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Things to do in

Edinburgh, Scotland

You'll discover everything from whisky to Harry Potter, or even some bodysnatchers, in Scotland's captivating capital.

Our most recommended things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

1. Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

Head for the Highlands, whether in search of the Loch Ness Monster or just a scenic day trip from Edinburgh. After pickup, relax on the bus and listen to the guide’s entertaining commentary. Visit Kilmahog for an introduction to the famous Highland Cows and a cup of coffee. Discover what a ‘hairy coo’ really is. Next, travel up the road to Glencoe and enjoy a 10-minute photo stop in front of the unforgettable Highland views. Have lunch in the Fort William area, where your guide can advise you on where to eat. If you're interested in the mysteries of the kilt, you can even get a ‘wee’ kilt introduction here. Then be whisked to Loch Ness itself. Customize your experience at Loch Ness. Choose to visit the majestic Urquhart Castle, and hop on a boat in search of ‘Nessie’, as the locals call it. Or simply hang out on the pier and grab a coffee with gorgeous views. On the way home, make a short snack stop in Pitlochry, a beautiful village in the heart of the country, before returning to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

2. Edinburgh: Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

Enjoy a Harry Potter-themed walking tour across Edinburgh. See the city where JK Rowling found inspiration for Hogwarts, her famous characters, and discover the place where she wrote the books. Have your Harry Potter trivia tested with an audio-visual quiz, and earn points for your house. Find out which Hogwarts House you’re in, and whether you’re a pure-blood, a muggle, or a squib. Visit the Grave of Tom Riddle in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and pass JK Rowling’s golden handprints outside City Chambers. See all this and more on a magical guided tour.

Edinburgh Castle: Skip-the-Line Guided Walking Tour

3. Edinburgh Castle: Skip-the-Line Guided Walking Tour

Discover the home of Mary Queen of Scots on this guided walking tour of Edinburgh Castle. Admire the 16th-century Great Hall where parties and feast took place. Learn about the bloody history of the kings and queens who lived in this castle.  Meet your guide and walk to Edinburgh Castle which dominates the city skyline from its seat on the extinct volcano of Castle Rock. Stroll on the castle's promenade and hear about the the origins and sieges of the castle. View where the Royal Military Tattoo is performed. Enter the castle and make your way to the three museums and two prisons. Go to the National Monument to the fallen of Scotland and a canine cemetery. See the oldest building in the city at the Chapel of Saint Margaret. Be captivated by the grandeur of the Great Hall and a Royal Palace. After the tour you will have time to explore all of the buildings inside the castle until its closure.

Edinburgh Castle: Skip-the-Line Guided Tour in English

4. Edinburgh Castle: Skip-the-Line Guided Tour in English

Begin your tour by the statue of Adam Smith on the Royal Mile. Walk towards Edinburgh Castle as your guide sets the scene, explaining the significance of the Castle and mentioning some of the key characters who have helped shape it. Once inside, let your guide walk you through the Castle complex. Hear their in-depth knowledge of the Castle's main buildings and attractions, including the Argyle Battery and One O'clock Gun, the Hospital Square and Western Panorama. See the Castle dungeons and military prison, the Black Banquet and Thomas Randolph's daring castle raid. Encounter St Margret's Chapel, Mons Meg, the Crown Square, and The Honors of Scotland. After the tour, enjoy some time at your leisure to explore the castle museums (not accessible during the tour).

Edinburgh: 'Firth of Forth' Three Bridges Sightseeing Cruise

5. Edinburgh: 'Firth of Forth' Three Bridges Sightseeing Cruise

Your boat tour will depart from the South Queensferry, which is only a short distance from Scotland's bustling capital city of Edinburgh. Your tour will include magnificent views of the "three bridges", including the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Forth Railway Bridge. In addition, you can take in the beautiful panoramas of the Edinburgh skyline, the Kingdom of Fife and the historic island of Inchcolm with its medieval abbey. As part of the tour you will stop at the island to drop off and pick up visitors. Cruise along and discover the magic of the red railway Forth Bridge, the Forth Road suspension bridge, and the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world, Queensferry Crossing. For your comfort, relax onboard in the heated observation lounge or on the outside decks, and listen to the guided commentary while you enjoy a drink from the bar. During your tour, you will find plenty of opportunities to both see and photograph a wide variety of marine wildlife including seabirds, porpoises and seals.

