8 Things to Do in Edinburgh for an Extraordinary Trip

8 Things to Do in Edinburgh for an Extraordinary Trip

Why visit Edinburgh? From Arthur’s Seat to a whisky trail, here are some attractions that will make your visit an enchanting one.

Words cannot express the beauty of Edinburgh (Scots: Eedinburra; Gaelic: Dùn Èideann). It is the capital of Scotland, the birthplace of Harry Potter and the chosen filming location of the upcoming mega blockbuster, Avengers Infinity War. With an extensive range of relics, historical landmarks, contemporary architecture, and even an extinct volcano, the “Athens of the North” is an unmissable city when visiting the United Kingdom.

Author Jess Walter once said that “If London was an alien city, Edinburgh was another planet”. We can definitely promise that everyone who visits this City of Literature will echo that sentiment. But enough talking, we’re here to show you why Edinburgh is truly a place deserving of more travellers. Here are eight things to do in Edinburgh for an extraordinary trip:

1. Conquer Arthur’s Seat Volcano

Remember that extinct volcano that was mentioned earlier on? It’s known as Arthur’s Seat and you can actually climb it! Local legend has it that a dragon that was terrorising the local livestock ate too much and fell asleep there, leading to its formation. Dragon or not, a visit to Edinburgh isn’t complete without a hike up Arthur’s Seat! Standing 800 feet above sea level, the half hour hike is well worth the journey to the peak where you’ll get a stunning sweeping view of the entire city.

Be sure to grab a pint of original Innis & Gunn, Edinburgh’s locally brewed Bourbon-infused beer, before your journey. Sit at the peak and take in the magnificent city sights whilst drinking the city’s brew. Welcome to Edinburgh.

2. Tuck into Scottish dishes

Image credit: Phillip Bailey

Scottish tourism officials claim that Edinburgh has more restaurants per person than any other town in the UK! From Michelin-rated establishments to pubs, Edinburgh serves up some really authentic Scottish delicacies. Be sure to dig into the famous Scottish dish known as haggis, neeps and tatties. While neeps and tatties are just slangs for turnips and potatoes respectively, haggis is purely a Scottish classic on its own. Made using sheep’s pluck (discarded lungs, hearts, liver), mixed with suet, oatmeal, seasoning and encased in a sheep stomach, haggis is an excellent, tasty dish that will leave many visitors bewildered. Not everyone has the stomach for such a savoury dish but those that do are rewarded with an authentic Scottish experience.

Image credit: Homewardflight

Otherwise, check out the more commonly known Scottish shortbread for a sweet treat. Regardless of where and what you eat in Edinburgh, the palatable Scottish cuisine is sure to leave you feeling satisfied after every meal.

3. Embark on a spine-chilling ghost tour

Image credit: fw42

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Edinburgh offers many ghost tours that revolve around the dark side of the city’s rich, long history. The Underground City of the Dead Tour takes you down to the dark underground tunnels of Edinburgh. The tour provides historical facts on the people living in the South Bridge Vaults and perhaps, if you’re unfortunate enough, you may even chance upon the South Bridge Entity that haunts those tunnels. Likewise, The Edinburgh Dungeon takes you along Edinburgh’s past 500 years of hauntings that are sure to make your hair stand on edge. Come face to face with murderous individuals from the city’s past and ghosts that haunt the many buildings in the city.

These are just two of the many ghost tours that the haunted capital has to offer. Whichever tour you decide to embark on, you’ll be sure to have a sleepless night.

4. Go crazy over all things Harry Potter

Perhaps Edinburgh’s haunted past has also contributed to one of the most iconic characters of this era – Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, did much of her writing in many sites in Edinburgh. Harry Potter fans, or Potterheads, most definitely need to visit the Elephant House, a cafe in which Rowling wrote most of the first installment!

The luxurious Balmoral Hotel houses a J.K. Rowling Suite, where Rowling penned the last book of the series. The suite holds a marble bust of the Greek god Hermes, on which Rowling scribbled in black marker: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.” For die-hard Potterheads, that marble bust could be within your reach – for close to £1,000 per night. 

Image credit: Donna C Green

Image credit: Donna C Green

Greyfriars Kirkyard plays home to many tombs where Rowling drew her characters’ inspiration from. Figures such as Professor McGonagall and Tom Riddle (yes, Voldemort himself!) have names that originated from this graveyard. Edinburgh is definitely a Harry Potter enclave with trivia and inspirational sites for the wizarding world. Potterheads, eat your heart out.

