Following are the most popular attractions in Edinburgh, all of them are definitely worth a visit.
The Edinburgh Castle is the most famous tourist attraction in Scotland. The Castle is perched high above the Royal Mile, and can be seen from many areas around the city. It was used by the Royal family during the middle ages, but it soon became more useful for its military importance, where it became a military prison. The castle has both Military memorabilia as well as Royal Residence to view.
It is home to the Crown Jewels and The Stone Of Destiny, which was only returned to Scotland in 1996. Try not to miss the ‘One O’Clock’ gun which is (surprisingly) fired at One O’clock, (daily except for Sunday).
Daily guided tours are available, where the guides will fill you with interesting information about the history of the castle. Audio tours of the castle are available at the entrance and are available in French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Dutch.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is located in the ‘Old Town’, and is filled with history, tourist shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and of course home to both Holyrood Palace and the infamous Edinburgh Castle. From the castle esplanade you will treated to views over to Fife. There is also a plethora of ghost tours on the Royal Mile that will introduce you to the history of these streets, some of it true, and some of it not so true. These tours will guide you through events that happened hundreds of years ago on these cobbled streets. It doesn’t take much to imagine what life was like on these very narrow roads over 300 years ago.
The Royal Mile can also be referred to as ‘The High Street’, even though strictly speaking the High Street is only a part of the Royal Mile. During the Edinburgh Festival in August, part of the road is closed to traffic, and it is filled with street performers throughout the day. Great fun for all the family, and certainly not to be missed.
There are organised tours that will walk you through the streets of Mary King’s Close where you can see the old medieval street in its original state. If you dare you can book yourself on the ghost tours that take you into the vaults, where you may even see a ghost!
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Scotland is the land of the Whisky and is home of many Whisky Disterlleries. Here, whisky is also referred to as ‘the water of life’.
The Scotch Whisky Experience centre is located close to the Castle. There are tours available where you can see and learn everything there is to know about the manufacturing of Scotch Whisky. It is also home of the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky (almost 3,500 bottles). There are plenty of different brands of whisky sold in the shop – and some tours even give out tasters (but you must be over the age of 18). If you have the time, the restaurant is well worth a visit, but booking is highly recommended. More information can be found on their website.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Right next to the Edinburgh Castle is the Camera Obscura – one of first purpose built tourist attractions in Edinburgh dating from the1850s. It offers stunning views over the city of Edinburgh and amazing optical illusions that can keep all the family entertained. More information can be found on their website Camera Obscura.
National Museum of Scotland
Still located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, but not directly on the Royal Mile is the National Museum of Scotland on Chamber Street. This museum is home to a eclectic range of artefacts and exhibitions. The collection is so vast it will have something of interest for everyone. It also details the history of Scotland from its earliest recorded history. There are usually special exhibitions running throughout the year, so it is best to view their website to plan out your day in this large and varied museum. This museum has no entry fee and is well worth a visit for a family of all ages! For more information check out the website National Museum of Scotland.
The Holyrood Palace
Although this tourist attraction is very popular, it is often overlooked by many tourist who travel up the Royal Mile to the more famous landmark of Edinburgh’s Castle. However, this attraction is well worth a visit, and worth the trek from the castle. The Royal residence of the Palace of Holyrood is still the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh. Mary Queen of Scots lived in the palace for many years, and married Lord Darnley in the abbey. It is in these very walls that Mary witnessed the murder of her secretary Rizzo. Admission is severely restricted when it is being used, so it is always best to ensure that you will be allowed entry, although part of the grounds, and the Abbey ruins are always open to tourists (within the opening hours). Guided tours of the palace are available, and highly recommended.
Holyrood Park & Arthur’s Seat
Next to the Palace of Holyrood, and at the end of the Royal Mile, is the vast park of Holyrood and Arthur’s Seat. The park is approximately 650 acres. The central feature in the park in the extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat. A road circles the park, and no lorries are allowed to travel through the park. On Sundays, the road is closed to all motor vehicles, which allows for a nice quiet family bike ride. The park extends out to the Royal Commonwealth Pool and then onto the old village of Duddingston. The climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat is well worth the effort, as it provides spectacular views around the city of Edinburgh. There is no entrance fee into the park, but if you are driving, there is a small charge to park your car.
