Here at ConnollyCove we want to give you all the best travel tips across the world! Here, we have created a travel guide including everything you must do, and see, when visiting Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, a place that has more to offer than just its famous Castle.
Things to do in Edinburgh
There are many cultural and historical activities to do in Edinburgh. Some are free, and some can be quite costly. Here you will find all the best activities to do in Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh Dungeon is a must-do for all travellers! It takes you on an exciting journey through Edinburgh’s sinister history. There are live actors who will walk you through, and portray actual historical events. Some of the historical people you will meet are Agnes Finnie, The Sawney Bean Family, and Burke & Hare.
Each story has a different ‘scary score’, ranging from funny and creepy to super scary! Therefore, there is something for all the family to enjoy! You will also find two chilling amusement rides. The first is ‘The Galloway Boat Ride’, where King James the First had appointed troops to search for the Bean’s family. The second is ‘Drop Dead: The Grassmarket Gallows’, here you await your death by hanging! This drop in the dark, with a full ‘scare score’ ensures thrills and chills for all the family! You can purchase hilarious photos of your scared faces at the on-site gift shop.
You can find this attraction at 31 Market Street, within walking distance from The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery, and Calton Hill. Right in the city centre, this attraction can be easily found. You can buy travel tickets through Traveline Scotland.
Adult tickets start from £14, and kids tickets start from £13. You can buy tickets from here.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
“A World of Fun for All Ages”
This attraction has been in Edinburgh since 1853, and is the oldest standing attraction in the city. There are over 100 exciting and interesting attractions to explore in this 5 story building. Here, you will witness the scientific and technological wonders of the world. Ensuring the ultimate fun for all the family!
It is located in Edinburgh’s city centre, at the top of the Royal Mile, and is within walking distance from Edinburgh Castle.
You can buy your tickets here, and ticket prices are:
Students and seniors: £14
Children aged 5-15: £12, and free for children under 5.
Tickets are valid all day, therefore you can come and go from the attractions throughout the day as you please.
Sunday-Friday 9:30am- 8pm
Saturday 9:30am- 9pm
Edinburgh Castle and the National War Museum
While in Edinburgh, you must explore the historic Edinburgh Castle and National War Museum. Located at Castlehill along the Royal Mile, close to many attractions such at Camera Obscura and the Scottish Whiskey Experience.
Here, you will learn all about the historic battles fought at the castle, and about the royal families which lived there including Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Margaret. While exploring you will also find: the Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, and many more museums. From the castle, you will also find amazing views of Scotland’s capital city.
You can buy your tickets here, and ticket prices are:
Adult: from £17.50
Concession: from £14
Children aged 5-15: from £10.50 (free for children under 5)
Your ticket includes entry to the castle and museum and an introductory guide. There are free tours available on a first-come basis. You can also find Audio Guides and Souvenir Guidebooks on arrival (at an extra cost).
Edinburgh Hop-on Hop-off Tours
What better way to explore Edinburgh than on a bus tour! Of course in this Edinburgh travel guide, we had to include at least one bus tour! While in Edinburgh this is an attraction which better be at the top of your to-do list! The tour runs 24 hours/ day, therefore, there is no excuse for you to miss out!
Whichever ticket you purchase allows you to hop-on and hop-off the bus as much as you like throughout the time that your ticket is valid. A major perk is that you can stop and explore locations before returning to the bus. We recommend, weather dependant, that you choose an open-top, upperdeck seat as it will give you the best views of the city. Included with your ticket is an audio guide so you can learn about the history and culture of all the places you will see. The audio guide is available in: Spanish, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian.
You can buy tickets here.
Underground Vault Tour
While exploring Edinburgh, you must check out the underground vaults. These vaults were built in the 17th Century. These vaults lie under Edinburgh’s Old Town. While on this tour you will learn about the murders, witches and the people who stayed in these creepy vaults. To add to your experience, your guide will also dress in period-appropriate costume for the full effect to transport you back to the 17th century.
Your tour starting point will be at the Auld Reekie tours and Edinburgh Dungeons Police Box, outside the Bank of Scotland. Tickets start at £12 per person and you can buy them here.
Unfortunately due to the 2-foot step into the vaults, this attraction may not be suitable for some people who have mobility impairments.
Do you love animals, nature, and the preservation of the earth? Then this is the place for you. Edinburgh Zoo is “at the forefront of species conservation worldwide”. With many attractions and species to see, you’ll want to make Edinburgh Zoo your number one attraction to see!
The Edinburgh Zoo Gardens is a must-visit, it has over 120 tree species. The gardens provide nourishment for the animals and has a focus on habitat creation.
The Koala Territory will educate you on the Koala world, and how a Koala’s body works. Here, you will be able to get photos with the Koalas and see baby Kalari.
At Penguins Rock you will find Europe’s largest outdoor Penguin Pool, home to many penguins. You will be able to witness the penguins playing with a waterfall and a diving board.
