A long weekend in Edinburgh is perfect for getting a dose of the Scottish people, food, music, and history. The city is split between an Old Town and New Town, and both areas offer some great things to do as a tourist. The shops are lined with Scottish treasures, including shortbread cookies and cashmere scarves, as well as all sorts of clan paraphernalia. Edinburgh’s bars and pubs are full of local ales and live music nightly, and of course, plenty of craft Scottish whisky. Don’t miss listening to one of the local bagpipers st up along the streets to enjoy some authentic music. Our trip to Edinburgh was also special because Michael’s family has ties to Scotland, Dundee in particular (about an hour from Edinburgh). All in all, it was a great trip to enjoy all that the Scots have to offer!
Top Things to do in Edinburgh:
Located in Holyrood Park (near the palace), Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak that you can climb up to around Edinburgh; you just need to be ok with the 30+ minute hike up approximately 60 flights of stairs... but it’s totally worth it! The views are pretty incredible from the top, offering panoramic views of Edinburgh city, including the surrounding area, and the ocean.
A must-do in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle is located on Castle Rock in the heart of the city. This historic fortress is a dominate item in the city skyline and offers great views of the city below. Once inside, you can visit various buildings including the Great Hall and St. Margaret’s Chapel, and also see the Scottish Crown Jewels. Edinburgh Castle dates back to the 12th century from the reign of David I, and has played an important role in the Kingdom of Scotland.
Tips: Purchase time slot tickets in advance online to avoid long queues.
Princes Street Gardens
Located just below Edinburgh Castle and along Princes Street, the Princes Street Gardens is located in the heart of Edinburgh. This public park offers nice paths for a walk, full of lush grassy areas and vegetation, and a nice break from the nearby busy streets. Concerts and other events take place in the gardens periodically; something to look into before you arrive.
Don’t let the “hill” in Calton Hill fool you. This fairly easy ascent, located roughly 10-15 minutes from Waverley Train station, offers really nice views of the city and Arthur’s Seat. There are various monuments and landmarks to visit on the top of the hill as well, including a small art gallery. There is also a spot to grab some coffee or tea.
Tips: On a nice day, this area is known to provide amazing views at dusk and sunset.
The Elephant House
Dubbed the “birthplace” of Harry Potter, The Elephant House is a cafe located near the Royal Mile where J.K. Rowling is said to have written much of the early Harry Potter books. We did not go inside the cafe, but it is a casual spot to grab a coffee and cake in a relaxed environment.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a long shopping street (or rather a succession of streets) that run through Old Town, approximately one Scots mile in length. Although this street bustles with tourists, it also contains some great shopping, including Scottish shops full of lambswool and cashmere scarves, tweed coats and accessories, and your typical souvenir items.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
St. Giles’ Cathedral (also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh) is located along The Royal Mile and is known as the main cathedral of worship in Edinburgh for the Church of Scotland. It dates back to the 14th century and contains various columns, ornate stained glass, and a characteristically blue (painted) ceiling.
Tips: The cathedral is free to enter but you need to pay 2 GBP to take pictures of the inside. Worth the fee as it also serves as a donation.
This quaint and picturesque area is a hidden gem in Edinburgh. Over 800 years ago this area was full of about 12 working grain mills and was known as the “Water of Leith Village”. Today, Dean Village and Dean Gardens are great areas to take a stroll and soak in the cute architecture and nature along the river, Water of Leith.
Tips: Look out for the cranes that hang around the river. Check out St. Bernard’s Well, an old mill located along the Leith Walkway in the Dean Gardens. The statue situated in the monument is known as the goddess of health.
Top Places to eat & drink in Edinburgh
If you're looking for a delicious Scottish steak or seafood dish, Wildfire is an amazing bistro to enjoy dinner. With only a dozen tables or so, the ambiance is cozy and quaint, and the steaks are delicious.
Dough pizzeria is a great eat-in or take-away pizza joint located on Rose St (pedestrian street). A nice break from all the traditional pub fare around town! We recommend the Frizzante and the Valtellina.
The Shoogly Peg
The Shoogly Peg is a traditional pub where you can find local craft beer and ale. Located on a pedestrian street, this pub also offers great people watching with its outdoor tables.
The Black Cat
The Black Cat is a fun after dinner spot to enjoy a Scottish whisky or digestive in a cozy yet lively atmosphere. You can also enjoy live music at this bar a few nights a week.