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 stag 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.
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.
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.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Located at the bottom of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the King's official residence in Scotland and is the home of Scottish royal history. Formerly a religious residence in the 1120s, it was rebuilt in 1501 and was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots who lived here during her tumultuous reign. Today, visitors can wander through the 14 staterooms, participate in one of their unique events or visit their amazing collections. Even if you don't go inside, simply viewing this beautiful building from the outside is a must-see event when visiting the Royal Mile - its grand design and stunning gardens will not be soon forgotten!
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.
Johnnie Walker Princes Street
Edinburgh's iconic Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a great spot to take in a piece of Scottish history. Not only does it host the very first Johnnie Walker store that highlights the brand’s strong roots in Scotland, but also serves as a reminder of the development of whisky-making over the years. As you make your way through this interactive space, you can discover different whiskies produced by the company along with its global development and impact on culture.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is the perfect way to try the best whisky Scotland has to offer. From the moment you enter, you’ll be captivated by the world of whisky and all that it encompasses. Start off with a tour of their whisky museum featuring centuries worth of fascinating artefacts and exhibits about the rich history and nuances of single malt and blended Scotches. After that, hop onto their awe-inspiring "Barrel Ride" – you’ll literally ride on a barrel for an exciting and interactive journey through time to learn even more about how whisky became what it is today. Finally, cap your visit off at their tasting bar where you can sample a variety of different whiskies from various regions in Scotland with knowledgeable staff giving insights on finer points of each one.
Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Edinburgh Gin Distillery is a unique and exciting place to visit. This vibrant distillery offers guided tours where guests can discover the history of gin-making and experience traditional stills and methods firsthand. They offer signature gin tastings which are sure to delight even the pickiest of enthusiasts. It's a perfect day out for those who have a passion for spirit-making or simply want to enjoy some quality time with friends.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Edinburgh is the perfect city for sightseeing, but it’s just one idea for a fantastic stag do. Check out more Edinburgh stag weekend ideas for even more things to see and do. With so much to offer, from stunning landmarks to exciting activities, Edinburgh is a brilliant choice for your weekend away.