Oh hi there adventurer! Fancy yourself some things to do in Edinburgh? Whether you want to delve into Edinburgh’s fascinating gory past, stride up extinct volcanoes, get giddy on whisky, run around Harry Potter graveyards or just have a nice cup of tea, Teacake’s got you covered.
All the things to do in Edinburgh
There are so many things to do in Edinburgh! Treat this post as a candy shop which you’re going into to pick out your favourites. In particular, keep your eyes peeled for the *Teacake Bests*. Out of everything, if a place has got this, I totally loved it!
Geek out over Harry Potter
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, Edinburgh in Scotland is the place to be. It is here that J.K. Rowling worked and walked around, to draw inspiration from and produce the brilliant Harry Potter books. She wandered through the graveyards, scribbled down her notes in the coffee shops and eventually became the amazing author that we all love today. There’s a Harry Potter tour. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Walk Down Victoria Street aka Diagon Alley
With its pointy roofs, skyscraper-esque buildings and little shops full of curiosities underneath, this is where J.K Rowling dreamed up Diagon Alley! It’s a cute place: make sure to see it from the bottom and upper level.
Look For Tom Riddle In Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is creeeepy. No wonder J.K Rowling took her characters’ names from here. Mince around to try to find as many witches and wizards as you. Even if you don’t give a monkeys about Harry Potter, still go! The crypts and headstones are a true work of art.
You can find Greyfriars Kirkyard at Candlemaker Row from 10:30am to 4:30pm. Entrance is free. Allow yourself 30 minutes to explore.
Why not hear the intricate details of Greyfriars Kirkyard on a Harry Potter Tour?
Go Where It All Began At The Elephant House
J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter right here in The Elephant House. Step inside this gourmet cafe to check out her favourite spot and make sure to pay a visit to the bathroom!
You can find The Elephant House at 21 George IV Bridge. It’s open from 8am to 10pm. Prices are fair for tea, coffee and breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Want even more things to do in Edinburgh concerning Harry Potter? There’s a Harry Potter Tour with far more info and locations to check out! If you want beer with that, I recommend the Literary Pub Tour to go above and beyond.
Enjoy Edinburgh’s Outdoors
It’s actually sunny from time to time here! There are plenty of things to do in Edinburgh in the great outdoors. The gardens and parks are wonderfully quaint and if you’re short on the pennies, there’s nothing better than free!
Princes Street Gardens
Make sure to enjoy the outdoors of Edinburgh city by spending some time in the delightful Princes Street Gardens.
What was once a cesspool where all the locals disposed of their poo and pee, is now a blooming marvellous garden (no wonder it’s so green). You can see the castle from here but there’s also a great view from Inverleith Park which is right next to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Climb Up Arthur’s Seat
This extinct volcano, luckily not predicted to rekindle at any time is 251m high: it’s not too much of an undertaking and the views when you reach the top are splendid.
Start from the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the Royal Mile and follow the Radical Road path. Allow 1 to 2 hours depending on your pace.
Walk Along The Water Of Leith
Running through the New Town of Edinburgh, this little wildlife haven flows all the way from Balerno to Leith. There’s plenty of birds pottering about and the charming Dean Village, the National Modern Gallery Of Modern Art and the coast of Leith are worth a stop!
Want to really geek out? You can get maps and audio guides from the Water Of Leith Conservation Trust. It takes four hours to walk from start to finish, excluding the stops along the way.
The best places to stay in Edinburgh
Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.
The big tourist attractions of Edinburgh
Edinburgh in Scotland has of course, its main tourist attractions, and they are certainly worth seeing. Here are my favourites!
Edinburgh Castle is on everyone’s lips on things to do in Edinburgh. Make sure to buy your ticket online before arriving to avoid the queue. The line can be long!
Edinburgh castle is open from 9:30am to 5 or 6pm depending on the season. Allow around 2 hours to see everything.
Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey
This is where the Queen and Royalty pop in from time to time. If you love pottering around the inside of ornate rooms and checking out ruined abbeys, go for it. If it isn’t your thing, don’t pay the entrance fee just to say you’ve done it.
It’s open from 9:30am to 6pm. Allow 1.5 hours to get around.
Whilst you’re down this end of Edinburgh, don’t forget to check out the exterior of the Scottish Parliment building. For all you Architecture lovers, it’s top notch.
Get weird in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is freaky. People were being killed left, right and centre amongst downright seedy, unfortunate agreements and horrible situations. If learning about this kind of thing is your idea of a great day out, here’s all the freaky things to do in Edinburgh.
Surgeons’ Hall Museums
Full of natural and artificial curiosities, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums are a treasure trove of weirdness and medical memorabilia. This place is definitely not for the fainthearted but well worth a visit!
You can find the Surgeons’ Hall Museums on Nicolson Street and they’re open everyday 10am to 5pm. Allow around 2 hours for your visit.
Head to Camera Obscura for five floors of fun and awesomeness with the most wonderful antique on its top floor. At 150 years old, this mysterious Victoria chamber holds a periscope that projects live images of Edinburgh onto a wooden table. Damn. Science is amazing.
I got stuck on the hologram floor and in this light tunnel. I was one happy punter.
You can find Camera Obscura on Castlehill on the Royal Mile. It’s open 9.30am to 7pm and 8pm on weekends. Allow around 2 hours for your visit.
