A trip to Scotland is not complete without a stop in the capital so I’ve put together the best things to do in Edinburgh! Best of all most of these are either free to do or cost very little.
#1. Hike Arthurs Seat
Arthurs Seat is an ancient extinct volcano on the edge of the city of Edinburgh. The name is thought to come from the legends of King Arthur with the site being proposed as the location of his castle in Camelot. It is a pretty easy hike up the hill and once you get to the top there is a beautiful view overlooking the city.
#2. The Royal Mile
The Royal Miles is the stretch of streets that lead from Holyrood Palace up to Edinburgh Castle. Walking the royal mile you’ll get to see the beautiful architecture of the building that make up the Old Town of Edinburgh. The streets themselves are lined with shops, restaurants, and historic sites. Overall the Royal Mile is the perfect introduction to the city itself.
#3. Edinburgh Castle
Sitting above the rest of the city atop Castle Hill you’ll find Edinburgh Castle. A castle has been in this spot for centuries and until 1633 it was a royal residence. (The official royal residence is now Holyrood Palace). On my trip to Edinburgh, I didn’t have a chance to explore inside as I was short on time and you had to pre-book entry because of COVID. So even if you don’t have a chance to go inside I still suggest going up to the castle. It is a cool spot to stop for pictures and you get another vantage of the city.
Sitting just below Edinburgh Castle is Grassmarket. Historically this was a marketplace, and more darkly also the site of public executions. Today the square is filled with restaurants, pubs, and shops. It’s the perfect place to relax and grab a spot of lunch before exploring the city more.
#5. Mary’s Milk Bar
Even if you are not stopping for lunch in Grassmarket, ice cream from Mary’s Milk Bar is a must! It is an adorable little shop that sells fresh-made gelato and handmade chocolate. Their flavors change every day and you can check what they have each day on their Instagram. I had the Passion Fruit Ripple which I highly recommend if they have it.
#6. Victoria Street
Just off of Grassmarket is Victoria Street. It is a picturesque, curving street lined with colorful shops. Some believe this to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and along it you’ll find not one but two Harry Potter themed shops. If Harry Potter’s not you’re thing I still recommend a visit, there are lots more shops. And if nothing else it’s a great spot to snap a few pictures.
#7. Greyfriar’s Bobby
A must-do, while you are in Edinburgh, is a stop at Greyfriar’s Bobby. The story goes that Greyfriar’s Bobby was a terrier that belonged to one of the men that worked the nightwatch in the nearby Kirkyard. When his owner died Greyfriar’s Bobby spent the rest of his life watching over his owner’s grave. There is now a statue to commemorate him and it’s considered good luck to rub the nose of the statue. You can also wander around the Kirkyard (graveyard) where you might spot some familiar names on some of the headstones.
#8. Prince’s Street Gardens
Not far from Edinburgh castle lie the Princes Street Gardens. These are public parks that offer a gorgeous green space that is perfect for relaxing. They also provide a great view of the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle.
#9. The Writer’s Museum and Lady Stair’s Close
Tucked away in Lady Stair’s Close is The Writer’s Museum. The Museum itself is dedicated to the Scottish writers Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The Museum is free to visit though check to make sure it’s open. The close also offers a quiet escape from the busier streets that surround it.
These are the 9 best things to do in Edinburgh, but there is also so much more to see and do.