Edinburgh Airport: Bus Transfer

6. Edinburgh Airport: Bus Transfer

Pre-book bus transfers between Edinburgh Airport and the city center and take the worry and stress out of your journey to/from the Scottish capital. Vouchers must be printed and are valid on Airlink100 only. The buses are located just outside the main airport and are easy to find. They offer comfortable seating, generous luggage space, and free Wi-Fi to keep you connected. Enjoy all the comforts you require, with frequent daily departures on a dedicated express service between the airport and the city center. Sit back on the approximately 30-minute journey, whatever time of day or night you arrive. Buses depart at least every 10 minutes. Between 1:00 AM and 4:15 AM, journeys are operated every 15 minutes. The bus stops in both directions are as follows (except Princes St which is drop-off only): • Edinburgh Zoo • Murrayfield • Haymarket Station • West End – Shandwick Place • Princes St (drop off only) • South St David Street, Edinburgh Single tickets can be used for one single journey in either direction. You can board the bus at any stop. Return tickets have no expiry date and your return journey does not need to be booked in advance.

Queensferry: 1.5-Hour Maid of the Forth Sightseeing Cruise

7. Queensferry: 1.5-Hour Maid of the Forth Sightseeing Cruise

Your tour will begin as you visit the booking office and gift shop to collect your boarding pass. From there, you will make your way onto Hawes Pier to board the boat and embark on your sightseeing cruise. Once the boat has departed Hawes Pier, there will be a brief safety message played to all passengers before the audio commentary begins. The journey then starts with the boat heading under the Red Forth Rail Bridge before continuing past the historic Inchgarvie Island towards Inchcolm Island. You can listen as the skipper points out seals, puffins, and other wildlife that can be found throughout the cruise. Once around Inchcolm Island, you can watch carefully for sunbathing seals on the Haystack before the cruise continues back under the Red Rail Bridge towards the Forth Road Bridge and the recently opened Queensferry Crossing. Once under these majestic bridges, the boat will cruise back to Hawes Pier where you will be free to disembark.

The Edinburgh Dungeon Entrance Ticket

8. The Edinburgh Dungeon Entrance Ticket

Live and breathe Edinburgh’s darkest history, if you dare. The Edinburgh Dungeon is an award-winning, 70-minute interactive and immersive walk-through experience covering 1000 years of Edinburgh and Scottish history through 11 live actor shows, theatrical sets, special effects, and 2 thrilling rides. Visitors will come face to face with the most notorious rogues from the city’s dark past. Meet Agnes Finnie, Edinburgh's baddest witch! Enter the Witch Pricker’s interrogation chamber where you’ll come face to face with Agnes Finnie – accused of witchcraft in 1645. She’s mad, she’s bad, she’s not to be messed with! Well done! You’ve found Sawney Bean’s Family. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since they last ate and you look delicious… It’s the 16th century and you find yourself creeping through the Bean clan’s foul-smelling lair to discover the leftovers of lost travelers.

From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glenoce & The Highlands Day Tour

9. From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glenoce & The Highlands Day Tour

Following pickup from central Edinburgh, you will head towards Stirling, catching views of the Castle and Wallace Monument as you venture to the Highlands. Visit Callander, and stop for morning coffee in this bustling town described as the gateway to the highlands. Head northwards over Rannoch Moor until you reach the dark, brooding Pass of Glencoe. Stop for lunch and free time nearby the Fort William area, then follow the Caledonian Canal up the Great Glen to Loch Ness. Here, you have some free time with the option to cruise on the Loch, or if you don't want to take the cruise you can relax in one of the bars or restaurants in the tranquil village or on the pier.  After Loch Ness you will head South East and take in magnificent views of Loch Laggan. On the way home, enjoy a refreshment stop in Pitlochry, a delightful Victorian resort town. Then, head south through Fife, and cross the Forth next to the amazing Forth Bridge, before arriving back in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Glenfinnan, Mallaig & Glencoe Adventure

10. Edinburgh: Glenfinnan, Mallaig & Glencoe Adventure

Depart Edinburgh and travel northwest, stopping for a coffee and refreshments at a small highland village. Traveling onwards, reach Glencoe, known to many as the location for the Massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. Take photos of this beautiful area whilst you learn about its turbulent past. After Glencoe, travel further north to Fort William. Stop for refreshments and perhaps a bite to eat before journeying down the Road to the Isles. Learn about the history of the area as you approach Mallaig, where you will spend time enjoying lunch and its sea views. From Mallaig, travel eastwards to the main attraction, Glenfinnan. Arrive right on time to see the Jacobite Steam Train (also known as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter Films) cross the bridge. Not only will you enjoy this iconic view, but the site is also known as the setting for many Harry Potter scenes, including Loch Shiel. From Glenfinnan, travel southwards, stopping for refreshments at the small village of Pitlochry before returning to Edinburgh, where your tour ends.

