The Best of Edinburgh - Your First Visit
1 hide detailIn the shadow of the Castle
Castle Rock Hostel, backpacking hostel offers dormitory accommodation, is situated just off the Royal Mile on the south side of Edinburgh Castle, underneath the castle ramparts. This could well be the best-equipped hostel in the city. It offers free wifi, a free walking tour every morning at 10:35am, a free pub crawl every Thursday and a free pool competition on Wednesdays. Breakfast is only £1.80 and Laundry service £3.50.
During incelement there are lots of things to do in the lounge area: choose a board game, dabble in the art of ping-pong or take a cue on the pool table.
Prices: Dorms 8-16 beds (Mon- Thurs) £8; Dorms 8-16 beds (Fri- Sun) £12; Quad rooms £15
hide detailHop-on Hop-off Tours
- visit website
With great views from the top of the bus, strategically placed stops and an interesting commentary, this truly is the best way to see the sights of Edinburgh.
You can hop-on and off as many times as you like aboard this open-top double-decker bus. There are 24 stops and the entire route takes approximately 60 minutes. The bus departs every 20 minutes from each stop. Tickets are valid for 24 hours from first use.
The capital of Scotland since the 15th Century, Edinburgh stands on 7 hills creating a dramatic skyline. Tour highlights include the Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyrood House, the historic Royal Mile and Our Dynamic Earth.
2 hide detailHistoric fortress with breathtaking views and opulent riches inside.
Information from Historic Scotland.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a stop at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock. First erected in the 12th century, the fortress sits on top of an extinct volcano and is the most breathtaking part of the city's skyline. Within the castle walls you see impressive views of most of the New Town, including the Princes Street Gardens, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags, the famous Balmoral Hotel and more. You can also explore the various rooms, chapels and compartments of the fortress and through interactive displays discover what living and working there might have been like during the medieval era.
The highlight of any tour of the castle is the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels), on display in the Crown Room of the castle's Royal Palace (built in 1617). These include the ancient crown, sword and scepter, which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Here you can also see Scotland's most prized treasure: The Stone of Destiny, otherwise known as the Coronation Stone. This has been used in the crowning of Scottish and English monarchs (much to dismay of many Scottish nationalists) for hundreds of years.
Be sure to arrive before lunch, so you can watch the master gunner fire the castle's canon at 1pm (except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.); it is a tradition that dates back to1861 when the firing of the gun was used to signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith.A popular visitor attraction and a World Heritage Site, Edinburgh Castle is now proud host to modern day events including rock gigs and the famous Edinburgh Tattoo.
(aged 16 to 59)
(aged 5 to 15)
Concession: £10.40Opening times:
(aged 60 and over, unemployed)
Child under 5: FREE
9:30am - 6pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep
9:30am - 5pm
1 Oct - 31 Mar
3 hide detailCivilians welcome
Edinburgh's Royal Mile is the famous road leading upwards to Edinburgh Castle. Cobbled in places and pedestrian friendly the Royal Mile is home to historic buildings which run the length of the street. It is the definitive route to see Old Edinburgh Town. Many of the city's best restaurants and shops line the incline offering traditional Scottish food and memorabilia. Take a moment to wander down one of the narrow and sometimes secret Royal Mile closes, many providing the theatrical atmosphere for grizzly ghost tours.
4 hide detailThe history of the Scots from the Stone Age to modern times.
The National Museum of Scotland is an excellent museum that describes the history of Scotland from the Stone Age to modern times. This museum is a must visit for those interested in the early Celtic and Pictish history of the country.
5 hide detailA traditional pub near Greyfriars Kirk, named after the famous Skye Terrier.
This theme pub is named after the legendary skye terrier, who allegedly was so loyal to his master that after he died the pooch stood vigil at his grave in the adjacent Greyfriars Kirkyard for 14 years. Boasting a black wooden exterior, it's interior is designed in a fauxVictorian style. The pub serves a good variety of ales and whiskies, but is also a fun bar to bring the kids, who can buy t-shirts with Bobby's image. Be sure to take a picture with the statue of the brave canine in front of the pub.
6 hide detailA walk in the park
Our Local Expert Says:
For those who like to spend, Princes Street Gardens is the picturesque gateway to the shopping district beyond. A beautiful park with historic statues and monuments, it’s a peaceful refuge for those who’ve hit the stores all day.
Step out amongst the vibrancy of Edinburgh city centre and visit Princes Street Gardens. Take in views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town on one side of this splendid park and the bustle of the New Town on the other. Princes Street Gardens is the gateway to the shopping district beyond, it is a great place to wander through with historic monuments and a fountain. Frequented by families, students and performers Princes Street Gardens is alive with people.
7 hide detailThe height of luxury
The Balmoral Hotel was initially built in 1902, but has been completely refurbished by its new owners, Rocco Forte. The results are impressive, an excellent blend of Edwardian character with thoroughly modern amenities. Striking an imposing figure, it dominates the east end of Princes Street, affording superb views of the Castle, Gardens and Old Town and is handily situated beside Waverley Station.
This five-star luxury hotel might be out of most tourists' price range (it is usually the sleeping quarters of visiting celebrities like J.K. Rowling and Brittany Spears). But everyone is free to admire its lovely exterior, which boasts a large clock that is set two minutes fast to make sure passengers will be on time to catch their trains at the adjacent Waverly Station.