Seasonal opening hours:
April to September: 10am-6pm
October and March: 10am-5pm
November to February: 10am- 4pm
You will be able to buy tickets here, ticket prices are:
Children aged 3-15: £9 (free for children under 3)
Concession (students, senior and registered disability): £15.50
Carers: free entry
Dynamic Earth will take you on a journey back to the Big Bang, through space, to the depths of the ocean. Showing you all the marvels of the world.
One of the wonders offered here is the 360 degree Showdome, where you will experience: The Apollo Story, the wonders of Supervolcanoes, and We Are Stars. The Apollo Story will teach you about man’s first landing on the moon, the Supervolcanoes experience will teach you all about the Earth’s volcanic underworld, and the We Are Stars show will teach you about the cosmetic galaxies and the origins of the earth. You will find these amazing stories along with many many more experiences for all the family to enjoy.
You can buy tickets here, and the ticket prices are:
Children (aged 4-15): £8.95
Concession (students and seniors): £12.50
In this Edinburgh travel guide, we also want to inform you about the fun free activities that are fun for all the family!
The Potter Trail
For all you Harry Potter fans, this is the attraction for you! And yes, that’s right, this tour is FREE. As JK Rowling wrote many of her famous novels in Edinburgh, it is no surprise that the beautiful city inspired her.
The tour begins at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby (at the junction which joins Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge) and ends at Victoria Terrace. The start and finish locations are only a two-minute walking distance from each other. The tour lasts for one and a half hours. During the Winter months (September to March), there is one tour at 2pm, and during the Summer months (April to August) there are two tours at 12pm and 4pm. If you wanted to take this free public tour, you do not need to book a slot, simply show up at the starting point about 10 minutes before the starting time, and enjoy the Magical World of Harry Potter. However, you can also request a private, personalised tour, at a cost.
On the tour, you will find the cafe which JK Rowling her first novel “Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone”, the shopping area which inspired Diagon Alley, and you will have the opportunity to be sorted into a house outside the school which inspired Hogwarts.
Hike to Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s seat is located on an extinct volcano in Edinburgh, the volcano last erupted 350-million years ago. When reaching Arthur’s Seat at the peak of Calton Hill, you will be delighted by the stunning views.
Close by you can visit St. Anthony’s Chapel, this chapel was built in the 15th Century.
Visit and Learn about the Scottish Parliament
Unknown to many, Scotland has its own parliament based in Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament Building is located at the bottom of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Here you will find multiple Parliamentary Buildings to explore and learn the history of.
The buildings are closed during Summer months while Parliament is in recess. However, the rest of the year you can visit, and enjoy a free guided tour.
Enjoy a Trip down The Royal Mile
Along the Royal Mile lies many historic, and fun places to see. A beautiful walk you can take and explore all it has to offer. It runs from the Scottish Parliament Buildings and Holyroodhouse Palace, to Edinburgh Castle, offering many places to see. You can explore Mary King’s Close, St. Giles Cathedral, and the Scottish Storytelling Centre, while surrounded by cobbles and tall historic buildings.
To discover all the places to see along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, look here.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are located just outside Edinburgh’s city centre. These gardens are 72 acres of beautiful land and scenery.
The gardens offer amazing views of the city skyline, including the gorgeous and historic Edinburgh Castle. While exploring you will discover 300 years of history, and learn about the many plant species. The highlight of your visit will be the ten amazing Glasshouses. The 1858 Victorian Temperate Palm House is one of the tallest palm houses world-wide. The 10 Glasshouses are home to over three thousand exotic plants and a 200-year-old palm tree.
The gardens are open year round and host a number of exhibitions and guided tours. From mid-November until the end of December you can take delight at the stunning ‘Christmas at the Botanics Trail’. There is also an on-site gift shop, an award-winning Gateway Restaurant, and the Terrace Cafe.
Food & Bars
In this Edinburgh travel guide, we are also going to show you the highlights of food and drink on offer in Edinburgh city.
The Witchery by the Castle
This is a boutique Gothic hotel, which of course is close to Edinburgh Castle. The Witchery is full of history as well as delicious food. You will find the 16th Century merchant house called The Witchery and the candlelit Secret Garden.
While in The Witchery, you can enjoy your dining experience surrounded by the original 16th Century dining room, oak panelling, and tapestries. You will also be surprised by the rooftop paintings containing 400 years of the Scottish Royal family history.
When exploring the enclosed courtyard Secret Garden, you can enjoy your meal under candlelit historical architecture. You will find a stunning tone staircase, a hand-painted ceiling and gorgeous French windows.
Overall, you will not regret choosing this stunning location to enjoy a cocktail, or two, and a wonderful meal.
Frankenstein and Bier Keller
This world famous bar and restaurant is located in Edinburgh. Here you will find a converted 19th Century Church right in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town, along the Royal Mile. It a definite destination to visit when in Edinburgh.
Inside you will find a horror themed bar decorated with flashing lights, vats of bubbling liquid, and the original Frankenstein movies playing on repeat. It is family friendly until 8pm, then it turns into party central! Many hen parties, birthdays and stag nights are held in this spooky location.
