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Things to do in Edinburgh

You'll discover everything from whisky to Harry Potter, or even some bodysnatchers, in Scotland's captivating capital.

Our most recommended things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

1. Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

Head for the Highlands, whether in search of the Loch Ness Monster or just a scenic day trip from Edinburgh. After pickup, relax on the bus and listen to the guide’s entertaining commentary. Visit Kilmahog for an introduction to the famous Highland Cows (depending on the time of year) and a cup of coffee. Next, travel up the road to Glencoe and enjoy a 10-minute photo stop in front of the unforgettable Highland views. Have lunch in the Fort William area, where your guide can advise you on where to eat. If you're interested in the mysteries of the kilt, you can even get a ‘wee’ kilt introduction here. Then be whisked to Loch Ness itself. Customize your experience at Loch Ness. Choose to visit the majestic Urquhart Castle, and hop on a boat in search of ‘Nessie’, as the locals call it. Or simply hang out on the pier and grab a coffee with gorgeous views. On the way home, make a short snack stop in Pitlochry, a beautiful village in the heart of the country, before returning to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Underground Vaults Tour

2. Edinburgh: Underground Vaults Tour

This guided walking tour takes you beneath the streets of Edinburgh's Old Town into a dimly lit space that many considered to be haunted. Your tour visits the vaults of the South Bridge that date back to the 1700s. These are the same vaults mentioned on Most Haunted Live as one of the scariest places on earth. Learn how the vaults have been used over the years, the living conditions endured by the poor and homeless residents, and the spirits that are supposed to haunt them. The darker side of Edinburgh's history will unfold as you wander through the candle-lit underground area. From your guide, you'll hear about the Burke and Hare murders and the persecution of witches. Discover the characters who stalked the streets of Edinburgh, and the paranormal stories associated with the vaults. The Haunted Vaults tour option will cover slightly more paranormal and ghost stories. Step into the torture exhibition and explore how and why these items were used.

From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glenoce & The Highlands Day Tour

3. From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glenoce & The Highlands Day Tour

Following pickup from central Edinburgh, you will head towards Stirling, catching views of the Castle and Wallace Monument as you venture to the Highlands. Visit Callander, and stop for morning coffee in this bustling town described as the gateway to the highlands. Head northwards over Rannoch Moor until you reach the dark, brooding Pass of Glencoe. Stop for lunch and free time nearby the Fort William area, then follow the Caledonian Canal up the Great Glen to Loch Ness. Here, you have some free time with the option to cruise on the Loch, or if you don't want to take the cruise you can relax in one of the bars or restaurants in the tranquil village or on the pier.  After Loch Ness you will head South East and take in magnificent views of Loch Laggan. On the way home, enjoy a refreshment stop in Pitlochry, a delightful Victorian resort town. Then, head south through Fife, and cross the Forth next to the amazing Forth Bridge, before arriving back in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour w/ Fast-Track Entry

4. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour w/ Fast-Track Entry

Begin your tour by the statue of Adam Smith on the Royal Mile. Walk towards Edinburgh Castle as your guide sets the scene, explaining the significance of the Castle and mentioning some of the key characters who have helped shape it. Once inside, let your guide walk you through the Castle complex. Hear their in-depth knowledge of the Castle's main buildings and attractions, including the Argyle Battery and One O'clock Gun, the Hospital Square and Western Panorama. See the Castle dungeons and military prison, the Black Banquet and Thomas Randolph's daring castle raid. Encounter St Margret's Chapel, Mons Meg, the Crown Square, and The Honors of Scotland. After the tour, enjoy some time at your leisure to explore the castle museums (not accessible during the tour).

Edinburgh Airport: Bus Transfer

5. Edinburgh Airport: Bus Transfer

Pre-book bus transfers between Edinburgh Airport and the city center and take the worry and stress out of your journey to/from the Scottish capital. Vouchers must be printed and are valid on Airlink100 only. The buses are located just outside the main airport and are easy to find. They offer comfortable seating, generous luggage space, and free Wi-Fi to keep you connected. Enjoy all the comforts you require, with frequent daily departures on a dedicated express service between the airport and the city center. Sit back on the approximately 30-minute journey, whatever time of day or night you arrive. Buses depart at least every 10 minutes. Between 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM, journeys are operated every 30 minutes. The bus stops in both directions are as follows (except Princes St which is drop-off only): • Edinburgh Zoo • Murrayfield • Haymarket Station • West End – Shandwick Place • Princes St (drop off only) • South St David Street, Edinburgh Single tickets can be used for one single journey in either direction. You can board the bus at any stop. Return tickets have no expiry date and your return journey does not need to be booked in advance.

