Edinburgh in Scotland: A Guide To One Of Europe's Most Beautiful Capital Cities
Updated: Jan 3
Edinburgh is located in southeastern Scotland. As one of the most-visited cities in Europe, Edinburgh is known for its whisky heritage, striking architecture, and intriguing history. Not to mention its beautiful natural scenery and buzzing pub scene. The city is big enough that you’ll be entertained but compact enough that you can explore everything on foot. In this article, we'll highlight the most important things to know before going, where to stay, eat and drink, and 10 of the best things to do when visiting Edinburgh in Scotland, which are best combined in a 3 to 4 day visit.
Check out our video on Edinburgh in Scotland to get a sense of what it's like there!
Table Of Contents
Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Edinburgh
The best time to visit Edinburgh is from April until June. It can be chilly in this period but you'll have the least chance of rain and the city will not be overflowing with tourists. If you prefer visiting when it's a bit warmer July and August are perfect but keep in mind that these are the most touristy months. We actually traveled there in November and learned the hard way how rainy Scotland especially can really be!
Cost & currency in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of the more expensive cities in the UK. Accommodation and food will take a big bite out of your budget. If you want to save money, but still want to eat out, we recommend eating at pubs. This is the cheapest food we found and was very tasty. In Scotland, they use the Pound sterling, so if you plan on going, keep an eye on the exchange rates to save more money.
Safety in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is safe. During the day you will likely not experience any problems. You do have to keep an eye out when you're in the pub areas at night since people can have a few too many drinks from time to time. As long as you use your common sense, you'll be fine in this beautiful city.
Where To Stay In Edinburgh
Straven Guesthouse: If you want to visit Edinburgh but don't want to stay in the city centre, this beautiful guesthouse is perfect for you. It is in Portobello, 50 meters from the beach and it is only a 15-minute drive by car or bike and 20 minutes by bus.
Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile: With its perfect location in the old town, this hotel is a gem.
Where To Eat And Drink
Albanach: good pub food, try the "haggis" there.
BrewDog: live music
Jolly Judge: small but local
The Advocate: during the week they have great deals such as 2 meals for 1
Scotsman's Lounge: live music
The Ensign Ewart: great atmosphere
Dishroom: the best Indian food in our opinion (though very expensive)
Union of Genius: if you're a soup lover just like us, you have to try this place
The Outsider Restaurant: great food, made from fresh local products
Elephant House: this is the birthplace of Harry Potter. It is currently under renovation since there was a fire in August 2022
LOWDOWN: amazing coffee
Best Things To Do In Edinburgh
There are so many things to do in Edinburgh that we couldn't mention them all in our top 10. If you've done our whole top 10 on your trip and you want to do some extra things here are some good tips:
Camera Obscura & the World of Illusions
Royal Botanic Gardens
Mary King’s Close
National Museum of Scotland
Scottish National Gallery
Click any place on the interactive map below to get directions to the places we mention in this article!
10. Join An Old Town Walking Tour
The Old Town of Edinburgh is the bustling heart of the city. Built up in the Middle Ages when the fear of attack was persistent, it’s home to centuries-old buildings and narrow alleys. This area will most likely be your first area to see when visiting Edinburgh and it’s also a great place to stay. The best way to learn about this intriguing part of the city is by joining a free walking tour. Tours usually run multiple times a day. If you’re not into history, there are also Ghost Tours and Harry Potter Tours available.
9. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Sitting on an extinct volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle is the most iconic sight in the old town and the entire city for that matter. With a rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress, the castle is full of surprises and you can easily spend a full day here. Some of the highlights include the Great Hall, the Prisons of War Exhibition, the Crown Jewel, and the National War Museum. Entry to these museums are all included in the ticket price! And while the castle itself is not free, the view from the top is.
8. Walk the Royal Mile
Stretching one mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile is the focal point of Edinburgh's Old Town. A walk down the Royal Mile will allow you to see plenty of traditional pubs, churches and other historic buildings. Make sure to try the national dish of Scotland here, named “haggis”, at one of the pubs. It’s the sheep’s liver, heart and lungs mixed with a few other ingredients. It tastes better than it sounds! But besides the pubs, you can also find many souvenir and whisky shops along the Royal Mile.
7. Admire St. Giles’ Cathedral
Located in the middle of the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral has been a working church for centuries. It has therefore witnessed Scotland’s turbulent religious history and played an important role in the Scottish Reformation. Today, you can admire the beautiful architecture and stained glass windows on the inside. It’s free to visit and the perfect spot to hide out when it’s raining!
6. Taste Scotch Whisky
Scotland is famous for its whisky and you’ll find a number of bars and shops dedicated to this drink. If you don’t have much knowledge of this sophisticated drink or its history, then you should join a tasting tour. During the session, you’ll be able to taste a variety of whiskies, from relatively delicate and subtle flavors of the Lowlands to the bold and robust tastes of Islay. It’s also a great way to understand Scotland’s culture and heritage on a deeper level.
5. Catch the sunset from Calton Hill
The best view of Edinburgh’s old town is undoubtedly from Calton Hill. Only a short hike away from the Old and New Town, Calton Hill is filled with interesting monuments. One of the most striking is the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. But what most visitors enjoy are the incredible views from the Dugald Stewart Monument. The best time to come here is during sunset, but keep in mind that it can get very busy on a clear day! If you want to find a viewpoint with more open space that’s also free, you can check out Arthur’s Seat, which we’ll cover further in this article.
4. Stroll around the New Town
Next to the Old Town you can find the New Town of Edinburgh. This central part of the city was built between the 18th and 19th century and retains much of its original Neoclassical and Georgian period architecture. Today, the area is filled with designer shops, hip bars, and amazing restaurants. It’s the best place to go for shopping and dining!
3. Enjoy nature at Princes Street Gardens
Located alongside the busiest shopping street in the New Town, Princes Street Gardens is a beautiful green space in Edinburgh. The park is completely free to visit and offers some of the best views of the old town and Edinburgh castle. You can also find one of the city’s most notable monuments here, named Scott Monument.