Where ever you are in the world, no doubt you would have seen or head about the campaign to keep the Untied Kingdom together with arguments for and against Scotland staying part of the union. Well that argument has now been settled and the people of Scotland said no to independence.
A shame in my eyes, but I don’t live in Scotland so that vote doesn’t count. You can certainly understand why they are all fighting about it, because Scotland and more specifically, Edinburgh is just full of it! Full of amazing sights that is. It’s city reeking with historical charm and mystery from every corner you turn.
Most attractions are largely based on historic stories and legends, so don’t be surprised if within minutes of arriving into the city you see people dressed in custom with a crowd in tow as they lively tell tales of noble men and women that came before them. So where does one even start in a city that’s full of it – full of beautiful sights to explore. Don’t fret, here are my top 10 things to do in Edinburgh.
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Top Things To Do In Edinburgh Scotland
There are plenty of activities to get lost in; from touring royal apartments, taking in the views from Carlton’s Hill, taking in floral scents at the botanical gardens, walking the Royal Mile to combining culture and fine dining at Witchery. There is something for everyone.
A city built on an extinct volcano. So as you hike up to Arthur’s seat or Edinburgh Castle, delight in the fact that you are walking on extinct volcanoes. How cool it that?! If you have more than just a weekend in the city you can also branch out to the outskirts of Edinburgh and check out places like Dalkeith Country Park or other hiking tours on the edges of the capital. Below are my top 10 things to do and see in Edinburgh.
10. Walk the Royal Mile
This runs through the very heart of the city and connects the old town to Edinburgh Castle. Filled with shops, street entertainers, cafes and restaurants offering some of the best eating and drinking spots in the city. Royal Mile is also filled with street entertainment. My favorite was the levitating Yoda and the saw player. If you are a Harry Potter fan, just off the Royal Mile you can find the famous JK Rowling’s handprints reproduced on a flagstone in the quadrangle in front of Edinburgh City Chambers. The prints were produced when JK Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2008. While you are visiting Scotland, another worthy Harry Porter spot worth of a visit is the Harry Potter train, check out the post by Map Trotting for details of how to find it.
09. Climb a volcano on Arthur’s Seat.
Just a short walk from the Royal Mile is Holyrood Park. This is where you can run around the 640 acre Royal Park that is also home to Holyrood Palace. Considering the royal family only reside there a few weeks(a week at a time at most) in a year you can test your luck at squat’s rights.
If taking over the palace fails then walk a few meters up and rest your cheeks firmly on Arthur’s seat and take in the city’s vista. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point on this dormant volcano. If you are into the outdoors, Edinburgh also offers easy access to the Isle of Skye, for a guide check out Travel Monkey’s guide to the Isle of Skye.
08. Admire the royal splendor
You have a choice between Edinburgh Castle perched high on a base of a volcanic rock or the splendor of the Holyrood Palace tacked away in Holyrood Park. These are in walking distance of each other. Both offer up varying advantages and there are tickets that allow you to visit both sites or opt for just the one if you over do the royal regalia in one.
Edinburgh Castle also comes with views over the city too, which you don’t get so much of with from Holyrood. The view from Ross Fountain of Edinburgh Castle outs it among the many Instagrammable places in Scotland worth checking out. While Holyrood, might lack in views and make up in all that glitters on the inside. While we were in the city my boyfriend and I also managed to strike luck and sneak a peek at Kaiser Chiefs who were playing at Edinburgh Castle. For more on what not to miss when exploring Edinburgh Castle check out Isa’s blog.
07. Take in the city’s vistas at Carlton’s Hill
This is one of Edinburgh’s main hills and not too far from the centre. Complete with an Athenian acropolis peeking through. This is said to be an unfinished monument, initiated after Napoleon’s defeat of Waterloo and was meant to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens.
A memorial to those who died in Napoleonic Wars but as funds dried up, the rest of it was never finished as planned. This is a place is great for picnics as it also offers views of outlying islands on the coast of Edinburh. Providing the weather is good, otherwise its another great vantage point for views of the city’s skyline.
This location also hosts many other iconic monuments such as the National Monument, Nelson’s Monument as well as two observatories; one built in 1792 and another built in 1818 is still standing. You have views of Arthur’s Seat, Scott Monument, Holyrood Palace, outlaying islands and many other popular sights can be spotted from Carlton’s Hill. While in Edinburgh make sure you swing by Glasgow which is only a short train ride away. Much like Edinburgh, there are plenty of things to do in Glasgow, this place reminds me of Glasgow’s Necropolis.
06. We are all evil says the artist, so take to the galleries.
If you up for a little something more modern then the National Gallery may be up your alley. Offering up varying installations of quirky art. If you want a little peace and quiet from the city, you can hang out here for a while as its surprisingly quiet and a moment to take in some of Scotland’s up and coming artists as well as the old of course.
05. Have a break, have a KitKat – Food before Dessert!
In my last post I shared with you a little Secret Gem in the heart of the Royal Mile tacked by the Edinburgh castle. This is where you can find the bewitching Witchery by the Castle’s Secret Garden. Serving up tasty delights fit for kings and queens.
If you are not up for that type of budget on your trip to Edinburgh, there is another tasty little spot serving healthy and delicious food! If you have been on my instagram or my last post on Travel and Fitness you will have noticed my love for freshly made juices and this place does mixes that will have you doing the Hula dance in no time. If you stop by check out the hummus salad. Heavenly taste and healthy, 2 birds one stone!
04. Have a moment of peace and quiet in Princess Street Gardens
Princess Street Gardens are set in a valley between the old and new town with Edinburgh Castle towering over the gardens. This is also where you will find the beautiful Ross fountain. There are a collection of public monuments and memorials dotted around.