Edinburgh: Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

6. Edinburgh: Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

Enjoy a Harry Potter-themed walking tour across Edinburgh. See the city where JK Rowling found inspiration for Hogwarts, her famous characters, and discover the place where she wrote the books. Have your Harry Potter trivia tested with an audio-visual quiz, and earn points for your house. Find out which Hogwarts House you’re in, and whether you’re a pure-blood, a muggle, or a squib. Visit the Grave of Tom Riddle in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and pass JK Rowling’s golden handprints outside City Chambers. See all this and more on a magical guided tour.

Edinburgh: Glenfinnan, Fort William, and Glencoe Day Tour

7. Edinburgh: Glenfinnan, Fort William, and Glencoe Day Tour

Try a Glenfinnan, Glencoe, and Fort William adventure, beginning in the heart of Edinburgh city center from Royal Mile. Take in the scenery of classic modern Hollywood films. Depart Edinburgh's bustling streets, pass some of its most iconic sights like Edinburgh Castle on your way out, and begin your journey north into the rugged Scottish Highlands. Stop for refreshments at the gateway to the Highlands in Callander before continuing to Glencoe. Drive through the land where James Bonds' Skyfall was filmed. See the backdrop to some scenes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Pause here for photos and to learn all about the history of Glencoe, including the massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. From the atmospheric Glencoe, travel further along the banks of Loch Linnhe to the Highland town of Fort William, which sits at the foot of Britain's tallest mountain - Ben Nevis. Stop here to stretch your legs and have an early lunch break. Next, continue on to Glenfinnan Viaduct, the location of many Harry Potter scenes, encased by the shores of Loch Shiel. See the location of the Jacobite Steam Train, and of “Black Lake”. Take in the setting for the Triwizard Tournament, and the loch on which Hogwarts sits. Continue on to Glenfinnan Monument, which symbolizes one of the most important events in Scottish history; the 1745 Jacobite uprising. Next, departing Glenfinnan, you’ll begin your return journey to Edinburgh, stopping for refreshments at the small village of Pitlochry.

Edinburgh: Skip-the-Line Walking Tour of Edinburgh Castle

8. Edinburgh: Skip-the-Line Walking Tour of Edinburgh Castle

Discover the home of Mary Queen of Scots on this guided walking tour of Edinburgh Castle. Admire the 16th-century Great Hall where parties and feast took place. Learn about the bloody history of the kings and queens who lived in this castle.  Meet your guide and walk to Edinburgh Castle which dominates the city skyline from its seat on the extinct volcano of Castle Rock. Stroll on the castle's promenade and hear about the the origins and sieges of the castle. View where the Royal Military Tattoo is performed. Enter the castle and make your way to the three museums and two prisons. Go to the National Monument to the fallen of Scotland and a canine cemetery. See the oldest building in the city at the Chapel of Saint Margaret. Be captivated by the grandeur of the Great Hall and a Royal Palace. After the tour you will have time to explore all of the buildings inside the castle until its closure.

From Edinburgh: Magical Highlands Tour with Hogwarts Express

9. From Edinburgh: Magical Highlands Tour with Hogwarts Express

Get first-hand experiences at some of the sets in the Harry Potter film series with your guide. Travel through Scotland on a bus to these locations, and conclude your tour with a visit to Glenfinnan Visitor Center. Pass some of the key film locations from all 8 Harry Potter movies as you lose yourself in the wilderness of Rannoch Moor. Discover the volcanic glen from "The Prisoner of Azkaban" en route to Fort William, where you will board the Hogwarts Express steam train. Cross the Victorian-era Glenfinnan Viaduct and get views of Loch Shiel from the "Chamber of Secrets." See the site of the Triwizard Tournament from "The Goblet of Fire" and continue to the fishing village of Mallaig to get some time for lunch.  You will board the coach from Mallaig where we will have a stop at the Glenfinnan Visitor Center for an excellent chance to photograph the steam train returning across the viaduct before you return to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Old Town and Underground Ghost Tour

10. Edinburgh: Old Town and Underground Ghost Tour

Join an early afternoon ghost tour in Edinburgh and enjoy a walk with a professional local guide dressed in full period costume. See historic landmarks in the old town on this 1-hour tour as your guide tells you about Edinburgh’s dark past. Head down into the city’s underground vaults, located below the historic South Bridge, just off Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. The vaults are known to be some of the most haunted in the world and many a ghost has been spotted lurking around by visitors and guides. Experience an afternoon filled with ghosts, torture, death, and horror in Scotland’s historic capital.

