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15 Must-Do Things in Edinburgh, Scotland

This Capital City holds a vast history and medieval scenery. From the castle on a hill to the rivers flowing through Dean’s Village, Edinburgh has something for everyone to explore. The city blends the new and the old to create an enchanting environment that showcases Edinburgh’s diversity. During our trip, we stayed at a Radisson Hotel in the center city. It was a great location and easy to get around from there!

Princess Street Gardens

The Princess Street gardens, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful places in the city. The gardens are compromised of two public parks that run down Princes Street and are divided by “The Mound,” which is where the National Gallery of Scotland and Royal Scottish Academy are located. From the Gardens, you can see the Castle on the hill and the surrounding buildings. The Gardens are also home to several statues, monuments, floral arrangements and more.

Edinburgh Castle

A must-see when coming to Scotland, the Edinburgh Castle boasts incredible views of the city as well as an impressive history. The castle was built back in the 12th century and was a prominent royal center in Scotland. Today, it is the most visited tourist attraction in the country with over 1 million visitors each year. Understandably so too, when visiting the Castle you can see the old jail cells, Governor’s house, Crown Square, the Great Hall, St. Margaret’s Chapel, and so much more. Oh, and don’t forget the stunning views overlooking the city! It is truly a breathtaking area, rich with history. Book your tickets in advance to get the best price!

Holyrood Palace

Have you ever wondered where the Queen spends her summers? Well, this is it! Holyrood Palace, officially named the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is a working royal palace and the Queen’s official Scotland residence. It is open for visitors year-round, but does have closures throughout the year and may close on short notice. Check the dates and times here. The official website will also give information on tickets, what’s happening at the Palace and more.

Hike Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that stands at 823 ft in elevation, above the city at the highest point. It sits in Holyrood Park, which is associated with the Palace at Holyroodhouse. From the top, you’ll have 360-degree panoramic views of the city and beyond! There are several paths you can take to the top, ranging in difficulty level. Although it is not necessarily strenuous, you are going to want to bring a good pair of walking shoes, water, and a jacket (even in the summer months, it gets windy!). Plan a few hours for your hike, to make sure you get the most out of it and don’t feel rushed!

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden was easily one of my favorite places in the city.  There are over 70 acres of land to explore, with 100k plants, gardens, café’s, trails, and more! When I visited, it was just past peak season so there wasn’t as much color to see, but nonetheless it was spectacular. Although the open-air land wasn’t in as full bloom, the Glasshouses definitely did not disappoint. Step inside to be transformed into a magical, exotic world of over 3,000 plants from all around the world! Admission is 7 pounds for adults and free for children 15 and under, and 110% worth it!! It is a MUST SEE!

Dean Village

A hidden gem of Edinburgh, Dean Village is a quiet and quaint town just west of the main city. No matter where you wander in this town, you’ll see charming houses, the Water of Leith river flowing, and experience the enchanting peace that fills the area. Keep in mind that it is a residential area, so be respectful of the residents and their quiet environment. Also, there are no restaurants or restrooms in Dean Village, so plan ahead! My favorite view was from the Water of Leith Walkway (pictured). You can capture the beauty from the bridge/walkway or climb down to the riverside for an even more captivating view.

Victoria Street

A curving street filled with vibrant colored buildings and uneven cobblestone, Victoria Street is one of Edinburgh’s most picturesque streets. The street dates back to the early 1800s when it was constructed as an easier through road to improve the city’s accessibility. It is one of the most photographed locations in the city, to no surprise. At the base of the road, you can find Grassmarket square, which is home to many restaurants and shops. Also near the end of the road, you’ll find the entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard.

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is home to 9 total floors of history. The exhibits range from earth and space to the early people, to fashion and style. Some of the most notable exhibits include Dolly the sheep (the first cloned mammal), t-rex skeleton, Mary Queen of Scots belongings, and much much more! Entry is free, but it can get busy during peak hours.

Pro tip: head up to the top floor and visit the rooftop terrace for incredible views of Edinburgh Castle and the city!

St.Giles' Cathedral

Located on the Royal Mile, this 12th-century Catholic church is one of the central points in Old Town. The St Giles’ Cathedral is still a working church that holds services every week. It is open to the public visit Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. They also host free guided walking tours daily as well as guided rooftop tours on Saturdays and Sundays (6 pounds per person with a maximum of 4 people).

Walk the Royal Mile

From the Holyrood Palace gates to the gates of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile is just that, almost exactly one mile. The Royal Mile is one of the top destinations in Edinburgh, and rightfully so. It is a hub to an enormous amount of history, shops, restaurants, and amazing scenery.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

The 24-hour graveyard is infamous all throughout the world and is home to the famous Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was Skye Terrier who was looked after by John Gray but only for the last two years of Gray’s life. After Gray’s death, Bobby reportedly guarded his grave for fourteen years until passing himself bobby now rests in the Kirkyard, not too far from John Gray.

Walk Around Old Town

The Old Town area is the oldest part of the capital city. Much of the medieval streets and buildings have been preserved, and it is actually part of a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the New Town area. No matter where you go and what street you turn on, you’ll see the charming history of what once was.

Scott Monument

This monument stands tall in the East Princes Gardens and is a tribute to Sir Walter Scott. The monument stands almost 200 feet tall and the top is only accessible by stairs, 287 to be exact. Find the accessibility guide with all of the information on the monument’s website. On the website, you can also find the ticket prices to go see the amazing history of Sir Walter Scott.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The two-part museum sits among an eye-catching sculpture park, with just a short walk between the two buildings. If you like more modern or contemporary art, this museum is a must-see. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm entry is free, but some exhibits may require tickets.

Within the museum, they also have research facilities and libraries that are available by appointment.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a short hike that sits in center city Edinburgh but holds some impressive monuments. Atop the hill is the National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson Monument, City Observatory and more, Including incredible views of the city! The hike to the top is more of a stroll; it takes about 5 minutes to get to the top from a staircase at Regent Road on the south side of the hill and Royal Terrace on the north. You can also drive up and park. At the foot of the hill sits the Scottish Government headquarters buildings. The Scottish Parliament building and Holyrood Palace also lie near the base of the hill.

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