Things to Do in Edinburgh: 13 Excellent Attractions

Updated On: August 07, 2023

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Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a captivating destination for tourists from all corners of the globe. From its iconic landmarks and medieval architecture to its vibrant festivals and picturesque landscapes, there are endless fun things to do in Edinburgh.

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There are so many amazing things to do in Edinburgh.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, an art aficionado, or an adrenaline seeker, there are things to do in Edinburgh that will captivate and entertain you. To help you plan the best itinerary, we’ve explored 13 great things to do in Edinburgh.

Things to Do in Edinburgh castle
Visiting Edinburgh Castle is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is undeniably one of the greatest things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland, and for good reason. This iconic fortress, perched majestically atop Castle Rock, offers visitors a fascinating journey through Scotland’s rich history.

As one of the country’s most important and historic landmarks, the castle provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in centuries of royal and military heritage. The castle’s strategic location on an extinct volcanic crag affords breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings.

The vantage point also allows a deeper appreciation of how the city’s landscape has evolved over the centuries, making it a photographer’s dream and a memorable experience for all who visit.

Stepping inside the castle’s walls, visitors are transported back in time through the various well-preserved buildings and exhibits. The Crown Jewels, including the famous Stone of Destiny, are on display within the Crown Room, while the National War Museum showcases Scotland’s military history and its heroes.

Throughout the year, Edinburgh Castle hosts a range of engaging events and activities, making it a living, breathing piece of history. From the firing of the One O’clock Gun to the stirring performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, visitors are treated to unique experiences that bring the castle’s past to life.

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Edinburgh Castle is a beautiful structure.

The castle’s historical significance and captivating architecture make it one of the most interesting things to do in Edinburgh for any history enthusiast or cultural explorer. The stories of its many battles, sieges, and royal residents, including Mary Queen of Scots, add layers of intrigue to the already awe-inspiring structure.

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is undoubtedly one of the greatest things to do in Edinburgh. It captivates visitors with its historical charm and vibrant atmosphere. This iconic street stretches from the magnificent Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, passing through the heart of the Old Town.

The Royal Mile offers a delightful blend of shops, restaurants, pubs, and various attractions that cater to every taste and interest. It’s a bustling hub of activity, with street performers, musicians, and artists adding to the lively ambience.

The vibrant atmosphere creates a sense of celebration and excitement, particularly during the city’s famous festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

For history enthusiasts, the Royal Mile is a treasure trove of historical landmarks and museums. Stroll along the street, and you’ll encounter gems like St. Giles’ Cathedral, a magnificent example of Gothic architecture, and the imposing Scottish Parliament Building, a modern symbol of Scotland’s political identity.

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Exploring the Royal Mile is one of the most fascinating things to do in Edinburgh.

Moreover, the Royal Mile is a gateway to the city’s many hidden gems, such as the narrow alleyways leading to secret gardens, quaint courtyards, and unexpected discoveries. Exploring these hidden nooks adds an element of adventure and surprise to any visit.

Holyrood Palace

Visiting Holyrood Palace, situated at the end of the Royal Mile, is one of the most fascinating things to do in Edinburgh. It offers a captivating glimpse into Scotland’s royal history and architectural grandeur.

As the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, the palace has played host to significant historical events. It has been a place of residence for many royal figures throughout the centuries.

Visitors to Holyrood Palace have the unique opportunity to explore the lavishly decorated State Apartments, which have been used for official ceremonies and functions. The rooms are adorned with stunning tapestries, intricate furniture, and impressive works of art, providing an intimate look into the lifestyle of Scottish royalty.

The palace’s picturesque grounds and gardens are another highlight for tourists. The beautifully landscaped gardens, including the historic ruins of Holyrood Abbey, provide a peaceful escape from the bustling city. 

Things to Do in Edinburgh palace
Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

Furthermore, Holyrood Palace has witnessed numerous historical events, including royal births, deaths, and marriages, making it a place of great significance in Scottish history. Tourists can delve into the fascinating stories of Mary, Queen of Scots and learn about the various royal figures who have left their mark on this historic residence.

