Edinburgh is Scotland’s historic jewel from a fairy tale, where narrow cobbled streets meet plenty of greenery built on an ancient volcano. One can find anything and everything from architectural masterpieces that stood the test of time, to cool bars and extravagant events. So, there is an abundance of things to do within the best place to live in the UK, yet there are simply some must-visit places in Edinburgh everyone should see at least once in their life.
1. Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse
If one had to choose between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle for financial reasons or time constraints, Palace of Holyroodhouse would take the top spot. On top of the stunning Holyrood Abbey and the palace’s gardens, visitors get to explore the chambers of kings and queens, rooms and jewels, as well as Scotland’s rich regal history. The is no doubt the active Royal residence is also worth visiting by local residents at least once in their lives.
2. Climb the ancient volcano that is Arthur’s Seat
Most people that have visited me over the years said that climbing Arthur’s Seat was their favourite of the time in Edinburgh. Most us remember that feeling of finally climbing up to the top and looking over the magnificent 360 degree view, completely in awe. The ancient inactive volcano is an absolute must to complete, and the more times you climb it, the better. Even after all these years, the view just does not get old, and it’s a great work out on top of everything else. Holyrood Park is also a lovely walk in itself, offering spectacular vistas of the water, the city and the Pentland Hills.
3. See a West End play at the biggest seated theatre in the UK
Edinburgh Playhouse is the biggest seated theatre in the UK, with over 3000 seats over three levels. The theatre was originally built as a cinema, now it is used for large touring musical productions. In the past, Edinburgh Playhouse welcomed shows such as My Fair Lady, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Rocky Horror, as well as Aladdin coming on tour at the end of 2023. Everyone should experience the beauty of a West End musical at least once, leaving elated and appreciating all the hard work that goes into it.
4. Visit Scotland’s first dog cafe
Located on Fredrick Street lies the Edinburgh Chihuahua Cafe, filled with nine beautiful chihuahuas. The spot does not accept walk-ins and is bookings only, where dog lovers can get some well-deserved self-care, oh, and cake, there’s cake, too. As world’s first chihuahua café and Scotland’s first dog café, Edinburgh Chihuahua Cafe is a local independent business owned by two best friends, aiming to provide that unconditionally loving best friend to those in need. To visit, guests can book a session on the Chihuahua Cafe’s website.
5. Have a wee day out to Portobello Beach
Recently, Portobello was named the best place to live in Edinburgh, with its serene, car-free and dog-filled beach with plenty of cafes at its forefront. Have a walk on the promenade, hang out on the sand or even have a wild swim if you feel adventurous. On top of a beautiful walk on the beach, there is a number of noteworthy beachfront cafes, such as The Beach House Cafe that was also listed as one of the best cafes with a view in the UK in the past. And, of course, if I may say in my personal opinion, Portobello is also home to one of the best pizza spots in Edinburgh – Civerino’s Slice.
6. Check out amazing art at Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Whether you’re someone visiting Edinburgh for the very first time and looking for things to do, or just looking for some first date ideas, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery a true marvel to look located in the capital’s New Town. The architectural masterpiece boasts around 3,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, and over 25,000 drawings. Additionally, visitors can discover around 38,000 photographs telling the tales of Scotland. There is also a cafe within the building, serving sweet and savoury treats, as well as afternoon tea if booked in advance. You can also check out our guide to the very best museums and galleries.
7. Explore Edinburgh’s quirkiest bars
From a gaming and music bar to vintage fun fair-themed speakeasy bar, Edinburgh has plenty of quirky and unique bars to explore for your next round. While Panda & Sons is a speakeasy bar masked as a barbershop where guests need to enter through a bookcase, The Mousetrap is a game-themed bar full of great vibes, music and cheap cocktails. Harry Potter lovers can whip up some potions in The Cauldron Wizard Bar, and adventure seekers can dive into massive adult ballpit at Ballie Ballerson.
8. Indulge in luxurious afternoon tea at the Edinburgh Castle
That’s right, you don’t have to buy an expensive ticket just to aimlessly wander around Edinburgh Castle for hours. Instead, make the most of the active military base by enjoying an afternoon tea experience at its Tea Rooms. While you can still very much aimlessly wander or explore the castle with purpose, the experience includes admission with tickets at £50 for an alcohol-free afternoon tea, or £55 with a glass of prosecco. The Tea Rooms are located in the depths of the castle on Crown Square, where guests can enjoy a historic site in a truly unique way.
9. Explore all the wonderful plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a world leader in plant education and science, has a myriad plant species to be discovered and explore. Plus, it’s just a lovely walk on a sunny day, with plenty of pathways and walkways throughout. The organisation often hosts various events for entertainment or education, and visitors can check what’s on before going. While you’re there, also visit Inverleith Park across the road, where you will be met with an excellent view of the city center on top of the hill near the pond.
10. Cross the water to Cramond Island
Cramond Beach is one of the two main beaches in Edinburgh and is more wild and secluded than its fellow Portobello Beach. This is the perfect day out for those seeking some more peace and quiet, as well as some more space during heatwaves. While there, visitors can cross over to explore Cramond Island when the tide is down and the pathway is open. Be sure to check the tide times before embarking on the path, as you will get stuck on the island for a long period of time before the tide comes back down. There have been plenty of instances of people needing to be rescued from Cramond Falls, so it’s best to be safe than sorry. Cramond Waterfall is also just a short walk away and ready to be explored on a nice day.