9 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

A charming city steeped in antiquity, Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland is a playground for creatives, dreamers, intellectuals and students which is well-versed in education and academia, making it the perfect stage for aspiring students in UK. It’s draped over a series of volcanic plugs and steep hills - you round a corner on a perfectly ordinary street and find yourself at the foot of a cliff, with a tower on the top.

Have you ever heard someone say they’re going on vacation to Scotland? England, yes. Ireland, maybe - but never Scotland! It has a reputation for being cold and dreary, but you're not supposed to go there for the weather. There's actually so much to see and enjoy in this lovely country. Fans of walking can explore the Highland region, and some pretty coastlines are hotspots for surfers as well.

Lots of music festivals all over Europe. Avoid main cities and museums, though, as they’ll be too crowded to enjoy. Hike Scotland as an antidote. If you just want to sit down and smile and laugh for a couple of weeks, you can’t do much better than attending the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in what should be Scotland’s capital. J.K. Rowling famously wrote most of the first book in the Harry Potter series in a quaint cafe named the Elephant Room, found in Edinburgh. Since the magical phenomenon took off, Edinburgh has become a center of attention for fans worldwide.

It is believed Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley, while a wander through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard will uncover the graves of some oddly familiar names…Tom Riddle, anyone? Rowling is famously vague about much of the inspiration, but shops and tours have sprung on the connection, and frankly, it’s hard not to believe it. Scotland is a part of the UK (yes, they’re British too) and use the British Pound Sterling, just like England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Going between the countries, you might notice that Scottish pound notes look different from their English counterparts.

English pounds are accepted in Scotland, and Scottish pounds in England. They’re worth exactly the same, and you shouldn’t worry about having a mixture in your wallet. Unfortunately, you might come across a few people south of the border that refuse to accept Scottish bills. They have no real reason to, but annoyingly, they’re within their rights to refuse any form of payment for whatever reason they see fit.

If you like mythical creatures, then try and spot the Loch Ness monster while hearing all the tales from the locals. For me, the highlight is Edinburgh; a top-class city that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. From a cultured food scene to ancient historical sights, there's so much to do and see in Scotland’s capital city. Scotland as a whole is famous for its temperamental weather. Regardless of the season, arrive expecting some rain and bouts of cold. Frankly, it’s not a Scottish trip if you don’t get soaked at least once. Even the summer months are prone to chillier days. Everything should be designed for the cold if you’re going in the winter. The North Sea pulls in some biting winds. The rest of the year, pack a sweater and rain jacket to be safe, and if the sun chooses to shine down on Edinburgh, you’ve struck gold. Edinburgh is home to the world’s biggest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. With ticket sales surpassed only by the Olympics and the World Cup, Edinburgh is completely packed in August. Hotels are full, restaurants are fully booked, and the streets are slammed with revelers from across the world. Technically, saying Edinburgh festival is a bit vague. There are five events all running for the month of August: The Edinburgh International Festival, The Fringe Festival, the Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh Art Festival, and The Edinburgh Book festival. The Fringe Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world, and is a city-spanning celebration of every manner of creative expression you can think of. Comedy dominates the schedule, and it’s where many comedians get their big breaks, but theatre, dance, street performance, and spoken word are just a few of the other mediums on show. Everywhere from cafes to dungeons to public toilets are converted to venues hosting over 3000 unique shows. Pick a few shows at random and enjoy yourself. The International festival is also an arts festival but celebrates the more traditional mediums of theatre, opera, and traditional music. The Fringe actually got it start as an everyman’s alternative to the International festival. The Military Tattoo is also a spectacular end to any day in Edinburgh. Military bands from across the UK and the world perform in the courtyard of the Castle to an audience of 8 thousand, come rain or shine. It’s never been cancelled for inclement weather. If you’re not interested in the festival or have already been, take a miss in August. It’s a recipe for an expensive disaster and not worth the hassle. Refueling your body when on the go or during a long travel day can be difficult. But healthy hydration isn’t just about drinking water. It’s about water PLUS electrolytes. Enter LMNT Recharge. A tasty electrolyte drink mix with everything you need and nothing you don’t. The LMNT stick packs are the easily packable travel necessity - perfect for on the go. Just mix this flavorful electrolyte drink mix into your water bottle and you’re all set. No carbs, sugar, or artificial junk in LMNT. Just electrolytes and great taste. Right now LMNT is offering a free sample pack with any purchase. That’s 8 single serving packets FREE with any LMNT order. This is a great way to try all 8 flavors or share LMNT with a salty friend.

While we love a good road trip, sometimes we only have a weekend to explore a city. But that's no problem! You can still get a great taste of a new destination in a couple of days. Along with having the cosmopolitan feel to it, the city has an equal blend of both European and Scottish culture in its diverse and safe, cultured and cobbled alleys, with enough student spots and entertainment to pack into your social calendar.