The palace also hosts special exhibitions and events, providing visitors with opportunities to engage with various aspects of Scotland’s cultural heritage. These special events, from art displays to historical exhibitions, add an extra layer of enrichment to the overall visit.

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is one of the most remarkable and breathtaking things to do in Edinburgh. This ancient volcanic peak rises majestically from Holyrood Park, providing a unique opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to explore nature while still being within the city limits.

Its distinctive shape and prominent location make it an iconic landmark and an integral part of Edinburgh’s skyline. Hiking up Arthur’s Seat is popular among locals and tourists. The well-marked trails cater to different levels of fitness and offer a rewarding challenge for those willing to make the ascent.

Once at the summit, the panoramic views of Edinburgh and its surroundings are simply awe-inspiring. From this elevated vantage point, visitors can gaze across the city’s iconic landmarks, including the majestic Edinburgh Castle and the historic Royal Mile.

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There are various scenic things to do in Edinburgh.

Beyond the stunning scenery, Arthur’s Seat also holds a sense of mystery and history. The hill has been a site of human activity for thousands of years, with evidence of ancient settlements and ritual sites.

Its name is believed to be derived from Celtic mythology, associating it with the legendary King Arthur. This rich historical and cultural backdrop adds an intriguing layer to the attraction, enticing visitors to explore its enigmatic past.

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh stands as a true testament to the country’s rich history, culture, and natural heritage, making it one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. This expansive museum is full of fascinating exhibits that appeal to visitors of all ages and interests.

For history enthusiasts, the museum offers a vast array of exhibits covering everything from ancient civilisations to Scotland’s industrial revolution. Visitors can explore the history of Scottish kings and queens, learn about the nation’s battles and conflicts, and delve into the significance of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Science and nature lovers will find themselves equally engrossed in the museum’s Natural World galleries. From dinosaurs to rare minerals, the exhibits offer a captivating insight into the planet’s geological history and the diversity of its flora and fauna.

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Visiting the National Museum of Scotland is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for tourists.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden stands as a tranquil oasis in the heart of the bustling city, making it a great tourist attraction. Spanning over 70 acres, this world-renowned garden offers a peaceful escape for visitors seeking respite from urban life, making it one of the most relaxing things to do in Edinburgh.

The garden’s beautifully landscaped grounds are a sight to behold, featuring a variety of themed areas, including rock gardens, woodlands, and glasshouses. Each section offers a unique environment, showcasing different plant species in their natural habitats.

The Glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden are an absolute highlight. Designed to replicate various climates, these vast glass structures house a captivating array of plants from tropical rainforests to arid deserts.

Strolling through the glasshouses is like embarking on a journey around the world, immersing visitors in diverse ecosystems and showcasing the beauty and fragility of our planet’s biodiversity.

The garden’s commitment to conservation and research is evident through various projects and initiatives aimed at safeguarding endangered plant species. This dedication to preserving the natural world inspires visitors to appreciate and support efforts in environmental sustainability.

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The botanic garden spans over 70 acres.

Beyond its horticultural marvels, the Royal Botanic Garden offers numerous activities and events, including guided tours, workshops, and seasonal displays. It’s a place for families to explore, for nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in botany, and for artists to find inspiration in the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is one of the most fascinating and immersive things to do in Edinburgh. Situated near Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, the building’s striking architecture evokes curiosity and anticipation.

As visitors step inside, they are transported back in time through interactive exhibits and displays showcasing the Earth’s evolution from its formation to the present day.

The attraction takes visitors on an engaging and educational adventure, covering a range of geological phenomena, climate changes, and the origins of life on our planet. With state-of-the-art technology and captivating storytelling, Dynamic Earth offers a multi-sensory experience that captivates children and adults alike.

The exhibits at Dynamic Earth are informative and thought-provoking, encouraging visitors to reflect on the impact of human activities on the environment. Themes such as climate change and sustainability are presented in a way that inspires visitors to consider their role in shaping the future of the planet.

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Exploring the Royal Botanic Garden is one of the most relaxing things to do in Edinburgh.

