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 a hen weekend in Edinburgh, you’ll have to do a bit of exploring to find these other gems.
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.
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.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
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.
Originally a mill village, Craymond Island is a peaceful place to take a walk along the seafront. With a historic 17th-century church, 15th-century tower house, Roman remains and ruined mills, its an area worth exploring. There are even moored yachts, swans and whitewashed houses across the hillside for a picturesque break from city life.
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.
Greyfriars Bobby is a life-sized memorial statue of a Skye Terrier sitting atop a water fountain outside Greyfriars Kirkyard. Back in the 19th century, Bobby captured the hearts of the people when he guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years and continues to do so, becoming a popular photo opportunity for dog-loving tourists. His original collar and bowl are in the Museum of Edinburgh.
On the edge of Old Town, Greyfriars Kirkyard is Edinburgh’s most famous cemetery for several reasons including the famous names buried here. Many of the headstones inspired characters in the Harry Potter series, attracting fans from all over, these included Tom Riddle and William McGonagall, a famously bad poet. It’s also thought to be haunted by the ghost of a particularly nasty George Mackenzie, and you can take terrifying tours of the burial vault.
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.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, standing at the end of the Royal Mile, is the famous home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Many of the rooms have been preserved and act as part of a tour, including Mary’s Bedchamber and the secret stairway to her husband’s room. Nowadays it’s the official residence of the royal family in Scotland.
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.
Princes Street Gardens
For natural beauty, take a stroll through Princes Street Gardens for spectacular flower displays. Don’t miss the Victorian cast-iron Ross Fountain or the Floral Clock if you’re visiting between July and October - despite being made of flowers; it actually tells the time. The Ross Bandstand is home to open-air concerts throughout the summer and Hogmanay, and during the winter, the gardens transform into Edinburgh’s own Winter Wonderland.
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.
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.
The Real Mary King's Close
Situated just beneath the Royal Mile, the Real Mary King's Close had been tucked away from sight for decades and has recently been made accessible to the public. Its mysterious narrow alleyways and underground chambers display what life was like for those who lived there in the 17th century. Visitors get the chance to learn about the enigmatic close through interactive exhibits, audio-guides, and even meet actors in period costumes who bring its history to life. With many tales from plague victims and former aristocrats inhabiting the space over its long history, this is an amazing opportunity to get a firsthand look into one of Edinburgh's most fascinating sites.
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 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.
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.
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.
Surgeons' Hall Museums
Surgeons' Hall Museums is a must-see for anyone in the Scottish Capital. This astonishing collection, uncovering the 250-year history of surgical science and practice, encounters over 5,000 items. You’ll be shocked by the captivating insight into medical care from the 18th to 20th centuries! Don’t miss a tour inside an authentic Victorian operating theatre and see if you can tell them apart from factories of the same era. It's truly an unforgettable experience!
National Museum of Scotland
Situated conveniently close to Waverley rail station, this unique and commanding venue offers a range of multi-sized event spaces with flexible seating and a range of catering options. The centre offers the latest AV equipment, private entrances and cloakroom facilities.
Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery is a stunning historical building located at the heart of the city. Filled with extensive collections of works from both international and local artists, it's an art lover's paradise! From pieces by Monet and Cezanne, to classic Scots art, there is plenty to keep you engaged for hours on end. A visit also gives you access to their interactive learning centre with audio tours, workshops and educational resources that encourage exploration.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Housed within a majestic Victorian building, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery contains an incredible collection of portraits and artworks depicting Scotland’s past and present. From rustic sketches to iconic modern masterpieces, there is something to delight and educate visitors of all ages here. You can trace the history of Scotland through notable figures from across politics, culture and arts - making for a fascinating and exceptionally moving experience.