LAST UPDATED: 7/28/23 – Traveler’s Guide to Edinburgh
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.
Fun Facts 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.
In this traveler’s guide to Edinburgh, I am going to give you the information to plan a successful trip to the United Kingdom. I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there. This way, you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip.
In addition, I outline the top things to see during your visit. There are many incredible things you won’t want to miss, and with my guide you won’t.
Finally, I give you some great recommendations on restaurants. With this information in hand, your planning process will be stress free. Not to mention, you can be confident that your trip will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.
|At A Glance|
|Top Things to See|
|How to Get There|
|Best Time to Visit|
|Where to Stay|
|Where to Eat|
|Recommended Tours and Excursions|
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.
At a Glance
Before you start making any travel plans, you need to be sure you meet the country’s entrance requirements. This includes all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for the United Kingdom.
In addition, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of what languages they speak in the United Kingdom. This way, you can plan any translation needs you may have. Not only that, but you will need to know what currency they use in the United Kingdom. Knowing this, you can plan to exchange currency before your trip if necessary.
I have included some of this key information in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.
|Passport requirements exist. See below for details.|
|Immunization recommendations are listed below.|
|The official language in the United Kingdom is English. However, in Scotland Scots and Scottish Gaelic are minority languages.|
|The official currency in the United Kingdom is the British Pound.|
Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements
When visiting the United Kingdom, you must have at least 6 months of validity on your passport beyond the date in which you are planning on arriving in the country. You will also need to have at least one blank passport page in order to be processed into the country.
Presently, you do not need a VISA if you are planning on staying in the United Kingdom for less than 6-months. Outside of knowing the entry and immunization requirements, there is no pre-travel task more important than packing. Don’t worry, I am here to make sure you are packed and prepared for your trip. I have included links to my packing resources in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below for you to review.
However, you will need to apply for a VISA if you are planning on staying in the country for longer. Before you start making your travel plans, I would strongly suggest you review the passport requirements I have laid out in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below.
|PASSPORT VALIDITY:||At least six months beyond your planned date of departure from the the United Kingdom|
|BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:||1 Page Required|
|TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:||Not required for stays of less than 6 months|
|CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:||None|
|CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:||None|
Before you leave for your trip to Edinburgh, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations. Not only to protect yourself but to protect others. If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.
Travel Vaccination Advice
- Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
- Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
- Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you. This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultant will be covered by your insurance up-front.
- Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them. Walgreens can give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.
United Kingdom Vaccination Recommendations
You may be wondering what travel vaccinations you might need. In this case, you are in luck. I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.
- Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
- Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
- Transderm SCōP Patch (for motion sickness) or at minimum Dramamine pills if you get motion sickness easily and you plan on getting out on the water or doing adventure activities.
- Flu Shot
Outside of knowing the entry and immunization requirements, there is no pre-travel task more important than packing. Don’t worry, I am here to make sure you are packed and prepared for your trip. I have included links to my packing resources in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below for you to review.
|The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List|
|The Essential Carry-On Checklist|
|10 Packing Tips That Every Traveler Should Follow|
Top Things to See and Do
There is so much to see and do in Edinburgh. That made it very tough to limit the top things to see to just ten items. You could spend a week in the city and not see everything.
However, if you don’t have that much time, there are certain things you definitely shouldn’t miss. I have outlined the Top Ten things that I would recommend seeing while in Edinburgh in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below.
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.
The Nelson Monument is a tower that was built between 1807 and 1816 to commemorate the life of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. Admiral Nelson 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. It offers some extraordinary panorama views of Edinburgh below. Entry to the bottom floor of the tower is free. However, 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.
Royal Botanic Garden
Located just a mile from the city center, the Royal Botanic Garden is breathtaking. It has roughly 70 acres of beautiful gardens and landscapes to explore. It is a popular attraction for both tourists and locals. In particular, it is 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.
Scotch Whiskey Experience
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.
National Museum of Scotland
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.
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the city of Edinburgh, check out Calton Hill. Located in central Edinburgh, Calton Hill 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 really great shots of Edinburgh, make sure you arrive early to Calton Hill. You can get some pretty amazing sunrise shots over Edinburgh from the hill.
