Edinburgh – the capital city of Scotland described being the “magic land” where the past and present coexist harmoniously. From unicorns to castles dating back to the 15th century, Edinburgh offers a variety of activities for all kinds of travelers alike.
Let’s take a trip around the city and show you the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Activities To Do in Edinburgh
1. Go on an underground ghost tour
Learn and be scared at the same time with this 75-minute day trip to Old Town, where a cloaked travel guide will take you underground. This one hour and 15 minute-trip will have you walking in the dark amongst the Edinburgh Vaults – a series of underground chambers that were created in the 18th century that holds a dark and eerie history in its full 300 years of terror.
For only 17 EUR per person, you can enjoy this activity that lasts for 75-minutes. An English speaking guide will be provided for you. You can book your Undeground Ghost Tour Ticket online to secure your slots.
Your English speaking guide will be responsible for spooking you out and educating you as he recounts the story that makes these 300-year old chambers – including all the crime and gory details.
Prepare for the Activity
Prepare for the activity by dressing appropriately for the weather and wearing comfortable walking shoes with you. For health and safety reasons, children under the age of 5 are not allowed on any underground tours.
2. Visit the Edinburgh Castle
Visit the Edinburgh Castle, the city’s most iconic monument and perhaps, most infamous tourist attraction, and learn about the crawling history of this castle – all the various wars and sieges fought, along with the royals who lived within its walls. Get the chance to see Scotland’s national treasure of the Crown Jewels and so much more.
For only 20 EUR, you can book a ticket here that is valid for one day and allows you to skip the line instantly. An English speaking guide is provided for free, on a first come first served basis. If you want to ensure that you have a guided Edinburgh castle tour and skip the lines, you may choose to book this Edinburgh castle tour instead.
Learn of the history of all the Scottish monarchs who had lived in this castle as it had served the royal family for hundreds of years. It is also home to the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. Grab the opportunity to hear out the one o’clock gun firing.
3. Participate on a Whiskey Distillery Tour
Go to a working whiskey distillery tour and be able to learn about the art that goes into creating whiskey – and while you are at it, get a taste sampling of the best whiskey there is – Scottish whiskey.
This one-day excursion trip will take you to whiskey paradise in Dewar’s and Deanston’s distillery and marvel at the spectacular views across Loch Lubnaig and Loch Leven.
For 45 EUR, enjoy this one-day excursion trip to one of the best whiskey distillery in Edinburgh. It lasts for around 10 hours and you can even experience a luxurious whiskey tasting as well. An English speaking guide will be provided for you, as well as booklets printed in various languages. You may book your whiskey distillery experience here
Enjoy a whiskey and chocolate tasting during your visit to Aberfeldy Distillery. Visit the Deanston Distillery for a whiskey sampling experience. Be able to visit the Doune Castle where the famous television series, Game of Thrones is filmed. You English speaking guides will be sure to keep you entertained by giving their live commentary during the whole trip.
4. Taste Scottish delicacies on a food tour
Get your taste buds tingling by booking yourself a ticket to a three-hour food tour around Old Town in Edinburgh. Most food tours will include stops along with the different restaurants/food hubs of Edinburgh that will take you on a culinary history and culture crash course of the whole city.
Food Tour Prices
For 75 EUR, you can get a food tour in Edinburgh and be able to taste various cultural snacks unique to Edinburgh – including Haggis – a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, and various spices. Haggis is usually served with “neeps and tatties” (Swedes and potatoes). This is one of the favorite activities of tourists here so better book your ticket for the Scottish delicacies food tour to secure your slot
Enjoy as you taste all the various unique flavors that makeup Scotland. And while you are at it, wash down the delicious food with malt whiskey and world-class Edinburgh Gin.
5. Experience magic through a Harry Potter Walking Tour
Bring out the inner wizards inside you by participating on a two-hour guided walking tour along with the city of Edinburgh, where, you can see the spots and various places that inspired J.K. Rowling in the creation of his famous book series.
Harry Potter Walking Tour Price
For only 15 EUR, you can book your Harry Potter Walking tour and experience the more magical side of Edinburgh by seeing the sites that inspired Harry Potter. Live guides who speak English, Spanish and German are available.
Learn and see the real-life inspiration of Diagon Alley and the Quidditch. Discover where Lord Voldemort was buried and learn more about the history of Harry Potter and how it eventually became the infamous book series that it is known for today. Have the opportunity to see the real-life school that inspired the Hogwarts in the book series. As well as visiting the cafes where J.K. Rowling had written her best-selling books.
6.Feel like royalty in the Royal Yacht Britannia
Shift your attention from the land of Edinburgh by visiting the seas o the city through a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen’s former royal floating residence.
Explore the five decks of the ships through an audio guided tour from the States Apartments to the Crew’s Quarter for only 20 EUR. Gain fascinating insights about the private and public lives of the British Royal Family.
