Wondering what are the best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland for a fun weekend break? I gathered the list of some amazing attractions in the city to ensure that you will have a great time. I’ve been to Edinburgh a number of times, the city has never failed to amaze me with its classic beauty and cultural heritage, most especially in the Old Town.
Edinburgh is the heart and centre of Scotland for hundreds of years. It’s where the monarchs and government were established. The city offers a colourful and proud history of the Scottish people. If you love history, arts and culture you will definitely love Edinburgh.
Edinburgh has also been known as the Athens of the North and Dùn Èideann in Scottish Gaelic. Most tourists have some trouble pronouncing the name of Edinburgh. It is pronounced as /’ɛdɪnbᵊrə/ or most locals says “Ed-in-brah“.
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List of the Best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland
- 1. Edinburgh Castle
- 2. Holyrood Palace
- 3. Royal Mile (Old Town)
- 4. Tartan Weaving Mill
- 5. Edinburgh Museums
- 6. Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat
- 7. Scotch Whisky Experience
- 8. Edinburgh Christmas market and Hogmanay
- 9. Military Tattoo and Fringe Festival
- 10. Try various Edinburgh activities and tours
- 11. The Elephant House and Nicolson’s Café
- 12. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
List of the Best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland
1. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is the most remarkable attraction in the city located over the volcanic peak and covers the skyline. It was a setting for many major historical events that happened in Scotland and Mary, the Queen of Scots. She was one of the famous people who once lived or visited in its walls.
You can see plenty of historical artefacts inside the castle, including clothing, weapons, and even Scottish Crown Jewels, aka the Honours of Scotland.
The castle also houses the National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Museum.
2. Holyrood Palace
Another castle that should be on your list of things to do in Edinburgh is located at the other end of the Royal Mile. The Holyrood Palace or the Palace of Holyrood House is the official house of the British Monarch in Scotland. It is one of the most visited palaces in Scotland.
3. Royal Mile (Old Town)
The Royal Mile is a famous road at the doorstep of Edinburgh Castle. It is the high street of the Old Town and a bustling attraction itself. It is understood that it runs around a mile from the hilltop Edinburgh castle to Holyrood Palace on the bottom end of it.
There are many things to see as you stroll through the Royal Mile including many cafes, restaurants, shops, and museums. You can also enjoy various performance acts and buskers along the road.
4. Tartan Weaving Mill
You can find a huge range of top-quality lamb’s wool and cashmere products at the Tartan Weaving Mill. Popularly known for the authentic Scottish clan fabric patterns and a range of souvenirs and trinkets. Inside the Tartan Weaving Mill, you may visit various clothing shops and get the most of the exciting offers. You can even get to try the tartans and have a Scottish theme portrait taken.
It is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland for shopaholics. It would be great fun for the family and kids.
5. Edinburgh Museums
If you have visited all the attractions in the Royal Mile, it is time to explore some prominent museums in this medieval city.
You may start with the National Museum of Scotland. This free museum exhibits all kinds of things from art, culture, fashion, history of Scotland and Science and Technology. The museum regularly adds new pieces and always brings exhibitions free to the public.
If you are an art enthusiast visit the Scottish National Gallery, it is one of several best free museums in the city.
The Scottish National Gallery is located near the Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens on The Mound. It has a huge range of paintings and various art forms dating back to the Renaissance era to the beginning of the 20th century, representing both international and Scottish artists.
The Museum of Edinburgh houses one of the historic and iconic buildings along the Royal Mile. It exhibits various Scottish craftsmanship and historical artefacts from the medieval to the 17th century.
Next to the Museum of Edinburgh is the Huntly House, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city dating from around the 16th to 17th century. It currently houses various silverware and potteries including the Greyfriar Bobby’s collar and bowl and a copy of the National Covenant, signed in 1638.
6. Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat
Enjoy the serene and breath-taking views of Arthur’s Seat hill from Nelson Monument and Calton Hill. The highest point in the city is Arthur’s Seat hill in Holyrood Park where you can trek and get a delightful view of the Lothians and Edinburgh.
