Edinburgh hardly needs an introduction. It condenses everything that symbolises the best of Scottish culture into an aesthetic, weekend break-sized city. History? Check. Local hiking? Check. Loveable hospitality? Double-check. The question is not if you’ll visit, but things to do in Edinburgh when you do.
It can be hard to sift out the excellent from the good with so many options. To help you plan your trip, I’ve compiled a list of ten tried-and-tested attractions for your Edinburgh itinerary. Enjoy!
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is a favourite hike and one of the best outdoor things to do in Edinburgh. Once a volcano, then a hilltop fort, the 250- metre hill now attracts hikers chasing fresh air and 360-degree views over Edinburgh.
To reach the bottom of the hill, head to Holyrood Park, which is only a short walk or bus trip from the city centre. The climb itself is a brief but moderately challenging ascent. To reach the summit, allow approximately an hour. Arthur’s Seat perfectly fits into an early morning slot in an itinerary, and you’ll only need to carve a space of three hours for the experience.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is an attraction that you do once, and you do properly. There is so much to see in the Castle that you should dedicate at least half a day to visiting.
Witness the one o’clock gun shooting, admire the crown jewels, and explore the prisoner of war vaults, where many awaited their demise. I’d recommend taking a break at the Redcoat Café or packing a picnic to enjoy by the half moon battery. Edinburgh Castle can seem overwhelmingly informative even for the most enthusiastic history lovers. Set yourself up for success by not rushing.
I’ve compiled a table with the Castle’s 2022 entry prices. Check for the most up-to-date prices when booking online through their official website.
|Adult||Concession||Child||Child under 5|
|Ticket price (£)||15.50||12.40||9.30||Free|
Watch a stand-up comedy show
If you are to watch stand-up comedy anywhere in the world, let it be Edinburgh. Scottish comedians are top-tier (scientific fact), and Edinburgh’s cultural atmosphere is the ideal place to indulge in live entertainment.
Edinburgh has plenty of comedy venues dotted across the city, with even more throughout the Edinburgh Festival. However, The Stand Up Comedy Club hosts the best regular shows. Check the line-up to see if there are specific comedians you’d like to see. Otherwise, The Friday Show and The Saturday Show are weekly performances you should bag tickets to attend.
Tickets cost £20 per person, and you’ll need to be over 18 to enter. Make sure to book in advance, so you don’t miss out! The regular events are very popular.
Catch the sunrise at Calton Hill
Night owls, hear me out here. Edinburgh will inspire even you to beat the sunrise.
Calton Hill is a shorter, more urban, and more accessible hike than Arthur’s Seat – so consider it a strong alternative if you weren’t as keen on a two-hour round hike. You can climb Calton Hill in less than ten minutes! At the top of the hill, you’ll find the National Monument and Edinburgh’s Acropolis. When you reach the summit for sunrise, you can appreciate beautiful skies, views, and the quiet golden hour that most tourists miss.
Wheelchair users don’t need to write off the climb either, as there is a path to the top from the Royal Terrace. Alternatively, visitors can use the steps from Waterloo Place.
Go whisky sipping at the Scotch Whisky Experience
You can’t have a list of things to do in Edinburgh and not mention Scotch whisky. Luckily, the Scotch Whisky Experience is conveniently located in the Old Town.
Hop into an educational ‘rollercoaster’ and discover whisky production cinematically. The tour takes you through several rooms, with a guide to simplify any complicated details. The tour includes a tasting session, then entry to the museum’s private collection of 3,384 rare whiskies.
The experience is suitable for families, couples, friends, or solo travellers. I’ve compiled the 2022 Scotch Whisky Experience’s ticket options and prices in the table below.
|The Silver Tour||The Gold Tour||The Platinum Tour||Tasting Tales||The Taste of Scotland|
|Included||A 50-minute tour with the chance to taste one single malt or blended whisky.||A 70-90-minute tour with the chance to taste four single malt whiskies.||A 90-minute tour with four single malts and one blended whisky to taste.||A 60-minute Scottish whisky and food tasting session.||The Platinum tour plus a Scottish tasting menu in the Amber restaurant.|
Wander the Old Town
Speaking of the Old Town, it is somewhat of an attraction in itself. The mostly medieval streets of Edinburgh’s oldest quarter make up a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and are ridiculously atmospheric to explore by foot.