5. Savour scotch on a whisky trail

Winston Churchill once lamented “The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”

Join the Scottish in their endeavour to find the best whisky in the country! Scottish whisky, also known as scotch, is an integral aspect of Scottish culture. The very fact that there are laws governing the production of scotch (Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009) reflect the importance of well-made scotch in Scottish society!

That said, hit the Royal Mile for an eclectic range of whisky bars and pubs. Forget cafe-hopping. In Edinburgh, go bar-hopping and sample different varieties of scotch whilst soaking in the ambience of each bar. This door-to-door mission to savour the taste of meticulously-made whisky will be an experience you won’t forget! Some prominent bars include the Albanach, Whiski Bar and Restaurant and the Devil’s Advocate.

6. Marvel at magical cherry blossoms

Yes you heard that right – cherry blossoms, in Scotland! When people think of cherry blossoms, they usually envision the rich Japanese landscape with sprawling cherry blossom trees, but Japan isn’t the only place to catch them! The many streets in Edinburgh will inevitably be littered with pink cherry blossom petals every spring, transforming this historic city into a magical spectacle.

For an amazing view of these cherry blossoms, check out the Meadows, a large modest public park where you’ll find many locals reading books, playing football or just chilling. The cherry blossom trees line the pathways of the park, paving the way for an enchanting walk when the blossoms are out in full force.

7. Discover Edinburgh’s past at the Old Town

Take a walk down memory lane – literally – as you visit the Old Town of Edinburgh! The historic core of this city is linked by its main street, The Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. The medieval cobblestone streets play host to many attractions along the Old Town, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spend your day here visiting the attractions that grace this street, such as the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and St Giles’ Cathedral.

Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle towers above the city, reminding the city and even the country of its significance. Trace the footsteps of hundreds of Scottish soldiers that used this fortress as a base to protect the city beneath it!

A recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and Scotland, this castle is not merely a ceremonial institute. Apart from holding military parades, it also hosts pop and rock concerts! Keep your ears open as the One o’clock Gun lets off a loud shot everyday (except on Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day) at 1pm, since 1861!

Cost: Adults (Above 16 years old) £17; Child (5-15 years old) £10.20

Holyrood Palace

The Holyrood Palace’s grandeur and beauty is fit for a King. Or in the UK’s case, a Queen. Her Majesty takes residence right here in Edinburgh every year, for a week each! Whenever she isn’t making her rounds, visitors are free to visit the palace and experience what it’s like to be royalty.

Step into the very halls Her Majesty saunters through and check out the magnificent works of fine art furnishing the entire compound. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Arthur’s Seat and at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, this iconic palace is not to be missed – especially for those who want a taste of royalty.

Cost: Adults £12.50; Under 17/Disabled £7.50

St Giles’ Cathedral

Image credit: Gary Ullah

Regarded as the “Mother Church of Presbyterianism”, the significance of the St Giles’ Cathedral to Scotland is unfathomable. Check out the stained glass windows and carefully carved woodwork that line the interior of the church!

Image credit: Paul Hudson

More interestingly, the cathedral houses the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s chivalric company of knights headed and chosen by the Queen. Don’t miss the stalls in the Chapel, above which displays heraldic devices that each member of the Order is awarded! Do peruse through the history of this symbolic institution and don’t forget to pay for a photo permit if you’re hoping to work your camera!

Cost: Free; Photo Permit £2

8. Climb the Scott Monument

Looming high above in the Edinburgh skyline is the Gothic Scott Monument, a tower dedicated to legendary Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. Standing at 61.11 metres tall, the Scott Monument’s 287 steps, countless viewing platforms and spiralling staircases promise a panoramic view of the city! Just cross your fingers and hope for clear skies during your visit as the monument is closed during adverse weather conditions!

What more can we say? Scotland’s capital and cultural centre of the past 500 years is sure to leave you dazzled and longing to return. Steeped in history, rich in architecture and abundant in activities, Edinburgh is guaranteed to make your visit an enchanting one. Next thing you know, you’ll be falling in love with this city.

About Author

Kevin Mak
Kevin Mak

Apart from catching overly-dramatic movies, quenching his voracious appetite and just lounging in his free time, Kevin finds François Rabelais' quote "I am going to seek a grand perhaps" resonating with him at times. It is this very desire that sees him travelling to foreign lands in search of new experiences, and food. In his adventures, the only thing that can temporarily impede his journey is his soft spot for pizza.


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