Top 5 Things to do in Edinburgh (if you’ve never been)

Top 5 Things to Do in Edinburgh

The first time I did a post like this, it was about my now-home, Dublin. This time, I wanted to highlight what is one of my favorite cities I visited last summer – Edinburgh, Scotland.

I was only there for a little over 72 hours, but Edinburgh blew me away. I was so pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it was, how much you can do in a short amount of time, AND how many of the awesome things we did were FREE! Plus, we got super lucky with the weather — it was warm and sunny and beautiful!

You can definitely see the best of what Edinburgh has to offer in just a few days. Obviously, I would’ve loved more time there, but I was able to squeeze in tons of beautiful views, history, and bar hopping in my busy weekend.

So if you ever want to pop on over to Edinburgh for the weekend, or even just want to get a taste of the city, these are my top 5 recommendations!

1. Hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat.
Anyone who is visiting Edinburgh and Google’s “Things to Do in Edinburgh” will most definitely have seen this as a suggestion. It’s the main peak in a group of hills just one mile east of the Edinburgh Castle. OK, well it’s considered a hill. But I’m from Louisiana. So to me that’s like… a MOUNTAIN.

You can go the easier route or the harder route, but both don’t take too long. We probably spent more time having a photo shoot when we got to the top than we actually did hiking up and down!

Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, Scotland

2. Visit Calton Hill (at sunset) OR Do a “haunted” nighttime tour
There are several “haunted” and “ghostly” night tours offered around Edinburgh. The one we chose took us through graveyards and told us about Edinburgh’s history of bodysnatching. It was really entertaining, but more historical than it was scary. Some of the stories were a bit creepy, and they did take us to several cemeteries at night. Our guide was funny and one of my favorite parts was getting to see the city twinkling at twilight from the top of the famous Calton Hill!

And if you don’t feel like spending money on a tour, you can go visit Calton Hill and the cemeteries on your own! But I personally loved hearing the stories of ghostly, haunted, and down right sketchy stuff that happened in Edinburgh’s past.

Calton Hill - Edinburgh, Scotland Calton Hill - Edinburgh, Scotland Calton Hill - Edinburgh, Scotlandgraveyard - Edinburgh, Scotland

3. Walk the Royal Mile
Sure, it’s the busiest tourist area in Edinburgh. But this main road is always bustling with activity. It connects two of Edinburgh’s biggest attractions — the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh Castle. Not only that, but it has some cute shops and pubs to keep you entertained along the way! Make sure to pop in St. Giles Cathedral (it’s free!) which is named after the patron saint of Edinburgh. The Thistle Chapel inside was absolutely amazing!

And check out Edinburgh Castle when you get to the top (and end) of the road! We didn’t pay to go inside, but the views of the facade, and the views of the city from the castle, were enough for me!

The Royal Mile - Edinburgh, Scotland The Royal Mile - Edinburgh, Scotland The Royal Mile - Edinburgh, Scotland   The Royal Mile - Edinburgh, ScotlandThe Royal Mile - Edinburgh, Scotland

4. Have a picnic by the Scott Monument
If the weather is nice, having lunch in the Princes Street Gardens is an absolute must. With the Scott Monument behind you and a glorious view of the Edinburgh Castle in front of you, you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop to eat, lay out, read, etc!

Princes Street Garden Princes Street Garden Princes Street Garden Princes Street Garden   Princes Street Garden Princes Street Garden

5. Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse
If you like palaces/castles/lavish mansions like I do, you’ll love the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It’s the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland, and is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile. It’s easy to get to (you can even tour it on your way to hike Arthur’s Seat) and there’s a discounted entrance fee for students. My favorite part was wandering the grounds and gardens, and there was a great little cafe on site where I got some coffee in me before beginning the trek up Arthur’s Seat!

Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh, Scotland Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh, Scotland   Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh, Scotland Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh, Scotland

So there ya have it – the best 5 things to do if you’ve never been to Edinburgh (in my oh so humble opinion, of course)!

(The honorable mention of this post was definitely “Do a Pub Crawl.” Because, I mean, duh.)

Been to Edinburgh and have any suggestions of something amazing you did there? Let me know in the comments below! I’m trying to go back soon (the flights are SO CHEAP from Dublin!!!) so I would LOVE any and all suggestions of cool, unknown, off the wall, fun, scenic, historic, can’t-miss things to do!


I’m also excited to announce that I’ve been selected as a co-host for Travel Tuesday over at A Compass Rose, along with Christine from A Keane Sense of Adventure! So add your travel post in the link up below! I can’t wait to read them all!

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