Europe,  Scotland,  Travels

What to visit in Edinburgh, Scotland

Hello hello! Let me tell you about a trip that happened around a year ago. One of my oldest friends was living close to Edinburgh and she was telling me that I have to visit because it is really pretty. If you know me personally, you probably have noticed that I don’t wait for a second invitation, while we are speaking I’ve already checked flights and prices and I might have booked already. Girl never says no to a trip! So let me tell you what to visit in Edinburgh, Scotland if you go for a weekend.

But before starting I should say that it was one of those trips that you just go to have fun and try to see as much as possible in order to tell that you’ve seen something in between drinks. Meaning – three of my closest friends and I booked a weekend trip together and saw the obligatory minimum of what Edinburgh can offer.

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I’d like to write something like a disclaimer here. There are plenty of things to do and see in Edinburgh and we definitely saw just a small part of it. But as I explained, it was not the purpose of this trip and I’m happy with what we managed to see. The easiest way to visit as many places as possible is to take a free walking tour and this is exactly what we did. So here are my recommendations:

1.Edinburgh Old town

As the name says, this is the oldest part of the city. It preserved much of its medieval street plan and very old buildings. The color of the city is typical for the northern part of Europe – dark grey and brown shades that most of the time blend in with the grey color of the sky. But when the day is bright and sunny it looks quite amazing to be honest! The highest spot of the Old town is the castle of Edinburgh and the main street runs down the hill. Most of the streets are quite narrow and hidden. I literally felt like being in a Harry Potter movie! The labyrinth of its cobblestone streets dates from 12-13th century while the New town was created in the 18-19th.

Nowadays the whole town is part of the protected Unesco world heritage. As you can imagine most of the touristic places are concentrated in the Old town, so the free walking tour covers most of it. You can also find many pubs, souvenir shops, restaurants, etc.

2. Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle

The Castle of Edinburgh was built on top of a rocky crag, the remains of an extinct volcano and can be seen from almost every spot in town. The castle is the place where the oldest crown jewels in Britain, worn by Mary, Queen of Scots for her coronation are treasured up, it is also the seat of the Stone of Destiny (used to anoint Scottish kings, and still brought down to London for royal coronations) and Mons Meg, a 15th-century cannon. The oldest building in Edinburgh – St. Margaret’s Chapel can also be found here.

The square in front of the castle gives you 360′ view of the city from the top!

Edinburgh gang at the castle square.
3. The Royal Mile

It connects Edinburgh Castle (to the west) with the Palace of Holyroodhouse (to the east). The Royal mile is not a particular street, but it’s more like a term used to describe the succession of streets forming the heart of the Old town of Edinburgh. The streets which make up the Royal Mile are (west to east) Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand.  Its name comes from its tradition as a processional route for kings and queens for the last 500 years. Nowadays you can find plenty of shops, bars, pubs and restaurants and it is one of the busiest areas in town.

4. National museum of Scotland
National Museum of Scotland

You are surprised to see a museum in my list, aren’t you? ūüėÄ Well, there is an explanation. Our tour guide told us that on top of the museum there is one of the best panoramic views in town. And as a true rooftop lover, I had to go there! It turned out that the entrance to the museum is free, so we also decided to have a look around and I have to be honest, it was quite cool! Totally worth visiting! In fact, to find the lift to the roof, you must also cross several exhibition rooms, so in the end you can see some of it on the way to the top. It took us a while to find the way to the lift, but Scots are so nice and friendly that the guard came with us and took us to the elevator.

National museum’s rooftop view
5. Princes Street Gardens
Princes street gardens

The Princes street gardens consist of two parks in the center of Edinburgh lying in the bottom of the castle. The gardens are part of the New town and they are the most important public green area in the city. Long time ago they were part of the medieval defenses of the city, but the loch (artificial lake in Scottish) was drained and nowadays these beautiful parks allow people to walk and relax enjoying an amazing view. There are several important monuments in the park such as Scott Monument, the statues of David Livingstone, Adam Black, John Wilson, Ross fountain and a few more.

6. St. Giles’ Cathedral
St. Giles’ Cathedral

The Cathedral is most likely founded in 12th century, but the current building dates from the 14th. It was almost completely reformed in the 19th century. It is located in the heart of the Old town, on High street which is the main street of the old part of Edinburgh and the Royal mile.One of the most distinctive landmarks of Edinburgh is St. Giles’ church crown steeple. The cathedral attracts thousands of tourists every year.

7. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard

This is the graveyard surrounding the Greyfriars kirk in the Old Town. The graveyard is associated with¬†Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who guarded his master’s grave. Bobby’s headstone at the entrance to the Kirkyard. The dog’s statue is opposite the graveyard’s gate, at the junction of¬†George IV Bridge¬†and Candlemaker Row. The grave of Edinburgh police officer John Gray, where the dog famously slept for 13 years, lies on the eastern path, some 30m north of the entrance.

Do you know whose grave you can also find in Greyfriars Kirkyard? Tom Riddle. Does the name ring a bell? Any Harry Potter fans here? Yes, you are correct, the original name of Lord Voldemort. Edinburgh was a true inspiration for J.K. Rolling while she was writing Harry Potter. There are many parts of the city that are described in her books and this graveyard is one of them. Cool, isn’t it? I found this website that describes how to find his grave.

8. Scott Monument
Scott Monument

The truth is that I was absolutely sure that this is some kind of church or church tower or something like that. But it is not. It is a monument honoring the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and it is the second biggest monument to a writer in the world. I guess you can say that Scots are pretty proud of him.

9. Makars‚Äô Court and The writers’ museum
Makars’ Court

This is the court next to the Writers’ museum. Makar means author, writer in Scottish. The courtyard incorporates quotations from¬†Scottish literature¬†inscribed onto paving slabs. The quotations represent works in the languages used by Scots past and present:¬†Gaelic,¬†Scots, English, and¬†Latin. The¬†Writers‚Äô Museum, housed in¬†Lady Stair‚Äôs House¬†at the Lawnmarket, on the¬†Royal Mile¬†in Edinburgh, presents the lives of three of the foremost¬†Scottish writers:¬†Robert Burns,¬†Walter Scott¬†and¬†Robert Louis Stevenson.

10. Victoria street
Victoria Street

This beautiful street is maybe the most Instagrammed place in Edinburgh and you can see why. The street is so colorful that it totally stands out from the rest of the grey-ish colored city buildings. It is known as a shopping street and served as an inspiration for the J.K. Rowling’s Diagon-alley. It’s true, there is a store where you can find different Harry Potter objects and souvenirs.

11. Grassmarket

Victoria street goes down to a square known as Grassmarket. In the past it was used as a marketplace for horses and cattle, but nowadays is one of the most vibrant, lively and picturesque parts of Edinburgh. There are a lot of events happening on the market, especially food related. Some of the best restaurants in the city are also in the area. One of the most important landmarks is the bronze statue of Greyfriars Bobby, remember the famous dog from the graveyard? The square also reveals a beautiful view towards the castle.

12. New college, The University of Edinburgh
The university of Edinburgh

The New college is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen in Edinburgh. Its stunning architecture is simply breathtaking. Its grey colors contrast the green yard in front of it and makes it a really cool photo spot. It is located right next to the Central rail station and Princes street gardens.

13. Circus Lane
Circus lane

This street is one of the hidden gems of Edinburgh. Although it is quite popular Instagrammed place, it was really hard to find it initially. Not when I visited it, but when I was writing this post. As I told you my friend who was living there took us, but there was not so much information online about it. To be honest, there is nothing special to see, but the narrow street is so perfect photo spot that is is worth spending 15 minutes there. I visited Edinburgh in March so not so many tourist were in the city back then, but it can get very busy during the high season. Poor people living there! ūüėÄ

14. Tolbooth Kirk
Tolboot Kirk

Edinburgh’s tallest spire (71.7m) is at the foot of Castlehill and is a prominent feature of the Old Town’s skyline. The interior has been refurbished, and it now houses the¬†Hub, the ticket office and information centre for the¬†Edinburgh Festival. The Hub¬†is a public arts and events building.

15. Camera obscura
Camera Obscura

Known as Camera Obscura & World of Illusions¬†is a major tourist attraction in the¬†Old Town, Edinburgh,¬†¬†located on Castlehill section of the¬†Royal Mile¬†close to¬†Edinburgh Castle. . This visitor attraction is now home to over 100 interactive exhibits, including the original Camera Obscura, and is based over five floors including a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Edinburgh. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to go inside, but there are a few cool and fun twisted mirrors for a quick selfie outside the building.

Well, I guess this sums up our sightseeing. The rest of our stay was focused on partying and enjoying drinks and food. There are many cool pubs and bars in the town. Our last day we even went to a Drag Queen show and it was quite a thing! ūüėÄ

If you are in a mood for sea food, I can recommend one amazing place:

” Mussel Inn” – the best mussels in town. The place gets quite busy, make a reservation in advance!

Edinburgh turned to be a place to remember. For more travel ideas visit my travel section here.

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