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Best Things To Do in Edinburgh

When you think Edinburgh, you might think of Edinburgh Castle, of hills, of pubs, of tartan -- but this ancient city offers much more. Neighborhood explorations of seaside Leith will turn up the Royal Yacht Britannia and some seriously good shopping. And if you're visiting Holyroodhouse Palace, you might wander over to the surreal-looking Parliament Building or climb Calton Hill or Arthur's Seat for some magnificent views. And during the winter holidays, you'll get to experience the almost magical Hogmanay celebrations. Visitors in town during August will see the city at its theatrical best during Edinburgh Festival.

Tips on What To Do in Edinburgh»

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How We Rank Things to Do
#1
Arthur's Seat Free attraction
Hiking | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: This summit -- which actually sits atop an extinct volcano -- affords one of the best views of the city and the ... read more»

#2
Calton Hill Free attraction
Hiking, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: If you're like the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, you might enjoy the view from Calton Hill; this spot was ... read more»

#3
Museum of Scotland Free attraction
Museums | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: About 2,000 years of history, "from the oldest fossils to the most recent popular culture," according to Fodor's ... read more»

#4
Scott Monument
Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Climb 287 steps to the top of this monument to Sir Walter Scott, and you will be rewarded by a ... read more»

#5
National Gallery of Scotland Free attraction
Museums | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Residing in the Princes Street Gardens, the National Gallery of Scotland hangs some of the greats, including Rembrandt, Monet and ... read more»

#6
Hogmanay
Festivals | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: If you're in Edinburgh at the tail end of December, first of all, we hope you booked a hotel ... read more»

#7
Royal Botanic Garden Free attraction
Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: The 70-acre Royal Botanic Garden is located just north of the city center and blossoms with flowers like rhododendrons and ... read more»

#8
Portobello Beach
Beaches | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: When you think Edinburgh, the beach might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But there is one ... read more»

#9
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Located at the top of the heavily touristed Royal Mile, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is one of ... read more»

#10
Holyroodhouse Palace
Castles/Palaces | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: The Royal Family stays at Holyroodhouse Palace while visiting Edinburgh. If they're not visiting, the palace is open for ... read more»

#11
Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Festivals | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: The ever-popular Military Tattoo is a nearly month-long festival, filled with historical reenactments and performances by drill teams and military ... read more»

#12
Royal Yacht Britannia
Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Did you know Princess Di and Prince Charles honeymooned aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia? You'll find the impressive yacht ... read more»

#13
Royal Mile Free attraction
Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Sweeping from the high-on-a-hill Edinburgh Castle to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the Royal Mile (also called Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and ... read more»

#14
St. Giles' Cathedral
Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go:  

read more»

#15
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Festivals | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (EFF) is the avant-garde reaction to the highfalutin Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). And according to Frommer ... read more»

#16
Greyfriars Kirk and Greyfriars Bobby Memorial Free attraction
Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Greyfriars Kirk is a smaller church, found to the south of the Royal Mile. But don't let its smaller ... read more»

#17
Real Mary King's Close
Sightseeing, Tours | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Located just off the Royal Mile, The Real Mary King's Close gives visitors an idea of what life was ... read more»

#18
Scottish Parliament
Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: If you're a fan of Gaudí's work in Barcelona, you might like the look of the Scottish Parliament ... read more»

#19
Edinburgh Castle
Castles/Palaces | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Hoisted high on the craggy Castle Hill, almost as if it's monitoring the city below, Edinburgh Castle is one ... read more»

#20
Scotch Whisky Experience
Tours, Wineries/Breweries | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: If you're interested in broadening your whisky repertoire, you might enjoy the Scotch Whisky Experience at the Scotch Whisky ... read more»

#21
Edinburgh International Festival
Festivals | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), debuted in 1947 as a classical performance-art fete -- music, theater, opera and dance -- but today ... read more»

#22
Jenners Free attraction
Shopping | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Harrods is to London what Jenners is to Edinburgh … kind of. Formerly an independent, family-owned department store, it's now ... read more»

#23
Our Dynamic Earth
Museums | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 3.5

Why go: Our Dynamic Earth gives pictorial, tactile and auditory form to the theory of evolution. Recent travelers had vastly different opinions ... read more»

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