Dynamic Earth also hosts special events, workshops, and temporary exhibitions, further enriching the experience for returning visitors and adding variety to each visit. From astronomy shows to interactive workshops, there’s always something new to discover at this dynamic and ever-evolving attraction.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

The Scotch Whisky Experience is a delightful and educational tourist attraction that celebrates the country’s renowned whisky culture. Located near the iconic Edinburgh Castle, this immersive experience takes visitors on a captivating journey through the history, craftsmanship, and flavours of Scotland’s national drink.

Upon entering The Scotch Whisky Experience, visitors are greeted with a warm Scottish welcome and are invited to embark on a guided tour. The attraction offers a range of tours, each tailored to suit different interests and preferences, making it one of the most unique things to do in Edinburgh.

From the informative Whisky Barrel Ride, where visitors learn about the whisky-making process, to the more in-depth Silver and Gold tours that include expert-led tastings of different whisky varieties, there’s something to cater to everyone’s level of interest.

Visitors get to explore a replica distillery and learn about the various stages of whisky production, from malting to maturation, gaining a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship and expertise behind Scotland’s most famous export.

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There are many things to do in Edinburgh for outdoor enthusiasts.

One of the highlights of The Scotch Whisky Experience is seeing the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, showcasing thousands of bottles from various distilleries across Scotland. This impressive collection offers visitors a unique opportunity to discover rare and aged whiskies and learn about their distinct regional characteristics.

Of course, no whisky experience would be complete without tastings. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers tasting sessions with a selection of different whisky styles. For those looking to delve even deeper into the world of whisky, the attraction offers whisky masterclasses led by knowledgeable whisky experts.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, Scotland, offers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the lives of the British royal family as it served as their floating residence for over 40 years. Docked in the port of Leith, this iconic yacht welcomes visitors to step aboard and explore its opulent interiors, capturing the glamour and elegance of royal life on the seas.

The experience allows tourists to immerse themselves in history and gain insights into the private world of the monarchy. It is one of the most interesting things to do in Edinburgh.

As visitors embark on a self-guided tour, they follow in the footsteps of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, other members of the royal family, and countless dignitaries and heads of state who were hosted on board the Britannia during its active service.

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Exploring nature is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.

The yacht’s State Apartments, Drawing Room, and Royal Bedrooms have been beautifully preserved, offering an intimate look into the daily life of the royal family while at sea. The Royal Yacht Britannia boasts an intriguing mix of regal luxury and practical functionality.

The onboard exhibit, “Britannia Below Decks,” showcases the dedicated crew’s life and the yacht’s operational details, providing a deeper understanding of the vessel’s significance and the teamwork involved in its operation.

In addition to exploring the yacht’s interior, visitors can step onto the open deck and take in the panoramic views of the waterfront. The sun deck provides a serene and picturesque setting, allowing visitors to imagine the royals relaxing while gazing out over the waves

Calton Hill & Observatory

Calton Hill and its iconic observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland, are exceptional tourist attractions that offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and breathtaking views.

Perched on top of Calton Hill, the observatory stands as a prominent landmark visible from various parts of the city, beckoning visitors to explore its charms. Exploring it is one of the most intriguing things to do in Edinburgh.

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The Calton Hill Observatory features a neo-classical design.

The hill itself is easily accessible from the city centre, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. As visitors ascend the hill, they are rewarded with panoramic vistas that showcase the stunning cityscape, with Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and the Firth of Forth in the distance.

With its distinctive neo-classical design, the observatory adds an air of sophistication to Calton Hill. While the observatory is not currently used for astronomical purposes, it remains a cherished historic site, once serving as a centre for astronomical research in the 19th century.

Beyond the observatory, Calton Hill is adorned with a collection of monuments and landmarks that contribute to its allure. These include the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, and the Dugald Stewart Monument, a memorial to the Scottish philosopher.

In addition to its architectural marvels, Calton Hill is a cherished green space where locals and tourists alike come to relax, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the serene ambience. It serves as a peaceful retreat from the bustling city below, offering a chance to connect with nature while surrounded by historic landmarks.

The Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum is one of the most interesting things to do in Edinburgh. The museum celebrates the rich literary heritage of the city and its contribution to the world of literature.

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Seeing The Writers’ Museum is one of the most fascinating things to do in Edinburgh.

Located in a historic building near the Royal Mile, the museum is dedicated to showcasing the lives and works of Scotland’s most influential writers, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

For literature enthusiasts and history buffs, The Writers’ Museum is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. The exhibits feature personal belongings, original manuscripts, and rare artefacts that provide intimate insights into their creative processes and the era in which they lived.

The museum’s engaging displays and interactive exhibits make it a delight for visitors of all ages. It brings to life the literary masterpieces that have shaped Scottish culture and global literature, fostering an appreciation for the power of storytelling and the influence of these literary figures.

In addition to the main exhibits, The Writers’ Museum hosts regular events, readings, and workshops, providing an opportunity for visitors to further engage with the works of these celebrated authors. The museum’s commitment to promoting contemporary Scottish literature and fostering a love for reading adds an extra layer of value to the attraction.

White Water Rafting on the River Tay or River Tummel

White water rafting on the River Tay or River Tummel is one of the most exciting and adventurous things to do in Edinburgh. Nestled amid the stunning Scottish landscapes, these rivers provide the perfect setting for an adrenaline-pumping water adventure.

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Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh for tourists.

The River Tay and River Tummel are known for their impressive rapids and picturesque surroundings. The rushing waters and challenging rapids offer a thrilling ride that caters to both beginners and experienced rafters, making it a must-try activity for anyone seeking an adrenaline rush.

As visitors navigate through the roaring waters, they are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, lush forests, and rugged terrain. The experience is about the adrenaline rush, connecting with nature, and appreciating the raw beauty of Scotland’s wilderness.

Rafting on these rivers is made even more enjoyable by experienced guides who lead the way, ensuring safety while creating an exciting and fun-filled atmosphere. Their knowledge of the river’s features, history, and local wildlife adds an educational element to the experience.

White water rafting is a fantastic team-building activity, making it ideal for groups of friends, families, or corporate outings. Moreover, the River Tay and River Tummel are conveniently located near the popular tourist destinations of Perth and Pitlochry, making it one of the most convenient things to do in Edinburgh.

National Galleries of Scotland

Exploring the National Galleries of Scotland is one of the most exceptional things to do in Edinburgh. The galleries house an impressive collection of art spanning centuries and showcasing the finest works from both Scottish and international artists.

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The Royal Mile features shops, restaurants, pubs, and attractions.

Visiting the National Galleries of Scotland is a journey through the evolution of art, from classical masterpieces to contemporary creations. The Scottish National Gallery boasts an exceptional array of European paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Titian.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery showcases captivating portraits of prominent figures from Scotland’s history, bringing the nation’s past to life through art. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art features a diverse range of contemporary artworks, reflecting the ever-evolving landscape of modern creativity.

The galleries provide an immersive and educational experience for visitors. The curated exhibitions, thoughtful displays, and informative guided tours offer a deeper understanding of the artists’ techniques, the historical context, and the cultural significance of the artworks.

The National Galleries of Scotland also offer a vibrant program of temporary exhibitions, events, and educational activities, catering to a wide range of interests and ages. These events add dynamism to the galleries, ensuring that every visit is a fresh and enriching experience.

For art enthusiasts, visiting the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. 

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Visiting Holyrood Palace is one of the most historic things to do in Edinburgh.

There are Many Great Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city that captivates the hearts of its visitors with its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. From exploring the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile to appreciating the scenic beauty of Arthur’s Seat, there is no shortage of incredible things to do in Edinburgh.

From historic natural wonders to artistic masterpieces, there are diverse things to do in Edinburgh for everyone’s tastes and interests. With its warm hospitality and welcoming charm, Edinburgh invites tourists from around the world to discover its treasures and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

If you’re visiting Scotland, make sure to check out these 9 Excellent Bars in Scotland.

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