Twenty Things to do In Edinburgh

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Edinburgh sights

The Royal Mile

Edinburgh is not a city where you can easily become bored. There is always something to do, somewhere to see. But, to narrow it down a wee bit, here is a list of my top 20 favourite attractions in Scotland’s bustling capital…

1.) Visit the Writers’ Museum to learn about three of Scotland’s most famous wordsmiths – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

2.) Walk the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood House, the official Scottish residence of the Queen, and take in all of the beautiful architecture, cobbled streets and general historical character.

3.) Go to Camera Obscura for five floors of guaranteed fun with optical illusions, along with great views over Edinburgh.

One of the fun optical illusions at Camera Obscura

4.) Go on a ghost walk to experience the spookier side of Edinburgh. Many of them run nightly from a meeting point near St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.

5.) Climb Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s highest hill – for stunning views over the city. This takes around 45 minutes and is quite strenuous and uneven in places so wear adequate footwear.

6.) Walk up to Calton Hill to enjoy panoramic city views and have a look at some interesting monuments, including one dedicated to Admiral Nelson.

The view from Carlton Hill

7.) Devour a delicious full ‘Scottish’ breakfast with haggis black pudding from the Sunday Morning cafe on the Royal Mile.

8.) Learn about the chilling past of a medieval street that was built over and has been frozen in time underground. The Mary King Close tour takes you through these dark tunnels that once would have been occupied by thousands of people. A guide in period dress tells you about life here during the 16th and 17th centuries. The entrance to this attraction is on the Royal Mile.

9.) Enjoy whisky cocktails at Whiski on the Royal Mile or Whiski Rooms in The Mound.

A full ‘Scottish’ breakfast

10.) Visit Edinburgh’s free art galleries and museums, including the mammoth National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery.

11.) Learn how kilts are made behind the scenes at The Woollen Mill next to the castle and try on medieval armour in the shop.

12.) Take a short bus ride to visit Edinburgh Zoo which has the only koala bears in the UK and two giant pandas recently arrived from China.

13.) Climb the 287 steps of the Scott Monument for fantastic views. This was built in tribute to Walter Scott and is the largest monument in the world dedicated to a writer.

14.) Walk into the lobby of the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland to view the stunning ceiling.

15.) Take a terrifying yet intriguing walk around Greyfriars Cemetery.

The Scott Monument

16.) Outside Greyfriars Cemetery, look out for the statue of Greyfriars Bobby – a loyal dog remembered for remaining besides his owner’s grave every day until his own death.

17.) Set aside half a day to explore the fascinating history of Edinburgh Castle and hear the gun fired daily at 1pm.

18.) For the atmosphere of a dark, Scottish pub complete with candlelight go to the Royal Mile pub in the Royal Mile. This is a bit of an old man’s pub and always seems to have at least one man with a kilt on.

Greyfriars Bobby

19.) Read extracts from famous Scottish poets and other relevant quotes on the walls of the Scottish Parliament Building located at the end of the Royal Mile near Holyrood House.

20.) Experience Edinburgh lit up at night, especially the castle which looks particularly pretty.




  1. suzy doo
    March 10, 2012 / 17:34

    wonderful article…I am planning my first trip to Edinburgh and you gave life to attractions that until now I could only imagine. thank you.

  2. Dean
    March 11, 2012 / 11:47

    Great blog – we go in June for 4 days!

    • March 11, 2012 / 17:06

      Thanks Dean, you’ll have a great time in Edinburgh and I’m sure the weather will be much warmer then as well :-)

  3. Judi
    June 4, 2013 / 13:14

    Alison, Thank you for your passionate description of the highlights in Edinburgh. You offered so many wonderful ideas. I’m grateful to you for taking the time and effort to share this valuable information. Judi

    • June 29, 2013 / 21:26

      Hi Judi, aww thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a nice comment! Glad this info was useful to you :-)

  4. Stephan
    January 27, 2014 / 04:22

    Very useful! My family and I from Bangkok will travel to Edinburgh in April of this year!

    • January 27, 2014 / 11:49

      Thanks Stephan, have a great holiday in Edinburgh!

  5. Clare
    September 25, 2016 / 11:00

    The traditional Scottish breakfast looks scrummy, just what we’d be looking for, but can’t seem to find the place you mentioned online to check out the menu/location further. Could you help? Thanks :-)