Exciting things to do in Edinburgh
With so much going on, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Scottish capital.
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The beautiful Scottish capital is a wonder – Medieval history merges with Georgian grandeur and modern lifestyles to create a city perfect for weekend breaks. With so many amazing things to do in Edinburgh you will be spoilt for choice.
Architectural wonders and historic attractions blend in with the luxury hotels and high end shops. It is difficult to tell them apart. Superb bars and gourmet restaurants compete for your attention, theatres and venues stand on every corner. Edinburgh is a city of culture, so expect to see something remarkable during your visit. Soak up the majesty of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle, before shopping in the elegant stores of Princes Street. Come in summer to experience one of the biggest and best art festivals in the world.
A walk up the Royal Mile is the perfect introduction to Edinburgh. Starting at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, follow the cobbles and you’ll come across some of the city’s most famous attractions. These include the Scotch Whisky Experience, St Giles’ Cathedral, the ultramodern Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can even venture inside the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, before hiking up the hill to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.
Perched atop an extinct volcano at the peak of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. It became Scotland's chief royal castle in the Middle Ages and is now home to the Scottish Crown Jewels – the Honours of Scotland. You can also visit the Stone of Destiny, Mons Meg – the famous 15th century gun – and the National War Museum. Don’t miss the traditional one o’clock gun, which fires every day except Sunday.
With plenty of enlightening hotspots over the city, Edinburgh is ideal for culture vultures. Kids will love the National Museum of Scotland – from meteorites to mummies and monsters of the deep. The neo-gothic National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street offers Scottish history in a different way, with expressive ‘selfies’ spanning the ages. And the two site Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a must for fans of contemporary art, starting with the neon ‘Everything’s Going to be Alright’ banner juxtaposing the Modern Two’s classic façade.
There is the best of all worlds when it comes to dining in Edinburgh – from fantastic fish and chip shops to Michelin-starred bistros. You must try the national dish – haggis served with neeps and tatties (mashed swede and potatoes) – at the famous Last Drop pub. The weekly Farmers Market on Castle Terrace is a great place to sample local produce and get a glimpse of Edinburgh life. But those looking for gourmet should dining head to The Balmoral, whose restaurant has held its star for ten years consecutively.
Nightlife takes many forms in Edinburgh, from sipping whisky in a quaint pub to going through the menu at a stylish cocktail bar in the New Town. Have a drink in the Half Way House, Edinburgh’s smallest (and best) pub, or try over 300 single malts at WHISKI Bar. Go and see a live band at one of the city’s innumerable venues - in festival season, there is so much to see that you’ll need a drink just to decide.
The mighty Edinburgh Castle is also home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo – one of Scotland’s most iconic events. Each August, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world flock to Edinburgh for a spectacular showcase of the world’s best military bands, pipers and drummers, dancers and theatre groups. Each 90-minute show ends with a performance of the haunting Lone Piper and a dazzling fireworks display, making it an unforgettable experience.
Anyone in the world of theatre and comedy would be mad to miss the world’s largest arts festival. The streets of Edinburgh come alive with buskers, street theatre and live entertainment filling every cobblestone. Theatres bulge with keen audiences watching in rapture at the new shows on offer. The International Festival is acclaimed for bringing opera, classical music and world-class theatre. While the Fringe is famous for off-the-wall comedy and offbeat drama. Both offer astonishing talent giving stellar performances.
Locals can reveal their city’s best kept secrets. We caught up with Callum, an Edinburgh local with a love for his city’s hidden gems, to gather his top tips for travellers who want to experience the real Edinburgh. You can explore the city with Callum via the Ventoura app.Discover more about Ventoura locals
Everyone knows a visit to Scotland’s award-winning distilleries is a must, but Scotland’s agriculture has more to offer than barley and peat. With a rich farming history and thousands of hectares devoted to agricultural production, sampling Scotland’s fine produce is a must for travellers. The menu at Edinburgh eatery Urban Angel showcases Scotland’s farming heritage through a focus on delicious food that is fresh, seasonal and locally sourced. And who can resist an all-day brunch?
With plenty of young people in Edinburgh the music and arts scene is bustling with talent. Head to The Caves, an intimate venue and key piece in Scotland’s mosaic of history: The Cavesonce formed part of the Edinburgh Vaults: a series of chambers originally built in the 18th century then left hidden for over a hundred years. This labyrinth will take you deep into Scotland’s history while some of the best local music pumps away in the corner.
Don’t let the name mislead you: there’s not a single fresh apple or pear on sale at the Fruitmarket Gallery. The Fruitmarket Gallery is Edinburgh’s leading cultural space, featuring global contemporary art. Don’t miss Edinburgh icon ‘The Scotsman Steps’, a winding staircase converted into an artwork by Scottish native Martin Creed. Each step has been encased in a unique colour of marble that has been sourced from different corners of the globe, making for a kaleidoscopic climb.
The Stockbridge Markets are a bohemian haven that is home to an ever-changing range of stalls that sell everything from natural honey to Scottish jams, or handcrafted ornaments made from locally-sourced wood. This area thrives on the creativity of passionate locals, who are always keen to strike up a conversation about their craft. Stockbridge Markets make the perfect pit-stop to fill up your hamper for a Sunday afternoon picnic, or to fill up your luggage to take the taste of Scotland home.
One of the most awe-inspiring ways to see Edinburgh is from above. A short stroll out from the city stands Arthur's Seat. This majestic set of hills overlooks the entire city and Edinburgh Castle; where I can guide you next. Discover this city with me from a unique perspective, and hear stories that make up Edinburgh’s rich history (which you won’t find in any guidebook!) Find me on the Ventoura app for iPhone and Android, I can customise your experience to match your tastes and interests, and give you tips and ideas for the rest of your stay.
Hop-on and hop-off to see the city’s attractions.
Take a tour of the Queen’s former yacht, moored in Leith.
Explore the famous medieval Edinburgh Castle at your own pace.
Take a full-day trip to Loch Ness and the Highlands.
Free entry to 90 National Trust for Scotland’s attractions.
Take a tour of some of the city’s finest confectioners.
Wander the dark streets in search of ghoulish goings on.
Visit the wonderful West Highlands for a perfect day trip.