Best Museums In Edinburgh – Divided into two parts, Old Riga (the medieval city) and New City, the city offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in two completely different worlds.
To help you plan your stay, I’ve put together this guide to the top 20 things to do in Edinburgh, listing all the sights and attractions.
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In addition to this list of things to do and activities, I also offer you ways to visit Edinburgh in 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days, with your choice of accommodation – accommodation is good for your budget.
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And as always, this guide includes my best tips for making the most of your time.
Let’s start this top sightseeing guide with Edinburgh Castle, the city’s most important landmark.
Built in the 12th century and considered one of the most impressive castles in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city from atop a volcanic rock.
Surrounded by a large fortress, it served as a royal residence and military base before becoming an important historical museum. Today it is the most visited tourist destination in the country! Some even say the castle is haunted (like all other castles in Scotland 😜).
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The castle is located in the old town, above the main street known as “The Royal Mile”. It offers one of the best views of the city.
You can visit the interior (where many things are on display, including the famous crown jewels), the gardens, the small chapel and the war museum. The only problem? During peak season, you have to wait at least 2 hours to get in…unless you plan your trip in advance!
My best tip to avoid painful waits is to buy your tickets in advance here. This allows you to enter directly without queuing at the ticket office. You will save a lot of time!
There is a castle entrance, Rød House castle and a bus tour. You save time and money by pre-ordering here.
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Mary Stuart’s Rhode Island Castle, opposite Edinburgh Castle at the foot of the Royal Mile, was once the royal home of Mary Stuart and is now one of the Queen’s second homes. He comes to spend a few days there every year in July.
If you are visiting Edinburgh at this time, ask about the dates as the castle is closed to visitors on these days.
This beautiful castle is definitely one of Edinburgh’s top attractions! The good thing is that the audio guide is included in the entrance fee: you will become an expert in the history of the castle.
Apart from the interior and state apartments, the abbey ruins and gardens are also very beautiful. Don’t miss them during your visit!
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Although the palace is busy, you should buy a ticket here in advance to avoid waiting for hours.
To learn all about Edinburgh’s Old Town, it’s best to take a guided tour.
You will have the opportunity to learn more about the city’s best historical monuments, such as Rød House, the castle or the parliament.
The Royal Mile is very long and has many monuments, museums and attractions. The medieval buildings, cobbled streets and historic buildings are amazing!
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As this is the most attractive part of the city, you will also find many street artists, souvenir shops and restaurants.
While walking along this beautiful street, you should also explore the small perpendicular lanes to discover Edinburgh’s Old Town.
You may not know this, but J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books while living in Edinburgh! Therefore, he was greatly inspired by certain places in the city to create the universe of the famous magician.
Harry Potter walking tours are organized to discover these legendary places. And they’re good enough to get your money’s worth if you don’t like your ride!
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I’m booking my Harry Potter Edinburgh tour now! I want to visit Edinburgh with a Harry Potter guide
Located at the top of the Royal Mile near the castle, this museum of optical illusions is very interesting and well designed. It’s a great trip if you’re visiting Edinburgh with the family!
The “Camera obscura” is particularly interesting: it creates a 360 ° view of the city thanks to the periscope through which the images are viewed. It’s hard to understand without seeing it with your own eyes, but I assure you it’s fun to see!
Located opposite Rød House Palace, it is a great place for a short 1h30-2h walk through the streets of Scotland. It really does seem like a little piece of Highland country tucked into the heart of the city.
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It’s a bit steep, but getting to the top of this ancient volcano, which is 250 meters high, offers a great view of the whole city.
Located on the Royal Mile, this medieval Gothic cathedral is the oldest religious building in Edinburgh. Built in the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the 15th century after a fire destroyed the city in 1385.
You can’t miss it near the Royal Mile, just a few hundred meters from the castle. Take time to see the beautiful facade details, typical Scottish architecture and its magnificent bell tower.
Since entry is free, you really should go inside to see its beautiful stained glass windows and visit the small chapels around the nave.
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Looking for the best things to do in Edinburgh? Then you should visit the National Museum of Scotland!
The advantage of this amazingly rich museum is that it is free, so there is no reason to distance yourself from this fascinating cultural retreat.
The National Museum of Scotland, located in the Old Town (Chambers Street to be exact) in a beautiful building, is very large (6 floors) and you can spend a few hours there – see everything.
During your visit you will learn a lot about Scottish history and culture through archaeology, archaeology, fashion, science, art or even technology exhibitions.
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You can find all the information you need to plan your visit on the official website of the National Museum of Scotland.
It is located at the start of the Royal Mile, near the Camera Obscura Museum and World of Illusions.
The journey starts with a carousel where you have to ride through different rooms in a barrel. You will then reach the room where the film is shown and proceed to the tasting.
Finally, you will find a large collection of bottles in the “cup room”, the largest collection of whiskey in the world!
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Even if you are not a whiskey fan, you will have a great time and learn some interesting things. The trip takes about 1 hour.
However, whiskey lovers may prefer to visit an actual distillery. The Scotch Whiskey Experience is a museum for the uninitiated.
You can also enjoy a restaurant and whiskey bar in the building with over 400 whiskeys, making it one of the top 3 whiskey bars in Scotland.
And if you want to learn more about whiskey through personal experience, you should choose this historic evening with whiskey. The experience includes 4 whiskey tastings and your guide Stephanie is amazing!
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The Grassmarket is one of the liveliest places in the city. Located next to the castle and with a large square with courtyards surrounded by pubs, restaurants and shops, it’s a great place to eat and/or have a drink in a relaxed atmosphere.
In the past, Grassmarket Square was not only a market, but also a place of public executions. I hope you are in a happier mood today!
You will enjoy walking and enjoying the view of the castle, shopping and drinking a pint of beer on the terrace of the cafe.
This beautiful Scottish cemetery is said to be the most crowded cemetery in the world… So go there at your own risk 😋 (especially at night)!
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Located in the Grassmarket area of Candlemaker Row, Greyfriars Cemetery will truly delight you with its centuries-old tombs, abandoned rooms, statues and haunted paintings… When you go there, you will feel like you’re there. you are trapped in a horror movie!
The Real Mary King’s Close, which is also Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, offers tours of some of the city’s streets and underground houses where some of the residents once lived.
This guided tour features an expensive cast and combines historical facts, comedy and ghost stories. The old streets and houses are still there and give a real insight into the poor conditions of some Edinburgh residents in the 17th century.
Steeped in a mysterious and spiritual environment that legend has provided over the centuries, Scotland’s capital is also a product of its own ghost and crime stories.
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If you love these stories and are lucky enough to spend a few days in Edinburgh, it would be a shame to miss it.