The Old Town is where you’ll find the Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh Castle, St Giles’ Cathedral, and most ghost tours. But, attractions aside, the Old Town is the best place to immerse yourself in traditional Scottish architecture and snap a few photos. For a fix of cobbles and furtive alleyways, wandering the Old Town is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Go shopping on the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile got its nickname from its use as a processional avenue for royalty in years gone by. The stretch is actually slightly more than a mile, as traditional Scottish miles are longer than English – so its name is slightly deceiving!
Nowadays, you might not catch a glimpse of monarchs, but you can spot many retail deals and good pubs. The Mile is now lined by independent and chain shops, with odd restaurants and pubs to escape to for refreshments.
If you want to buy a souvenir, the Royal Mile is one of the best places to buy tartan, cashmere, whisky, and general memorabilia. Shopping in Edinburgh is a good way to spend half a day, especially if you have more than a few days in the city.
Have a pint at the oldest pub in Edinburgh
If it’s refreshments, entertainment, and history you’re looking for, the Sheep Heid Inn is the venue for you.
The Inn is the oldest pub in Edinburgh and has served locals and visitors alike for over 600 years. The Inn is recognisable by its classic white and black exterior, while its interior treads a line between tradition and decadence.
Take a seat in a tartan chair to explore the food menu or, in summer, head outside to the beer garden with a cold pint. The pub feature that blew my mind the most was the ancient double lane bowling alley!
The Sheep Heid Inn is a perfect stop after hiking Arthur’s Seat and a great venue in the rain or shine. The balance of the bowling alley and aesthetic seating inside, with the beer garden out the back, makes visiting the Inn one of the better things to do in Edinburgh.
Climb the Scott Monument
Okay, brace yourself for a slight wave of vertigo. The 287 narrow, spiral steps are not to be underestimated, but climbing the Scott Monument is still a top addition to things to do in Edinburgh.
The monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and stands at 60 metres high. You could speed march to the top in less than ten minutes. However, an entry ticket grants access to three museum floors. Take your time to learn about Sir Walter Scott, his works, and his life before scaling to the fourth-floor viewing platform.
Reaching the fourth floor is the hardest, as the walls become extremely narrow and unevenly slanted. The steps also become irregular, so watch your footing. Be aware that some people have been known to get stuck on this last section of steps, so if you think you might struggle, stick to the third level. However, really, the steps are all part of the Scott Monument adventure, so give it a go if you can!
Here, you’ll have 360-degree views over central Edinburgh and the pride of completing an extremely bizarre flight of stairs.
Learn about Greyfriars Bobby at Greyfriars Kirkyard
I debated adding Greyfriars Kirkyard to this list of things to do in Edinburgh. For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Greyfriars Bobby, I do apologise if it ruins your day.
The true story of the Skye Terrier is so famous in Edinburgh that the dog even has a statue in the Old Town. ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ became known for his loyalty after he would repeatedly sneak into the Kirkyard to sleep on his deceased owner’s grave. Bobby quickly became adopted by the community, and centuries later, he is still remembered as one of Scotland’s most faithful companions.
After fourteen years of visiting his owner’s grave, Bobby passed away. He now rests near his owner, John Gray, and visitors can pay respects to both graves in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby rests under the epigraph ‘Let his loyalty & devotion be a lesson to us all’.
**On a slightly lighter note, while spotting Greyfriars Bobby’s final resting place, keep an eye out for Tom Riddle’s. JK Rowling took inspiration for Voldemort from the real Tom Riddle, who passed away in 1806.**
Edinburgh is easily one of the best places to visit in Scotland and the UK. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Edinburgh – have a fantastic trip! And, of course, feel free to drop any recommendations below.