The Best Things to do in Edinburgh: A Complete City Guide

Edinburgh City Guide

Edinburgh is a beautiful city to explore with tons of activity options for any type of traveler! This destination is a must visit while traveling through the United Kingdom. What makes Edinburgh especially unique is that it is a bustling city directly adjacent to beautiful Scottish Highlands. This complete city guide will tell you where to eat, drink and explore in Edinburgh!

Best time to visit Edinburgh

March – October is the best time of year to visit Edinburgh. The summer is the peak season for tourism because the weather tends to be dryer compared to the cusp months (March/April or September/October). If you go during the peak summer months, you may pay more for your visit and it will be more crowded.

With that said, there is no bad time to visit Edinburgh, it will just be a bit colder and possibly rainy during the off-season!

How to get to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is the closest airport to the city center. Depending on your travel plans, you can also fly to either Glasgow or London as cheaper airport options. Both are accessible to Edinburgh by train. This is also a great way to explore more than one city! Edinburgh also is a gateway to Belfast and Dublin.

Read all of our favorite 10 day Europe trip routes here.

Currency and Tipping

Edinburgh uses the British Pound for currency. Scotland is known to be a more expensive region of the world to visit. Don’t let that deter you though, there are plenty of ways to still experience this amazing city while traveling on a budget! A typical beer costs around 5 pounds and the average cost of a meal is 13 pounds.

It is polite to tip 10% in the United Kingdom and Edinburgh in particular. If you receive great service, then it is always encouraged to tip closer to 20%.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

Where to stay in Edinburgh

Homestays and Rental Options

There are tons of rental properties available on Airbnb. Depending on your budget and group size, this may be a better option than a hotel or hostel. Explore those options here!

Boutique hotels

Eden Locke

Market Street Hotel

Mid-range hotels

Cityroomz Edinburgh

ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge – Royal Mile

Budget hostels

Edinburgh Backpackers

Castle Rock

Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel

Where to eat: The best restaurants in Edinburgh

Where to eat in Edinburgh

Halfway House

Tucked away on a charming side street, this tiny bar serves local food and drink giving you an authentic Scottish bar experience.

The Waverly Bar

Another unique pub experience with multiple floors to explore and listen to live music.

Greyfriars Bobby

This is a famous Scottish bar located next to Greyfriars. Stop there for lunch and a pint after walking through the cemetery! We recommend trying a variety of their pie flavors.

The Standing Order

The Sanding Order is one of JD Wetherspoons restaurants which is a chain around the United Kingdom and Ireland. This is the best place to eat and drink in Edinburgh if you are traveling on a budget! The food and drinks are both delicious and affordable.

Where to drink: The best pubs and bars in Edinburgh

Where to drink in Edinburgh

Cask & Barrel (Broughton Street)

This is one of the original cask bars in Scotland and serves a rotating list of beers.

Bramble Bar & Lounge

Intimate and unique bar known for their delicious cocktails and cozy vibes.

Finnegan’s Wake

A lively Irish pub with live music located on Victoria Street.

The Hanging Bat

A unique bar known for their large beer selection and interesting décor.

Edinburgh Gin Distillery

Reserve a tour of this famous gin distillery to learn the history of gin and relax in the unique atmosphere.

The Three Sisters

A fun bar atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating options. It also has a large screen to play major sporting events in the outside garden!

Captains Bar

A local pub with live music.

Pickles

A wine bar with quaint vibes and delicious cheese boards to pair with a tasting!

Pro-tip: Save all of these recommendations in a list on Google Maps so you can easily find them later!

What to do in Edinburgh

What to do in Edinburgh Edinburgh

There are tons of activity options for every type of traveler in Edinburgh. The city is filled with so much charm and history, you’ll find yourself in awe just walking around!

Walk the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile starts at Edinburgh Castle and ends at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is the processional route that Kings and Queens have embarked on for more than 500 years!

Visit St Giles Cathedral

This famous Cathedral is simply stunning both on the inside and outside. Take some time to admire the architecture!

Hike up to Author’s Peak

Arthur's Peak in Edinburgh

Hiking Author’s Peak is one of the most unique activities to do in Edinburgh. You experience epic views of the Scottish Highlands while also seeing an aerial view of the city itself. The hike is approximately a two mile loop.

Walk through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

This graveyard is historic for many reasons but most known for the grave of Tom Riddle. JK Rowling used the names of real people from this graveyard for many of the Harry Potter characters!

Browse the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

A relaxing stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden is the perfect morning activity. Take in the beautiful greenery while also learning about some unique plants!

Tour Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle is simply stunning! You can see the outside for free but it does cost a fee to explore the inside.

Drink coffee at The Elephant House

Elephant House in Edinburgh

Looking over Greyfriar’s, this is the coffee shop where J.K Rowling wrote the majority of the Harry Potter books.

Walk through Victoria Street

Victoria Street is one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh. It is filled with colorful establishments and was also the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter!

Tour the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey

These are the official palaces of British royalty when they reside in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Hike up to Calton Hill and Scottish National Monument

This is a must-do activity in Edinburgh! The monument itself and the view of the city is unforgettable.

The best day trips from Edinburgh

day trips from Edinburgh

Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands

This is a 12 hour day trip that will take you through the beautiful Scottish Highlands and up to Loch Ness. You’ll also pass by Stirling Castle on the way.

Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies

Delve into the world of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on this historical day trip through Scotland.

Glenfinnan, Glencoe and Mallaig

This is a great trip to see some of the Scottish Highlands and also discover another famous location from the Harry Potter movies. The Glenfinnan Viaduct with the steam train crossing is where famous shots of the Hogwarts Express were filmed. Whether or not you are a Harry Potter fan, the views are simply stunning.

St. Andrews and the Fishing Villages of Fife

This trip is perfect for travelers to see the coastline and any fans of golf. You can pay homage to the oldest university in Scotland as well as play a round on the Old Course which is one of the most famous golf courses in the world. Make sure to book your tee time plenty in advance!

Transportation in Edinburgh

Transportation in Edinburgh

Public transposition

Trams and buses are very easy to use in Edinburgh! Download the Transport for Edinburgh app to see the latest transport times and fares.

Walking

Walking is a great option in Edinburgh once you get to the city center. It is possible to walk between all of the major sites.

Rideshare Apps

Uber and FreeNow are available in Edinburgh. Typically FreeNow will be the cheaper option, so make sure to check the pricing on both before ordering!

Safety in Edinburgh

Typical crimes against tourists are theft and pickpocketing, especially in crowded tourist areas. Always stay alert when walking and keep your belongings safely zipped on your body. For example, never put your phone or wallet in your pocket without a zipper or flash expensive jewelry.

Make sure to purchase travel insurance with World Nomads before your trip to cover any incidents!

Additional Resources:

Download these 15 apps before your next trip.

Here are the best toiletries to pack for travel!

Travel inspiration: Here are the best 10 day Europe trip routes.

We hope this Edinburgh city guides helps plan your trip to this beautiful and historic city! Let us know in the comments which ones of these are your favorite or if we are missing any top things to do in Edinburgh. Happy traveling!

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