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Edinburgh is a bustling city, rich in history and with plenty of wonders to discover.

Enjoying a magnificent castle, vast green spaces, family-friendly attractions, and pubs and restaurants aplenty! There are lots of things to do in Edinburgh for everyone!

Continue reading to discover the best things to do in Edinburgh…

Things to Do in Edinburgh


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Scotland’s world-famous capital, Edinburgh rests in southern Scotland on the banks of the Firth of Forth.

Join the millions who flock to the city every year to enjoy Edinburgh’s many delights. Wander through the cobbled streets which are speckled with stunning architecture or soak up culture in one of the cities many galleries.

There’s plenty of nightlife to enjoy, including bars, restaurants, pubs, and theatres. Or if you’re after something a little different, there are also ghost tours on offer!

Whether you’re travelling solo, with the family, or as a couple. You’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do in Edinburgh!

1. Edinburgh Castle


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First up on our ultimate guide is the iconic Edinburgh Castle. Dominating the city’s skyline, this grand castle is one of the oldest fortified places in the whole of Europe!

Built in the 12th century, Edinburgh Castle has changed significantly over the years. Beginning as a wooden fortress and later changing to the magnificent structure we see today.
The castle boasts a wealth of history, from being the home of Scotland’s kings and queens, to being at the heart of wars and conflicts.
Tour the grand interior, where you can see the Honours of Scotland for yourself and wander through The Great Hall. You can also visit St Margaret’s Chapel, the Prisons of War, and the National War Museum.
For panoramic views, head to the top of the castle, where you can see the historic weapons of Mons Meg and the One o’Clock Gun and enjoy breath-taking views over the city.

2. Palace of Holyroodhouse


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Spend the day like a royal at the awe-inspiring Palace of Holyroodhouse. Located at the end of the renowned Royal Mile, this palace was formerly home to Mary, Queen of Scot’s.

Today, the palace’s State Apartments are now used by King Charles for official engagements, State meetings, and entertaining. Explore the palace’s beautiful interior, where you can tour the State Apartments, the Throne Room, and the Great Gallery.

Be sure to visit the dramatic 12th century Holyrood Abbey, located next to the palace. As well as the gorgeous Palace Gardens which enjoy a backdrop of Arthur’s Seat and views out towards the Queen’s Park.

3. The Royal Yacht Britannia

Continue your royal tour of Scotland by steeping aboard the former queens floating palace, The Royal Yacht Britannia. Voted at Tripadvisor’s No.1 UK Attraction of 2023, the large boat served the Royal Family for over 44 years.

It acted as their base for state visits, ceremonies, and events, as well as for personal affairs, including holidays.

To this day the ship has totalled up one million miles and was once home to 250 crew members.

Follow in the footsteps of renowned figures such as Gandhi and Winston Churchill and explore the State Apartments. You may recognise them from Netflix’s hit series ‘The Crown’. Or continue through to discover the State Dining Room and even head below deck!

If all that exploring has made you feel peckish, why not dine like a royal at the Royal Deck Tearoom? Tuck-in to a tasty selection of homemade dishes, with everything from sandwiches and soups to cakes and cream teas on offer.

4. Festival Theatre

Perched in the heart of Edinburgh is where you will find the popular Festival Theatre. Well-known for having the largest performance area in Scotland, it has hosted the likes of David Bowie and Charlie Chaplin.

Treat yourself to a night at this 1,915-seat venue where you can enjoy a variety of performances. Including live music, opera, musicals, and international ballet.

If you fancy a bite to eat before the show, you can make a pit stop at the Festival Theatre Cafe.

5. The Scotch Whiskey Experience

A trip to Edinburgh would not be complete without taking part in the Scotch Whisky Experience. Located along the city’s iconic Royal Mile, this attraction is the perfect place to learn about all things Scottish and whiskey.

You can enjoy guided tours, tastings, or a meal in the wonderful Amber Restaurant & Whiskey Bar. Serving delicious dishes, including Scottish Tapas, which can be paired with over 450 drams from the whiskey bar.

6. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Moment’s away from Edinburgh Castle is where you will find this unique attraction. One of the more unusual things to do in Edinburgh, this tower boasts five floors of exhibits and optical illusions.

Ideal for all ages, you can get involved with over 100 interactive exhibits. Including the mind-bending Camera Obscura Show, the Magic Gallery, Bewilderworld, and the Kaleido Tunnel.

After testing your brain, head to the Rooftop Terrace to take in the unbeatable views over the city. Using the telescopes provided you can enjoy watching the busting crowds along the Royal Mile, and even Kingdom of Fife to the north!

7. City of the Dead Tours


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If you’re looking for things to do in Edinburgh which are a little spookier, why not enjoy an award-winning City Of The Dead Tour?

The walks have been written and researched by historical author J A Henderson, who’s works include writings on The Mackenzie Poltergeist and the Underground City.

There are three tours to choose from where you can delve into the city’s history through vivid storytelling.

Brave visitors can embark on the Underground City of the Dead Tour. During this tour you can visit the notorious Damnation Alley, home to evil South Bridge Entity.

Continue learning about Edinburgh’s most haunted spots with a Haunted Graveyard Tour.

One of the most popular, this tour see’s visitors exploring the Edinburgh Covenanter’s Prison and the Black Mausoleum. The latter of which is home to none other than the famous Mackenzie Poltergeist.

Or perhaps you’d like to combine the two and bravely take on the Double Dead Tour? Either way you’re sure to have a scream with City Of The Dead Tours!

8. The Royal Observatory


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After a day of exploring Edinburgh, what could be better than seeing the stars? A hub of research, The Royal Observatory offers pre-booked tours, lectures, and telescope stargazing. Perfect for those with an interest in astronomy or budding stargazers!

Be sure to check out the gift shop for an out of this world souvenir!

Things to Do in Edinburgh with the Kids

9. Edinburgh Zoo


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Travelling with the little ones? Edinburgh is home to a wealth of family-friendly attractions, including the popular Edinburgh Zoo! Surrounded by over 82 acres, the zoo is home to over 2,500 animals from all over the world.

Look forward to meeting the wide variety of animals which include the likes of zebras, monkeys, penguins, rhinos, reptiles, and tigers. As well as zoo keeper talks, feedings, and free hilltop safari rides.

If you’re feeling peckish during your visit, you can dine at The Gannet Fish Bar, Grasslands Restaurant, or the Penguins Cafe. Or enjoy a picnic before letting the kids enjoy the delights of the zoo’s several play areas.

10. Portobello Beach


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Swap the hustle and bustle of the city for a day spent on the beach. This award-winning beach enjoys two miles of soft sands, ideal for bathing or building sandcastles with the little ones.

Or why not get out on the water and try your hand at watersports? You’ll find both RowPorty and the Portobello Kayaking and Sailing Club both based here.

The beach is backed by a delightful promenade where you can enjoy refreshments at a good selection of bars and cafes.

If you time your visit right, the beach hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including volleyball competitions and the beloved Big Beach Busk.

11. Dynamic Earth


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Set on the outskirts of Holyrood Park and at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, is the fun-filled and fascinating Dynamic Earth. Enjoy a day with loved ones at Edinburgh’s much-loved science centre and planetarium.

Learn all about how planet Earth came to be through immersive and interactive exhibits and activities. Journey back through time in the Deep Time Machine and enjoy adventures through rainforests and the Arctic.

Visit the Planetarium where you can enjoy live shows on the large 360-degree screen with immersive sound.

Or venture to the depths of the sea in the Discover The Deep Gallery, where you can learn more about the sea’s inhabitants and their habitat.

If you’re looking for things to do in Edinburgh with the kids that are fun and educational, look no further than Dynamic Earth!

12. The Edinburgh Dungeon

If you can’t get enough of Edinburgh’s dark history, then you won’t want to miss out on a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeons!