The Scottish capital is an absolute stunner – one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Compact and hilly, its centerpiece is Edinburgh Castle, which looms above the Medieval Old Town and offers spectacular photo opportunities. The same too can be said of Arthur’s Seat, a nearby peak that somehow manages to make the city even more picturesque.

The Edinburgh Fringe and deep fried Mars Bars are two of the more famous exports of the region. Go to Edinburgh if you enjoy arts and culture, you appreciate unabridged beauty, you prefer to speak English (albeit the Scottish kind). Your first glimpse of Edinburgh Castle, perched on its craggy throne above the city, is all you need to understand that the Scottish capital is special.

Curling off the shoulder of an extinct volcano, few places foster curiosity and wonder like the Auld Toun. On the surface, its medieval terraces are an all-too-perfect postcard scene thronging with life. But peel off the grand spine of the Royal Mile, and the city’s wynds and closes reveal a dark and bloody past, begging to be explored.

But more than its history and beauty, Edinburgh is a city overflowing with passion. It’s home to the greatest arts festivals on the planet, the best New Years Party you’ve ever experienced, and the cream of Scottish culture wrapped in a neat little tartan bow.

Come dip your toes in the Forth. Welcome to Edinburgh.

best things to do in Edinburgh If you're looking for ideas for a trip to Edinburgh, check out this weekend guide to help narrow down your choices for great attractions and places to stay.

1. Walking Tours around Edinburgh Old Town

For history buffs, walking through the medieval Old Town or exploring the Royal Mile will be an unforgettable journey through time. And those who seek, in addition, to relax and have fun, in bars and pubs with live music find the best place to end the day. Old Edinburgh is a city of secrets, mysteries and ghosts.

While the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is located in a hilly realm, getting around the town is easy with the convenient and well-connected transportation network. With most of the Universities in Edinburgh located reasonably close to the city centre as well as the central city student accommodation, the students could quickly get to the university by foot or by cycling or could even opt for the regular bus services.

Apart from this, if you want to venture out to the city's hot spots or simply want to explore the new city, hop into the city's tram or go for a comfortable coach journey which connects Edinburgh to the other significant cities in Scotland. And if travelling in public transport is a no-no for you, do not worry! Edinburgh also has the right amount of private transportation options out there for you, including private taxi and Uber.

Edinburgh is a tourist as well as a student-friendly town which has a lot of accommodation options spread across the city. So if you are a student at the university or a tourist, do not panic about finding somewhere to live. The city offers a range of PBSA as well as short term accommodation options for someone who wishes to stay in the city for a shorter duration.

Although the city of Edinburgh is entitled as the most desirable city in the world, there are few neighbourhoods in the city which are particularly famous as the best place to live in which includes Leith, Old Town, City Centre, Lothian Road, Morningside and Mayfield.

As for the best areas to stay in Edinburgh, if your priority is to sleep in the center, start looking for accommodation in Old Town and New Town, the two most important neighborhoods of the city. In addition to the Old Town and the New Town, there are other neighborhoods a little further away, such as Leith, Fountainbridge or Newington, which are very well connected to the center by bus and also offer a good selection of accommodation.

Edinburgh is a very tourist city, so it will not be difficult to find accommodation for all budgets from B&B and pensions to luxury hotels or hostels with shared rooms. The offer is very extensive throughout the year, although, if you travel in August to visit the Edinburgh Festival or Christmas.

In the supermarkets of Scotland, like Tesco or Sainsbury's, they sell many meals prepared for a few pounds. Lothian buses cover the entire city and surroundings. Is it possible to travel to Edinburgh in winter? Yes, it is possible and, with a good coat, it is not so much! In fact, more than the temperatures, what can pose a challenge for tourism at that time are the few hours of light.

Accommodation in Edinburgh is second to none, and guarantees Scottish hospitality at its finest. With some astonishingly beautiful historic options as well as classy modern affairs, your home base for exploring the capital has endless potential. Few hotels are as synonymous with Edinburgh as The Balmoral. Its colossal clock tower, famously set three minutes fast, is an integral piece of the city’s iconic skyline and the interior is equally stunning.

The hotels muted blues, greens, and greys are designed to echo the ethereal landscape of Scotland, while the revamped restaurant headed up by a Michelin-starred chef sets out to sample the greatest produce the land provides.

If you’re a Potter-head with some cash to blow, you can even spend the night in the room that J.K Rowling finished the final book in the series. It’ll set you back a grand for the privilege.