8 hide detailA work of art
The National Gallery of Scotland is housed in a striking neoclassical building situated at one end of Princes Street Gardens. With works by Da Vinci and Van Gogh represented within the National Gallery of Scotland's collection this is an essential part of any tour to Edinburgh city. Temporary exhibitions are frequent here and tickets can be booked in advance from the website.
9 hide detailGothic spire dedicated to The Wizard of the North
Our Local Expert Says:
Climb the tight spiral staircases of this gothic structure for unrivalled views across Princes Street Gardens. The Scott Monument is one of the most popular Edinburgh tourist attractions so be prepared to queue at any time of the day.
Visit the iconic Scott Monument set amongst the picturesque Princes Street Gardens.
Sir Walter Scott was one of Scotland's most celebrated national poets and this gothic monument to him, with a statue of Scott underneath the base of the spire, pays tribute to his genius. Visitors can climb the 287 steps to the top of the monument to peer out from several viewing decks (they can also receive a certificate commemorating this achievement). But be warned! The staircases are at points extremely narrow and the climb may be too daunting for those who suffer from vertigo. Those brave and determined enough to reach the top will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of Edinburgh.
10 hide detailCelebrate the history and distillation of whisky
Embrace Scotland's national drink!
Visit the new Scotch Whisky Experience for a sensational journey! Located on the Royal Mile at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, you can take a swirling, bubbling barrel ride through a replica distillery as you become part of the whisky making process.
Along the way you'll hear the stories behind this magical craft, with expert tour guides and whisky advisors with you every sip of the way. The staff will help you discover the aromas and flavours that appeal to your palate and lead you to your perfect Single Malt Whisky.
The tour also includes an introductory tasting tray of 4 Single Malt Whiskies with full tasting notes and a visit to the centre's Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection, which boasts some 3500 extremely rare and expensive individual bottles! Plus you'll get a discount on all whiskies in the museums bars.
It ends in the museum's gift shop, which features a wide selection of Scottish whiskies. Regular tickets range from £12.00 to £21.
11 hide detailRoyal intrigue and beauty
Situated at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace is today the official residence of The Queen when visiting Scotland. Guests are welcome all year round to visit the gallery and take guided tours of the magnificent décor of Holyroodhouse Palace. The tapestries and ornate furniture still used to this day are highlights of the tour and offer the Edinburgh tourist a chance to wander around a modern day palace.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
(includes an audio tour)
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £9.30
Under 17 £6.20
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £27.00
Joint Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen's GalleryAdult £14.30
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £13.00
Under 17 £8.30
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £38.50
12 hide detailGothic spooks in medieval nooks
Join Mercat Tours on a journey through the dark narrow closes of the Old Town of Edinburgh and prepare to be terrified by tales of the City's ghostly and gory past. Descend into the Vaults beneath the South Bridge and hear stories of those who once occupied these dark chambers and perhaps still do… Tours run from noon till midnight and tickets can be bought online, at the Mercat Tours office, or at the Mercat Cross in the Royal Mile.
13 hide detailExtinct volcano
Our Local Expert Says:
Arthur’s seat is one of the highest of Edinburgh’s seven hills and makes for a good walk for photo opportunities of Edinburgh below. Pathways are easily located from the foot of Arthur’s Seat with a car park area at the base.
Like Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags were formed by an extinct volcano and carved out by moving glaciers. These hills, lochs (lakes) and cliffs make up Holyrood Park and offer somewhat easy walking trails. Arthur's Seat is the highest point in Edinburgh (251 meters high) and is located at the center of the park while the Crags are located west of it. It is not known if the name is truly related to the mythology of King Arthur.
14 hide detailBengali mix
It's unclear what exactly is so special about bicycles from Bombay - the colourful specimens that adorn the walls add a quirky element to this busy and elegant venue. Expect traditional Bengali cuisine spiced up with some more innovative recipes - the seafood dishes are especially good and the banquets are a great option if you can't make up your mind which dish to choose. They have plenty of vegetarian options. They also provide a handy takeaway service. This is a popular place so its safer to book in advance - it's often used for special events.
15 hide detailThe folly on the hill
Our Local Expert Says:
Walk to the peak of Calton Hill in the evening to watch the sun set over Edinburgh. Visit one of the two observatories that sit on the hill for a spot of star gazing.
Calton Hill is made unmistakable by the Athenian acropolis monument, which stands proudly at the peak. Accessed by steep stairs Calton Hill offers to visitors beautiful views as far as Holyrood Park. Historic buildings and statues are located on Calton Hill but the most popular feature is the two Observatories, the first built in 1792 the second in 1818. Both hold regular exhibitions, Open Days and the opportunity to see stars in the night sky.
16 hide detailScotland's modern art collection
Home to Scotland's outstanding national collection of modern and contemporary art, the Modern Art Galleries include the Gallery of Modern Art and the nearby Dean Gallery.
Works from the Gallery's collection, plus special loans, are presented here. The early part of the collection features French and Russian art from the beginning of the twentieth century, cubist paintings and superb holdings of expressionist and modern British art. Special highlights include paintings by Matisse and Picasso.
The Gallery also has an outstanding collection of international post-war work and the most important and extensive collection of modern Scottish art. The post-war collection features art by Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud, with more recent works by artists including Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.