Introduction With geography that gave home court advantage to its battle tested citizenry over the centuries, Edinburgh is a capital city that represents the resilient nature of the Scottish people. From the powerful bones of Edinburgh Castle, to the solid stone structures that fill its beautiful Old Town, and the whip smart and friendly people that live amidst these historic buildings, you will come to appreciate the distinct nature that this part of the United Kingdom has when you compare it to the rest of the nation.
Start your tour of Scotland’s capital by heading to Edinburgh Castle. Its most imposing landmark, this fortification offers a commanding view of Old Town Edinburgh below.
While this fact draws many tourists to it in the present day, this vantage point served a more practical end in previous centuries, as it permitted soldiers to defend this city from invaders with a great degree of effectiveness.
Easy access was only possible from the east, and with all other approaches being hundreds of feet below, taking this castle was no small feat.
It didn’t stop many kings and nations from laying siege to it anyway, giving Edinburgh Castle the title of being one of the most attacked castles in the world.
Today, its halls and ramparts attract countless visitors, but be sure not to miss the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo if you are here during August, as many events showing off the athleticism and artistic prowess of Scottish and other military forces are held here.
Failing this, show up daily (Christmas, Good Friday and Sundays excepted) to witness the firing of the one o’ clock gun, which was begun starting in 1816 to allow ships in Edinburgh’s harbour to adjust their clocks appropriately.
Fans of the Royal Family will want to make time to explore Holyrood Palace, which is the official home of Her Majesty the Queen whenever she visits in Edinburgh.
Serving originally as the home of the King and Queen of Scots starting in the 16th century, it shifted to serving the British Royals in 20th century.
The state apartments (where the Queen stays when she is in town), the abbey and an exhibit profiling the life of Mary, Queen of Scots are all worth seeing during your time here.
Lovers of art should make time for the Scottish National Gallery in their itinerary, as it contains many timeless pieces of art created by some of the best creative minds that Scotland and the world have ever seen.
Housed in a tony neoclassical building, paintings that date back to the Renaissance Period can be found on its walls. From Van Dyck to Monet, you will absorbed in brilliant works for hours on end, so plan your visit accordingly.
Finally, Edinburgh is known for a couple of festivals among the many it hosts in the run of any given year. In the summer, it hosts the world’s largest Fringe Theatre Festival, which allows playwrights to showcase productions of a more alternative and/or edgier nature. At the end of the year, Edinburgh stakes its claim as one of world’s biggest party capitals, as it throws a massive New Year’s party known as Hogmanay. Spanning over multiple days and running until dawn on New Year’s Day (long after New Year’s Eve revelers in other cities worldwide have gone to bed), it will be unlike any end of year celebration you have attended before.
After taking in Edinburgh Castle, descend from its heights and mosey your way through the Edinburgh Old Town. Home to old cathedral, museums, the National Parliament of Scotland and numerous restaurant, pubs and shops, there is enough here to occupy a couple of days of extensive exploration.
If you are up for a hike that will grant you some outstanding views of the city, then summiting Arthur’s Seat should be a goal of yours during your visit to Edinburgh.
Standing 823 feet above sea level, it is a great place to escape the masses of bus riding tourists for an afternoon.
Rock climbers will find some exciting routes to ascend; for those into milder pursuits, the elevation gain is still no impediment to those willing to take their time, as the gentle grade makes it easy for you to make their way to the top of this natural viewpoint. Keep your eye open for remains of Iron Age forts on your way up!
Looking for more Royal Family attractions to visit while in Edinburgh? The HMY Britannia, which served as Queen Elizabeth’s personal yacht until 1997, is anchored in its harbour, and open to those that wish to tour it. Touted by Elizabeth herself as the one place where she could truly relax, you too will be calmed by the elegance you find during your time here.