Edinburgh is a beautiful capital city with plenty of charm. There are cobbled streets and medieval architecture galore, perfect if you’re looking for a quaint city with just the right amount of old and new. As well as the picturesque old buildings, you should visit Edinburgh for its buzzing atmosphere and shopping opportunities. You can also admire the city’s skyline and take in some beautiful countryside views on its outskirts. But where exactly should you visit in Edinburgh?
To embrace the Scottish capital, then you need to delve deeper into its history. We have some amazing places to add to your itinerary upon your travels. If you’re looking for a culture fix or a shopping spree, we’ve got you covered! Here’s where you should visit in Edinburgh…
The number one place to visit in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. The impressive fortress is built on a 700 million year old extinct volcano called Castle Rock, giving its majestic presence. It’s a strong part of the Edinburgh skyline, and it was built here to have views of the capital even all those centuries ago. Although not all the buildings on the grounds are accessible to the public, a large majority are. You can still explore its historic rooms, and learn more about the rivalry between the Scots and the English.
If you are interested in military history, then Edinburgh Castle has to be one of the stops on your itinerary. You can see Mons Meg, one of the world’s biggest and most destructive canons. You can also visit Scotland’s National War Museum which is part of the castle grounds. Here you can see uniforms, recruitment posters and medals throughout the years. It tells the story of Scottish soldiers fighting in wars and battles all over the world.
There are plenty of activities going on at the castle for all the family. There are gun salutes that take place on selected dates, and even concerts. Bands such as Texas and the Script have chosen Edinburgh as the backdrop for their live performances. You can end your day at the Tea Rooms with Afternoon Tea, with a glass of Edinburgh Castle Gin or Prosecco to enjoy your sweet treats with!
Scottish Parliament Building
The Scottish Parliament has its own building, separate to the English Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. The old building was just off the Royal Mile. As this building now houses the Supreme Courts, the Scottish Parliament has now moved to Holyrood. The building was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004.
The striking building is an important part of the cityscape. The modern design makes this a unique building amongst the older, medieval-style architecture that is dotted around the city. The latest building was designed by architect Enric Miralles, and at the time caused controversy because it didn’t fit in with the older surrounding buildings. Although, since completion, it has won several awards for its unusual design.
When you visit the Parliament building, we recommend signing up for a free guided tour. The guide will talk you through the architecture of the building and of course, its history. The debating chamber is one of the highlights of the tour – it’s semi-circular design and glass windows let the light come in and make this a modern room.
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland will help you travel through time and learn about Scotland’s rich history. You’ll learn about its earliest inhabitants all the way through to its industrialization. You will see ancient artifacts from various different ages – from the Islamic world to ancient Egypt. Not only does it cover Scottish history, but also the customs and traditions of countries all over the world. The museum will allow you to explore the natural world, sciences and fashion in Scotland and abroad under one roof!
There are several museum trails that you can pick to help you guide your way through the museum. If you’re traveling as a family, then take the Dino Trail. Your little ones can learn lots of fun facts about the Tyrannosaurus Rex and fill in the questions and play games to keep them occupied during the visit! There is also a Wellbeing audio guide tour to help you find some moments of mindfulness during your visit.
The National Museum of Scotland is also the home to many events. You can see temporary exhibitions that will give you access to unique works of art, or watch amazing concerts from local orchestras or collectives. There are also fun temporary exhibitions for kids to teach them about science, art or history. This is the ideal place to visit as a family!
Edinburgh’s locals love Holyrood Park for its dramatic hills and views of the Edinburgh skyline. The park is 650 acres and is the largest green space in the city. A particular hotspot loved by tourists and locals alike is Arthur’s Seat, the park’s highest point. It’s from here that you can admire all of Edinburgh and take in the amazing panoramic views. This is the perfect activity for those of you who love to keep active during their travels.
Learn about the park’s history with a free exhibition, you can also learn about its geology and archaeology at the Holyrood Lodge Information Centre. You can also visit St Anthony’s Chapel ruins within the park. Although little is known about the chapel, there are references to a grant paid for its repairs by the Pope in 1426. Despite this, it is a strong part of the Scottish cityscape. And it intrigues just as much the city’s inhabitants as it does the tourists.
As well as learning about the park at the information center, you can also take hiking trails across the park to learn about the park while discovering it. The guide will also talk you through the park’s plants and animals, as well as its history, archaeology and geology. The route is over 3 miles long and is ideal for anyone over the age of 12. This is the perfect way to discover the park while being on the go!
Scottish National Gallery
Situated in the heart of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery is the home to many famous and iconic works of art. It is known as one of the best collections of fine art in the world. The gallery features masterpieces such as those by Botticelli, Raphael and Rembrandt but to name a few! As well as a diverse and international collection, they also feature the history of Scottish painting. You will be able to find Scottish artists such as Ramsay, Raeburn and Wilkie in this venue too.
The building in itself is incredibly eye-catching. It was designed by William Henry Playfair in a neoclassical style and first opened to the public in 1859. It was inspired by an ancient Greek temple, and was laid out in a cruciform plan. Since then, an entrance from Princes Street Gardens has been added as well as a lecture theater, a restaurant and an interactive gallery.
There are many temporary exhibitions that take place, and you will have the opportunity to see some of them during your stay. There are lectures and talks that take place in the lecture theater from various guest speakers, and even concerts in the prestigious venue.
Add Craigmillar Castle to your itinerary! The landmark is one of the most preserved castles on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Although it is known as “Edinburgh’s other castle”, due to the popularity of Edinburgh Castle, it is definitely worth a visit thanks to its rich history and traditional architecture. The medieval landmark’s construction started in the 15th century, and over the next 250 years, fine gardens and parklands were added to the grounds. Originally intended to be the home of the Preston family, it became renowned for being Mary Queen of Scots’ safe haven in 1566, before she became a prisoner just a year after.
You can climb the tower house and take in the views of the Scottish capital. From the top, you can spot the green Holyrood Park and the historic Edinburgh Castle. You can also discover some of the castle’s intriguing features such as the prison and the fine great hall. You will notice the presence of several “veteran” trees around the grounds, two of which were placed in front of the castle to form an entrance. Apparently, these trees were planted to provide wood for bows and arrows. Additionally, some of the plants growing were in fact part of the original castle.
Nowadays, families love to visit the castle and its grounds for its extensive gardens and maze of rooms. It’s the perfect place for kids to play hide and seek, and it will keep them entertained for hours!