Having visited Edinburgh a few years ago for Hogmanay, I was thrilled when Audrey and I had a chance to return again. This time we traded out winter jackets for fall attire, and the milder weather meant we spent a lot more time exploring areas outside of Old Town and New Town.
We had one full week in Edinburgh, and aside from exploring the sights, we also made it our mission to sample a lot of the food, ranging from traditional Scottish dishes to contemporary Scottish cuisine.
The following is a travel guide for foodies showcasing 20 things to do in Edinburgh.
VIDEO: Our 20 things to do in Scotland travel guide
20 Things to Do in Edinburgh, Scotland: Foodie Inspired Travel Guide
1) Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is easily the most iconic site in the city, and because it dominates the skyline, you’ll naturally get to view it from numerous vantage points across the city. As fun as it is to photograph it from a distance, a visit to the castle is an absolute must. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore Edinburgh Castle, because it is not just a single building.
Some of the things you can do once inside include a tour of the Royal Palace, viewing the Crown Jewels, stepping inside St. Margaret’s Chapel and wandering around the National War Museum. In other words, don’t plan a rushed visit!
2) Scotch Whisky Experience
How often do you get to blend your own Scotch Whisky? The Scotch Whisky Experience offers a variety of tours and we ended up taking the Blend Your Own session.
We had a really fun afternoon learning to identify various aromas in whisky, but the best part was the blending session. We each walked away with our own personalized bottle to take home as a souvenir.
VIDEO: Drinking Scotch Whisky in Edinburgh, Scotland
3) Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is easily the most hectic and touristy street in Edinburgh’s Old Town and it features an eclectic mix of pubs, shops and restaurants; however, it is still certainly worth a visit. Here you can pick up all kinds of Scottish souvenirs including kilts, tablet and tartans.
If you’re here in the summer you can also check out the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
4) Edinburgh Walking Tours
Edinburgh is a city offering more random tours than I’ve witnessed anywhere else. Of course, you can take a standard city tour but you also have a haunted tour, a literary tour and a Harry Potter tour worth considering. And that is just a few of them! Basically, there is something for everyone.
5) Haggis, neeps & tatties
No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without some haggis, neeps and tatties. One of our favorite restaurants to have this traditional Scottish dish is Whiski Rooms. For this delicious meal we frequented this fine establishment with our good pal Rob – a gregarious gent of many travel quotes and other interesting anecdotes about life.
The place itself has a cozy yet laidback atmosphere while the food and service is ace.
VIDEO: Eating Haggis, Neeps and Tatties for lunch in Edinburgh, Scotland
If you’ve never tried Haggis before let me start off by saying it tastes much better than it sounds! What exactly does it consist of? Well, haggis is sheep’s pluck containing heart, liver and lungs along with spices, oatmeal and onions cooked inside of the sheep’s stomach. It is often served with neeps and tatties (Scots for turnips and potatoes) and a plentiful amount of gravy.
It is a savory dish that sticks to your ribs. Although I’d recommend having it anytime of year, it certainly is the kind of food that is most appreciated during fall and/or winter. My suggestion is to just drown it all in gravy and dig right in. You may be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was.
6) Holyrood Palace
Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace. This is the official residence of the British monarchy in Scotland and it is a place steeped in history. You can grab a headset on your way in and enjoy an audio tour of the palace at your own pace marveling at the Royal Collection of art.
7) Holyrood Abbey and Garden
Nestled just behind Holyrood Palace is Holyrood Abbey and Garden. I recommend wandering around here at a leisurely place to relax and snap photos of the palace.
8) Edinburgh Gin Distillery
If hunkering down in a cozy den and sampling numerous kinds of gin sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon, then you’ll love Edinburgh Gin.
VIDEO: Visiting Edinburgh Gin Distillery Tour in Scotland
Learning about the equally tragic yet humorous history of gin in Edinburgh was a big highlight of the tour, and we had a wonderful guide who kept our entire group engaged. After learning about the history of gin, we ended up moving into the den for the sampling session.
Be sure to try the Cannonball; coming in at 57.2% it was the most potent gin I’ve ever had.
9) National Museum of Scotland
If you only have time for one museum during your trip to Edinburgh make sure it is the National Museum of Scotland. The museum offers numerous exhibitions with notable artifacts including the Migdale Hoard, Bute Mazer and the stuffed remains of Dolly the first cloned sheep.
As a bonus tip be sure to head to the seventh floor for some of the most underrated views of the city.
10) Princes Street Garden
Princes Street Gardens is another great place to visit, especially on a sunny day. If you had visited during the Medieval Ages, you would have found a swampy, polluted loch, but today it’s one of the nicest green spaces in the city.
It is perfect for picnics, family outings, leisurely strolls and first dates.
