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The 10 Best Things To See & Do in Edinburgh
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The 10 Best Things To See & Do in Edinburgh

Picture of Maria Menegaki
Updated: 9 February 2017
Steeped in history and home to a variety of historical and cultural attractions, the capital of Scotland is the second most popular destination in the United Kingdom after London. From the enchanting medieval heart to the elegance of New Town, it is without a doubt a unique city filled with contrasts and surprises. Get ready for an unforgettable adventure and take a look at The Culture Trip’s guide to Edinburg.
Edinburgh Castle | © Craig Cormack/Flickr
Edinburgh Castle | © Craig Cormack/Flickr

Visit the Edingburgh Castle

Dominating the city from its great rock, Edinburgh Castle is an absolute must-visit spot. Well-defended on its tall volcanic crag, not only has it witnessed royal ceremonies and feasts, but also cruel battles and ruthless politics. Discover its rich history that still remains a great source of inspiration as well as the important national symbols it hosts such as the Stone of Destiny and the Honors of Scotland.

Go Underground at the Real Mary King’s Close

Deep beneath the Royal Mile, the city’s darkest secret is buried. The Real Mary King’s Close is a warren of underground hidden streets frozen in time and shrouded in mystery. As you wander through the rooms, each will offer you a better insight of how life was in the 17th century. Book your tickets and travel back in time through some fascinating tales of plague, murder, intrigue, ghosts and unexplained happenings.

Oh my God, it's full of stars. | © PROLee Carson/Flickr
Oh my God, it’s full of stars. | © PROLee Carson/Flickr

Enter the World of Illusions

Edinburgh’s attraction since 1835, Camera Obscura will keep your mind occupied for hours with five floors of optical illusions, tricks and puzzles. Spy on passers-by and pick them up in your hand, view a panorama of the city through the old observatory, explore the themed rooms with interactive exhibits and take a look at the gift shop for an amazing range of unusual gifts. Be aware that your ticket is valid all day long offering you time to take a break and return later for more fun.

Drink Scottish Whiskey

A trip to Scotland is not complete without sampling some whiskey. Spend your evening at one of the numerous top-notch whisky bars or join the Scotch Whisky Experience for a true initiation in the world of Scotch. Through this multi-sensory journey, you will be able to become part of the whisky making process, listen to some stories behind the magical craft, view the world’s largest collection and taste some drams of unique flavors and aromas.

Last of the sunlight in Princes Street Gardens | © Jenni Douglas/Flickr
Last of the sunlight in Princes Street Gardens | © Jenni Douglas/Flickr

Relax at the Princess Street Gardens

In the heart of the city, between the Old and the New Town, you will find the Princess Street Gardens. Before starting your shopping day at the nearby street, sit by the Ross Fountain to enjoy the sunshine, have a picnic or take a stroll to see the floral clock and the numerous statues around. Although the best time to go is during spring and autumn, winter carousels and Christmas stalls offering delicious mulled cider will not disappoint you either.

See the Scott Monument

Commemorating the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott and built in the 19th century, this is the largest monument to a writer dominating the Edinburgh skyline with its stunning Gothic design. Watch out for the carvings of his fictional characters, learn about his life in the museum room and climb the 287 steps to the top for some superb views of the surroundings.

Golden Edinburgh | © Kirsty McWhirter/Flickr
Golden Edinburgh | © Kirsty McWhirter/Flickr

Reach the Top of Calton Hill

Well-known for its landmarks such as the striking National Monument inspired by the Parthenon of Athens and the City Observatory, Calton Hill is the best viewpoint and an easy climb of only five minutes. Grab your camera and reach the top of it to see all of the city’s major landmarks or attend the Beltane Fire Festival at the last day of April reviving ancient Gaelic traditions to celebrate the wheel of the year and welcome summer.

Appreciate Modern Art

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is part of the National Galleries of Scotland and a must-see venue for modern and contemporary art. Housed in two building and surrounded by a beautiful sculpture garden, it is ready to amaze you with a wide range of superb masterpieces including works of Picasso and Warhol as well as Scottish artists. Visit the permanent exhibitions for free and have your lunch at the lovely garden terrace to enjoy the sunshine.

The Stars of the Show 3 | © Son of Groucho/Flickr
The Stars of the Show 3 | © Son of Groucho/Flickr

Spend a Day at the Zoo

The wildest attraction in the country is only a short bus ride from the city center. Recognized as one of the leading zoos worldwide, Edinburgh Zoo is home to over a thousand rare animals from all over the world. Learn about some of them through a series of daily talks, see the UK’s only giant pandas and koalas and spend some delightful time of animal-based adventures.

Witness the Story of Planet Earth

Thanks to The Dynamic Earth, you can now witness the first moments of our galaxy and learn about the forces of nature that shaped our planet in the most fun way. Whether you feel the heat of a bubbling volcano or face the chill of polar ice, an impressive series of interactive exhibits, 4D adventures around the world and even a 360° ShowDome are the perfect way to truly understand all of the aspects of Mother Earth regardless of your age.