What to do in Edinburgh

Activities, attractions and tours
Calton Hill showing a city, a sunset and skyline

Edinburgh Attractions

One of the great joys of visiting Edinburgh is that not only does the city itself offer myriad attractions, from mouthwatering foodie tours to world-class museums, but it is bordered by the Lothians’ sandy beaches and breathtaking countryside panoramas. The Edinburgh Festival, held every August, is the largest arts festival in the world, and is made up of a melting-pot of dozens of smaller events involving comedy, street theatre, jazz, politics and lots more besides. Princes Street is famed for its boutique shopping, and looking south from the pavement there you can see the imposing Edinburgh Castle sat on Castle Rock. Dating to at least the 16th century, the castle dominates the top of the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the old town that is lined with historic architecture.

Areas & Neighbourhoods in Edinburgh

Old Town - The Royal Mile, running from the castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is the principal artery of Edinburgh’s old town, a charmingly chaotic maze of alleyways, cobbled streets and courtyards in which it’s easy, and fun, to lose yourself. During the Edinburgh Festival in August this labyrinth brims with street performers.

New Town - By contrast, the layout here is far easier to understand, but there are just as many architectural jewels to discover, from Georgian and Neoclassical mansions to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery where you can see works from the likes of Rubens and Botticelli, as well as Scottish artists such as Arthur Melville.

Broughton - To the east, Broughton is the centre of Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle, with many LGBT-friendly bars and nightclubs. It once boasted a darker hue with a sinister reputation for the ‘Black Arts’. Supposedly, witches awaiting execution were once held in dungeons here.

The Mound - When the foundations for modern Edinburgh were excavated in the late 18th century, they needed to put the earth somewhere, and so the Mound was formed. Stand atop it for stunning city views, or to visit some of Edinburgh’s most prestigious buildings, from the Royal Scottish Gallery to the New College.

Leith - Edinburgh’s harbour area is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon whether you’re shopping, dining or just out for a scenic walk along the footpath. A vibrant cultural scene ensures Leith is one of the city’s premier nightspots.

Things to See in Edinburgh

Experience the beauty and heritage of the Western Highlands with a full-day guided coach tour of its castles and lochs. Alternatively, for something a little more exciting, and stylish, you can take a spin around Edinburgh’s landmarks on a motorized trike, chauffeured by an expert guide.

Things to Do in Edinburgh

You may not know it, but some of the world’s finest chocolatiers are based in Edinburgh, and guided walking tours are available which include plenty of delicious tastings. Harry Potter fans can also take a tour of locations in the city where the film series was shot. If you’d like to head out into the countryside for a while, stunning kayak expeditions along the River Forth reveal some of Scotland’s most picturesque landscape, or you can join a day-trip to Loch Ness and Glen Coe by coach, keeping an eye out for the fabled ‘Nessie’.

And of course, no trip to Scotland is complete without a Whiskey Tour.

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Most fun & popular experiences in Edinburgh