Edinburgh: 7 essential things to do during your stay

by Destination(s) Europe

📌 Read in / Lire en : Français (French)

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, has to be magnificent to rival the landscapes that surround it. And it is! The city, home to nearly 500,000 inhabitants, is steeped in history and medieval architecture that inspires all kinds of daydreams. This means there is no shortage of places of interest, but there are certain must-sees without which your visit would not be complete. Here’s what to do when visiting Edinburgh.

👃 What’s that smell? As you stroll through Edinburgh, you will smell some very special scents. We explain what it is in this article.

🗒️ What you need to know before your trip to Edinburgh

Before we start our list of things to do in Edinburgh, here are some tips for your next trip to Scotland’s capital.

When should you visit Edinburgh?

The best time to visit Edinburgh is arguably late spring and early summer. This is when the climate is the most favourable. In summer, the temperatures are certainly higher, but the showers are also more frequent. If the cold doesn’t scare you, you could also try visiting in April when the Beltane Fire Festival takes place. It is guaranteed to amaze you.

Which hotel should I choose in Edinburgh?

There is no shortage of good hotels in the Scottish capital. Here are three, in very different styles. We should warn you: establishments located in the city centre are not cheap, much like in other large cities in the United Kingdom.

First, if you want to combine modernity and practicality, we suggest the Ibis Styles Edinburgh Centre St Andrew Square. Yes, the name is a bit long, but this is because it is not the only Ibis in the city. Here, you will be only two minutes from Princes Street, and 10 minutes from the station. What better way to see the city?

If you want to impress your other half, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian is for you. Please note, the rooms will cost you at least 500 euros. But for this price, in addition to a dream location just one minute from Princes Street and a lovely period building built in 1903 as part of Edinburgh Central Station, you will have a whole host of facilities that are only to be found the most beautiful palaces, like an indoor swimming pool.

Finally, for smaller budgets, there are some hostels very well rated by their customers, such as the Castle Rock Hostel, located very close to Edinburgh Castle.

🔝 Edinburgh’s 7 must-see things

If we wanted to list all the things to do in Edinburgh, you would have an article as long as your arm in front of you. Here is a selection of activities that we think you should try.

If we wanted to list all the things to do in Edinburgh, you would be faced with an article as long as your arm. Here is a selection of activities that we think you should try.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

This castle rises above the city on a high rock which makes it visible from most parts of Edinburgh. The site dates from the 2nd century and is key to the politics of the area: controlling the castle meant controlling the city. This castle is unmissable for several reasons. First, you will be presented with the history of Scotland which is indissociable from that of this fortress. You will also find part of the crown jewels of Scotland as well as the Stone of Destiny (or Stone of Scone) used during the coronation of British monarchs for centuries. Do not miss out on the famous cannon shot from the ramparts, at midday every day except Sunday. A word of advice: buy your tickets online, the queue can be long!

Explore Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Rocks

The “Seat of Arthur” rises to 251 meters above sea level and is the highest point of Holyrood Park, which extends to over 260 hectares. From here, you’ll enjoy stunning views across the city to the mouth of the Forth. It is an easy climb to the top of the mountain from Dunsapie Loch.

While in the park, you can also climb to the top of Salisbury Crags, a series of cliffs located next to Arthur’s Seat. Don’t miss the old cultivation terraces or the picturesque ruins of the medieval St. Anthony’s Chapel.

Stroll down Princes Street

This street has been the heart of the city since 1770. Today, it is one of Edinburgh’s most popular shopping areas. Princes Street is the ideal place for history buffs and shopping enthusiasts alike because it is surrounded by as many big-brand shops and historical monuments.

During your stroll, pause at Princes Street Gardens, home to a war memorial, an enchanting floral clock, and beautiful green lawns. Picnic in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle!

Visit Camera Obscura

Considered Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attraction for its foundation in 1835, this gallery mainly offers optical illusions. Must-sees include the maze of mirrors, a vortex tunnel that makes you feel out of balance even if you’re stable, and a room that shrinks you where you stand.

Another highlight of the place is the panoramic view of the city from the roof, which you can also observe through a telescope. Camera Obscura is the ideal activity for families.

Camera Obscura | Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Friday to Sunday 9am – 9pm (in winter, open later in summer)

A guided tour of the National Museum of Scotland

This museum was opened in 2011 and is one of Scotland’s most famous attractions, boasting almost two million tourists each year. The building houses collections from Edinburgh’s older museums, including medieval artefacts and national archaeological collections. It also offers a wide variety of exhibitions on geology, natural history, technology, science, and art.

The museum has 16 galleries where more than 8000 objects are exhibited. It is also known to house the remains of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal in the world who died in 2003.

Explore Holyrood Abbey

This ruined abbey built in 1128 was once partially transformed into a royal residence. It housed the Scottish Parliament from the 13th to the 15th centuries. It is the destination of choice for lovers of history and culture. Its ruins and architecture have also inspired a large number of writers and painters.

Escape to the Royal Botanical Garden

This garden, created in 1670, is considered the second oldest in Great Britain, and is definitely a must-do in Edinburgh! It extends over 28 hectares and notably includes a large palm grove and a herbarium comprising nearly three million specimens. The highlight of your visit will undoubtedly be the woodland garden surrounded by hydrangeas, rhododendrons, colourful azaleas, and camellias. Everything is free, except visiting the greenhouses which house a wide variety of plants from all over the world.

There you have it, our selection of the seven must-do things in Edinburgh is complete. However, there are plenty of other activities to try in the Scottish capital, so let us know your experiences in the comments!

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