Monday and Tuesday: 12pm -1am
Wednesday to Sunday: 12pm -2am
Below the Frankenstein, you will find Edinburgh’s best Bier Keller. This is a traditional German beer cellar, where you will be able to experience German’s Oktoberfest every day! There are also many parties held here, with many drinks served in steins you’re guaranteed an enjoyable night.
The Voodoo Rooms
This award winning bar and restaurant is located right in Edinburgh’s city centre, offering delightful drinks, an array of food, as well as entertainment and live music.
The building was restored in 2006, keeping all of the original architectural features, adding a tiki theme, and serving an array of special cocktails. Since, it has become one of the most known and popular bars in Edinburgh, making it a must-stop location on your travels!
The Voodoo Rooms won 6 awards in 2008, after being open just over a year:
- Best New Bar
- Best Cocktail Bar
- Best New Bar Design
- Best Music Pub
- Best Spirits Bar
- Most Stylish Entertainment Venue
Since then The Voodoo Rooms have won many, many awards, meaning you will not want to miss out on visiting this world-class venue.
Monday to Thursday: 4pm to 1am
Friday to Sunday: 12pm to 1am
This bar and restaurant is located in the historic Edinburgh Old Town, within a Victorian house. Located along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, you are never far from history, entertainment, and culture.
The bar serves an array of both Scottish, and worldwide whiskies, as well as professionally made cocktails. The kitchen serves lunch and dinner every day with freshly made, Scottish produce.
Monday to Sunday: 12pm until 1am
Lunch is served between 12pm and 3:30pm
Dinner is served between 5pm and 9:30pm
The Timberyard used to be a 19th Century warehouse and has been made into a world-class dining location. The building is full of character and has many spaces to enjoy. Outside, in the Perch, they grow some of their own produce to be used in their dishes. It is such a unique, beautiful location, it is even used for weddings!
All of the food is sourced locally and is of the highest quality. Therefore, it is no wonder that they receive so many awards. Most recently Timberland won the 2018-2019 Wine Award of Scotland. They have a vast selection of alcoholic beverages for you to choose from.
The Potting Shed
The Potting Shed is located in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Here you will find a selection of Scottish and European food to enjoy. All the food is modern and delicious. You can order sharing plates, or enjoy single portions. They offer vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Their drinks menu also offers an array of special cocktails to enjoy.
It is in the perfect located, and is only a 3-minute walk to Festival Theatre. You will not want to miss out on a cocktail, some chicken wings and mussels, followed by a show at the Festival Theatre!!
Sunday to Wednesday: 12pm to 11pm
Thursday to Saturday: 12pm to 11:45pm
Cabaret Voltaire Bar
This is a local art and music institution and is the perfect location to ‘let your hair down’ and have a fabulous time. Every day you will find DJ’s, cocktails, beers and much, much more. It used to be Edinburgh’s North Bridge Vaults, and has been a well-renowned location.
In the Cafe Voltaire, you will find a relaxing place to have a drink and a chat with friends. At the weekends, it turns into a regular speakeasy, and hosts live DJ’s daily.
You will also find the Club, Cabaret Voltaire, this club is at the centre of Edinburgh’s electronic music scene! They host many DJ’s weekly, both local and international. If you enjoy electronic music, this is the room for you!
Cafe Voltaire Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 5pm to 3am
Saturday: 1pm to 3am
Sunday: 12pm to 1am
Cabaret Voltaire Opening Hours
Tuesday: 11pm to 3am
Thursday: 11pm to 3am
Friday: 11pm to 3am
Saturday: 11pm to 3am
The Lookout by Gardeners Cottage
The Lookout, well the name says it all! The view from The Lookout is astounding! It is located at the top of Calton Hill, from inside you will be delighted to discover amazing panoramic views of Edinburgh city.
Their aim is produce food as amazing as the view, and they certainly have an amazing menu of food to choose from. As well as the food, they also offer an amazing selection of spirits, wine, and cocktails. They also offer ‘Our Old Curiosity Secret Gin Tasting’ and ‘Whiskey Experiences’. You will not want to miss out on spending an evening at this stunning location.
Monday: 5pm to 9:30pm
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am to 9:30pm
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the biggest arts and culture festival globally. It takes place yearly over three weeks in August, and you must not miss out!
Last month 63 countries were represented at the festival, 706 free shows, and 404 ‘pay what you want’ shows. Overall there were 856, 541 tickets sold. With thousands of world-class acts from across the world, you will not want to miss out! There are also many shows accessible to wheelchair users and sensory backpacks loaned to people with autism. This is a festival which encourages people of all ages, abilities, and social standing to enjoy.
To find out more about the 2020 Fringe Festival, keep an eye out here.
Christmas Time in Edinburgh
During Christmas, every city lights up and become a crazy, fun, and musical time. However, Edinburgh makes Christmas a season to remember! The city offers shows, attractions, markets, and many free events. They have offered free nativity shows, and an exciting display Winter Windows to find. You definitely do not want to miss walking through Edinburgh’s Capitol in the snow, enjoying a hot chocolate, and visiting shows and the worldly Christmas Markets.
Have you visited Scotland’s Capital City? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this Edinburgh Travel Guide, please read more of our travel blogs!
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