Gilmerton Cove *Teacake Bests*
There’s nothing better than a juicy mystery. Sitting just outside of Edinburgh is Gilmerton Cove! Originally found under a modern-day gambling shop, from start to finish I was captivated. I carefully tread around these 300 year old hand-carved passageways and chambers with my imagination running wild.
Full of mysterious points but with no clear answer to what it actually is, it’s a budding Indiana Jones’ dream. I don’t want to give too much away because hearing all the theories from the passionate guides is an absolute pleasure in itself. I’m just gonna say this: sordid drinking den. Witches’ coven. Druid worship. Seek and discover for yourself and make your own mind up.
DO NOT MISS THIS.
You can find Gilmerton Cove on 16 Drum Street. It’s open Monday to Sunday 9am to 4pm. Allow 1 hour for the tour.
Discover The Underground Vaults *Teacake Bests*
What was originally vaults for shopkeepers to keep their wares in quickly turned into a dodgy, underworld full of criminals, body snatchers and families with nothing to live on. Full to the brim with different diseases and poverty, it’s a fascinating yet sad place.
Go on a tour to get yourself down here and hear the full scoop. You’ll be entertained by passionate and wonderfully informative storytellers. I went on an afternoon tour as I’m equally sensitive and terrified of ghosts but there’s even more scary evening night tours which I couldn’t quite muster up the courage to go to. If you can do it, well done!
Talking Of Ghost Tours…
There are tons of them in Edinburgh. With the amount of death that’s gone on here, no wonder everyone’s keen to show you their ghosts! I checked out The Cadies And Witchery Tour. If you’re looking for a slapstick cheesy hour of comical ghost stories and characters jumping out at you, this is the one for you! If you want to go home stupefied however, there are definitely more scary ones available!
Real Mary King’s Close
Underneath the Royal Mile there’s more things to do in Edinburgh! Edinburgh used to be the equivalent of a bursting can of sardines: jam-packed, full to the brim of people and the inhabitants literally living on top of each other. A lack of space and an ever-increasing population made things smelly, hot and reeeeeal close.
The Real Mary King’s Close warren of streets, townhouses and rooms date back to the 1500s and the history within them is incredibly interesting…and yes, of the spooky kind. Guides acting as characters who used to live there will show you the old architecture and tell you about Annie and her dolls: very freaky.
You can find the Real Mary King’s Close on 2 High Street. It’s open everyday 10am to 9pm. Allow 1 hour for the Underground Tour.
Walk down the Royal Mile
Want to add some execution spots on your list of things to do in Edinburgh? There’s plenty of ways to explore the Royal Mile with the Castle at one end and Holyroodhouse at the other. If you’re here during the Edinburgh Festivals which I was the second time I visited here, even better!
If you’re on a budget the Sandemann’s free 2.5 hour Walking Tour is a great choice. You just gotta leave a tip!
Places to eat and drink in Edinburgh
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Edinburgh and I had a lot of fun trying them all out.
Scottish Whisky Experience
If you do drink, you can’t come to Scotland and not try the whisky. Do it ‘in the name of research’ by popping along to The Scotch Whisky Experience. You won’t (?) regret it. They have a number of tours and expert tasting sessions, including an all-out masterclass.
You can find out exactly how me and whisky became best friends by reading my Scotch Whisky Experience post.
You can find the Scotch Whisky Experience on 354 Castlehill on The Royal Mile. They are open from 10am to 11pm. Allow 1 – 2 hours to enjoy it all.
Recover With Afternoon Tea At Eteaket
With so many things to do in Edinburgh, you’re gonna get thirsty! No better way to sit back and take a breather then with a good brew, amazing sandwiches and cakes. I popped along to Eteaket and love everything about them. Their leaf tea selection is amazing from all corners of the earth and their love for tea and people is real: they support some excellent charities.
The afternoon tea is great value, wonderfully filling and a super lovely treat. You can find them 41 Frederick Street from 9am to 6pm. Afternoon tea includes a scone with jam and cream, mini patisseries, a delicious choice of sandwich and a pot of tea of your choice. Allow 1 hour to eat and kick back.
Fine Dining in Edinburgh
Have cash to splash? I recommend:
Live Music Down The Pub
Local beer and local music. Hell yeah! Edinburgh has both of them and you’re gonna be spoilt for choice. Here are my favourites:
- Captain’s Bar for live acoustic Scottish music
- Sandy Bell’s and Royal Oak for the folk music
- Banshee Labyrinth for its inside cinema, punk and metal music and kickass Halloween Gothic interior
- The Bongo Club for student clubbing
- Electric Circus for karaoke rooms
- Studio 24 for alternative club nights
- Looking for stand-up comedy? Go to The Stand Comedy Club! Go on a Thursday night to see the Saturday show for half price.
For more options check out Two Scots Abroad’s Pub Guide.
More travel tips for Edinburgh
Looking for more things to do in Edinburgh? Pop along to the visitor centre on 3 Princes Street. It’s open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday and open 10am-5pm on Sunday. You can also catch them online at Visit Scotland too. If you want all the details about parks and monuments, Edinburgh Outdoors can help you too!
Get out of the city
There is way more to Scotland than Edinburgh. If you have the time, make sure to venture out into the Lowlands and Highlands. I went on a 3 Day Trip to the Isle Of Skye and all through the Highlands. Best. Trip. Ever!
What things to do in Edinburgh will you be doing?
What are the other things to do in Edinburgh? Speak now or forever hold your peace!