The 10 Top Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There’s nowhere in the world quite like this historic, vibrant, and very entertaining city. A visit to Scotland’s capital is a heady experience bound to leave a lasting impression.

Edinburgh, pronounced /edinbruh/, owes its singular character to the rapid blossoming of Scottish culture, when, as Arthur James Balfour claimed, a country “which had done nothing up to the eighteenth century, after the eighteenth century began seemed almost to do everything.” Edinburgh is the evident expression of this history. 

Although in size it would be considered a small city, Edinburgh offers an enormous amount to see and do, with something for everyone to enjoy.

Visit the New Town and Old Town

Edinburgh is not as famous in the history of architecture and town planning as Venice, Florence, Paris, or London. It possesses some fine buildings but, in this respect, it’s not exclusive. What makes the city so remarkable is the visual conjunction of the Old Town and New Town. Anyone walking the length of Princes Street is presented with one of the most stunning views in all of the UK. 

A new part of the city arose in the age of the Enlightenment, separated from the Old Town only by a little valley. New Town and Old Town lie side by side, and the life of the city is the life of both.

The New Town’s elegant Georgian neighbourhoods still retain their late 18th century public buildings, squares, churches, and gardens almost as they were planned. Even during the last twenty years, the march of progress has been resisted successfully, thanks to the work of the Edinburgh World Heritage.

Play golf in some of the best courses in the UK

Avid golfers from all over the world gravitate to Scotland to enjoy the famous courses in and around Edinburgh played upon by some of golfing’s greatest heroes. Well-known facilities like St. Andrews and Carnoustie undoubtedly belong to the world-class category, but there are others that are just as notable, Gullane about 20 miles east of Edinburgh on the south shore of the Firth of Forth being one of them. Silky greens, pot bunkers, and wispy grasses make Gullane No. 1 (photograph above) absolutely essential to a golf break in East Lothian Scotland. 

Edinburgh golf courses have seen huge growth lately. Established in 1761, Bruntsfield is the fourth oldest golf club in the world. Originally designed by Scottish professional golfer Willie Park Jr., the course was later developed by golf course architect Alister MacKenzie.

Golf in Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a round at Peebles (photograph below), situated some 40 minutes south of Edinburgh. This is a fun but challenging course, designed by golf course architect Harry Colt. 

Explore the iconic Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle seems to grow organically out of the living rock beneath it. The mediaeval nucleon of the city formed around the magnificent castle standing on the core of an extinct volcano. 

The volcanic rock was formed 70 million years ago, and recent archaeological excavation revealed that Bronze Age men were living there, probably attracted by the presence of such natural defensive high ground. 

Over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle has been adapted to meet the military needs of the day. By the second half of the 18th century, the castle’s defences had reached the form they have now.

Stroll the Royal Mile, one of the world’s most famous streets

The principal tourist activity in Scotland’s capital and second most populous city is simply a walk down the Old Town’s Royal Mile, connecting Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyrood House. You’ll get a sense of how historic the city is. It’s an easy walk that takes less than 30 minutes.

Watch the sunset from Calton Hill

Calton Hill sits high above the city centre, and offers a unique vantage point over the docks at Leith to the north, Holyrood Park to the south, and the Firth of Forth to the east, not to mention the stunning sunsets that regularly take your breath away.

Experience the Edinburgh Festival

Home to the Fringe, Edinburgh becomes a big bustling creative hive during three weeks every August. The world’s largest performing arts festival, the Fringe takes place alongside several other events, collectively known as the Edinburgh Festival.

Hike up Arthur’s Seat

When in Edinburgh, don’t miss a chance to discover the famed Scottish wilderness nearby. Located in the 640-acre Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat stands at 820 feet high, and is a popular destination for hikers looking to experience the great outdoors. Take a morning of your visit to Edinburgh to walk up to the famed peak, and marvel at the 360-degree views of both the city and the Lothians. The hike up is relatively easy, and will take as little as 30 minutes. 

Explore Leith, one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods

The area of Leith used to be Scotland’s main port for trade, and was catapulted into the spotlight by Irvine Welsh’s bestselling novel Trainspotting.” Spend an afternoon strolling along the waters of Leith, and enjoy people-watching while seated at one of the many bars, pubs, and cafes along the shore. 

Take a walk on Portobello beach

While Edinburgh is better known for its rich history, it also has a beautiful coastline dotted with spectacular beaches. A seaside suburb located three miles east of Edinburgh’s city centre, Portobello, or Porty, shows off a two mile stretch of pristine sand, and a paved promenade. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the beach of Portobello offers gorgeous views of the Forth to Fife and beyond.

Learn how to drink Scotch whisky properly

Are you interested in broadening your whisky repertoire? Scotch whisky flows through the streets of the city, with a mixture of modern, traditional, epic, and legendary whisky bars offering a warm Edinburgh welcome.

Riya Sander

Riya is an inspired writer, passionate about traveling, lifestyle and encouraging startups. As a freelancer she understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stopped finding new ways to create her work productivity. Follow her on Twitter @sanderriya