2. Treat yourself in Grassmarket

The food scene in Edinburgh is as diverse as its population. Right from fine dining to budget-friendly street food to fried mars bars, the city has something or the other to cater as per different tastes. So treat yourself or your friends and family at the wide range of international as well as local eateries which serves plenty of vegetarian, vegan and non-vegetarian options located all across the city.

Some of the top picks among the lot includes:
  • Ting Thai Caravan
  • Lovercrumbs
  • Three Birds & Apiary
  • Cafe Piccante
  • Mother India's
  • Oink
Also, Edinburgh hosts a few of the prominent food festivals- like the Edinburgh Vegan Festival, Foodies Festival and the Edinburgh Food Festival, which takes place throughout the year.

3. Shopping in Princes Street

Apart from being famous for its eating and music scenes, the town is also known for its famous shopping streets. For some high-end shopping brands and shops, head out to George Street and Princes Street, which occasionally offers student discounts for university students. Looking for something more vintage and out-of-the-box?

Then you should definitely check out Armstrongs, a local vintage store which offers a variety of retro dresses, cowboy boots, cool denim, something more customizable and antique! Apart from this, the city also has some great second-hand shops options, which have a vast range of quality and affordable items out for sale.

4. Ultimate Clubs and Bars in George Street

If you are into any kind of art, music or nightlife then in most British cities you will find a plethora of events catering for all tastes. These cultural scenes span every genre and spectrum from the mainstream to the utterly bizarre. Visit the UK and go to gigs, club nights, art events, secret (interactive) cinema screenings and hidden gin palace speakeasies, meet Brits in their element, and let your hair down.

Loaded with rave vibes and plenty of booze deals; The Bongo Club, Sneaky Pete's, Cabaret Voltaire, The Liquid Room, and Opium are all best choices for a night free of redundant whistles. Want to enjoy spellbinding live music while drinking your heart out in a cosy environment? Then the Jazz Bar surely has to be your destination.

A gem in itself, Sandy Bell's is an alluring pub which is particularly famous for its traditional Scottish music along with serving an impressive range of real malts and ales. And for someone who likes to dress up, head out to the New Town area and George Street which has the city’s finest clubs including Opal Lounge, Why Not, Lola Lo and Lulu.

5. Escape into the artistic world in Scottish National Gallery

Getting to do something, that too without spending lavishly is hands down the best feeling of all. And the city of Edinburgh sure has a way to spoil you with a wide variety of choices. A paradise of art, the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern art is somewhere an art-lover can escape the reality into the artistic world.

6. National Museum of Scotland

For someone who is into history, The National Museum of Scotland is a place where novelty, history and anthropology collide.

7. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, situated on the top of a volcanic rock known as Castle Rock, in the heart of the English city, is one of the most visited places in Scotland. It was, over time, a royal residence, fortress and prison. The castle is as good a place as any to start your time in Edinburgh. Once the center of Scottish political life, the spectacular fortress has sat on Castle Rock for over 900 years. Many Scottish and English monarchs have called it home, and countless battles have raged around its walls.

A visit gives one of the most comprehensive glimpses into Scottish history, including the life of Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to her son, King James - the first King of both England and Scotland - within its walls. Other historical highlights include the Stone of Destiny, the Crown Jewels, and St. Margerets’s Chapel. And don’t miss the one o’clock gun, a Victorian time-keeping tradition that will startle you every time.

If you’re not a history buff, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the city, stretching all the way to the Firth of Forth. Spend a few hours, then wander back down the Royal Mile for lunch. In busier seasons, try and book your tickets in advance. They often sell out. Maybe even go for the afternoon tea experience, which includes your admission.

8. The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the backbone of the Old City. Flanked by the homes of the Scottish nobles, it extends from the esplanade of the Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

9. The Edinburgh Dungeon

Edinburgh is an old city and, like many of the world’s more ancient places, it harbors some skeletons in its closet. The Scottish capital fully embraces its bloodier side and attracts millions to an array of experiences every year. At the top of your list should be one of the many ghost or history tours. Edinburgh is home to several underground vaults and sealed closes. Charismatic tour guides, often in character, lead you to hidden places under the city while spinning tales of the plague, murder, and disasters that all played out in the darkness. Even if you’re not a believer, it’s hard not to get caught up. For a more family-friendly take, try the Edinburgh dungeons, where some of the bloodier Scottish stories are played out to all the visitors' delight and terror. Mary Kings Close offers a hands-on look at a close frozen in time and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It’s famous as one of the world’s most haunted places — if you’re into that sort of thing.

9. St Giles' Cathedral

On this street also stands St Giles Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, built in the fifteenth century and the only medieval church in the city.

After touring every corner of Edinburgh, you can spend a few days exploring Dublin, capital of Ireland, the city founded by the Vikings that went through a stormy past to enjoy a modern and vibrant present.
Kalyan Panja