Travelor’s Guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh-0635

A view of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh is one of our favorite cities in the United Kingdom.  There is so much history to see and things to do.  If you are planning a trip to Edinburgh in the near future, we hope this guide will make your trip planning process a little bit easier.

But before we get into all of the amazing places and activities for you to enjoy on your trip, here are some fun facts you might not know about Edinburgh.

  • The Royal Mile is actually just over one mile long (1 mile and 107 yards to be exact).
  • Edinburgh Castle was built on an extinct volcano.
  • Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have an official fire department.
  • J.K. Rowling wrote some parts of Harry Potter in an Edinburgh cafe named, The Elephant.  In fact, Edinburgh inspired some of her characters and locations in the books.
  • Edinburgh has more street addresses than any other city in the world.

A Day in Edinburgh

Want to know what it is like to tour the Edinburgh area?  Well, you are in luck.  Come along with us as we tour three of the Edinburgh area’s biggest attractions. We take a look at the Rosslyn Chapel, the Royal Mile, and of course Edinburgh Castle.

Top 10 Must See Sites

There is so much to see and do in Edinburgh that it was tough to narrow it down to just a list of ten.  These ten things are some of the must see attractions in Edinburgh that we definitely recommend working into your itinerary.

10.  Holyrood Palace

Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse

Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

The Palace of Holyrood, which is more commonly known as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.  Edinburgh’s oldest street, which is commonly referred to as “The Royal Mile”, connects Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood Palace.

If you are interested in visiting the Holyrood Palace, there are tours available.  We would suggest planning for at least an hour to take the tour.  When planning your time in Edinburgh, it makes sense to plan to see Holyrood Palace on the same day that you plan to see the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.  You can start at one end, either the castle or the palace, and work your way to the other end.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1-2 Hours

9.  Nelson Monument

Nelson Monument by Eje Gustafsson

The Nelson Monument is a tower that was built between 1807 and 1816 to commemorate the life of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed in the battle of Trafalgar.

The Nelson Monument is a tower that was built between 1807 and 1816 to commemorate the life of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed in the battle of Trafalgar.  Situated on top of Calton Hill, it really is a sight to behold.

If you plan to visit the monument, we recommend climbing to the top of the monument as it offers some extraordinary panorama views of Edinburgh below.   Entry to the bottom floor of the tower is free, but there is a £5 entry fee to climb the tower.  Information hours on of service and directions can be found on the Edinburgh Museums website.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1 Hour

8.  Royal Botanic Garden

Royal Botanic Garden.JPG

The Royal Botanic Garden has roughly 70 acres of beautiful gardens and landscapes.

Located just a mile from the city center, the Royal Botanic Garden has roughly 70 acres of beautiful gardens and landscapes. It is a popular attraction for both tourists and locals, and an excellent place to go for a long, scenic walk.

With a collection that includes over 13,000 plant species, the garden’s collection of plants is world class. The gardens also offer some picturesque views of the Edinburgh skyline and Edinburgh castle. During the course of the year the gardens also host a variety of live performances, guided tours, and exhibitions, so make sure you check their schedule before planning your visit.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1-2 Hours

7.  Scotch Whiskey Experience

Royal Mile-0052

You can go on a tour, taste test a variety of whiskies, enjoy lunch at the restaurant, and even take a one day class about whiskey.

If you are a whiskey connoisseur, then you will love the Scotch Whiskey Experience in Edinburgh.  You can go on a tour, taste test a variety of whiskies, enjoy lunch at the restaurant, and even take a one day class about whiskey.  It is located on Castle hill in the Old Town, near the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.

Recommended Length of Visit:  For a Tour, 2-4 Hours.

6.  National Museum of Scotland

National Museum

In addition to its fabulous collections of Scottish antiquities, culture and history, the National Museum of Scotland also holds countless collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures.

In addition to its fabulous collections of Scottish antiquities, culture and history, the National Museum of Scotland also holds countless collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures.  If you like museums, then you will love the National Museum of Scotland.

If you are looking for a good break-down of some of the top exhibits to see in the National Museum of Scotland, The Culture Trip has a very good write-up.  Our favorite was undoubtedly the Mammal Collection, pictured above.

Recommended Length of Visit:  Half Day

5.  Calton Hill

Calton Hill.jpg

Located in central Edinburgh, Calton Hill is a large hill that is home to several of Edinburgh’s most prestigious monuments and buildings.

If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the city of Edinburgh, you should make sure you check out Calton Hill.  Located in central Edinburgh, Calton Hill is a large hill that is home to several of Edinburgh’s most prestigious monuments and buildings.  These include the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the Dugald Stewart Monument.  It’s definitely a must visit if you are into photography or history.

Pro Tip:  If you want to get some really great shots of Edinburgh, make sure you get up early and head to Calton Hill.  You can get some pretty amazing sunrise shots over Edinburgh from the hill.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1-2 Hours

4.  Arthur’s Seat

Arthur's Seat

If you are into hiking, you are able to hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat to get some great panoramic views of Edinburgh.

