20 Things [Including Free Things] To Do In Edinburgh
April 25, 2023
By guy yefet

A list of the best things to do in Edinburgh + free things to do in Edinburgh that some say is the most beautiful city in the world.

what to do in Edinburgh Scotland?

As part of my 2 week road trip in Scotland, I visited Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is not the largest city in Scotland but certainly the most beautiful and also a city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Edinburgh is located in the northern part of Scotland in the Gulf of Forth.

The city is divided into a modern city and an ancient city, between medieval life and modern life.

The two areas are beautiful but different from each other. The city is full of culture and you will find several museums and of course festivals that take place there throughout the year.

view over Edinburgh city architecture in scotland uk

How to get around Edinburgh?

The most pleasant way to get around Edinburgh is to wander on foot. From here to there, in and out, without always knowing where and without planning for how long.

If you get tired on your way, you can always get on a bus or catch a taxi. It's difficult to define the time required for the itineraries I will offer here.

If you are energetic and matter-of-fact, you can sip the city in a day and a half. If you like to get a little lost, you may want to spend an entire day in each of the areas.

More than it is important to visit a list of "must-see sites", it is important to soak up the atmosphere - along with the sweet cloud of barley smell - in Edinburgh: the same delicate and elusive thing, which is difficult to define but impossible to miss. And in Edinburgh, there is probably some huge factory that creates an atmosphere, which changes in every part of the city.

20 Best Things to do in Edinburgh

1/ Edinburgh castle

At the top of the massive rock, towering in the city center sits Edinburgh Castle.

The castle is perhaps Scotland's most recognizable site and is an integral part of its national identity, and Scottish history and culture. In the castle, there is a memorial hall for the Scottish spaces where there is a memorial with the fallen names

Today the fortress is largely restored, and only a little remains original from past times.

The fort serves as a museum and houses the "Treasure of Scotland" (symbols of sovereignty, royal jewelry, the scepter, swords, and the crown of the kingdom). Visitors to the castle can see the large hall with the magnificent roof (visible from the inside), in Anglo-Scottish decorative design, the underground stone vaults where prisoners of war were held, the "stone of fate" through which the kings reigned and are part of the national treasure. Stroll along the promenade of the castle from which a beautiful view of the whole city. Around the promenade, you will be impressed by some military memorials.

At the entrance to the promenade is the Witches' Well, where about 300 witches were burned. Go to the half-moon-shaped battery wall - a fortified wall that curves along the cliff, look for St. Margaret's Chapel which is considered the oldest structure, look for the "one hour cannon" - it shoots every day at exactly one o'clock, and the monument to the Scottish War, and two The museums.

The castle's National War Museum deals with 400 years of Scottish conflict and displays it in collections and personal belongings.

Today's Edinburgh Castle has a nice mix that symbolizes normalcy and sanity: the castle is used not only for tourist purposes but also as the seat of some of the Scottish troops' headquarters. Since it is also a military base, a modest changing of the guard ceremony is held there every hour. You will see the jewelry of the Scottish royal house, the prison where Napoleon's soldiers were imprisoned, the museums for the Scottish battalions, and the giant cannons .... and most importantly ..... wonderful views of the various parts of the city.

Edinburgh Castle scotland uk

2/ The royale mile [Free]

The Royal Mile is a wide and long street, along which many events, more pleasant or less pleasant, have taken place. Here princes, kings, and queens once rode, in carriages from the legends as they made their way to Holyrood Palace, a spectacle that everyone would want to see at least once.

On the other hand, the raising of women as part of the witch hunt also took place on this street. It is therefore considered to this day the heart of Edinburgh.

From the existence of Edinburgh Castle in the 12th century until the 18th century it was the only street in Edinburgh.

Along the street, several-story wooden houses were built behind which were yards for keeping the farmers' flocks and equipment.

It had workshops, churches, trading places, and even a prison and parliament.

Today it is a tourist area full of restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, museums, and various attractions, including festivals and happy and colorful events.

