Top 10 Things to See and Do in Edinburgh

 

Edinburgh City Scape

I’ve been so excited to sit down and get started with Edinburgh content. So excited, in fact, that I actually began writing this post while I was still there! During the Easter holidays my family and I spent 7 days in the Scottish capital, and our time was absolutely jam-packed. It was our first visit to Scotland, and a special one at that. My Dad actually grew up in Edinburgh before moving to Wales and this was the first time he’d come back in 42 years.

The city of Edinburgh is absolutely bustling with life and it’s a complete hub of culture. You can’t help but learn something new while you’re there. Especially if you’re walking through the streets and happen to hear a snippet of information from a walking tour guide. While the options are endless, there’s a select few things that I’d consider a must. There’s so much to do in Edinburgh that it’s difficult to fit it all in. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know all about some of my day-to-day antics there!

Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle Wall Detail Edinburgh Castle Window View

1 // Edinburgh Castle

Yes, the classic Edinburgh Castle is first on my list – and for obvious reasons. The castle can be seen from all directions in the city in both the Old and New Town, there’s no hiding from it! The dominating structure is perched up on castle rock, an imposing cliff face overlooking the city. Inside the walls there’s a wide range of things to do and see – I’ve listed a few key attractions below.

The Honours of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels)

The crown was first used at the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543 and is considered to be priceless. Photography is strictly prohibited in this area and is guarded closely by staff.

The Great Hall

This wood panelled dining hall was the hub of great banquets and events in it’s prime. It was later used as a military hospital until 1886. The walls are lined with weapons and armour; illustrating it’s military history.

Mons Meg

If you think you’ve seen big guns, think again. The Mons Meg has a barrel diameter of 20 inches (big enough to fit a small child!) and is capable of firing a 150kg gunstone up to 2 miles (3.2km). This thing can do some serious damage.

St Margaret’s Cathedral

Growing up in rural West Wales, I’ve seen my fair share of small buildings. But I’ve never seen anything like this! St Margaret’s Chapel is an absolutely tiny Grade A listed building, with barely enough room for 20-30 people. In the 16th century it was used for gunpowder storage before being restored to a place of worship in 1845.

Prisons of War

In the 1700’s and 1800’s prisoners of war were kept below The Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle. They’ve recreated some of the cells to show what life would’ve been like for a prisoner of war. The recreation is complete with voice-overs from prisoners at the time. The gallery side of the exhibition displays some of the original wooden doors from the prison cells at the time, complete with prisoner’s carvings.

Edinburgh Camera Obscura Light Fantastic 1 Edinburgh Camera Obscura Light Fantastic 2 Edinburgh Camera Obscura The Wise Gypsy

2 // Camera Obscura

Located at the centre of the Old Town, Camera Obscura is a mind-blowing experience. Like my Mum said, “it’s like Techniquest but better”. They also have some of the best views of the city from their rooftop – perfect for those cityscape pics on the ‘gram! My favourite part of the attraction is the World of Illusions. To see what else they have on offer, click here.

Light Fantastic

This room really is a trippy experience! Two people stand at either end of the room. On the left side of the room, the person appears much smaller than they are. On the right side, it turns you into a giant. I tried it out with my younger sister who’s just under 5ft (I’m 5ft6 for reference).

The Vortex Tunnel

This isn’t one for those of you who suffer from motion sickness, that’s for sure. The spinning lights paired with a tilting bridge are not for the faint-hearted.

Mirror Maze

It’s exactly what it says on the tin; a maze made out of mirrors. Before you go into the maze it’s asked that you put on a pair of plastic gloves to reduce fingerprints on the mirrored surfaces. Although it might seem easy at first, it’s ridiculously difficult to tell the reality apart from the reflection!

Edinburgh Zoo Conservation Edinburgh Zoo Koala

3 // Edinburgh Zoo

Owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation and is also a registered charity organisation. If you’re there around 2pm, you’ll even catch the Penguin Parade!

Penguin Parade

This is something which began as an accident back in the 1950’s when a keeper accidentally left the enclosure open. It’s now one of the zoo’s most sought-after events!

Queensland Koalas

These are the only Queensland Koalas within the UK, and they’re absolutely adorable. We were lucky enough to see a 9-month old baby (joey) koala on our visit. For the first six months of a joey koala’s life they’re situated in the mother’s pouch. For the following six months, they remain on the mothers back instead. They’re born blind and nurse on the mother’s milk for a year after birth. Edinburgh South Bridge Vaults Street View

4 // Edinburgh South Bridge Vaults

The Edinburgh vaults are situated beneath the city, and were once filled with hustle and bustle of city life. The vaults consisted of 19 arches and is 1000 feet long, however only arch is still visible today. This is because the city built up around the South Bridge Vaults, which is why they’re largely invisible today.

The vaults were home to a multitude of purposes throughout the years including a marketplace for various businesses (cobblers, distilleries, pubs), and then housing for the poorest in society. The vaults were later excavated and is now suspected to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.

During our visit we went on a Ghost Tour of the vaults with Mercat Tours. Our tour guides Margaret-Anne and Arwen were absolutely fantastic and really encapsulated the vault’s haunted reputation perfectly within their tour.

