredients it consisted of. Definitely not my favourite but worth a try!

Another thing we heard SO much about was a deep-fried Mars bar. And I have to admit, this one was quite tasty!

Eating a deep-fried Mars bar – an unusual (but tasty!) Scottish tradition.

We’ve visited Edinburgh in December when there was a beautiful Christmas market at the East Street Gardens which gave the city yet another spark.

We’ve only had a few days in Scotland so we’ve decided not to visit the famous Scottish Highlands. Nonetheless, we’ll definitely visit Scotland again and we’ll put that on our list for then! What other things should we see during our second visit to beautiful Scotland?

Some extra tips if you plan to visit Edinburgh:

  • Edinburgh is a very walkable city but quite hilly – so make sure to bring a pair of comfortable shoes with you. And an umbrella.
  • We did a free walking tour of Edinburgh and our guide was fantastic! In two hours we learned a bit more about Edinburgh’s history and saw the most important highlights, such as the Royal Market, the Grassmarket, Victoria Street, and the Greyfriars Kirkyard.
  • Bear in mind they drive on the left side if you plan to rent a car. In my opinion, renting a car is not necessary if you plan to stay in the cities (or travel between cities) as they have a very good public transport system.
  • If you’re visiting Edinburgh during the summer, don’t forget about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! It’s the largest arts festival in the world which makes it a great time to visit the city as there are hundred things to see across the whole city every day.

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