Edinburgh was one of my favorite cities on my travels through England and Scotland. I got into Edinburgh after I spent a few days traveling north from London and stopping/staying at a few places along the way. It’s a great way to explore a country by driving through it.
Before heading into Scotland and Edinburgh, I stopped at Bamburgh Castle (pronounced Bam-br-uh), which I highly recommend and will share more of in an upcoming blog post soon! But for now, here’s one of my favorite photos from the castle looking at the North Sea.
Edinburgh was just a sliver of many other places I want to visit in Scotland. So there’s way more exploring to be done. Scottish Highlands, anyone? But for now, we’ll focus on its beautiful capital city.
I got to spend a few days exploring some of the various neighborhoods in Edinburgh, and I’d like to share some of my favorite spots with you. So with further ado, below you’ll find ideas for things to do in Edinburgh, including where to eat and stay. Enjoy!
Before you go, check out some of the other posts from my England and Scotland adventure:
A Day Trip To Windsor, UK | The Idyllic Village Of Grasmere | 9 Castles + Palaces To See | 8 Cute English Villages | More coming soon!
What to do in Edinburgh, Scotland
- You can’t go anywhere in Edinburgh without seeing Edinburgh Castle. So if you haven’t been, it’s a stop that most tourist makes. I’ll start by saying I’m glad I went. I’m always up for learning the history of old castles. And the Scottish crown jewels exhibit was cool to see. But outside of that, I was underwhelmed by Edinburgh Castle, to be honest. So if any of the above isn’t your jam, the castle from the various viewpoints of the cities may be all you need. It does have a great view of Edinburgh, though, if you want a photo!
- Take a tour of Holyroodhouse Palace. The Royals of the past once stayed at Edinburgh Castle. But today, the residence of choice when the family is in Edinburgh is Holyroodhouse Palace, just down from the castle via Princes Street. If you are interested in seeing the palace, I recommend booking early. Tickets for adults range from £17.50 to £18.50.
- Check out the cute cottage at Princes Street Gardens. It’s a lovely park near Edinburgh Castle, where you can stroll around and see the fountains and art pieces. But my favorite spot in the park was the Gardener’s Cottage, a historical landmark with some pretty gardens. There’s even a cute Great Aunt Lizzie’s sign on the entrance gate. I don’t believe you can go in, but it’s a nice place to stop for a photo.
- A less touristy spot that I highly recommend is walking over to Dean Village. It’s a dainty little neighborhood along the Water of Leith river. It’s not as well known as the other neighborhoods closer to Old Town, but it was my favorite because it’s so picturesque. Spend some time walking around the village and stopping at the bridges.
Pro tip: On your way back to the city center from Dean Village, take a stroll on the Water of Leith walkway that you can access from Miller Row. It’s a lovely path along the river, where you’ll find statues and balconies overlooking the trickling water below. You can take this to St. Bernard’s Bridge, which will bring you back up the main roadways in Edinburgh.
- Take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Knowns as one of the worlds leading institutions for the study of plants, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is also quite beautiful. It was on my list of things to do, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go. But if you do a quick Google search you’ll see what I mean.
- Take a stroll down some of my favorite streets in Edinburgh. Specifically, Cockburn Street, Victoria Street, Grassmarket Square, and the lovely Circus Lane. Cockburn and Victoria are both in the Old Town neighborhood, so there’s a lot to see and do. But what I especially loved about these streets was the architecture of the buildings. The streets are also home to many little shops to pop into and explore. Grassmarket Square has a lot of restaurants. Circus Lane, on the other hand, is more of a hidden gem. It’s a quick little stroll, but it’s such a lovely residential street that I wanted to note it for my photography friends.
Pro tip: Near Circus Lane, you’ll find a lovely brick home at the corner of Circus Place and India Place with the prettiest flower display at its entrance. It’s a little #happyplace spot. The kind that makes you want to live there.
- When in Scotland, you have to do some Scotch tasting. It’s easy to do! Just walking around Old Town will get you in front of many Scotch shops where you can pop in and ask to do a tasting.
- Explore the beautiful Lauriston Castle. Outside of Edinburgh proper, this beautiful 16th-century tower house is now considered a museum open to the public with free entry to the grounds. I didn’t get a chance to go, but I hear that the gardens are beautiful (it features an award-winning Japanese garden), and there may even be a ghost lurking through Lauriston Castle halls.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to stop at Mimi’s Bakehouse on the property from some award-winning cakes and hot drinks.
Where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland
I booked a room at Norton House Hotel + Spa for my stay. It’s a beautiful country house hotel on 55 acres of grounds, with trails to explore while you take in the Scottish countryside.
The hotel includes a nice restaurant, a pool, and all the amenities you could ask for while traveling. I enjoyed my stay there, so I’d certainly recommend it. However, the only downside to Norton House is that it’s in Newbridge, which is 25 minutes outside of Edinburgh.
If you’re looking for something in the city, you could try The Raeburn, The Scotmans Hotel, or Eden Lock . Those would be the places I’d check out! Airbnb and VRBO would be fun to explore as well.
If you want to be fancy, the Gleneagles Townhouse Hotel looks very chic. I love all the pops of color in the rooms.
Where to eat and drink in Edinburgh, Scotland
- St. Vincent Bar: Known as ‘the Vinnie’ by locals, St. Vincent is a traditional Scottish pub. It features a rotating selection of quality ales, craft beers, wines, and some light food and snacks. It’s a great spot to hang out if you want to be among the locals.
- The Spence: If you’re looking for traditional Scottish-inspired cuisine with a 1920s vibe, The Spence is for you. The atmosphere is laid-back, with piano music entertaining you in the background. Order some plates to share, and make sure you ask for dessert (hint: there is a dessert trolley).
- The White Hart Inn: On Grassmarket Square, The White Hart Inn‘s claim to fame is the oldest pub in Edinburgh. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but it was a quaint pub to stumble into for a pint of beer. It is small, so it can be hard to find a seat, but if you stick around the bar for a bit, you’ll be able to snag a spot soon enough.
- The Milkman: For a great coffee spot, head to The Milkman in Edinburgh’s Old Town neighborhood. The outside of it looks unassuming under its Confection Cigarettes sign. But this cavernous cafe is such a cool spot for those coffee lovers looking for something unique. Make sure to get a pastry with your coffee – They get rave reviews.
- Krem Karamel Cafe + Bookshop: If you’re near the Royal Botanic Garden, head to the Krem Karamel Cafe for an afternoon pick-me-up and lunch. It’s a cafe, bakery, AND bookshop, so you can grab a coffee and food and peruse the bookshelves for a new find.
- Rose + Crown: This cute pub is on Rose Street, close to the Royal mile in the Lowdown/New Town neighborhood. Rose Street has a bunch of cute restaurants you can check out. I picked the Rose + Crown for the cozy ambiance. They also have live music, so make sure to pop in to see if they have anyone in.
Cobblestone streets, beautiful old buildings, and cozy pubs. How could you not love Edinburgh? If you plan to take a trip to Scotland, I hope my Edinburgh travel guide inspires you to stop in this beautiful city. You now have places to put on your list of things to do while there, so you don’t have an excuse to not visit! 🙂
As always, message me if you have any questions about my trip. I’m always happy to help!
Let’s go places,
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Have you been to Edinburgh? If so, share some of your favorite spots in the comments below.
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