Not sure what to do in Edinburgh? Check out 23 must-see attractions and discover the main sights of Scotland's capital  

Scotland's capital is a vibrant city full of history, culture and impressive landscapes. Located in the north of the United Kingdom, it is just under 4 hours by train from London. 

Its medieval buildings with neoclassical architecture and wonderful museums are just some of the must-see attractions in Edinburgh. If you're heading to the city and still don't know what to see, check out this list of 23 attractions in Scotland's most visited city.

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What to do in Edinburgh 

old town 

Photo: Luis Mayoral / Unsplash

This is the most visited area of Edinburgh, where the most beautiful and famous buildings in the Scottish capital are concentrated, such as the phenomenal Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mine. 

Old Town is certainly the best place to start your road map around the destination and check out the main tourist attractions of the city. 

edinburgh castle 

Photo: Jörg Angeli / Unsplash

Edinburgh Castle is the most visited attraction in all of Scotland. Situated in the highest area of the city, the castle houses the oldest building in the city, the Capela de Santa Margarida. 

The castle tour takes on average half a day, due to its numerous attractions and stories. Another unmissable point is the impressive view of the city that the castle provides. It is worth remembering that this is one of the most important fortresses in the United Kingdom. 

royal mine 

Sights in Edinburgh

Sights in Edinburgh. Photo: Creative Commons Zero – CC0

The main thoroughfare in Edinburgh's Old Town is always full of tourists. It is in this area where the Scots are found playing the bagpipes with the traditional skirts, known as the Kilt.

The street provides access to Edinburgh Castle and other well-known attractions such as Holyrood Abbey, the Scotch Whiskey Experience and the Camera Obscura. 

Holyrood Palace 

Places to see in Edinburgh

Places to visit in Edinburgh. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1928, Holyrood Palace is the summer residence of Queen Elizabeth II, but served as a monastery in the past. 

The site also housed numerous royal families and preserves to this day the apartments of Queen Mary I of Scots. The visit is paid and is accompanied by an audio guide. 

National Museum of Scotland

Photo: Filip Pižl / Unsplash

Travel through the history of Scotland at this amazing Museum located in Edinburgh's Old Town. The National Museum houses more than 10,000 objects that depict the country's past until the present day. 

The collection has works of art, jewelry, weapons and objects that help to understand the origin of the Scottish nation. 

The exhibitions are divided by season in the different wings that form the 6 floors of the building. One of the most sought after pieces is the stuffed figure of Dolly the Sheep, the world's first cloned mammal.

National Gallery of Scotland 

Sights in Edinburgh

Sights in Edinburgh. Photo: byronv2 / Flickr

Housed within an imposing building erected in 1859 in the heart of the city of Edinburgh, the National Gallery of Scotland has the largest collection of paintings produced by national artists such as Peter Graham, Sir David Wilkie and Sir Henry Raeburn. The collection also features famous works by other artists such as Caravaggio and Van Gogh. 

Divided into wings that represent different artistic movements, the site is one of Edinburgh's must-see attractions. 

Mary King's Close 

photo: edinburghspotlight

Mary King's Close is one of the narrow passages that connect the streets of Old Town, Edinburgh. These passages, also known as “Closes” are full of stories and curiosities. To get to know each of them, we recommend taking a guided city tour. Many hotels and hostels offer the free tour, another option is to hire a guide at tourist agencies around the city.

Calton Hill

Photo: Creative Commons Zero – CC0

The hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is at the end of Princess Street. From there you can see one of the most incredible views of the city. 

The site is also home to other must-see attractions such as the National Monument, Dugald Steward Monument and the Edinburgh Observatory. 

princes street 

Photo: bntoman / Flickr

Another very famous access road to Edinburgh, Princes Street is part of the commercial center of the city and is full of famous shops that attract tourists who want to shop in the city. 

Princess Street also contains several monuments popular with visitors passing through the Scottish capital, including the Scott Monument and the National Gallery of Scotland building. 

Elephant House 

Photo: Disclosure

The coffee shop has become popular with Harry Potter fans. The reason: the Elephant House it was one of the places that inspired JK Rowling to write the saga of the most famous wizard in cinema. 

The cafe has a super cozy atmosphere and its decoration contains images of the writer writing in the place. If you visit the place, be sure to taste the delicious apple pie accompanied by a coffee and leave your mark in the bathroom full of signatures of the many tourists who passed by.

