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Things To See in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is best seen on foot. The city lies in the shadow of an extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat (peak 822 ft) and on the weekends, many natives decide to wander up it. Ascending it is no easy task, but your efforts will be rewarded by breathtaking views of the city and its environs from the summit.

Calton Hill is not as challenging to climb and is a popular spot to watch the sunset over the city. For those who are not keen hikers, the Royal Botanic Garden in the north of the city and the National Gallery of Modern Art towards the west both have free admission.

The Meadows just south of the city centre is a nice place to relax and sunbathe (weather permitting!). You can also meander down the Royal Mile (1 mile 107 yards). It runs from the entrance of Edinburgh Castle to the gates of the Palace of Holyrood House. There are numerous points of interest along the route including the Scottish Whisky Centre, the Scottish Parliament, St Giles Cathedral, John Knox’s House, and Canongate Tollbooth among others. Where you stop is up to you! Don’t forget that Edinburgh is situated beside the sea, so if you seek some sea air you could go to the beach at Portobello by bus or visit the waterfront at Leith, where the famous yacht Britannia is berthed.

The city has also built up a reputation for ghost tours and these are now one of the most popular attractions. There are a number of these tours on offer and the enjoyment derived from them depends on the personality of your guide. However, they do give you access to areas not open to the public such as 18th century underground vaults and abandoned chambers.

Attractions in Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Castle

    Castle Hill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    You do not need to be fanatical about history to enjoy the castle. You can wander around the battlements, watch the One O'Clock Gun being fired and startling the pedestrians below and inspect the Mons Meg, a massive canon from the 15th century. In the dungeons below you can look at the graffiti on the walls dating from when the castle was a prison for the Frenchmen captured during the Napoleonic wars. The castle is also the venue for the world famous military tattoo held during the Edinburgh festival.

    Open daily from 9am-6pm (1st Apr-31st Oct and until 5pm (1st Nov-31st Mar); admission £9.50).

  • The Museum of Childhood

    42 High Street, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    When this museum opened in 1955, it was one of the first of its kind to specialise in the history of childhood. As well as looking at the vast collection of toys and games from around the world, you can also hear children in the 1930's chanting their multiplication tables and watch Edinburgh street games of the 1950's.

    Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm (July and August only); admission free.

  • Outlook Tower and Camera Obscura

    Castle Hill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    The tower is located on the royal mile and there are magnificent views from the top. The Camera Obscura allows you to zoom in and magnify passing pedestrians on Princes Street below. It is an amazing device that was invented long before video cameras and uses a powerful mirror and lens system to project a live picture of views from the top of the tower onto a screen below.

    Open daily from 10am-5pm; admission £5.95 adults, £4.75 students.

  • Royal Museum/Museum of Scotland

    Chambers Street, Old Town, Edinburgh, Scotland

    The first of these two museums, which are literally joined at the hip, has various displays covering everything from natural history to science and technology. Wander around and you will come across anything from old Elton John outfits to skeletons of blue whales.

    In the latter, each floor in the museum takes you through different ages of Scotland's history, from the ancient Picts through to the present day. It also has boasts amazing views from its rooftop which is open to the public.

    Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm (until 8pm on Tuesdays) and Sun 12pm-5pm; admission free.

  • Greyfair Churchyard

    Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

    This churchyard is across the road from the Museum of Scotland. Used as a burial ground since the 16th century, this may seem too morbid of an attraction but the churchyard contains a vast collection of monuments to many of Edinburghs celebrities from the 17th century onwards. Of particular interest is the grave of John Gray whose faithful terrier Bobby kept a vigil over his masters grave for 14 years. A charming monument to the dog, in the form of a drinking fountain, is on the pavement outside the churchyard.

  • St. Giles' Cathedral

    Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    Edinburgh’s largest cathedral is an empowering Gothic building that stands proud in the middle of the Royal Mile. Also known as the High Kirk of of Edinburgh, it dates back to the 1120s although different parts of it were built right up to the 16th Century. There are over two hundred memorials within the cathedral which honour different Scots, while its collection of stained-glass windows is particularly impressive.

    Open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm (until 5pm between April & October), 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday; admission free, donations welcome.

  • The Scottish Whisky Centre

    354 Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    Located at the top of the Royal Mile, this is your chance to sample some of the famous local refreshment. The tour consists of a whisky barrel car, which takes you 300 years of whisky making in Scotland with a free dram of whisky at the end.

    Open 9.30am-6.30pm (May-Sept) and 10am-5pm (Oct-Apr); admission £6.95, £4.75 students. Closed Christmas Day.

  • Parliament House

    Parliament Square, behind St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland

    Parliament House, which lures just behind St Giles Cathedral, is one of the more historic buildings in Edinburgh. This is where the United Kingdom was founded in the house’s Parliament Hall. At the foot of the hall is a small area which documents the history of the state. If anything, it is worth visiting the hall just to see an ancient tradition where those working in the house talk while walking up the hall so the noise from their footsteps drowns out their conversation.

    Open 10am-4pm Mon-Fri; admission free.

  • National Gallery of Scotland

    The Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland

    The National Gallery of Scotland, is situated in the heart of Edinburgh, on The Mound, between the ancient Old Town and the Georgian New Town. It is home to Scotland’s greatest collection of European paintings and sculpture from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, and is one of the very finest galleries of its size in the world. The collection of watercolours, prints and drawings boasts some twenty thousand items, and is particularly rich in Italian and Netherlandish drawings. The gallery also has a comprehensive collection of Scottish art, representing all the major names, including Ramsay, Raeburn, McTaggart and Wilkie.

    Open daily from 10am-5pm and until 7pm Thurs; admission free (charges for special exhibitions.

  • Palace of Holyroodhouse Canongate

    Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

    This royal palace was built beside the Abbey of the Holy Rood (Holy Cross) in 1501 by James IV king of Scotland. The marriage of the infamous Mary Queen of Scots took place here as did the murder of her secretary. The palaces importance diminished in the 17th century until Queen Victoria became a regular visitor in the 19th century. Today the palace is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Only the ruins of Holy Rood Abbey now remain.

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