Arthur’s seat and Holyrood Park make Edinburgh special not only because of the wonderful skyline they provide but also because of the sheer scale of the area and walks available so close to the city centre. A walk up Edinburgh’s Arthur Seat, not only lends you to wonderful views of the city, but it is also a great chance to exercise, the walk can be quite steep at times.
The Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is located opposite Holyrood Palace in a modern building designed by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles.
You can see Parliament in action or explore it on a free guided tour that lasts one hour and usually includes a visit to the Debating Chamber. Please note that booking in advance is advised and may be essential for First Minister’s Question Time on Thursdays and for guided tours. For more information please visit Scottish Parliament website.
The Scott Monument
The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument built to honour the famous Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It stands in Princes Street Gardens and is opposite Jenners department store. The tower is 61.1 metres tall, and the small viewing deck near the top gives a panoramic view of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. This is reached by a narrow spiral staircase with 287 steps. It is built from Binnie shale; the oil which continues to leech from it has helped to glue the notoriously filthy atmosphere of Victorian Edinburgh (then nicknamed “Auld Reekie” — old smokey) to the tower, leaving it an unintended sooty-black colour. The council have spent many years trying to devise a clever way to clean the monument, but have since given up, deeming it an impossible task!
Originally opened in 1902, the Balmoral Hotel was built for the North British Railway, and was known as the North British Hotel. It is adjacent to Waverley Station, and very convenient for taking the train. It kepf its original name until late 1980s when it was renamed the Balmoral Hotel after a refurbishment. The building’s architecture is Victorian and is influenced by the traditional Scottish Baronial style.
Now, the hotel is famous as the location that J.K. Rowling completed her final Harry Potter book. In February 2007, she left a signed statement written on a marble bust of Hermes in her room saying: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th Jan 2007″.
The National Galleries of Scotland
The National Gallery of Scotland is located in the middle of Princes Street. An elaborate edifice, it stands on the ‘Mound’ between the two sections of Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.The archive and study facilities at the National Gallery include the Prints and Drawings Collection of over 30,000 works on paper, from the early Renaissance to the late nineteenth century; and the reference-only research library, which is available to the general public.
The library covers the period from 1300 to 1900 and holds approximately 50,000 volumes of books, journals, slides, and photographs, as well as archived material relating to the collections, exhibitions and history of the National Gallery.
Head to Charlotte Square in the New Town and visit the Georgian House. Robert Adam’s masterpiece of urban architecture. The three floors of the Georgian House have been beautifully refurbished by the National Trust for Scotland to reflect the lifestyle of 1796. Georgian House is owned and operated by National Trust for Scotland.
The Dynamic Earth is a state-of-the-art science museum dedicated to Mother Earth with interactive exhibitions and activities about earthquakes, volcanoes, icebergs, rainforests and dinosaurs. It is a perfect indoor activity for the whole family. Located just behind the Scottish Parliament building, near the Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, it also benefits from a stunning set for a family day out.
Royal Yatch Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the most magnificent and famous ships in the world. It was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for 44 years. It sailed over one million miles on nearly a thousand official visits for the British Royal Family. It also played host to some of the most famous people in the world.
A unique five-star visitor experience and recommended by BBC News as “Scotland’s leading visitor-friendly attraction”. With you wish to learn more about it and book click here.
Edinburgh’s Zoo is the second most popular tourist attraction in the city. It is home to over 1.000 animals including koalas, tigers, rhinos, chimpanzees, sun bears and penguins.
A fantastic day out for the whole family, and should not be missed! It is close to Edinburgh’s famous Rugby ground – Murrayfield Stadium, and is found in the suburb of Corstorphine. The most popular attraction in the zoo is the couple of Giant Pandas. In order to see the pandas, visitors must book in advance for one of the 20-minute viewing sessions. Another famous attraction is the Penguin Enclosure – try not to miss the Penguin Parade which happens at 2:00 pm.
There is also a fantastic reptile house holding snakes, lizards and poisonous frogs (always a favourite with young children). The bird collection includes Australian cassowary, Steller’s sea eagle, black stork, hammerkop, thick billed parrot, Victoria crowned pigeon, European crane and the world famous collection of king, gentoo and rockhopper penguins. There are also individual exhibits of reptiles scattered around the park.