Edinburgh is a beautiful and historic city made even more unforgettable by its must-see sights and attractions. While Edinburgh Castle is unmissable if you’re on astag weekend in Edinburgh, you’ll have to do a bit of exploring to find these other gems.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the historic heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. If you start at Edinburgh Castle, your walk will be downhill and much easier, leaving plenty of energy to enjoy the landmarks you’ll pass including St Giles Cathedral, John Knox House, Museum of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament before ending at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Scotland’s most iconic sight, Edinburgh Castle, has been a key part of Scottish history since medieval times as both a home to royals and a military stronghold. Perched high above the city on Castle Rock, which is actually an extinct volcano, the castle offers panoramic views of the city and a fascinating history to explore.
Arthur’s Seat is a rocky peak set high in Edinburgh’s skyline. It’s an ancient volcano carved by ice sheets that towers above the city. Hike to the summit from Holyrood Park for panoramic views, it’s relatively easy to climb and well worth the effort.
The Salisbury Crags are a series of striking cliffs in Holyrood Park looking down on Edinburgh. They were created by the remains of a glacier, next to Arthur’s Seat providing alternative views of the city from the dramatic cliff tops. At the southern end, keep an eye out for the sign marking Edinburgh’s most famous rock outcrop and geological site, Hutton’s Section.
Founded by King David I in 1128, Holyrood Abbey has been in ruins for centuries but is still beautiful and worth a visit to see the incredible architecture. Be sure to check out the doorway in the southeastern corner, which is all that remains from the original Norman church. The rest has survived since the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia was built for the royal family and acted as their own floating holiday home for over 40 years, sailing over a million miles around the world. Moored in Edinburgh permanently since 1997, it now offers visitors an interesting insight into the Queen’s travels. Take a break in the Royal Deck Tea Room where you can enjoy stunning waterfront views from this unique addition to British history.
The Royal Botanic Garden
Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens are both beautiful and scientifically respected as the second oldest of its kind. With 70 acres of breathtaking landscapes and 25 Victorian glasshouses, there’s everything from a world-famous rock garden to rare and tropical plants like giant Amazonian water lilies.
Princes Street is one of the UK’s top shopping destinations and undoubtedly Edinburgh’s busiest street, and it’s not hard to see why. It has all the big high street names combined with the classic beauty of the city and Princes Street Gardens as your backdrop. If you’re looking for more upmarket and designer stores, head a block north to George Street.
Named after a fascinating 19th-century device, Camera Obscura is an exhibition dedicated to illusions, tricks, puzzles and all kinds of effects. It’s a hands-on experience that lets you explore a live image of the city using lenses and mirrors - no projectors involved. At the top, the Outlook Tower offers unparalleled views of the city with high-powered telescopes and binoculars to zoom in on the world below.
The Scottish National Monument
The National Monument is an Athenian Acropolis-style structure at the top of Calton Hill to honour the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. It was initially designed to replicate the Parthenon but was left unfinished when funds ran out.
At the eastern end of Princes Street, Calton Hill is right in the city centre, scattered with memorials from the first half of the 19th century. It’s considered peaceful and one of the best spots above the city to take in panoramic sights of the castle, Arthur’s Seat and the full length of Princes Street. Its biggest landmark is the National Monument.
St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral is an unmissable landmark along the Royal Mile with its famous crown spires and Gothic architecture. There are a number of beautiful stained glass windows including the incredible Burne-Jones window. Don’t miss the Thistle Chapel, the prestigious home of the Order of the Thistle and also where you’ll find angels playing the bagpipes if you look up towards the vaulting.