- Name: Edinburgh
- Founded: 7th century
- Population: 520,000
- Area: 102 sq mi (264 km2)
- Known as: Capital of Scotland, ‘Auld Reekie’ (‘Old Smoky’)
Edinburgh is the capital and second largest city of Scotland, sitting in the Central Belt of the country. It has an elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical houses and medieval Old Town, with Edinburgh Castle, home to the crown jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny used in Scottish rulers’ coronations.
Medieval palaces, Gothic churches and historical buildings are mixed together with modern architecture, such as the Houses of Scottish Parliament and the renovated National Museum of Scotland.
Lined with stores selling souvenirs, clan tartans and famous local whisky, the Royal Mile leads from Edinburgh castle to Holyrood Palace, an official royal residence from the 16th century.
Edinburgh also has lively nightlife, with numerous pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and live performances. In one of cafes, The Elephant House, J. K. Rowling wrote many chapters of her book series of Harry Potter. She was definitely inspired by the city and its medieval charm.
There are also many exciting festival and events throughout the year that bring thousands of visitors to enjoy this lovely city.
Main attractions in Edinburgh
There are plenty of attractions in Edinburgh, both inside the city and in immediate surroundings. We are listing here only top 20-25 of them.
Edinburgh Castle. Magnificent old fortress on the hill overlooking city. Home to Crown Jewels and National War Museum of Scotland. Offering spectacular view of the city and surroundings and a small gift shop. Palace of Holyroodhouse. A 16th century royal palace and remains of an abbey. Official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Offering guided tours. Arthur’s Seat. A small mountain offering hikes and panoramic city and Firth of Forth views. Part of Holyroood Park as well.
Edinburgh Old Town. Old city center, with old building, narrow alleys, pubs and shops. Royal Mile runs through it and is the main walking street filled with shops and attractions. Calton Hill. Historic area on a small hill, with several neoclassical monuments and scenic views of the city. Featuring bars, eateries and gift shops as well. National Museum of Scotland. Large, modern museum housing Scottish and international industrial history relics and natural history displays. Many interactive exhibits. Free admission and guided tours.
Princes Street. One of the major thoroughfares in central Edinburgh’s New Town. Popular shopping and walking street. St Giles’ Cathedral. An iconic medieval Presbyterian Church and principal place of worship of Church of Scotland. Located on Royal Mile and open for public tours and featuring small gift shop.
The Real Mary King’s Close. Hidden streets and alleys, under Royal Mile, dating back to 17th century. Haunted tours offered accompanied by costumed guides telling spooky stories and legends from the past.
Royal Yacht Britannia. Former Royal family’s personal yacht, decommissioned in 1997 and used now for visits, lunches and events. Edinburgh Waverley. Large historical train station in central Edinburgh. Serving as Edinburgh’s main railway station, also has popular eateries and shops. The Scotch Whisky Experience. An attraction opened in 1988, telling the story of Scotland’s national drink with high-tech exhibits, barrel ride and whisky tasting with tutoring.
Scott Monument. Massive, gothic style memorial to the writer, Sir Walter Scott. Located on Princess Street, one of the main landmarks of Edinburgh. Scottish National Gallery. National collections of art including both European masterpieces and Scottish works. Hosting periodical special exhibitions.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. A 70 acre of manicured gardens with flowers and a glasshouse. Hosting exhibitions, events and offering guided tours and cafes.
Edinburgh Zoo. Large zoo located in the west outskirt of the city. Offering hands-on animal encounters and free hilltop safari rides. Great family entertainment year around. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. Five floor tower, down the hill from Edinburgh Castle, offering interactive optical illusions and camera obscura show at the top. Great views to the city from the roof top. Holyrood Park. Park area around the slopes of Arthur’s Seat, with walking and cycling paths and a loch.
Rosslyn Chapel. A 15th century chapel, with unique intricately carved details, made globally famous in The Da Vinci Code movie and the book. Princes Street Gardens. Two adjacent park areas in center of Edinburgh. Lined with monuments from the Princess Street side and offering various leisure activities, such as Winter Wonderland during the winter. Scottish Parliament Building. Also referred simply as Holyrood, it is a modern building, starting operation in 2004, home of Scottish Parliament.
From other attractions in Edinburgh we recommend: Dynamic Earth, Forth Bridge, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of Childhood, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Firth of Forth, Water of Leith, The Queen’s Gallery, and Craigmillar Castle.
Top things to do in Edinburgh
Apart from attractions we listed, we can recommend several other things to do in Edinburgh.
Depending on your time and budget, we also recommend day tours outside of Edinburgh so you can visit some other attractions, castles and lochs: Highland Lochs, Glens and Whisky Day, The Kelpies, Loch Lomond, and Stirling Castle Day Tour or Alnwick Castle, Northumberland and the Borders Tour. Check on Edinburgh destination page for more options.
Festivals and events in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has very active festival scene, and there are many events, especially in summer. Here is some top recommendations:
Edinburgh International Science Festival (April), Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (May-June), Jazz & Blues Festival (July), Edinburgh Art Festival (July-August), The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (August), Edinburgh International Book Festival (August), Scotland’s International Storytelling Festival (October) and several festival and events during Christmas and New Year’s.
Interesting facts about Edinburgh
Here are some interesting facts about this amazing city:
- Edinburgh is home to the world’s only royally knighted penguin. His name is Sir Nils Olav, a King Penguin and is residing in Edinburgh Zoo.
- Edinburgh is the first city in the world to have organized fire service.
- The Balmoral Clock on Princes Street is always showing time three minutes ahead so commuters can get in time to their ride.
Best time for flights to Edinburgh
The peak season for flights to Edinburgh is June, July and August. The low season for purchasing tickets is February, March and May.
Edinburgh is served by Edinburgh Airport (EDI). Direct flights to Edinburgh are offered by 13 airlines.
Top hotel offers in Edinburgh
These are current top hotel offers in Edinburgh. The list is updated automatically when page is refreshed.