Along the street, at the western end of which stands Edinburgh Castle, and at its eastern end a palace and Holyrood Gardens, the life of the princes' kings and princesses took place. Along with it, and in the streets/alleys next to it, the houses of all who and who were built, which today have become iconic sites of the city. On a walk along the street, you will discover and enjoy the most famous sites of the city. Do not miss a trip on the rest of the streets from around the Royal Mile.

the Royal mile Edinburgh scotland uk

3/ Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace is the home of the British Queen when she is in Scotland. It is located at the east end of Royal Mile Street and Edinburgh Castle.

Today it is mainly used for official state events, and as mentioned the Queen's House in the summer and for the guests of the royal family during the year.

Visitors to the house can go in and see the guest rooms and rooms (the chambers) of Mary Queen of Scots. At the entrance to the palace are portraits of the kings of Scotland.

The apartments have beautiful plasterwork ceilings, Brussels wallpaper on the walls, valuable paintings, and antique furniture.

In the royal room (the monarch's room) members of the Thistle Order gathered or met for lunch and the ordination of new knights to the Order.

In the "Morning" room, the Queen hosted private individuals and sometimes ordinary groups of citizens. In the magnificent gallery room, we can see a portrait of Jacob de Witt, and portraits of the kings of Scotland.

The gallery connects the King's living suite to the historic apartments in James Fifth Tower.

Holyrood Palace Edinburgh Scotland uk

4/ Grassmarket [Free]

Grassmarket Square in the city is a large and rectangular square, where since 1660 more than a hundred people have been executed on its territory.

The square is parallel to Mail Street and is two blocks south of it. To the west and center are steps that connect it to Mail Street. Along with it are many restaurants, cafes, and shops.

The cross of the paving stones, in the eastern part of the square, marks the position where the gallows once stood. T

he Old White Hart Inn, which stands on the north side of the square, was the poet Woodsworth's favorite place. On West, Bo Street is an experimental theater, the Traverse Theater, which has been operating in the building since the 18th century.

At its eastern end is Greyfairs Churchyard, a 15th-century Franciscan monastery site. Enter the walled compound, and stroll through the church park with strange gravestones.

The place is sacred to the Scots because this is where the Treaty of 1638 was signed, and some of the names were signed in blood. A beautiful vantage point over the city can be obtained from Outlook Tower after climbing the 98 stairs, from the top of the tower you will see a charming view of the rooftops of Edinburgh.

In the building, you can also see a photo exhibition of the city called "Bird's Eye".

Grassmarket Edinburgh Scotland

5/ St. Giles' Cathedral [Free]

In 854 the first mention is found of the Church of the Quarter in Edinburgh.

The original church was in use for several centuries before it was rededicated in 1243 and named after the patron saint of the city. St. Giles was a monk in the 7th century who lived in France. T

he propaganda was that he became the patron of the city because of the close ties between Scotland and France at the time.

The tympanum (a decorative wall surface in the shape of a semicircle or triangle above an entrance, door, or window), above the main doors of the cathedral from the description of St. Giles, protects a deer from the half-hunters, and indeed believes that this is how he was indeed killed.

John Knox preached from a pulpit from 1561 until he died in 1572, and attacked his blind admiration for the Catholic Church.

The gothic-style architecture dates back to the 15th century and over the years several additions have been made. The cathedral is rich in over 200 memorial sites dedicated to the greats of the Scottish nation. In the cathedral, you will find beautiful stained glass windows (stained glass) made in the years around 1870.

The Thistle Chapel (literally: Thistle) is one of the highlights of a visit to the church. It is dedicated to the Scottish noble order called the Thistle. The chapel was built in 1911 and has a beautiful decoration in the form of an angel playing the flute. The order was established by King James VII in 1687 and besides the king, including another 16 knights.

Visitors: There are volunteers in the cathedral who assist visitors, and there are also information desks at the entrance. It is possible to take a tour on the roof of the church in groups of at least 4 people, the groups go up the path to the roof, and this is also an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular view on Royal Mile Street.

St. Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh scotland uk

6/ Mary Kings Close

Edinburgh's Old Town is known for its many inner courtyards and alleys, some above ground and some below.

The most mysterious alley, and therefore also the most famous, is Mary King's Close. When construction began on Edinburgh City Hall in 1753, the foundations of the building were laid on the alley itself.

The dwellings in the alley were demolished only to the height of the street, with the lower floors of the buildings serving as foundations for the town hall.