From the Scott monument to the David Livingstone Statue, to the weird memorials such as the massive gneiss boulder that was presented in 1978, by the Norwegian Army who asked Lord Provost Borthwick of Scotland to receive the stone into the care of the city.
Here you will also spot the Floral clock in Princes Street Gardens I posted on Facebook can also be found here. Planted in 1903 and still ticking away today. Also a great place to just chill out and enjoy a moment of calm from the city.
03. Admire the architecture
Check out the beautiful Scott Monument. Still standing tall since construction in 1840 to commemorate Walter Scott, a Scottish literary figure. If you are up for a climb you can also take some 237 steps to the top to take in more views on Edinburgh.
Other options if you are a lover of all that is old but brimming with history and charm then take to the Scotsman Hotel which used to house the Scotsman news paper for nearly a century. A stunning building, I believe they also offer tours in side but we didn’t have time to go in.
02. Take a wee tour – Edinburgh Tours
Listen to the terrifyingly true stories of torture, murders and lingering ghosts, lustrous mistresses and walk into Scotland’s dark past with the many tours that are available.
There are a variety of tours on offer from city tours around the heart of the city with tales from the past to present, to tours that involve a hike into the outskirts of Edinburgh packed with a little more adventure to get those quads working up an appetite. For something different, check out the Ghost Tour in Edinburgh as many tours in offer a way of doing Scotland on a budget.
01. Spit on Edinburgh (Midlothian Heart)
Lastly! So, you have toured the city and eaten your weight in Haggis and are ready to go home. There is one thing you must also do before you exit. Spit on Edinburgh! Yep spit on it good! It’s tradition after all. If you don’t know about the tradition then you would think people are just plain rude walking around and spitting all over the place with no consideration.
So I will let you in on a this Scottish(or maybe just Edinburgh) tradition. The Midlothian Heart is a heart-shaped mosaic on the pavement by the Royal Mile. Just outside the St Giles Cathedral. The heart represents the location of an old Tollbooth, which was later used as a tax office where people came to pay their taxes. Later on it was used a prison, a darker and more miserable prison compared to those around at the time.
It was used to hold prisoners sentenced to death by hanging and the last place prisoners would see before the gallows. Because of this rather unpleasant association the building had, to show contempt for authority, taxes, prisons and gallows, the people of Edinburgh started to spit on the ground outside the Tollbooth when they passed.
The tradition continues today as I spotted many a folk spitting on the Midlothian Heart. Yep! Just in case you wanted to know – Yes I spat on it good, I did.
Best Places To Stay In Edinburgh
Have you been to Edinburgh? Which one of the things to do in Edinburgh did you tick off the list? Any other places you would add to the list?
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Haven't had the pleasure to go to Edinburgh yet, but it looks absolutely breathtaking! As an American abroad, I think it's certainly time I make myself take a trip north!
I think that I would love to take a tour, and of course, in keeping with tradition would give in to spitting on the Midlothian Heart. What a history that spot has, definitely deserves to be spat on!
Yaya ♥ My Dreamality
You definitely should! Make sure you check out the Fringe festival too.
Really awesome post! I've been to Edinburgh a few times but haven't covered half the things on this list! Though I'd add it's worth visiting the beaches and going to their authentic Chinese restaurants for hotpot!
The spitting thing is really interesting, quite a unique and somewhat fitting tradition. Great pictures by the way.
Chinese hotpot?! Now, I havent had that since my trip to Hong Kong I will have to check it out!
I would love to go to Edinburgh sometime, never been :(. The National Gallery looks like a lot of fun!
These pictures are so nice and I like this post. Great job.
Grat tips! Looks like there's a lot to do in Edinburg 🙂
I lived in Edinburgh for three years and have never been up Carlton hill lol I know the views are awesome though
Isnt that always the case though. We seem to take things for granted if they are right on the door step.
I have not yet been to Edinburgh. I've been wanting to visit. Now I want to go even more than before.
I was in Edinburgh a few years ago, and wish I had known about some of these great things when I was there. I did enjoy the Royal Mile and all the touristy type things. Great city. I loved the levitating Yoda. I once saw the fiddling Darth Vader in Victoria, British Columbia.
Fiddling Darth Vader?…hmm now what does that look like?
I have friends that live here and they love it! These pictures really show its true beauty!
wow looks like a really fun place!
I love your photos! I would love to climb to Arthur's seat. I enjoy hiking and the view looks spectacular!
Then this would be right up your alley. Really great views provide the weather is playing ball in Edinburgh
I've heard only good things about Edinburgh and Scotland but have never been myself! Very detailed post Bianca, makes me wanna go soon!
Definitely I this is post will help in your activities when you visit Edinburgh.
These are beautiful pictures Bianca! Ive never been to Edinburgh yet. I loved The Midlothian Heart's history. I live in NYC and Im used to seeing stray things on the streets, but a saw player? that, Ive never seen!
Oh Lale, I hope this list gives you a starting point when you do visit 🙂
THE SPIT! I remember staring at it and thinking: do I really have to? YOU BET YOU DO!!
Hahah…its tradition after all!
Thank you for this post- I have pinned it for when I visit Edinburgh next April 🙂 I'll definitely work my way through all ten 🙂
Awesome. Glad you like it. I am sure you will enjoy Edinburgh.
😀 I have such a huge desire to visit Edinburgh, but I can't handle the cold. I'll have to wait until Spring/Summer this time. Really excited about that food though…..
It can be up and down. When we arrived it was cold and foggy but the next day was as beautiful and sunny as can be.