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Top Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Updated: Apr 30

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Edinburgh, Scotland

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has mastered the art of being equal parts gloomy and charming. Its rainy, dreary weather may be inconvenient, but it creates a picturesque backdrop for its gothic architecture. Beyond being beautiful, the city has many interesting sights. Here are the top things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland takes you on a voyage through Scottish history, including an exhibit on the 16th century monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots. It also has displays from around the world, such as those from Asia and Africa. Among the most renowned pieces are the Arthur's Seat Coffins and the Millennium Clock Tower. If you're a Harry Potter fan, don't miss the chess pieces from Harry Potter and The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone.

Calton Hill

View from Calton Hill

Calton Hill is one of the best spots to take in views of the city. The journey to the top is simple, only taking about 20 minutes to complete. Once you reach its peak, you'll be greeted with an unfinished National Monument designed after the Pantheon in Greece. The memorial, designed to pay homage to Scottish soldiers, will likely never be finished after lack of funds grinded its construction to a halt. Calton Hill is also home to the City Observatory and the Dugald Stewart Monument.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

This 11th century castle was active until 1633. Over the years, Edinburgh Castle has been a prison, a place for military operations, and the home of many monarchs. Here, you can find Mons Meg - a six-ton cannon that was retired in 1550. Every day at 1 p.m., another gun, aptly named the One o'clock gun, fires a blank that was once used to help keep track of time. Watching the cannon fire is among one of the top things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Royal Mile

Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Royal Mile is a stretch of streets that connects Edinburgh Castle from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It's lined with shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions boasting a medieval style. Despite being called the Royal Mile, this walkable path is actually a bit longer. Instead, it's a Scots mile, which is 5,920 feet.

Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland

Like, Calton Hill, Arthur's Seat is a prime location for amazing city views. However, the trek to its peak is much more strenuous, taking about an hour and a half. Its name comes from its association with King Arthur's castle, Camelot. It's said this dormant volcano could have been its possible grounds. Arthur's Seat is where the creepy wooden coffins, which now lay in the aforementioned National Museum of Scotland, were found.

St. Giles Cathedral

St. Giles Cathedral

Built in 1124, St. Giles Cathedral's medieval architecture is a dramatic addition to Edinburgh's skyline. Though it's now an active Presbyterian church, it was originally a place of worship for Roman Catholics. Outside is a statue of Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott, who served as the Duke of both Buccleuch and Queensberry throughout his life. Inside, you'll discover magnificent stained-glass windows and hundreds of memorials depicting Scottish heroes.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is where England's royal family stays while visiting Edinburgh. Though the exterior is marvelous, the interior is stunning; its rooms include the King's Bedchamber, the Royal Dining Room, the Throne Room, and 286 others. Due to its sheer size, it's recommended to dedicate several hours to exploring the palace. Its beauty makes it one of the top things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Real Mary King's Close

In Scottish terminology, a "close" is a streetway with a narrow opening. However, Mary King's Close is more than just an alley. Visitors to this underground close will explore the Old Town of Edinburgh and learn about its 16th- and 17th-century residents. You'll also learn about the city's vast plague history.


Accommodation Recommendations

It can be a bit difficult to find an affordable hotel in Edinburgh. On our trip, we stayed at Novotel, a convenient hotel in Edinburgh's city center. You could also choose The Balmoral, an upscale accommodation with views of Edinburgh Castle. If these options are a bit too pricy, check out Hotel Indigo - a clean spot with a great location.

Edinburgh is a place where beauty and culture shines above all. It's incredibly walkable, with many of its key sights positioned along the Royal Mile. If you take about three days, you'll be able to see all the top things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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