Over the years all sorts of legends and rumors began to develop around the underground alley.

Although the people of the city make great efforts today to make these stories forgotten by the masses, legend has it that the alley was blocked with all its sick and poor residents still inside, and of course, their spirits hover there to this day.

This is just one legend around the alley, and if you are interested in tasting the mystery and looking for the ghosts yourself, you can do so.

The small alley was reopened to the public in 3002 and now has guided tours, a disguised guide will take you through cold, dark stone alleys to the lost city of Edinburgh.

Mary Kings Close Edinburgh scotland uk

7/ The Botanic Garden [Free]

The Royal Botanic Gardens has been regularly listed for years as one of the city's 10 best-known attractions.

It was established in the 17th century and started as a small garden, the garden has grown and expanded and today has four different sites: Benmore, Argil, Dawyck in the 'Scottish Border' area, Logan Gardens in - Dumfries and Galway Garden, central Edinburgh.

Together the gardens make up one of the world's largest collections of plants.

The Edinburgh Botanic Garden covers about 70 dunams, with almost 273,000 plants.

The site also includes a famous rock garden, a memorial garden for the Queen Mother, botanical gardens only for trees and shrubs, a peat garden - forest gardens, herbaceous gardens and hedges, collections of alpine plants, and Chinese plants.

The botanical gardens have over 25 unusual greenhouses, where chicks, ferns, fossils, desert plants, orchids, and plants from the rainforests are grown, among others.

The Victorian palm house on the site was built in 1834. It is part of the greenhouses/glasshouses built on the site in the 1960s, some of which represent five different climatic zones.

You can get a guided tour of the gardens during the summer months (April-October) in the morning and at noon. T

he John Hope Gate is the entrance to the biological research center, and the information center, built using sustainable green materials.

Here visitors can learn about plants, how to use the facilities Interactive, and enrich the knowledge of the conservation of the plant world. As in any "museum", there is a shop, a restaurant, around the exhibition spaces which are concentrated in the center.

the Botanic Garden Edinburgh scotland uk

8/ Charlotte Square [Free]

Charlotte Square is located south of the botanical gardens, and north of the northern gardens of Edinburgh Castle, and is already in the newer area of ​​the city.

In the center of the 18th-century beautifully preserved Georgian House is located in the historic city of Charlotte Square.

The house was created by architect Robert Adam who also designed the entire area as a paradigm of a perfect Georgian urban environment. The new city was home to the wealthy, elegant citizens seeking to escape the crowded residential buildings in the Old City.

The house was built in 1796 for John Lemont and his family who lived here until 1815. Designed and furnished in the original Georgian style. You can see the porcelain decoration, period furniture, and silver and glass that reflect the lifestyle and attire of the period.

Just south of the "house" in Charlotte Square, stands the Prince Albert Monument.

This is a magnificent statue of Prince Albert on a horse dressed in a Field Marshall uniform.

The statue was commissioned to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria's husband. Albert died of typhus in 1861 at the age of only 42, leaving the Queen to mourn for the rest of her life.

Charlotte Square Edinburgh

9/ Calton Hill [Free]

This is a hill located close to the city of Edinburgh and from which you can overlook the city. The view of the place is spectacular.

On the hill are a Nelson monument and a museum in his memory.

Calton Hill Edinburgh

*Photo by Connor Mollison from https://mollison.co

10/ National Museum of Scotland

This museum is one of the four 'national' museums of Scotland.

The museum is housed in two connected buildings.

The two buildings are very different from each other, one is completely modern, and the other is a 19th-century building.

The museum buildings are an attraction in themselves. In the older building, there is the magnificent main hall, cast iron to the height of the building, and two-level balconies, and a huge skylight along with the rounded ceiling.

The museum has a collection of about 8,000 objects, the exhibits represent a wide range of subjects, from the prehistoric period to the present day.

The exhibits are presented in chronological order, making it easier to keep track of world developments.

The exhibits in the various galleries include various art themes, about the world of design, the Scottish nation, different cultures from the wider world, the exhibition 'The Story of Scotland', the world of discoveries and wonders of the world, the natural world, an exhibition on Scottish history, archeology, ancient Egypt, the Eastern world, science, Technology, and the Museum Library.