Wander through the dungeons many sections where you can learn all about the history of the dungeons from actors and interactive storytelling.

Visit The Courtroom to plead your case, or meet Edinburgh’s notorious witch, Agnes Finnie.

Will you be brave enough to visit The Torture Chamber and The Cannibal’s Cave? Or have you earned a visit to the Grassmarket Gallows, which are sure to make you scream?

13. The Potter Trail


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Next on our guide for things to do in Edinburgh is for the Harry Potter fans! Make sure you have your cloak and wand ready as you wander Edinburgh’s cobbled streets to visit the many hotspots featured in the films!

You can visit the very spot where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. As well as stroll down Diagon Alley, find out your Hogwarts House, and see Lord Voldemort grave!

The Potter Trail is a wonderful and unique way to see and learn more about the city, whether you’re a fan or not. Both wizards and muggles are welcome!

14. Museum of Childhood

Enjoy going back in time with your family with a visit to Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. The first ever museum in the world dedicated to showcasing childhood from the 1800’s to present day.

Your little ones will love seeing the array of historic toys, which include a Fisher-Price Telephone from 1979, a Queen Ann Doll from 1740, and Stanbrig Erols, the largest dolls house in the museum.

As well as a vast collection of toys, there are displays of books, games, and rare objects. All of which are sure to make you feel nostalgic!

Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

15. Arthur’s Seat


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Towering over the 640-acre Holyrood Park is the imposing Arthur’s Seat. A towering extinct volcano, the top of Arthur’s Seat can be reached by a variety of walking paths.

Once at the top you will be rewarded with 360 panoramic views over Edinburgh and beyond. It is one of the most popular places for visitors to watch the sun rise and set.

If you don’t fancy making your way to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the Salisbury Crags lie a little lower and offer superb views of Edinburgh’s skyline.

It should definitely be on your list when looking for free things to do in Edinburgh.

16. National Museum of Scotland


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If you’re looking to discover more about Edinburgh’s rich history, then pay a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Home to the world-famous Dolly, the first cloned animal to ever be created from a human cell.

Begin in the Grand Gallery which houses natural history displays. Including the skull of Moby, the whale and a Giant Deer skeleton.

Continue getting up close with historic animals in Animal World. Where you can expect to see the likes of lions, polar bears, and giraffes!

Tour the Scottish Galleries, where you can journey back to historic times right through to present day. Be sure to check out the Lewis chess pieces which were used in the first Harry Potter film!

If you fancy stepping into a queen’s footsteps, head to the Kingdom of Scots where you can learn more and see some of her possessions.

There is also a mini museum, and a Fashion and Style Gallery where you can spot pieces by the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

17. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

A mile away from the bustling city centre is where you will find The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The gardens are home to one of the finest plant collections in the world and have been for over 350 years.

Explore over 70 acres of picturesque lawns encompassing sections of garden with their own unique touches. Learn more about Scotland’s native plants in the Heath Garden or admire the Rhododendron Collection.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Arboretum, home to over 3.500 trees. Make your way to the Rock Garden, home to a collection of over 5,000 plants from all over the globe, including Japan and South Africa.

The Woodland Garden is not to be missed, where you can explore the wonders of both the Upper and Lower Woodland Gardens. Along with the peaceful Chinese Hillside, where you will be surrounded by over 1,600 rare and exotic plants.

18. Royal Mile


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Foodies and shoppers will have found their haven along Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Mile. Home to many of the city’s landmarks, including St Giles’ Cathedral and The Real Mary King’s Close.

This well-known succession of streets takes its name from being the processional route for royals for over 500 years. Along the Royal Mile, you can treat your palette to a journey across the world in the variety of restaurants.

Will it be traditional Scottish dishes in Whiski Bar & Restaurant or French cuisine in Le Bistrot? Or perhaps you’d prefer fresh seafood from Ondine?

After refuelling, you can browse the many shops where you can pick up a sweet treat at The Chocolatarium, a traditional Scottish whiskey from Royal Mile Whiskies, or indulge your inner Potterhead with a souvenir from The Great Wizard.

