Whenever we get asked where’s best to visit in Edinburgh, our answer is always the same: how long have you got?
And that’s not us being cheeky; with so many legendary landmarks and cultural cornerstones in Scotland’s capital, the list is almost endless!
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the most popular places to check out in Auld Reekie, along with a couple of our favourite lesser-known gems thrown in for good measure.
Got the luxury of a longer stay, or keen to explore even more of Scotland? Be sure to have a look at our carefully-curated day tours in Scotland, some of which set off from Edinburgh itself.
No trip to the Scottish capital would be complete without a visit to one of its most iconic landmarks – Edinburgh Castle.
Perched atop the millennia-old Castle Rock in the heart of the city centre, this fortress is one of Europe’s oldest and is full of hidden (and actual) treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Be transported to a bygone era as you wander through the aptly-named Great Hall, explore Edinburgh’s oldest building, St. Margaret’s Chapel, and admire ancient artefacts like the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny and Mons Meg.
If the thought of ascending a dormant volcano has you reaching for your hiking boots, a trip to Arthur’s Seat is a must-do!
The highest of the hills in Holyrood Park at 251m, and with lots of trails and walking paths for an easy to intermediate climb, this hike is popular with locals and tourists alike thanks to its stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh and beyond.
Although it’s possible in less, we’d recommend allowing at least two hours for your hike, so you can absorb the tremendous beauty of Scotland’s famously rugged landscape along the way.
Edinburgh Gin Distillery
If you can’t help but grin at all things gin, Edinburgh Gin Distillery should be top of your list!
The self-proclaimed birthplace of one the most varied and vibrant ranges of gins in the world, the distillery also offers guided tours where you can learn all about the history of gin, discover how it’s made and try out this botanically-blessed tipple for yourself.
Want to up your cocktail game? Opt for the Edinburgh Gin Cocktail Experience to learn from master mixologists and even create a concoction of your own!
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
If you’ve ever wanted to wander in the footsteps of royals, look no further than the Palace of Holyroodhouse (also known as Holyrood Palace).
As well as being the official residence of the British monarchy, the palace was also home to Mary, Queen of Scots between 1561 and 1567.
Admire the palace’s Gothic and Baroque architecture, explore the flourishing gardens and ancient ruins of the mediaeval Holyrood Abbey and learn about its fascinating history with a Royal Collection Trust tour.
Photo: Wolfgang Claussen
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Whether you’re a flora fanatic or just fancy a peaceful walk in a beautiful setting – an afternoon at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a great way to unwind at any time of the year.
Set across 70 acres and a mere mile north of the city centre, this gorgeous garden features a wide and diverse range of plants, including rare and endangered species that you won’t find anywhere else in Scotland.
Take in sights and smells from all around the world at the Alpine House and Chinese Hillside Gardens, and learn about the evolution of certain species in the Botanic’s Biodiversity Garden.
It’s open daily and entry is free – just be sure to check the seasonal opening times before you go.
Photo: Davie Bicker
The Royal Mile
If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh, chances are you’ve already heard about one of its most renowned and historic streets – the Royal Mile.
Running for a mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, this lively street is as full of atmosphere as it is an architectural wonder and is considered by many to be the heart of the city.
Experience Scotland throughout the ages as you pass the stunning stained-glass windows of the Gothic St Giles’ Cathedral, delve into the rich history of the infamous John-Knox house and marvel at the modernity of the Scottish Parliament building.
Pick up a few traditional Scottish souvenirs from one of the street’s many gift shops, and take your pick from the countless cuisines on offer at one of its many modern and heritage pubs and restaurants.
The Water of Leith Walkway
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Discover the total tranquillity that is the Water of Leith Walkway.
Starting from Balerno, passing through the city centre, and finishing in Leith where the river meets the Firth of Forth, this picturesque pedestrianised walk stretches for 13 miles.
Once you’ve wound your way through the walkway’s wildlife-filled woodland and lush green fields, stop off to rest and refuel at one of its many picnic spots or enjoy a stroll along the nearby Dean Village, a tranquil green oasis on the Water of Leith.
Photo: Eduardo Vieira
Whether you’re embarking on your first Edinburgh adventure, or revisiting this sensational city, we hope this guide has given you some ideas for your next trip.
And if we’ve inspired you to see even more of Bonnie Scotland, why not have a look at our Scottish day tours? Setting off from Edinburgh, you can discover legendary loch-filled landscapes on our Stirling, the Trossachs and Loch Lomond tour, or sample the freshest flavours from Scotland’s seafood capital on our Inveraray and Oban Tour.
You can even make the most of our local insight and expertise with a custom Scotland trip. Designed with you in mind, it’s the perfect way to check off your Scottish bucket list!
If you have any questions about our bespoke tours, or anything else, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.