Scott Monument 

Sights in Edinburgh

Sights in Edinburgh. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Erected opposite the main entrance to Edinburgh's Old Town, this incredible sculpture pays homage to Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. The site also offers one of the most beautiful views of the city, a wall of historic buildings with Edinburgh Castle in the background.

Scott Whiskey Experience 

Photo: Disclosure

Time to taste one of Scotland's most famous and sought after products: the famous Scotch Whiskey. The Scott Whiskey Experience simply has the largest beverage collection in the world! There are 3384 bottles and it still offers tasting of the drink considered a national heritage.

Greyfriars Bobby

Places to see in Edinburgh

Places to visit in Edinburgh. Photo: Sumit Surai / Wikimedia Commons

The Greyfriars Bobby statue is one of Edinburgh's most curious attractions. Upon arriving in the city you will come across several souvenirs with and photos of this small statue located in the historic center.

The monument is a statue of a dog that guarded its owner's grave for 14 years until he died. 

Scottish Parliament 

attractions in edinburgh

Attractions in Edinburgh. Photo: Colin / Wikimedia Commons

With free admission, the Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Millares. 

The building took almost 5 years to build and represents the country's legislature. Its modern architecture contrasts with the old buildings installed in the Old Town of Edinburgh.

St Giles Cathedral 

Places to see in Edinburgh

Places to see in Edinburgh Photo: Creative Commons Zero – CC0

Very close to Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyhoodhouse, Mr Giles Cathedral is built on an ancient sanctuary built in the 9th century. 

Inside it is possible to see stained glass windows, statues and furniture that give the place a medieval air. Contrary to what many think, the Cathedral of Sant'Egidio is not a Catholic Church, but a Presbyterian.

Grassmarket 

Sights in Edinburgh

Sights in Edinburgh. Photo: David Dixon

Operating since 1477, Grassmarket is a historic market that operates in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. 

The street concentrates an infinity of pubs, shops, restaurants, coffee shops and nightclubs, standing out as a great place for those looking for entertainment in the destination. 

The place is super charming and will certainly yield great photos. 

Arthur's Seat 

Sights in Edinburgh

Photo: Creative Commons Zero – CC0

Looking for a natural attraction to visit in Edinburgh? Then Arthur's Seat needs to be on your list of must-see attractions to visit during your trip. 

The dormant volcano can be seen from different points of the city and can be accessed in a fun walk. In addition to the breathtaking views, the site is also full of legends and possibly home to Camelot, the legendary castle of King Arthur.

The Great Wizard 

Places to see in Edinburgh

Places to visit in Edinburgh. photo: Edinburgh

Another must-see for fans of the Harry Potter saga is The Great Wizard magic shop. The themed space brings together products inspired by the film, ranging from clothing and wands to decorative objects. 

National Gallery of Modern Art 

Sights in Edinburgh

Sights in Edinburgh. Photo: Grousebeater2 / Wikimedia Commons

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh is home to the largest national collection of modern and contemporary art in the country and is housed in an imposing Renaissance building.

The museum has free admission every day and is located near the entrance to the Old Town, on Princes Street.

The Royal Scottish Academy

Photo: Enric / Wikimedia Commons

The museum, housed in a building with neo-classical architecture reminiscent of the Phanteon, in Greece, has permanent and free exhibitions.

Royal Botanic Garden 

Sights in Edinburgh

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Edinburgh Botanical Gardens is a great place to walk around and enjoy the city's green areas. The space was founded in 1670 as a garden for the cultivation of medicinal plants.

The garden has approximately 28 hectares with several areas dedicated to different types of vegetation.

Water of Leith 

Sights in EdinburghSights in Edinburgh. Photo: Andy Falconer / Unsplash

Edinburgh's most important river is approximately 15 kilometers long, passing through exciting parts of the Scottish capital. A great walk that we recommend is to stop by Dean Village, a pleasant village situated on the banks of the river.

camera obscura 

Places to see in Edinburgh

Places to visit in Edinburgh. Photo: Disclosure

The Camera Obscura occupies a huge mansion on the Royal Mile and its rooms project Holograms, optical illusions and optical tricks, capable of transforming our image into that of a baby or a monkey, or different mirrors that deform the images.

Ideal to visit with family, children or on a rainy day, the place also has a beautiful terrace overlooking the historic center of Edinburgh.

» Return trip from Edinburgh, Scotland
» Itinerary in Edinburgh and Glasgow – Attractions and Tips
» 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary with Highlands and Loch Ness
» Harry Potter Tour in Edinburgh

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