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. From here, you can 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.
The Royal Mile
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.
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.
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.
How to Get There
If you are planning on visiting Edinburgh from outside of the United Kingdom, the best way to get there is to fly directly into Edinburgh Airport (EDI). For those who are visiting other areas of the United Kingdom as well, another option that you have is to either drive to Edinburgh or use the British rail system. For more information on where Edinburgh is in relation to other large cities in the UK with major airports, please see the map I included in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below.
Best Time to Visit
Average Temperature (°F)
When planning your trip to Edinburgh, one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make will be what time of year you want to visit. Along with availability in your schedule, one of the most important factors to consider when determining when to visit will be the temperature.
Let’s face it, most people don’t want to spend the money to travel to a place like Edinburgh when they will be uncomfortable. To help you determine what time of year would be best for you to visit Edinburgh, I have included a graph in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below that lays out the average high and low temperatures by month.
While it typically doesn’t drop below freezing in Edinburgh too often, it can get quite chilly during the winter months of December thru February. If you are looking for warmer temperatures when you visit, then you will likely want to target the months of April thru October.
The temperatures are the warmest during the months of May thru September, but during the summer months of June thru August, you should also expect the largest crowds in Edinburgh. If you want to avoid the crowds and still have nice weather, booking in May or September is your best bet.
Average Precipitation (Inches)
While it is a common misconception that it rains in Edinburgh year-round, the city does get its fair share of rain during certain portions of the year. If having clear skies is a top priority for you, then you will want to review the graph I included in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below. It details the amount of precipitation that Edinburgh gets on average per month.
For those who want to maximize the chances of having good weather during your trip, I suggest avoiding the late summer months of July and August and autumn and winter months of October thru January. These tend to be the wettest months of the year in Edinburgh.
Where to Stay
One of the most important decisions you are going to have to make when planning your trip to Edinburgh is where you will stay. When you travel, the accommodations you choose are oftentimes amongst the biggest expenditures for your trip.
So not only do you need to be comfortable where you are staying, but you also need to be comfortable with how much you are paying to stay there.
Finding the right accommodations for your trip involves looking at the amenities, the location, and most importantly, the price. If you are starting to plan your trip to Edinburgh and want some hotel and hostel suggestions,
I have included some great options at different price points below for you to review. As always, don’t be afraid to expand your search to room sharing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO if you aren’t finding a hotel or hostel that meets your needs.
Where to Eat
When most people plan a trip, the primary focus is one how to get there, where to stay, and what is on the list of things to see and do. What many travelers neglect to plan, is where to eat when you are there. Granted, it is sometimes fun to be spontaneous when choosing a restaurant while traveling, and it is always smart to get recommendations when you arrive.
However, it can also be advantageous to have some ideas of restaurants you would like to try during your trip written down beforehand as well. This way you can be assured that you won’t miss out on a highly recommended culinary experience that you will regret.
To help you decide on some restaurants in Edinburgh to add to your list, I have included a list of some highly recommended options for you to review in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below.
|Makars Gourmet Mash Bar||Bar, British, Healthy||$$-$$$|
|Quinn’s Cafe||Cafe, British, Scottish||$$-$$$|
|Doctors||Bar, European, BritishE||$$-$$$|
|New Chapter||European, British, Scottish||$$-$$$|
|Purslane Restaurant||French, International, European||$$$$|
|Dean Banks At The Pompadour||Asian, British, Scottish||$$$$|
Recommended Tours and Excursions
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.
If you are starting to put together your itinerary for your stay in Edinburgh and would like some additional suggestions on tours and excursions to take, I have provided some links to popular tours and excursions for you to review in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh below.
|Historic Sites Tours|
|Art and Museum Tours|
|Beer and Brewery Tours|
|Dining Experience Tours|
Edinburgh Photo Gallery
One thing that Edinburgh is not in short supply of is amazing things to photograph. I was able to capture a lot of great photographs while touring Edinburgh, and I have included some of my favorites in a gallery in my traveler’s guide to Edinburgh for you to review below.
If you would like to view some more of my top photos from this trip, as well as photos from some of my many other travel adventures, make sure you are following me on Instagram as well!