The Top 10 Things To See & Do In Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital-Edinburgh is one of the most culturally and historically rich cities in the United Kingdom as well as one of the most beautiful. Known for its distinct architectural identity, educational prestige and beautiful surroundings, the city is a thoroughly unique experience and filled to the brim with riches of all kinds.

Edinburgh Castle

The eponymous castle is Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark and one of the most recognisable buildings in the United Kingdom. Located atop the historical Castle Rock, the foundation of the castle has been occupied since at least the 2nd Century AD. Edinburgh Castle functioned as the residence of the Scottish monarchy from the 12th Century until 1633. The castle is deeply rooted in the country’s history, serving as an important fortress during the key conflicts of the Wars of Scottish Indpendence. It has been described by historians as ‘the most besieged place in Great Britain’. In modern times, the castle is Scotlands’s most popular tourism attraction, with around 2 million visitors per year.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

If you are to visit Edinburgh, there is no better time to do so than during the city’s iconic Fringe festival. Taking place during the month of August, the festival is the most well-known of its kind. There are over 50,000 performances across the festival spanning a plethora of different mediums, including comedy, theatre and dance. An open access festival, any member of the public is allowed to perform. There are few cultural experiences quite like this and its transformative effect on the city is a real sight to behold.

Arthur’s Seat

A short walk away from Edinburgh Castle is Arthur’s Seat, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The peak of a cluster of large hills, Arthur’s Seat has been popular with tourists and locals alike. A major hiking destination catering to walkers of all different experiences, the summit offers the finest views of the city.

Old Town

As its name indicates, Edinburgh’s Old Town is the city’s oldest district. A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town is one of the most distinct and historical neighbourhoods in the country. Known for its medieval urban planning, it is best known for its ‘Royal Mile’, which connects two of the city’s best-known landmarks-Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The city’s distinct Reformation-era architecture is a marvel.

New Town

Adjacent to the Old Town is the similarly celebrated New Town. A major cultural hub of the city, the New Town is known for its spectacular neo-classical architecture, which dates back to as early as the late 18th Century. Major sites of interest in the Old Town include Princes Street the city’s finest shopping district.

Holyrood Palace

One of the city’s most iconic buildings, Holyrood Palace it the Scottish official residence of the British monarchy. It has functioned as a royal residence for over 500 years. One of the most spectacular castles in the country, it is known for its elaborate design and adjacent ruins dating back to as early as the 11th Century.

National Museum of Scotland

A relatively new museum, having been established in 2006, the National Museum of Scotland is nonetheless one of the finest in the country. Spanning a wide range of subjects, the museum’s collection includes history, culture, natural sciences and technology. With free admission costs, the museum has solidified itself as one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions since its opening, receiving over 2 million visitors in 2017.

Scottish National Gallery

Arguably the country’s finest art gallery, the Scottish National Gallery houses an extensive and rich collection spanning several centuries. Located in a spectacular neoclassical building designed by esteemed architect William Henry Playfair, the gallery has been one of the city’s most significant cultural institutions since its opening in 1859. The collection includes work from artists such as Cezanne, Goya, El Greco and Rembrandt amongst many others.

Mary King’s Close

One of the city’s most popular tourism sites should cater to those seeking a more off-kilter experience. Located beneath the Royal Mile of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Marty King’s Close is known for its haunted and mythical status, shrouded in an aura of misery. Having been abandoned for many years, the building has since been converted into a museum which specialises in the lesser-known aspects of the city’s history.

Royal Botanical Garden

One of the world’s oldest botanical gardens, the RBGE is one of the city’s most popular tourism sites. Initially founded as a physic garden, the RBGE have since blossomed into one of the country’s major conservation centres, its living collection containing over 13,000 distinct plant species. An ideal destination for horticulturists and those seeking a peaceful and contemplative escape from the hectic city.

main image: courtesy of Mike McBey