If you have a car and want the easiest and shortest hike, park at Dunsapie Loch car park (opens Tues to Thurs from 9:30 am to 3 pm only) and take the shorter path to the summit.
In Holyrood Park, you can also visit the St. Anthony’s Chapel ruins (built in the 15th century) in the park, see the Salisbury Crags, and spot the birds of Duddingston Loch.
7. Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is the most visited attraction for Whisky lovers. You can take master classes, tours, and training sessions or have some whisky and food at the restaurant.
The Scotch Whisky Experience various tours for the visitors like the Gold and Silver tours. Kids are also welcome inside the attraction but they get to try the famous Scottish non- alcoholic drink, Irn Bru.
The Gold and Silver tours offer a take a guided tour to get an insight into the history, origin and making process of whisky. You can learn about various whiskey regions and take guided tasting in Scotland. Finally, you can take a sneak peek at the largest whiskey collection in the world.
For a luxurious experience, they also offer the Platinum tours for you to enjoy the full experience of nosing the 4 Single Malt and 1 Deluxe blended Whisky. The Taste of Scotland package includes the Platinum tour plus a delicious menu tasting at the Amber restaurant.
8. Edinburgh Christmas market and Hogmanay
The best and most popular time to visit Edinburgh is during Hogmanay -the Scottish New Year and Christmas.
Edinburgh Christmas Market is a delightful place to visit and with loads of activities for all ages. Hogmanay is a 3-day festival in Edinburgh which is full of events, including live music concerts, torchlight procession, massive street party, family events, fireworks, traditional dancing, and also the costumed parade finalizes with a cold dip in the river.
9. Military Tattoo and Fringe Festival
If you want to feel the festival vibes in Edinburgh, be sure to get here in the month of August and attend some of the biggest festivals which are The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Royal Tattoo is taken against the breathtaking view of Edinburgh Castle. It celebrates vivid symmetries through precise performances of the British Army and a few cultural acts from different parts of the world. Together with the iconic Pipers Trail, Massed Pipes and Drums, Hjaltibonhoga and Tattoo Dance Company.
Another best music festival here is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world. For three weeks, Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh welcomes creative energy every August. Thousands of performers take the centre stage to showcase their talents every year across Edinburgh.
10. Try various Edinburgh activities and tours
Want to get into the breathtaking Scottish capital? The Hop On, Hop off Bus tour can help you roam around Edinburgh. You can see various key landmarks and historical sites in the city.
The tour is conducted on a double-decker open-topped bus with a great range of stops at the most popular Edinburgh attractions.
Another great activity to see Edinburgh is the historical walking tour, where a local historian guides you through the fascinating history of Edinburgh.
11. The Elephant House and Nicolson’s Café
Enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee and cakes up to the traditional Scottish Haggis in Edinburgh’s cosy coffee shops. Edinburgh is the Mecca for Harry Potter lovers because J.K. Rowling wrote in a cafe here as she worked on the book series of Harry Potter.
On Drummond and Nicolson Street, Nicolson’s Café was the restaurant where J.K. Rowling wrote most of her first novel Harry Potter when she recently got divorced. However, Nicolson’s Café has closed and is now turned into Spoon, a bistro.
Later on, she penned more Potter novels at The Elephant House. A charming coffee house turned into a must-visit place for every Potter fan.
12. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Enjoy Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions located along the Royal Mile. The Edinburgh Camera Obscura was founded in 1835 by Maria Short, the daughter of Thomas Short – a famous Scientific instrument maker.
Maria intended to share the Great Telescope that she inherited from her father with the world, with the aim to see the beautiful city of Edinburgh from the Outlook Tower.
I hope these suggested best things to do in Edinburgh will help you plan your trip to the capital of Scotland.
Have you been to Edinburgh? I wrote a blog post about How to Go to Edinburgh, Scotland (By Plane, Train, Car, Bus & Cruise) to help you plan your trip to this charming Scottish city.
Share your travel experience and other tips in the comment box below.