Available activities

  • Lochs & the Highlands
  • Harry Potter & beyond
  • Graveyards & underground vaults
  • Scottish castles & palaces
  • Whisky tasting, food tours, & more
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Frequently asked questions about Edinburgh

What are the best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh?

The best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh are:

Loch Ness

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Edinburgh

Laurence is a full time travel blogger and photographer, who shares his tips on travel and improving your photography on his website Finding the Universe. He used to live in London, and you can see his tips for spending two days in Edinburgh here.

What should I do on my first trip to Edinburgh?

Two highlights of the city that every visitor should experience are a visit to Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest continuously inhabited structures in Scotland, and then the view from Calton Hill. For the former, this impressive castle is well worth spending at least a couple of hours visiting, and the regular tours are also worth joining. There's a lot to see and do here, from watching the 1 o'clock gun firing through to seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels. Calton Hill, at the other end of the city, is the perfect place to watch the sunset. It's also where you'll get best views of the city skyline.

What are some hidden gems to see in Edinburgh?

About twenty minutes walk south of the city centre there's an awesome venue called Summerhall. They host a range of live events throughout the year, as well as during Edinburgh's famous festivals. It's also home to both a gin distillery and a microbrewery. Tours of the former are possible, and you can try them both on site as well!

How much time should I spend in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is not a huge city, so if you were organised with your time you could see most of the highlights in a day. However, two days would give you more time to experience all that the city has to offer.

What food is Edinburgh known for?

Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is well known for a dish known as Haggis. This is often served with a full Scottish breakfast, but can also be ordered as a meal or as a burger topping. Whilst the ingredients list can be a bit terrifying, it is actually a delicious dish that is well worth trying while in the city.

What is the best way to get around Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is best explored on foot. The city is not too big, although visitors should be aware that the medieval streets can be steep and uneven! For attractions a little out of the city centre, there's a good public bus network as well as a tram.

What are the best months to visit Edinburgh?

If you want to visit Edinburgh when there's a lot going on, then August is the month to do just that. The city plays host to no less than five major festivals in the month of August, giving the visitor almost endless entertainment options. The next best time to visit is over New Years Eve, known as Hogmanay in Scotland, when the city usually throws a massive street party with incredible fireworks and live music performances.

What is neighborhood The Old Town known for?

The medieval city centre with its narrow cobbled streets and steep staircases is known as the Old Town. Next to it sits the 18th century "New Town", which is characterized by Georgian style buildings and wide boulevards. Both are well worth exploring.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Edinburgh has an excellent selection of restaurants to choose from in the city centre, stretched between the Old Town and the New Town. Most visitors will likely gravitate to one of the city's many pubs, which serve a wide range of hearty and traditional meals.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

The main shopping street in the city is Prince's Street, where you'll find many of the standard high street shops. For tourist focused wares, including souvenirs and whisky, then the Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace, is the best option.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Edinburgh?

The best area to stay in the city is around the Old Town, somewhere between Edinburgh Waverley train station and the Grassmarket. This will put you in easy walking distance of the majority of attractions in the city.

Other Sightseeing Options in Edinburgh

Want to discover all there is to do in Edinburgh? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Edinburgh

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 80,263 reviews

The guide was full of energy enthusiasm clear, was fantastic at telling a story..... So much so i for one was disappointed the tour was only 75 minutes long. Could have done another hour.... Would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a spot of adventure, bit of fun plus learn a thing or 2. Tall slim white male, 20s quick walker.... Lol guide.

We had a lovely time, Jim our tour guide was exceptional as he explained a lot for us during our travel. He made our journey very enjoyable and we were taken aback from the beautiful scenery Edinburgh and Scotland had to offer. Thank you Jim and thank you to the tour company for facilitating it all. Vas and Eleni.

It was my best excursion ever! Full of emotions, laugh’s, great explanation about every single detail, PAUL SANTA made it epic, this guy know the job like nobody else! Epic amazing !!! Amazing Scotland, and Amazing guide wich made everything perfect ..! I will be back and book again but, only with Paul SantA!!!

Andrew was a great guide, we enjoyed the whole tour, we had previously been on the vaults tour so we were quite happy that the information was still in depth, we even got a few more details than the last tour! Really chuffed with the energy of the guide and tour, would definitely recommend and rebook

Excellent, original tour which was our highlight of Scotland. Andy was great and made our trip so memorable. New year's day was even special this year with this trip