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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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. 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