11) Dean Village
Maybe the most underrated and picturesque place we visited in Edinburgh was Dean Village. Offering a refreshingly calm and chill vibe you are mere minutes away from the city core yet you feel far enough removed. Meaning ‘deep valley’, one of the best vantage points is from the Water of Leith.
Our suggestion is to come early in the morning when no one else is around and be sure to bring your camera.
12) Calton Hill
One of the easiest hikes (more like a walk) is to journey up to the top of Calton Hill. Here you’ll find Edinburgh’s most iconic monuments including the Stewart Dugald Monument, The National Monument and the Nelson Monument.
Although it is a short and easy climb you’ll be amazed at the views you get of Edinburgh city, the Fifth of Forth and the surrounding countryside.
13) Scott Monument
If you’re afraid of heights you may want to sit this one out. I personally am but instead I mustered up enough courage points to wind my way around a tiny spiraling staircase to the top of Scott Monument. Built in honour of Scottish writer, Sir Walter Scott, it is the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world.
As you ascend to the top you’ll have access to different viewing platforms where you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the New Town.
14) Royal Botanic Garden
Although it just started to rain as I visited, for a little taste of nature, you can visit the Royal Botanic Garden which is a comfortable walking distance from New Town. The impressive gardens are free to visit although entry to the concessions and glasshouse is £3.50.
15) Eat Walk Edinburgh
If you like eating as much as we do ,consider taking a food tour with Eat Walk Edinburgh. The half and half component of the tour was really appealing as we had an opportunity to learn more about the history of Edinburgh while burning off calories in between bites.
VIDEO: Scottish Food and Edinburgh city tour in Scotland
We popped into restaurants, shops and pubs which I thought was a great way to keep things interesting and I really enjoyed having an opportunity to interact with some of the shop owners who are very passionate about what they do.
One of the highlights was visiting the Fudge House. I’ve got an on-demand sweet tooth and fudge is a bit like my kryptonite but I loved getting to sample a few flavors before choosing one bar out of twenty different varieties to eat on the way home. I kid you not, it was the hardest decision I had to make all week. 😉
16) Closes in Old Town
Another great way to explore Edinburgh by foot is to wander down the tiny closes. These small alleys were often named after a memorable occupant, and the Old Town is full of them including Mary King’s Close, Anchor Close and Carrubber’s Close.
17) St. Giles Cathedral
While you’re wandering around the Old Town, you’ll notice the iconic landmark St. Giles Cathedral along the Royal Mile. Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh it was named after the city’s patron saint.
18) Scottish National Gallery
As the national art gallery of Scotland it is definitely worth paying a visit to the Scottish National Gallery. Located on The Mount in central Edinburgh nearby the Scott Monument this neoclassic building houses national and international art dating back to the Renaissance up until the 20th century.
19) Scottish National Portrait Gallery
If you’re over on Queen Street check out the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. With over 300 paintings and sculptures along with 25,000 prints and drawings and a whopping 35,000 photographs, you’ll want to set aside a decent chunk of time to properly explore this massive collection of portraits.
20) Nightlife in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is not surprisingly blessed with legendary nightlife whether it’s a cozy pub, a live band, or a ceilidh you’re after there is something for everyone.
Edinburgh Photo Essay
Edinburgh Top Tours
Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is a city brimming with a rich history and cultural heritage, captivating visitors from around the world. To truly experience the enchanting beauty of this city, a tour is an excellent way to embark on a journey of exploration and discovery.
Walking tours are a popular option and offer a chance to wander through the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town, steeped in centuries-old history and picturesque architecture. These tours will guide you through the heart of the city, from the iconic Royal Mile to the majestic Edinburgh Castle, which has played a significant role in Scotland’s history. For Harry Potter fans, a walking tour will lead you through the inspirations that J.K. Rowling drew upon for her beloved books, including visits to Greyfriars Kirkyard and other magical locations.
For those who prefer a more relaxed pace or want to cover more ground, bus tours are a fantastic way to see Edinburgh’s top attractions. A hop-on-hop-off bus tour is an excellent way to explore both the Old and New Towns, offering the flexibility to customize your itinerary and see the sights that interest you the most. If you’re an Outlander fan, you can opt for a specialized bus tour that takes you to the filming locations of the popular series.
If you’re feeling brave and adventurous, a ghost tour is a perfect way to explore the eerie and spooky side of Edinburgh’s history. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours take you to the city’s most haunted spots, including the notorious Greyfriars Kirkyard and the underground vaults beneath the city.
Foodies will delight in the delectable food tours, where you can sample the best Scottish cuisine and explore the vibrant culinary scene. For whiskey enthusiasts, there are specialized tours that offer a chance to taste the country’s national drink and learn about its rich history.
Edinburgh offers an array of tours that cater to all interests and preferences, providing a unique and personalized way to explore the city’s wonders. So why not embark on an unforgettable journey through Edinburgh’s rich culture, history, and beauty and discover what makes this city so special?
