Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is known for its huge markets specialising in handmade crafts, fresh food and seasonal gifts. Shopping along Princes Street offers the best of both worlds. High-end fashion favourites including House of Fraser department store and the high-street Zara chain sit among boutique shops on this city street with the stunning Edinburgh Castle sitting in the background. 

When the weather forces you indoors, Edinburgh boasts an array of great museums within the city centre. Museum of Edinburgh is known as the city’s treasure box with a maze of historic rooms crammed full of iconic objects from the capital’s past to explore. For a journey back in time, National Museum of Scotland along Chambers Street is a great place to start. With the aim of bringing ‘the world to Scotland and Scotland to the world,’ the museum’s exhibitions showcase the natural world, culture, art, science, technology and Scottish history.

For something more hands-on, Edinburgh Vaults, a series of chambers within the 19 arches of South Bridge where businesses in the area would store their stock back in the late 1700s, are fascinating to explore. After only a few years of the vaults being used, the conditions became uninhabitable for the shopkeepers and the chambers subsequently became derelict squats for the less fortunate. For years these damp, dark vaults formed the centre of Edinburgh’s slums where crime ran rife. Taking a tour around this underground maze is eye-opening and a great way to see Edinburgh’s gritty history firsthand.

For more things to do in the Scottish capital, don’t miss these attractions listed below.

Edinburgh Castle

Dating back to the 800s, Edinburgh Castle tells a story of battles won and lost while still standing tall in stellar condition. The castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction and for good reason. The ancient fortress allows visitors to step back in time as each building has its own history from prisoners of war to the great hall where Scotland’s elite were expected to honour their king.

Holyrood Palace

Originally founded in 1128 by King David I, Holyrood Palace is now the official Scottish residency for the Queen when she and other members of the British royal family visit annually. The palace is open for the public to explore and includes rooms like the Queen’s Quarters.

Edinburgh Zoo

Over 500,000 people visit Edinburgh Zoo annually and fill their cameras with snaps of exotic animals including the only giant pandas in the UK. The zoo sits atop Corstorphine Hill and capitalises on its extensive city views. Edinburgh Zoo actively promotes the conservation of endangered wildlife and also runs breeding programs.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Commissioned in 1954, the Royal Yacht is a floating palace previously used by members of the British royal family. While now decommissioned from official royal use, the vessel also rescued refugees from war-torn countries during its years of service. Today, Royal Yacht Britannia is a popular Edinburgh attraction allowing visitors to tour the royal apartments onboard.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe began as an alternative to the more high-brow Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, and runs throughout August annually. As the largest arts festival in the world, the popular event now hosts a wide range of acts from all around the world including street performers, musicians and renowned and up-and-coming comedians.