Explore the five decks that keep the Royal Yacht Britannia for its 40 years of service. Be able to see the State Dining Room, where the Queen had formerly had her state affair meetings and learn more about her life, and all the people who were close to her in fascinating facts and stories.
Best Things To Do in Edinburgh For Free
7. Climb Up Arthur’s Seat
An extinct volcano, and considered to be the highest peak among the hills of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is a popular hiking spot for both local and international tourists alike.
Once you get to the peak of Arthur’s Seat, speculated to be named after King Arthur and the location of the mythical legendary kingdom of Camelot, you will be met by a breathtaking 360-degree view of Edinburgh, the port town of Leith and the surrounding area.
The hike is fairly moderate in intensity and people with minimal physical activity can easily walk through this hike like breeze. There are various routes of varying difficulties if you are ever looking for a challenge. However, in general, even kids can get through the easiest and most direct route of the Dunsapie Loch.
8. Walk up Calton Hill and see the city views
Another hike that you can walk for free on the city of Edinburgh is Calton Hill, a hill home to the central Scottish government and is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The hike itself is pretty short, for only about 10 minutes, you can easily get to the top of the hill. It’s well worth the visit as it offers incredible views of the city of Edinburgh and you can clearly see the sun shining against the ancient monuments of the city.
It is also perfect for taking pictures, with the lighting, greeneries and beautiful views on top. Visiting during the sunrise and sunsets is also a good idea as you a perfect view of the sun from the peak of Calton Hill.
9. Learn about the history of the people of Edinburgh from the People Story Museum
Aside from hiking, another activity that you can do in Edinburgh for free is to visit the People Story Museum, where you can learn about the history of the various people who lived in Edinburgh and how it led to the present day situation of the city.
The museum especially gives a unique insight into the lives of the people belonging to the working class who lived in Edinburgh from the 18th century to the late 20th century. The museum displays tableaux, original objects, images and personal stories that reveal the fascinating history of the people who lived in Edinburgh.
Most of the collections showcased in the museum are of folktales that had originated from word of mouth and reflects the Friendly Society regalia which discusses the diversity there was in Edinburgh.
Monday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone :+44 (0) 131 529 4057
10. Get cultured at the Edinburgh Museum
Located just a few blocks away from the People’s Story Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh is also another museum to visit to learn and be cultured about the history that makes this magical land.
Located in the Royal Mile, which is a succession of historic streets of Edinburgh, the Museum of Edinburgh features a maze that contains 16th-century buildings and artifacts that tell the fascinating stories and gruesome tales that took place in this land some hundreds of years ago.
There is the National Covenant of 1938 which led to the civil war and the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye terrier whose devotion to his owner touched the hearts of many and inspired the themes of various novels and films. Houses that existed 400 years ago are also displayed in this museum.
Monday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone + 44 (0) 131 529 4143
11.Learn more about Scotland in the National Museum of Scotland
Another museum that offers free admission in Edinburgh is the National Museum of Scotland, which displays all the diverse collections of Scotland through the wonders of art, design, fashion and science and technology.
However, if you want to visit the National Museum with a guide, you can also secure your ticket and guide here.
While this museum does house and displays all the national treasures of Scotland that contributed to its history in the past, it also hosts regular exhibitions and events celebrating body diversity, racial differences and events to celebrate national holidays.
It also offers tours of its various galleries – like its Ancient Egypt one that displays the mummies imported from Egypt and the South East Asian gallery that showcases the statues found in the ruins of South East Asian countries.
Monday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone: 0300 123 6789
12. Get inspired by writers at the Writers Museum
The fourth museum to be included in this list of free activities to enjoy while in Edinburgh is the Writers Museum – a museum made to present the lives of former Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Robert Louise Stevenson. It is also located in the Royal Mile near the first two museums on this list.
Home to portraits, rare books, personal objects, and even Robert Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott Waverly’s first novels were produced, and so much more rare and interesting artifacts of the books published in Scotland.
Awaken the writer inside of you, or if you already are, you are bound to find something interesting to inspire you and get you off of your current writer’s block.
Monday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone: +44 (0) 131 529 4901
13. Be at peace at the St. Giles Cathedral
Positioned at the Heart of Scotland’s capital city, St. Giles Cathedral is a church also known as High Kirk of Edinburgh. It is the principal place of worship in the city and is infamous for its beautiful architecture and solemnity during masses or times of worship.
Discover the 900-year old building and explore this iconic building. The entrance fee is a suggested donation of 5 EUR and visitors are welcomed to explore on their own pace. There is also an option to take a guided tour if you wish.
There is also the Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle, which is an order of Scottish rivalry. Climbing the tower of the cathedral is also a suggested activity as from up the tower, you will see the spectacular views that Edinburgh has to offer.
But of course, alas, attend a service to complete your cathedral visit.
