Get to Know Edinburgh
Whether you have moved to Edinburgh for university, a new job or you’re just visiting, here are some of the best affordable things to see and enjoy in this historic, vibrant city: explore the famous landmarks, browse quirky shops and cafés, immerse yourself in a colourful festival, or escape to its beautiful open spaces…
Photo: Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh First
This recognisable landmark sits at the mouth of a volcanic peak and is hard to miss on the city skyline. Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most popular visitor attraction, offering stunning views of the city and housing many historical artefacts. It is also known for its One O’Clock Gun, which is fired daily (except Sundays) from Mill’s Mount Battery, as a time signal.
Follow this medieval path after your visit to the Castle, which runs from the top of the hill to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. The stretch of paved stone spans across five different streets and is a very busy place today, home to many different attractions, cafés and shops.
Photo: Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – VisitScotland/Kenny Lam
Established in 1835, this is one of the oldest attractions in the city. Enjoy an amazing panorama of the castle and across Edinburgh, from the rooftop terrace and Camera Obscura, which is an old-fashioned projection system, providing real-time views of the city. (Virtual reality, Victorian style!) Explore the floors below to experience interactive exhibits, optical illusions, light tricks and old-fashioned games which are fun for all!
Photo: Camera Obscura
Princes Street Gardens is the most important public park in the heart of Edinburgh, created back in 1820, separating the old town from the new. The gardens are beautiful all year round and provide a popular meeting place for locals, especially at the Ross Fountain. Take a stroll past the many statues and monuments, including the prominent Scott Monument. During the winter months, the gardens are transformed into a winter wonderland, hosting an amazing Christmas Market with an ice rink and many other fun attractions.
Photo: Princes Street Gardens – Undiscovered Scotland
When in Holyrood Park, be sure to climb to the highest point – Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano sitting 251m above sea level, towering over Edinburgh, providing breath-taking views in all directions and offering a peaceful retreat from the busy city. At the summit, there is also a large, well-preserved fort, dating back around 2000 years. Arthur’s Seat contains a diverse range of flora and geology, so is of special scientific interest. This is a great way to experience a proper hill walk in the heart of the city.
Photo: Holyrood Park & Arthur’s Seat – VisitScotland
Tackle your fears on an amazing ghost tour through the history of Edinburgh’s Underground Vaults. The vaults were filled with rubble in the early 19th century, and only rediscovered in the 1980s. They are now known as Edinburgh’s most famous haunted site; scary underground caverns hidden beneath Edinburgh’s streets, where terrible things once happened. True tales of body snatchers, hangings and torture are delivered by skilled storytellers on this spooky tour.
Visit the city in August, and be blown away by the explosion of arts and entertainment at the Fringe Festival. From big names to emerging talent, you can watch inspiring performances from all over the world.
Photo: Ugly Bucket Theatre company perform ‘Bost-Uni Plues’ at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Bars & Restaurants
Be sure to visit this quirky, contemporary bar with a friendly atmosphere, located in the heart of Edinburgh, just a short walk away from Princes Street Gardens. With bartenders who shake, stir and concoct inspiring seasonal cocktails, alongside chefs who work with local suppliers to ensure quality and provenance in every dish they serve. From friendly DJs every weekend, to Edinburgh’s resident Quiz Master on Thursdays, there is something for everyone; so head down for the best food and drinks in Edinburgh’s City Centre.
A bar and restaurant situated in the atmospheric Old Town of Edinburgh, in an old Victorian pump house hidden away in Advocates Close. Featuring a mezzanine dining area, and a 400 strong whisky shelf, the menu boasts seasonal and Scottish ingredients that change monthly. Their multiple award-winning bartenders also serve inventive seasonal cocktails, a considered wine list and selected craft beers. The kitchen team enjoy creating lunch and dinner menus that hold true to the quality, seasonal Scottish produce, whilst providing a modern dining experience.
Photo: The Devil’s Advocate
This contemporary coffee shop features local roasters and a typical brunch fare in a modern place. It creates the perfect atmosphere for coffee nerds, with a motto of ‘coffee, food and good times’. All of the food and coffee served has been hand selected, as the team believe their cult deserves nothing but the best!
Brew Lab is a speciality coffee shop in Edinburgh, serving a range of single-origin filter and espresso coffees, alongside a selection of artisanal produce. This trendy and innovative coffee-house is a great place to relax with friends, and truly unwind.
Photo: Brew Lab Coffee Bar
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Find out more about Edinburgh:
Edinburgh – Visit Scotland
Free attractions & days out
Staycation: City Breaks
3 favourite city destinations… London, Brighton & Edinburgh
Other places in this series:
Get to know London
10 fun affordable things to do in & around London