Edinburgh Bagpipe Player Edinburgh Tartan Scarves

5 // The Royal Mile

Although not an attraction, The Royal Mile is the epi-centre of life in the Old Town of Edinburgh. It runs through the city, connecting the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. We passed through the Royal Mile most days on our trip, and quickly became well-acquainted with what it had to offer.

Peppered with restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops, you may also find some hidden gems. Not to mention a plethora of tartan scarves you’ll find lining the streets. There’s usually a bagpipe player in full traditional Highland dress, and if you’re lucky you can even find an owl or two!

Edinburgh St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh St Giles Cathedral Monument

6 // St Giles Cathedral/High Kirk of Edinburgh

The St Giles Cathedral has seen a lot of restoration work over the years, however it was originally erected in 1124. A Grade A listed building, the church is often considered the “Mother of Presbyterianism”. The cathedral is dedicated (as the name would indicate) to St Giles, who was the patron saint of lepers in the middle ages as well as the patron saint of Edinburgh. Although it’s still used as a place of worship, the cathedral is also host to a variety of music and cultural events.

Edinburgh The Wee Pub Portrait Edinburgh The Wee Pub Gin Club Edinburgh The Wee Pub Edinburgh The Wee Pub Floor Sign

7 // Smallest Pub in Scotland (The Wee Pub)

Located in Grassmarket, The Wee Pub definitely has a fitting name! The Wee Pub is a small little pub with room for a maximum of 20 people. The entrance can be found through a small alleyway, although you can also reach it through Billy Mulligans.

The quaint little bar is also part of the Grassmarket Gin Club; “showcasing Scotland’s smallest pub with Scotland’s best gins…”. Although small in size, it’s huge in character and is also available for event hire. I couldn’t resist getting a pint (or half, at least) during our visit!

8 // Walter Scott Monument

Walter Scott was a famous Scottish playwright, poet, and historian. The Walter Scott Monument is a dominating structure situated next to the Princes Street Gardens in the heart of the city. Standing at a massive 61 metres, the Walter Scott monument is the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world.

Edinburgh Maison de Moggy Edinburgh Maison de Moggy Elodie

9 // Maison de Moggy Cat Café

This particular attraction won’t be for everybody, but even I had a great time! Maison de Moggy is home to 12 cats, all of whom were raised in the café. When the café shuts, they remain there overnight getting checked on regularly by their cat nannies. Named the best cat café in Europe by Easyjet Traveller Magazine (2018), Maison de Moggy have profiles of their 12 feline residents all round the café! My sister and I took a particular shine to Elodie, the sphynx cat.

It’s recommended that you book this in advance as only a certain number of people can go into the café during each time slot. You can also pay on the door which generally isn’t advised due to how fast the time slots can fill up. Head over to the Maison de Moggy Instagram to learn more about their #pawprintchallenge competition – you can win free entry to 2!

10 // Arthur’s Seat

This is one of the things I didn’t get round to seeing during my Edinburgh trip! There was a sweltering heatwave on our visit and left us not really wanting to make the rocky trek. The mountain was formed by the same volcanic eruption that formed the Castle Rock (on which Edinburgh Castle sits), and Calton Hill. I’ve seen so many photos on social media of the views from the summit and I can’t wait to get to see it for myself!

I’ve still got a few Edinburgh related posts up my sleeve, but will be staggering them with my usual sustainable living content over the next couple of months! I had an absolutely incredible trip and made memories I’ll never forget. I even tried Haggis and a deep fried Mars bar while I was there – might as well, eh?!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What are your favourite places to visit while there?

Edinburgh Pinterest Board

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16 comments so far.

16 responses to “Top 10 Things to See and Do in Edinburgh”

  1. Bettie says:

    Never been to Edingburgh, but I would love to go there one day. It is so beautiful. I love the buildings.

  2. Nancy says:

    I haven’t been to Edinburgh before but this is a gorgeous town! It is so cool to see the castles out there. The history behind this town is interesting. It is so cool that you got to check out the perspectives that can fool people, hehe. I am still trying to figure out how that works. I love the views you had around town. OOOH I WOULD LOVE TO GO TO THE CAT CAFE!!!! You did so much during your trip. Glad you enjoyed your time!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  3. Sarah says:

    Wow the photos are amazing! As a person who’s never been to Edinburgh or anywhere near it—makes me want to fly there right now. But first, I gotta save up haha! Thank you for sharing this!

    sarahrizaga.blogspot.com

  4. cate says:

    i regret not having checked the zoo even though we found an air bnb exactly in front of it! but it was december, too cold and too rainy!!
    next time!!

    Cate ღ 35mm in Style

  5. Charlotte says:

    Your trip to Edinburgh looks so amazing! I’ve never been, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. Visiting castles is one of my favorite things to do in Europe and it looks like this one has so much amazing history to it. I can’t wait to visit these places when I get to go to Edinburgh myself!

    Charlotte | http://www.thisgirlknowsit.com

  6. Nele says:

    Ohhh saving this post! I’ve been to Edinburgh a while ago, but we didn’t get the chance to properly explore it – hope to be back soon! Thanks for sharing these 🙂

  7. Millie says:

    Thank you for sharing your post with me! We are 100% going to go up Arthur’s seat! We visited Maison De Moggy last time and it was so cute! Thank you for your help with planning our activities!

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Hello! I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for sustainable living & travel tips!

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