Well, that’s a wrap from Edinburgh, Scotland! Now it is your turn. Have you visited Edinburgh before? Is it a city that you’re itching to explore? Anything in the guide you feel we missed out on? Please let us know in the comments section below.
Edinburgh Accommodations For All Budgets
Edinburgh, the majestic capital of Scotland, is a city that exudes charm and character at every corner. From the bustling streets of the Old Town to the trendy boutiques of the New Town, Edinburgh offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. And when it comes to finding the perfect place to stay, Edinburgh certainly does not disappoint.
For those who seek the epitome of luxury, Edinburgh boasts a plethora of five-star hotels that will exceed all expectations. The Balmoral Hotel, a symbol of grandeur, boasts breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle, lavish suites, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a serene spa. The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, a stunning Victorian gem, provides an exceptional experience with its immaculate interiors, a luxurious spa, and an award-winning restaurant.
For those seeking mid-range accommodation, Edinburgh offers a wealth of boutique hotels and guesthouses that provide both comfort and affordability. The Bonham Hotel, a chic property situated in the trendy West End, boasts stylishly designed rooms, an award-winning restaurant, and an inviting bar. The Raeburn, nestled in the elegant Stockbridge area, offers a charming escape with spacious rooms, a cozy bar, and a trendy restaurant.
Budget-conscious travelers can find plenty of options in Edinburgh’s hostels and budget hotels, which provide comfort and convenience at affordable rates. St. Christopher’s Inn Edinburgh, located in the heart of the city, offers cozy private and dormitory-style rooms, a lively bar, and a fully equipped kitchen. Motel One Edinburgh-Royal, located in the city center, offers cozy rooms, a 24-hour lounge, and a prime location that allows for easy access to the city’s most notable landmarks.
Indeed, Edinburgh also offers a range of serviced apartments for those seeking additional space, privacy, and flexibility. The Old Town Chambers, located in the heart of the historic Old Town, offers spacious and beautifully designed apartments with all the modern amenities one could need. The Knight Residence by Mansley, located in the elegant West End, provides sleek apartments with fully equipped kitchens, a 24-hour reception, and exceptional service.
Without a doubt, Edinburgh provides a wide range of accommodation options that cater to all budgets and preferences, ensuring that every traveler can find the perfect place to stay in this captivating city. Whether you prefer the opulence of a luxury hotel or the cozy comfort of a budget hostel, Edinburgh will leave you spoilt for choice.
Edinburgh Easy Day Trips
Edinburgh, the land of mystique, grandeur, and heritage, is not only a city of wonder but also a gateway to the extraordinary Scottish countryside. A Scottish odyssey would not be complete without venturing beyond the city limits and exploring the rugged yet enchanting landscape that surrounds it. Here are five easy day trips from Edinburgh that are bound to elevate your Scottish experience:
- Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond: Enrapture yourself in Scottish history with a visit to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s most magnificent fortresses. Overlooking the city of Stirling, the castle has withstood countless battles and witnessed the reigns of many Scottish kings and queens. After exploring the castle, immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of Loch Lomond, a natural gem that offers visitors scenic hiking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, and water sports.
- Glasgow: Indulge in Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, only a short train ride away from Edinburgh. The city’s kaleidoscopic culture is reflected in its striking architecture, art museums, music venues, and culinary delights. From Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to the trendy West End, Glasgow has something for everyone.
- Rosslyn Chapel and the Scottish Borders: Embark on a journey to the charming village of Roslin, where the enigmatic Rosslyn Chapel stands in all its mystical glory. The intricate carvings on the chapel walls have puzzled visitors for centuries and even inspired Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code. After admiring the chapel, traverse through the picturesque Scottish Borders, known for its rolling hills, quaint towns, and textile mills.
- St. Andrews: Surrender yourself to the home of golf, St. Andrews, a town on the east coast of Scotland that boasts medieval castles, cathedral ruins, and magnificent views of the North Sea. Even if golfing isn’t your passion, St. Andrews’ timeless charm and stunning coastal landscape will take your breath away.
- North Berwick and Tantallon Castle: Revel in the tranquil coastal town of North Berwick, where you can experience Scotland’s rich maritime heritage. A short train ride from Edinburgh, North Berwick is renowned for its spectacular beach views and the medieval ruins of Tantallon Castle. With its dramatic cliffside location, Tantallon Castle is a haunting reminder of Scotland’s turbulent past.
Edinburgh’s surrounding countryside is a treasure trove of captivating sights and experiences that complement the city’s vibrant culture and history. These five day trips from Edinburgh offer a glimpse into Scotland’s rich heritage, breathtaking natural beauty, and unforgettable charm. Embark on an adventure and let the magic of Scotland enchant you.