Frequently asked questions about Edinburgh, Scotland

What top attractions are a must-see in Edinburgh, Scotland?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh, Scotland?

The best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh, Scotland are:

St Andrews

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Edinburgh

Laurence is a full time travel blogger and photographer, who shares his tips on travel and improving your photography on his website Finding the Universe. He used to live in London, and you can see his tips for spending two days in Edinburgh here.

What should I do on my first trip to Edinburgh?

Two highlights of the city that every visitor should experience are a visit to Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest continuously inhabited structures in Scotland, and then the view from Calton Hill. For the former, this impressive castle is well worth spending at least a couple of hours visiting, and the regular tours are also worth joining. There's a lot to see and do here, from watching the 1 o'clock gun firing through to seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels. Calton Hill, at the other end of the city, is the perfect place to watch the sunset. It's also where you'll get best views of the city skyline.

What are some hidden gems to see in Edinburgh?

About twenty minutes walk south of the city centre there's an awesome venue called Summerhall. They host a range of live events throughout the year, as well as during Edinburgh's famous festivals. It's also home to both a gin distillery and a microbrewery. Tours of the former are possible, and you can try them both on site as well!

How much time should I spend in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is not a huge city, so if you were organised with your time you could see most of the highlights in a day. However, two days would give you more time to experience all that the city has to offer.

What food is Edinburgh known for?

Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is well known for a dish known as Haggis. This is often served with a full Scottish breakfast, but can also be ordered as a meal or as a burger topping. Whilst the ingredients list can be a bit terrifying, it is actually a delicious dish that is well worth trying while in the city.

What is the best way to get around Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is best explored on foot. The city is not too big, although visitors should be aware that the medieval streets can be steep and uneven! For attractions a little out of the city centre, there's a good public bus network as well as a tram.

What are the best months to visit Edinburgh?

If you want to visit Edinburgh when there's a lot going on, then August is the month to do just that. The city plays host to no less than five major festivals in the month of August, giving the visitor almost endless entertainment options. The next best time to visit is over New Years Eve, known as Hogmanay in Scotland, when the city usually throws a massive street party with incredible fireworks and live music performances.

What is neighborhood The Old Town known for?

The medieval city centre with its narrow cobbled streets and steep staircases is known as the Old Town. Next to it sits the 18th century "New Town", which is characterized by Georgian style buildings and wide boulevards. Both are well worth exploring.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Edinburgh has an excellent selection of restaurants to choose from in the city centre, stretched between the Old Town and the New Town. Most visitors will likely gravitate to one of the city's many pubs, which serve a wide range of hearty and traditional meals.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

The main shopping street in the city is Prince's Street, where you'll find many of the standard high street shops. For tourist focused wares, including souvenirs and whisky, then the Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace, is the best option.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Edinburgh?

The best area to stay in the city is around the Old Town, somewhere between Edinburgh Waverley train station and the Grassmarket. This will put you in easy walking distance of the majority of attractions in the city.

Other Sightseeing Options in Edinburgh, Scotland

Want to discover all there is to do in Edinburgh, Scotland? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Edinburgh, Scotland

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 71,913 reviews

The trip was excellent! No delays, many stops for photos, coffee etc. Big shout out for our bus driver& guide Anthony! He told stories about Scotland and about every place we visited and at the same time he is absolutely amazing person. The trip with him was so funny! Laughed all 12,5hrs! And left the bus with big smile on my face! Absolutely fantastic trip and i wont forget it for sure!!!!

David was an excellent tour guide very cheerful and helpful he kept the bus well entertainined... the scenery was beautiful and we got to meet the hairy coos

an old but filled with history palace experience. Should not miss it if you're in Einburgh.

The guide was really fun and gave attention to everyone. I recommend this tour :)

We really enjoyed this tour. Our guide was informative and funny.