In the new part, the highlight of the museum: a stuffed body of a sheep dolly, the first mammal to be a successful clone, Elton John costumes, a kinetic sculpture called the 'Maiden Millennium Clock', an ancient guillotine.

The museum displays Assyrian boxes - wall reliefs that were placed in Assyrian palaces from about 3000 years ago, Monymusk Reliquary boxes - which were held (in the eighth century) by Scottish soldiers (including relics of martyrs) as a battlefield defense, made of wood and metal, in a Gallic and Anglo-sexy design. Sculptures by Eduardo Palozi, paintings by Margaret MacDonald, a replica of Queen Mary's tomb, a clock, and the Roman helmets of Captain Cook Reign.

The museum displays in different galleries the cultures of the world, a quick look at the history and culture of different countries, and the Scottish nation in particular.

National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh

11/ Scottish Parliament Building

A modern building that was built right in the 21st century as a replacement for the old building.

From the beginning, the building and construction were controversial. The questions of location, architecture, planning, and cost of construction, have been the subject of criticism from politicians, the media, and the Scottish public.

The building was planned to open in 2001, and in practice only opened in 2004, about three years late, with a total final cost of £ 414 million, much higher than initial estimates ranging around £ 10-40m.

What's in the building

The chamber is in the shape of a shallow elliptical horseshoe in which the seats of the parliament are scattered, with the seats of the party or parties ruling in the middle of the semicircle, and the seats of the opposition parties on either side, similar to other European legislatures.

This set-up is intended to obscure political divisions and mainly reflects the desire to encourage consensus among elected members, in contrast to the Westminster-style "opponent" deployment, in which the government and the opposition sit opposite each other.

The lobby is an indoor garden located in the center of the Parliament compound, connecting the Chamber of Commerce, Committee Rooms, and Executive Offices, with the nearby Queensbury House and MSP Building. The lobby garden is the place where the official events are held as well as the TV interviews, and it serves as open social space. We as visitors have an interest in a garden lobby, with roofs, which are similar in

shape to plant leaves, and to allow natural light to enter the building. The roofs are made of stainless steel, and the glass covering it rests on an oak lattice.

Four tower buildings in the Parliament compound, meander along the front of the Parliament compound and are conspicuous due to the curvature of their roofs The tower buildings are the public entrance to the Scottish Parliament and the main hall, on the east side of the compound, below the Chamber.

Parliament Square - Parliament Square is located in a part of the courtyard of the old church building. In the square, you will be impressed by a statue of Charles II. In another part of the square, you can see the ancient cross of Edinburgh from the 16th century.

The Parliament Building is an old building from the 17th century and houses today's courthouse.

Scottish Parliament Building Edinburgh uk

12/ Camera Obscura

In a tall tower with a black and white spire resides the Edinburgh Camera Obscura.

The camera obscura is a system of mirrors that creates a periscope image of the city on a small white disk in the center of a darkened room.

This way you can walk through the room and see the city, its buildings, and people in action.

The Camera Obscura was built by optician Maria Short in 1853 and has since been one of the city's favorite tourist attractions. Although the Camera Obscura is certainly not as exciting as it was in the Victorian era, it still manages to retain, with appealing simplicity, its old charm.

The modern tourist may be more impressed by the new telescopes on the roof of the tower, which provide great views of the city.

Before reaching the Camera Obscura, you will pass three floors with a slightly more futuristic character, where interactive exhibits featuring colorful holograms, three-dimensional images, and other special optical games are on display.

Camera Obscura Edinburgh Scotland

13/ Scottish Whiskey Center

At the Scottish Whiskey Center, you can take an hour-long tour, where you will discover the history and ingredients of the national Scottish drink. Visitors to the site go through a series of presentations and exhibitions describing the production process of the whiskey.

The tour will usually start with a sip of whiskey, and from there will take you to a model of a distillery, where you will receive a detailed explanation of all the ingredients and stages of preparation, accompanied by aromas and sounds of a real whiskey distillery.

At the end of the tour, a motorized vehicle in the shape of a barrel will take you on a journey through the history of Scotch whiskey.

While the tour is the main part of the center, do not miss the shop on the first floor, where you can find a huge selection of Scotch whiskeys of different types and different ages.

