Top things to do Edinburgh for free, and paid!
Edinburgh truly is a magical city full of charm, rich culture, fascinating history and picturesque scenery on your doorstep. Spend the weekend strolling around historic alleyways, hike through the rugged landscape to capture a picture postcard view or indulge in some tasty Scottish cuisine. You’ll never want to leave! There is plenty of the best things to do Edinburgh such as taking a hike through Dean Village or doing the famous walk up Arthur’s Seat.
In this post we’ll tell you;
- When to visit Edinburgh?
- How to get to Edinburgh?
- Best things to do in Edinburgh
- Best places to stay in Edinburgh
- Final Thoughts
When to visit Edinburgh?
Visit Edinburgh during the summer months when the average temperature hits 18 degrees, making it ideal for exploring this beautiful city. The sun doesn’t set until 9 pm, meaning you can make the most of your day and enjoy a vibrant festival vibe at multiple beer gardens dotted around the city.
However, don’t be put off visiting Edinburgh during the chillier winter months, there’s still plenty of things to do, including the Christmas markets and the best New Year’s Eve party in the world!
If you’re wondering is Scotland expensive, don’t worry, it’s as cheap as you make it!
How to get to Edinburgh?
Edinburgh Airport is located 12km from the city centre and takes around 25 minutes via bus, tram or taxi. Take the Airlink 100 express bus service that departs every 10 minutes from the airport to Waverly Bridge or jump on one of the regular trams. Tickets start from £7 for a return journey. The most convenient way to reach the city is via a private taxi, which is signposted outside the arrivals area but will set you back around £15.
There’s also the option to rent a car, however, parking can be both tricky and expensive in the city so take this into consideration.
Best things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is perfect for any Scotland itinerary, and let’s have a look at the best things to do!
Hike up Arthurs Seat
If you want panoramic views of Scotland’s capital then grab your hiking boots and head up to Arthurs Seat, a 350 million-year-old dormant volcano that lies behind the city centre. And best of all its FREE!
One of the most popular routes is a circular route via Salisbury Crags due to its impressive views. Expect to complete the walk in around 2 hours. The summit reaches a height of 251 meters with some unpaved paths and some steep and rocky sections, so it’s advised to only attempt this walk if you have suitable footwear and a good level of fitness. Make sure you pack a raincoat as British weather can be very unpredictable and don’t forget a bottle of water as it can be thirsty work.
If you love awesome hikes, you’ll like the Snowdon Mountain Guide.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Party with the whole of Edinburgh at one of the biggest festivals in the world, The Fringe Festival, which celebrates the very best of arts, dance and culture. Every August for three weeks the city of Edinburgh welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe. With over 50,000 performances there truly is something to suit everyone’s taste.
Visit the official Fringe website to see what 2019 has to offer and book tickets.
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most fascinating historic sites in the UK and has recently been voted the top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards. With a long rich history as a royal residence, military base, prison, and fortress, there’s plenty of exciting tales to be told.
No visit to Edinburgh is complete without visiting Edinburgh Castle! You will quickly realise how popular this attraction is and why it’s one of the best things to do Edinburgh. The tourists flock here from all angles!
You can expect the entrance to have lines of people waiting to get in. So, if you’re visiting Edinburgh in the peak season, then I would try to get to the castle in the morning.
Adult = £19.50
Concessions = £16.00
Children (5-15yrs) = £11.50
Take a stroll down the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile runs through the heart of Edinburgh’s old town that connects Edinburgh Castle and Arthurs Seat. Stroll up the winding cobbled streets and visit a traditional Scottish souvenir shop, embark on the Scotch Whiskey Experience or have a go at the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions and experience Edinburgh from a whole new perspective.
You will get to see live acts on the street and fun shows. So, if you’re looking for fun things to do in Edinburgh with kids, then there’s no reason why they wouldn’t enjoy a walk down the Royal Mile.
Take a day trip to the Scottish Highlands
Explore the very best of what Scotland has to offer and take a day trip through the highlands and take a cruise on the Loch Ness to spot Nessie or admire the stunning scenery of Loch Lomond. You can even visit Britain’s highest mountain, the almighty Ben Nevis before entering the Great Glen, a 62 mile stretch of dramatic landscapes.
Visit an authentic ghost house
Edinburgh has a gruesome past and claims to have some of the most haunted places in the world, so why not take a ‘City of the Dead’ tour and explore the chilling past, but only if you’re brave enough!
If that sounds a little too scary why not visit Edinburgh Dungeons, an entertaining tour consisting of 11 unique shows featuring state of the art special effects and talented actors who really bring Edinburgh’s horrifying history to life, whilst making you laugh.
