Having Fun in the Capital of Scotland
Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The Scottish capital is full of history, culture, attractions, and activities to keep visitors busy for days. From exploring the medieval Old Town and iconic Edinburgh Castle to enjoying festivals, gardens, and ghost tours, Edinburgh has something for everyone.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Sitting atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline. The historic castle dates back to the 12th century. It’s one of the top attractions in Edinburgh. Visitors can take a guided tour to see medieval buildings like St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest in Edinburgh. Don’t miss seeing the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels), watching the firing of the One O’Clock Gun, and taking in views of the city.
Stroll Along the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a mile-long street that connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This bustling thoroughfare passes through the heart of the Old Town. It’s lined with shops, pubs, restaurants and important buildings like St. Giles’ Cathedral. The sights and energy of the Royal Mile capture the history and charm of Edinburgh.
Explore the Palace of Holyroodhouse
At the opposite end of the Royal Mile lies the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the British monarch’s official Scottish residence. Visitors can tour the State Apartments and Abbey at this landmark palace. See incredible tapestries, historic royal rooms, and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Don’t miss the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, founded in 1128. A stop at the palace provides an inside glimpse into Scotland’s royal heritage.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
For exhilarating panoramic views of Edinburgh, head to Arthur’s Seat located in Holyrood Park near the palace. It’s an extinct volcano that dominates the landscape. Hiking trails wind up to the 822-foot summit. The rocky hike rewards visitors with breathtaking views across Edinburgh. Pack sturdy shoes, water, and a camera before climbing this iconic Edinburgh peak.
Stroll Through Princes Street Gardens
Nestled below Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens provides beautiful green space in the city center. These lush gardens lie in the valley between Old Town and New Town. Visitors can stroll along winding paths, see monuments like the Ross Fountain, and take in views of the castle. The park is a popular site for picnics on sunny days or relaxing amidst stunning scenery.
Browse the National Museum of Scotland
For some indoor time, check out the National Museum of Scotland located north of the Old Town. It offers an expansive collection covering Scottish antiquities, culture, art, world cultures, natural history, and science/technology. Exhibits include dinosaur skeletons, Scottish royalty artifacts, wildlife dioramas, and even a real Egyptian mummy. Visitors could easily spend an entire day exploring the museum’s vast exhibits.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea
Partake in a classic Edinburgh tradition – afternoon tea! Many hotels and tearooms in the city offer afternoon tea service, serving an array of petite sandwiches, scones, cakes, and tea. The luxurious Palm Court at the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel provides a memorable tea experience in an elegant setting. The Dome Restaurant in the Edinburgh New Town also offers decadent afternoon tea with Georgian-era charm.
Experience Edinburgh’s Festivals
Edinburgh hosts several major festivals throughout the year that shouldn’t be missed. The largest is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe featuring comedy, theater, music and other lively acts. Held in August, it’s the world’s biggest arts festival. The Edinburgh International Book Festival also in August is perfect for literature enthusiasts. Hogmanay is a massive New Year’s celebration in Edinburgh as well.
Go Pub Hopping
Edinburgh has a renowned pub scene across both the Old Town and New Town. Historic pubs like The Ensign Ewart and The Last Drop date back centuries. Other lively spots include The Boozy Cow, Les 3 Garçons, and The Dagda Bar & Kitchen for a drink and food. Many offer live music and literary events beyond just pints. Visitors can easily walk between several great pubs in one night out.
Join a Ceilidh Dance
For some authentic Scottish fun, join in a Ceilidh traditional dance. Ceilidhs feature Scottish folk music and dances that visitors can join, like the Gay Gordons or Dashing White Sergeant. Town House Edinburgh hosts a ceilidh with live music and a caller explaining the steps. It’s a high-energy way to connect with Scottish culture and people!
Tour the Scottish Parliament
Scotland’s parliament building opened in 2004 and offers free public access to learn about devolved governance. Visitors can watch debates in the main chamber, view the impressive Great Hall, climb the Canongate Wall, and see artworks symbolizing Scottish democracy. Free hour-long tours provide a behind-the-scenes look at the parliament complex built into a hillside.
With incredible history, stunning landscapes, unique culture, and exciting attractions, Edinburgh offers an unforgettable experience for visitors. These are just a sampling of the many fun things to see and do in Scotland’s remarkable capital city.