Planning a trip to Scotland’s historic capital? With iconic architecture, rich history, and world-beating culture, Edinburgh is like nowhere else on Earth. In fact, Time Out rated Edinburgh the best city in the world in 2022 – let’s find out why.
If you want to explore Scotland’s top city, here’s what you need to see, do, and stay.
Where is Edinburgh, Scotland, located?
Located in Scotland’s Central Belt, Edinburgh lies on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth on the east coast of the United Kingdom. It’s said the city was built on seven hills; however, its center and site of the majestic castle is Castle Rock, a long-dormant volcano.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
When visiting Edinburgh, there are four main districts where you can stay:
- The New Town. Famous for its beautiful Georgian terraces, you’ll find plenty of hotels and Airbnb locations among these stunning streets. Not far from Princes Street, it’s next door to the major museums and many of the best bars and restaurants.
- The Old Town. World Heritage Listed, Old Town is the historic hub of the city. You’ll find plenty of winding passages and dense medieval streets. Best of all, it’s got easy access to the top historic sites, including the castle, and the Royal Mile runs right down its center.
- The West End. Located near Murrayfield Stadium and Edinburgh Zoo, it’s a bit quieter than the city center. It hosts Edinburgh’s most famous music and theatrical venues.
- Leith. Once run-down, it’s now a hip part of town and something of a foodie district. Cosmopolitan and contemporary, Leith is located right on the waterfront – that does mean it’s a bit of a hike to the center of town.
What to do in Edinburgh, Scotland
- Climb Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano situated in Holyrood Park. You’ll experience 360-degree panoramic views of Edinburgh and the Lothians from its summit. While the climb up Arthur’s Seat is not to be missed, the broader Holyrood Park and nearby Holyrood House (the official residence of the King in Scotland) is equally amazing.
Covering 650 acres, it’s a wild piece of highland landscape a stone’s throw from the city center. You’ll find the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel as well as the tranquil waters of St Margaret’s Loch.
- Explore Edinburgh Castle
No visit is complete without visiting the immense castle perched on the hill. Inside, it hosts the Honours of Scotland – the oldest crown jewels in the UK, and the Stone of Destiny, an ancient symbol of Scottish royalty.
In its almost thousand-year history, it was home to many Scottish monarchs as well as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Year-round guided tours bring its storied history to life.
- Sample a wee dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience
Whisky is an almost spiritual experience in Scotland – after all, it is called Scotch. Enjoy a wee dram, or two, or three of the finest Scottish whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
During the tour, you’ll learn about the art of whisky blending and the distilling process. Become a whisky connoisseur, and then head out onto the Royal Mile to test your tastebuds at the nearby pubs and bars.
- Discover the museums
Between the Old Town and the new, you’ll find two of the UK’s finest art museums: the Royal Scottish Academy and the Scottish National Gallery. For art lovers, it’s a feast for the eyes as you journey through European masterpieces and renowned Scottish works.
Other top museums include the National Museum of Scotland, which contains relics and natural history displays from Scotland’s incredible history, the Museum of Edinburgh, and the Writer’s Museum.
- Take an underground walking tour
Beneath Edinburgh’s streets is an underground warren of connecting tunnels and passageways. The Edinburgh Vaults is one of the city’s most fascinating and least advertised sights. You can only access these hidden tunnels on a tour. Your local guide will lead you through some of the city’s grisliest stories and even a hidden witchcraft temple as you see a side of the city you wouldn’t expect.
- Visit during The Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts and media festival spanning most of August. During this 25-day spectacle, street performers dot the Royal Mile, and the city’s bars, restaurants, and theaters turn into venues for a cacophony of comedy, theater, dance, cabaret, opera, music, poetry, and much more.
While you’ll find every form of creativity, comedy is at the heart of the festival. Many of the world’s finest comedians, from Craig Ferguson to Tim Minchin, cut their teeth at the Fringe.
There’s even a military parade at Edinburgh Castle known as the Tattoo, involving the finest military bands Britain and the Commonwealth have to offer.