A paradise for anyone whose drink is close to their heart.

Scottish Whiskey Center Edinburgh

14/ The Museum of Childhood

The Childhood Museum was established in 1955 by Patrick Murray, a member of the Edinburgh City Council.

The museum is dedicated to girls, not to the children themselves, or at least not to the children of the 21st century.

The museum's collection includes dollhouses, teddy bears, models of trains, and puppets from other times. While children may be bored by the non-interactive exhibit the museum offers, adults may be amazed by the old, nostalgic charm of the dolls and toys.

The Museum of Childhood Edinburgh scotland uk

15/ Arthurs Seat [Free]

Arthur's Seat is a volcanic cork - a rock that solidifies from basaltic magma at the end of volcanic activity. Although its summit rises to a height of about 250 above the city of Edinburgh, it is easy to climb and is a popular tourist site and a panoramic vantage point over the city and its surroundings.

The summit is called "Lion's Head", as from the north the entire compound looks like a sprawling lion.

Arthurs Seat Edinburgh scotland

16/ Dean Village [Free]

Dean Village is a peaceful lakeside village on the water of the largest river in Edinburgh.

The monastery was founded during the twelfth century by the regular canons of Holyrood Abbey, and is also known as the "Water of the Village of Leith".

Dean Village A thriving village for over 800 years. In the past, there were eleven work mills in the area on the strong currents of the city river.

Trade in the law village declined and the village soon declined, especially in the second half of the twentieth century.

Ten years later, the greenery, serenity, and proximity of the village to the city center made the area extremely popular and plans to redevelop it. It quickly became one of Edinburgh's most sought-after living rooms.

It is very pleasant to go for a walk around Din village , located a few minutes from the city center.

A small bridge over the river and beautiful stone houses from the seventeenth century give this part of Edinburgh a unique charm.

It has a large number of shades, such as the Water of Leith, the National Gallery of Scottish Modern Art, or the Dean Cemetery.

Dean Village Edinburgh Scotland

17/ Scott Monument [Free]

This is a monument in memory of the writer Sir Walter Scott.

The monument is located on a large lawn and around it are sculptures and figures from the works of Scott Walter.

The monument was designed by an architect who registered for the competition under his literary name to avoid prejudice. T

he architect drowned before he had time to finish the sculpture.

The monument is 200 feet high and to reach the top of the statue you have to climb 287 steps and then you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city.

The monument is on the south side of Princes Street and opposite Jenners.

Scott Monument Edinburgh Scotland uk

18/ Edinburgh Zoo

It is one of the most popular attractions among tourists. It is a perfect attraction for families, adults, and children.

The Edinburgh Zoo is the largest in Scotland and meets the highest standards of animal welfare. At the zoo, you will see over 1000 animals.

The place has various activities and shows.

Edinburgh Zoo

19/ Edinburgh Dungeon

The steep descent of Cockburn Street will take you to Market Street, which is at the foot of the Old Town and borders Waverley Railway Station to the south.

Here, three sites are waiting for you, side by side. Turn right on Market Street heading east, and you will see the first site - the Edinburgh Dungeon.

Edinburgh is known in England, and beyond, for its dark and haunted past. Stories of horrors and mysterious legends have been a smooth dish for years.

If you are interested in historical facts and conclusive evidence, Edinburgh Dungeon is probably not the place for you.

This is the place to learn in a fun and entertaining way about the historical stories and myths of the city while simulating events from the past. Costume actors run the place and bloodstains adorn the set.

If your children are brave, and not excited about crime stories, this is the place for them.

20/ Edinburgh Festival [Free]

The Edinburgh Festival is an international festival, offering a variety of artist performances (classical music, opera, ballet, drama).

The Edinburgh Summer Festival is traditionally held for three weeks in August of each year, the Edinburgh Festival attracts visitors from all over the world.

The city hosts several other festivals, such as the Fringe Festival, where you can see comedy and drama performances. Book Festival, Jazz Festival, TV Festival, and more.

The Scots are in love with festivals and a good life!

Edinburgh Festival Scotland uk

if you are planning a trip to Edinburgh or you are traveling now in Edinburgh, I hope this Edinburgh travel guide will help you and inspire you.

Thanks for reading my list of best things to do in Edinburgh

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