19. Scottish National Gallery


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If you’re looking for free things to do in Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the best. Set on The Mound, this impressive building houses an array of Scottish and European works.

Tour the gallery where you can soak up the beauty of fine art ranging from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century.

These include the masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Vermeer, to name a few! As well as the Scottish artists of Ramsay, McTaggart, and Wilkie.

If you fancy unleashing your inner artist you can take part in a life drawing class, listen to a lecture or enjoy live music. There are even storytelling sessions for the little ones to enjoy.

After enjoying all that culture, why not treat yourself to a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the award-winning Scottish Cafe & Restaurant?

20. Calton Hill


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Often referred to as ‘Edinburgh’s Acropolis’ due to its range of historic buildings. The World Heritage site of Calton Hill is not to be missed for historians and keen walkers.

Hike up the hill to discover the awe-inspiring landmarks of the National Monument. Said to have been inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Along with the Nelson Monument, the City Observatory, and a building styled like a Greek temple.

As well as its history, Calton Hill is renowned for its jaw-dropping views, where you can gaze out and see Arthur’s Seat, Parliament, Leith, and the Royal Mile.

If you’re visiting Scotland for Hogmanay, it is the perfect spot to enjoy the fireworks!

21. Scott Monument

Enjoy the sights and sounds of Edinburgh from up above with a climb up the imposing Scott Monument. Standing at 200-ft this 19th century building claims the title of being the largest monument dedicated to a writer. That writer is Sir Walter Scott.

Accessed via the beautiful Princess Street Gardens, you can learn more about the great writer himself. Or climb the 287 steps, where you can take in the exceptional views over the city from across various platforms.

Expect to see the breath-taking sights of Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and Illusions, and the Firth of Forth. Whilst inside enjoys a wealth of history, including intricate art, coats of arms, and carvings relating to the characters in Scott’s novels.

22. Water of Leithway Walk


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Lace up your walking boots and enjoy a leisurely wander along the delightful Water of Leithway Walk. Starting at Balerno and ending in Leith, the walk spans 19.6km.

Along the way you will see many sights, including one of Edinburgh’s most photogenic areas, Dean Village. As well as Saughton Gardens and Murrayfield Stadium.

The route is suitable for cycling, as well as party accessible for those wanting to travel on horseback.

23. Greyfriars Kirkyard


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Last but certainly not least on our guide to the best things to do in Edinburgh is the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard. Settled within Edinburgh’s Old Town, the graveyard has become increasingly famous since its beginnings in 1620.

Visit the grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the renowned Skye Terrier cared for by local policeman John Gray.

After the man’s death, it is said Bobby stood guard at his grave or fourteen years. Bobby became well-known and loved by the chambers and general public, and following his death he was buried just outside of the Kirkyard. Be sure to visit the iconic bronze statue of this pooch!

Within the yard, you will also find the grave of William McGonagall. Renowned for being one of the worst poets in Scotland.

If his name sounds familiar, you’d be right in thinking that his surname was the inspiration for the character of Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films.

The Harry Potter links don’t stop as you can pay homage to the grave of Tom Riddell. JK Rowling credits the grave as inspiring her writing, as well as the ones of Moodie, Potters, and Cruikshanks!

Edinburgh Events

Looking to visit the city when one of Edinburgh’s many festivals are on?

Enjoy arts, culture and comedy at the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Or take in the wonder of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Both of which take place in August.

Edinburgh Weather


Check out the seven-day weather forecast for Edinburgh ahead of your getaway! Don’t worry if the sun isn’t shining 24/7, there’s always something to see and do!

Edinburgh Accommodation

Here at Sykes Cottages we offer a fantastic range of Edinburgh accommodation. Ideally located for making sure you never miss out on any of the action!

Feeling inspired to visit this magnificent city? For more things to do during your stay in your perfect Edinburgh accommodation, check out our guide to watersports in Scotland.

Or uncover more history with our blog on the best castles in Scotland to visit!

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