Situated just east of the Edinburgh city center, Arthur’s Seat is the main peak in the group of peaks that forms what is known as Holyrood Park.  It is speculated that its name, Arthur’s Seat, derives from the legends of King Arthur.

If you are into hiking, you are able to hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat to get some great panoramic views of Edinburgh.  If you aren’t up for climbing to the top of the hill, there are plenty of other things to do in Holyrood Park as well.  St. Anthony’s Chapel, which is a medieval chapel that dates back to the 15th century is definitely worth exploring.  As are the 150 foot high cliff faces, known as the Salisbury Crags, that dominate Edinburgh’s skyline from within the park.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1-2 Hours

3.  The Royal Mile

Royal Mile-0017

We loved touring the Royal Mile when we were in Edinburgh.  It is such a bustling, happening place with so much to do and see.  The Royal Mile is a collection of streets that form the primary thoroughfare thru old town in Edinburgh.  The streets are lined with a fun mix of shops, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions.

Being that it is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Edinburgh, the history surrounding the Royal Mile is astounding.  At one end you have the Holyrood Palace, which is the home to the British Monarch in Scotland, and at the other end you have the imposing Edinburgh Castle.

Pro Tip:  If you plan your visit around the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Mile is an absolute blast, but it does get very crowded.  So depending on what type of experience you want, booking your trip to Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival should be an important consideration.

Recommended Length of Visit:  2-4 Hours

2.  Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel-9739

Rossyln Chapel is an absolutely stunning 15th century church that was made famous in the movie “The Divinci Code”.   It is located about a half-hour south of the city of Edinburgh in the village of Roslin, Scotland.   So while it is not technically inside the city of Edinburgh, it is close enough and pretty enough that we had to include it on this list.

In fact, Tom Hanks was so impressed with the beauty of the church after filming that he later said, “Few locations in film are so delightful and few destinations live up to their billing, but Rosslyn Chapel was all one could imagine or hope for“.  

Pro Tip:  Make sure you take the time to properly tour the church as the detail of the stone work is amazing.  There is also significance to much of the detailed stone work that has led to many of the theories surrounding the church’s role in the search for the Holy Grail.  It’s a fascinating place to tour.

The church should be high on the list of anyone who is visiting the Edinburgh area.  Enjoy some of the shots we took of the church in our gallery below.

Recommended Length of Visit:  1-2 Hours

1.  Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle-0746

Edinburgh Castle almost needs no introduction, as it is arguably one of the most famous castles in the world.  For those unfamiliar with Edinburgh Castle, it is a 12th century fortress that dominates Edinburgh’s skyline from its perch upon Castle Rock.  It’s also Scotland’s biggest paid tourist attraction.

If you would like to tour Edinburgh Castle, make sure you leave yourself enough time.  If you are really into history, you could probably spend a full day touring the castle.  Even if you aren’t a history buff, viewing the crown jewels and just doing some general sight-seeing at Edinburgh Castle can take you a few hours.  Edinburgh Castle is undoubtedly our top recommended sight to see if you are in the Edinburgh area.  Just some of the many pictures we took on our tour are included in the gallery below.

Recommended Length of Visit:  4-8 Hours

Top Restaurant Recommendation

What could be better than great food served in a 17th century watchtower with views of the harbor?  Not much.  If you are going to make plans to eat at one place in Edinburgh, we would definitely recommend making that place Fishers in Leith.

Fishers in Leith

Royal Mile-

Trip Adviser Reviews

Top Excursion Recommendations

One excursion outside of Edinburgh that we would strongly recommend is a trip to Sterling.  For those of you who have seen the movie “Braveheart”, Sterling is the site of William Wallace’s underdog defeat of the British at Sterling Bridge.

Sterling is about a 1 hour drive or train ride from Edinburgh, so it is easy to schedule as a day trip.  And there is more than enough to see in Sterling to justify the visit.

Though the Sterling Bridge has obviously been rebuilt, it is still fun to check out and visualize what happened there so long ago.  We would also recommend checking out Sterling Castle, which like Edinburgh Castle is beautifully perched on top of a hill, and the William Wallace Monument.  The William Wallace Monument was very cool and worth the trip to Sterling by itself.

Stirling Castle-0367

Royal Mile Guided Walking Tour

Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small Group Day Trip

Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond Small Group Day Trip

Recommended Length of Visit in Edinburgh:  2-3 Days

About Josh Hewitt

Avid traveler and photographer who loves to see new places, meet new people, and experience new things. There is so much this world can teach us, we just need to explore!
This entry was posted in Europe, Scotland, Travel Advice, Trip Planning, United Kingdom and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Travelor’s Guide to Edinburgh

  1. Stephy says:

    Arthur’s Seat was such a surreal experience. I’m dying to go back to Edinburgh — gonna come back to this post when I decide to! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. I went here a long long time ago in another lifetime when I was 16. I was with my Mum who was doing family research. I wasn’t aware it was built on a volcano. I can remember I was fascinated at the toilets there. Yes I was 16.

    Liked by 1 person

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