If you enjoy history and ghosts, check out the top things to do in York post.
Visit one of the many unique museums
There are literally too many museums to choose from in Edinburgh so here’s our top 5 to help save you some time:
- National Museum of Scotland – Explore the diversity of the natural world, world cultures, science and technology, art, design and fashion, and Scottish history, all under one roof.
- Royal Yacht Britannia – Step aboard The Queen’s former floating palace and experience this iconic 5-star attraction for yourself.
- Surgeons Hall Museum – Explore an extensive collection of pathology, anatomy and medical ephemera through interactive exhibits.
- National War Museum of Scotland – Find out about the life of Scots at war, from the First World War trenches to the Home Front, and learn how conflicts, both at home and abroad, have shaped Scotland’s image and reputation over the centuries.
- Peoples Stories – The People’s Story gives an unique insight into Edinburgh’s working-class people from the 18th century to the late 20th century.
Experience Scottish culture and try haggis
A can’t visit Scotland and not try its famous haggis. But what actually is haggis?
A savoury dish consisting of a sheep’s or calf’s offal, mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag. A perfect place to try this unique dish is the Whisky Bar, a warm and friendly pub serving haggis stack as a starter and a haggis tower—the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties.
After watching the new Lion King movie, we had to spend the day at Edinburgh Zoo and meet the king of the jungle himself. Edinburgh zoo is home to over 1000 animals and includes the UK’s only giant pandas, now that something not to miss!
You can also come up close and personal with a group of friendly wallabies or walk through Penguin rock, it’s an animal lovers’ dream.
Visit Dean Village
Dean Village is definitely one of the coolest attractions in Edinburgh! This quaint little village offers tourists a unique walk with some awesome photograph opportunities.
If you’re wondering how to get to Dean Village, you will have to take a 15 minute walk out of the centre of Edinburgh. Maybe 20 minutes if you take your time! Or, you can take a taxi if that’s easier for you.
Once you arrive you can marvel at the historic houses and gardens. There is also the river that passes through Dean Village which is cool to see. Also, you can actually follow the river down the Edinburgh market on the weekend.
If you want some more epic ideas for places to visit in Edinburgh, check out this awesome 1 day in Edinburgh guide.
Best places to stay in Edinburgh
There are plenty of accommodation options to suit everyone’s budget in Edinburgh to basic student dorm accommodation to luxury spa hotels.
- West End Hostel (Approx£15 per night for 1 person)
Conveniently located 15 minutes from Princess Street, this Victorian townhouse is the perfect base for exploring the city whilst making friends on the terrace. With a wide variety of accommodation options, from all female dorms to en suite private bedrooms this hotel is great for solo travelers, large groups of friends and couples.
See the rooms here
- Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile (Approx £17 per night for 1 person)
Located just off the Royal Mile, this award-winning hostel offers excellent facilities and spacious rooms to make you’re stay as enjoyable as possible. Take a bite to eat at the onsite restaurants or try a local ale in the lively bar with sky sports and snooker table.
See the rooms here
- KM Central (Approx £100 a night for a double room)
Located in Edinburgh’s old town, there’s certainly nothing old about this hotel! Sporting a modern décor this hotel serves a hot breakfast every morning, which guests can enjoy from the comfort of their own room. Every member of staff you encounter will be super friendly and attentive to your every need.
See the rooms here
- The Inn Place (Approx £130 a night for a double room)
Located a 10-minute walk from Edinburgh’s famous castle, this modern hotel offers spacious rooms equipped with flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, 24-hour front desk and free WIFI services. The rooms are nice and quiet even though the location is central meaning you’ll have a great night’s sleep!
See the rooms here
- The Scotsman Hotel (Approx £230 a night for a double room)
This 4-star hotel overlooks the stunning Edinburgh castle and offers guests a unique experience as every room design is different. Each morning you’ll get a tasty hot breakfast and newspaper delivered to your room which is a lovely touch. After visiting the Scotsman Hotel you’ll leave feeling like royalty.
See the rooms here
- The Inn on the Mile (Approx £230 a night for a double room)
Situated on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh city centre, The Inn on the Mile offers an alternative luxury hotel experience of staying in one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious historic landmarks. The bar overlooks the Royal Mile where a full Scottish breakfast is served every morning. There are plenty of transport options nearby making it convenient to explore further afield.
See the rooms here
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So here’s our complete guide on the best things to do in Edinburgh, we hope you enjoy it! It’s such a cool place to visit, full of culture, cuisine and stunning scenery, which makes it one of the top destinations to visit in the UK.
You should check out my York city travel guide!