Summer Opening Hours (May – September)
Monday – Friday 09.00 – 19.00
Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Sunday 13.00 – 17.00
Winter Opening Hours (October – April)
Monday – Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Gift Shop Opening Hours
Monday – Friday 10.00 – 18.30 (Summer) / 16.30 (Winter)
Saturday 10.00 – 16.30
Sunday 13.00 – 16.30
Phone: +44 (0)131 225 4363
Romantic Things to Do in Edinburgh
14. Canal Boat Cruise
Dine with your loved one as you float adrift of the Edinburgh Canal on a boat cruise. Eat a lovely candlelit dinner and feed each other cake as you enjoy the beautiful night view of the canal.
There are a lot of choices to choose from for your canal boat cruise. There are some that offer a lovely dinner, others offer tea and cake. Others have entertainment like live musicians. The duration usually lasts for two hours and most leave from the Fountain Bridge Canal Basin like the Lochrin Belle. Most cruises charge 25 EUR per person.
Juniper Tasting Cruises is actually a cruise that presents gin tasting with a difference through a two-hour cruise on the Union Canal sampling premium Scottish Gins. There is also the Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Cruise that is offered in the Union Canal also if you and your partner prefer a cup of tea.
15.Attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Laugh your heart out with your soul mate as you attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that happens during August. With famous comedians to rising stars of Edinburgh, you are bound to be entertained during your visit.
If you are planning on visiting Edinburgh on August, attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a must. Book your tickets in advance and take advantage of the 2 for 1 ticket days. You may also view the free Fringe shows in between.
However, if your trip is not anywhere near August, you have the choice of attending the all year round Stand Comedy Club. Prices vary according to the stands but it’s generally around 3 EUR to 20 EUR.
16.Create ceramics with your loved one
There are quite a lot of establishments that offer a one-session ceramic making experience for two (perfect for the traveling twin flames out there). You can create a piece of pottery and paint it or cast a handprint and take it with you back home!
The Ceramic Experience in Leith offers a wonderful ceramic experience with their many years of expertise in creating keepsakes like imprints, out prints, and 3D casts.
Open 7 days a week
Weekdays – 10 am – 5 pm
Weekends – 10 am – 5.30 pm
Late- Night Opening – for pre-booked parties and after-school clubs
Phone: 07881 521153
Best Things to do in Edinburgh with Kids
17. See the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a definite must visit if you are traveling to Edinburgh with your kids. It is definitely a fun break as you would get to see six floors filled with optical illusions.
Located down the road of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions will definitely entertain your kids with optical illusions. See live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table via a periscope.
April through June 9:30 am – 8:00 pm;
July 9:00 am – 10:00 pm;
August 9:00 am – 9:00 pm;
September – October 9:30 am – 8:00 pm;
November – March 9:30 am – 7:00 pm, closed Christmas
Ticket Prices: Adult £16.00; Child (5 – 15 years) £12.00; Senior £14.00; Students £14.00. Book your ticket here
Phone: 0131 226 3709
18. Play Stramash
Stramash is a popular Scottish game similar to the board game “Sorry”. It’s definitely a fun bonding experience with your kids and they are bound to enjoy it as a break from the city sightseeing.
Stramash can usually be played in a pub in Edinburgh. Pubs in Edinburgh allows you to bring kids with you during the night. Order some food and you can play this game with your kids!
19.Climb the Scott Monument
One of the highest peaks of Edinburgh, the Scott Monument is a good building to climb with your kids and enjoy the views on top.
For only 8 EUR for adults and 5 EUR for children, you can climb the 287 steps that make up this monument and witness the beautiful Edinburgh views once you get on top.
October to April: 10 AM – 4 PM
May: 10 AM – 7 PM
June to August: 10 AM – 9 PM
September: 10 AM – 7 PM
Phone: +44 (0) 131 529 4068
Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh
20. Maison de Moggy
Definitely one of the more unusual things in Edinburgh is this cat café where you can cuddle up with cats and enjoy your cat lover dreams.
Cuddle up with the twelve cats raised by the owners of Maison de Moggy along with ordering some cat-themed food and crunchy munchies for the feline friends.
10.30 am – 11.30 am
11.45 am – 12.45 pm
1.00 pm – 2.00 pm
2.00 pm-3.00 pm CLOSED
3 pm – 4 pm
4.15pm – 5.15pm
5.30pm – 6.30pm
7.00pm – 8 pm (Thursdays only)
Phone: 0131 629 5530
21. Surgeon’s Hall Museum
Definitely unusual, the Surgeon’s Hall Museum is a museum where you can learn about lesion ridden kidneys, and physically deformed appendages preserved in formaldehyde-filled jars. This is definitely not for the weak-minded and queasy!
See various deformities of organs preserved in jars along with organs taken over by diseases such as the ovaries and lungs. This is definitely not for the squeamish. There are also other three adjoined museums where you can learn about pathology and dentistry.
Monday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Adults – £7.50
Concessionary Rates – £4
Students with valid ID – £4
NHS staff with valid ID – £4
under 16’s and over 60’s – £4
Under 5s – Free
Phone : +44 (0) 131 527 1711/1600