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What should you add to your Edinburgh bucket list?
Scotland’s charming capital attracts people from all over the world wanting to experience its remarkable history, stunning architectural beauty, and famous hospitality.
Located in the southeast of the country, Edinburgh is filled with beautiful Victorian villas lining cobblestone streets – it’s easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Edinburgh is full of life, and there’s always something interesting going on, making it an incredible place to visit.
I’ve extensively traveled across Europe, and have even been on a road trip throughout Scotland, including quite a few days spent in Edinburgh.
There’s an abundance of things to do in Edinburgh, from comedy festivals to UNESCO world heritage sites – here’s an Edinburgh bucket list that ticks off all the must-visit spots.
Edinburgh Bucket List
Hike up Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano overlooking the city. It’s a relatively easy hike to the top, and once you reach the summit, you’ll be treated to sweeping views over the whole of Edinburgh – on a clear day, you can see as far as the North Sea! This is the place to visit if you want the best views of Edinburgh.
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Attend Afternoon Tea
A visit to Edinburgh feels like taking a step back in time into bygone eras. What better way to enjoy this than by participating in the historic British tradition of afternoon tea?
There are plenty of stunning venues to choose from, and each guarantees delicious nibbles and tasty tea in a charming, elegant environment.
Take in the view from Calton Hill
Calton Hill is a UNESCO world heritage site that served as a hill fort in ancient times. It holds a huge history and has played many different roles in its time – including a hospital for lepers!
A must-do on any Edinburgh bucket list is to visit at sunrise to beat the crowds and admire the picture-perfect view of Edinburgh before exploring the area’s historic buildings.
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Visit the Palace of Holyrood House
Holyrood House is the official home of the monarchy in Scotland. A visit is a must for anyone interested in the royal family – you can explore the interior chambers of the palace (which is where the king stays when he visits) as well as the remains of the abbey.
Holyrood has a fascinating history that you can learn about through the audio guide – it’s an incredible place to discover and should definitely be on your Edinburgh to do list.
Go inside St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral is situated in the heart of Edinburgh’s medieval city and is the largest of the city’s old churches. It’s a significant landmark in Edinburgh’s skyline, and its towering steeples can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city.
Head inside to experience the serene atmosphere and admire the beautifully ornate stained glass windows.
Dine at The Elephant House
Harry Potter fans will know that Edinburgh played a huge role in the creation of the books – author JK Rowling lived in the city when she wrote the first book, and you can certainly see its influence on the wizarding world.
The Elephant House Cafe is renowned as the “birthplace of Harry Potter” as Rowling used to write there during the early days of her career. The cafe’s toilets are filled with Harry Potter graffiti, making them almost a shrine to the series.
Visit the cafe for coffee and cake, and you never know, you might find yourself sitting in the same seat as the author did!
Wander along Victoria Street
This curving street lined with colorful shops and boutiques is one of Edinburgh’s most recognizable locations – you’ll almost certainly have seen it on the front of a postcard or in an advertisement for Edinburgh.
It’s a mosaic of Edinburgh’s history, and you’ll fall in love with the eclectic hodgepodge of buildings, which all fit together perfectly. There is some excellent shopping on the street, where you can pick up anything from quaint trinkets to your own Harry Potter wand!
Go on a ghost tour
Edinburgh is a pretty spooky place – the city is filled with gothic architecture and the age of some of the buildings shows they’ve turned black from years of soot and smoke. A great Edinburgh bucket list activity for fans of the supernatural is to go on a ghost tour.
Descend into the depths of the city through Edinburgh’s underground vaults – a network of underground streets, which have seen some pretty gruesome things.
Have a blast at Camera Obscura
This is one of the most awesome things to do in Edinburgh – no matter your age! The five-floor building is filled with visual illusions, each of which you’re encouraged to try out for yourself.
There is everything from a mirror maze to a spinning vortex tunnel, as well as a load of cool picture spots. Just be warned – you might leave feeling a bit dizzy!
Try some Scottish Shortbread
Scotland’s national dish of Haggis might not be to everyone’s taste but fear not – if Haggis isn’t your thing, there’s another delicacy to try in Edinburgh.
Scotland’s favorite biscuit, shortbread, is a simple dish with just three ingredients. It’s delicious dipped into tea, and trying this combination is a must do on your Edinburgh bucket list.
Visit Dean Village
Dean Village is like something out of a fairytale. It’s been virtually untouched by modern life and is home to storybook views you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The history of Dean Village spans back over 800 years when it was constructed to house mill workers.
Enjoy a peaceful stroll around this beautiful area – you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
Walk the Royal Mile
This bustling walking street has a lively atmosphere, and you’ll always find something going on, no matter what time of year you visit.
Go on a Harry Potter Tour
Edinburgh played a huge role in the creation of Harry Potter, and there’s no better way to discover the links between the city and the series than by going on a Harry Potter walking tour.
Discover the real-life Diagon Alley, the school that looks just like Hogwarts, and the gravestones that inspired some of your favorite characters’ names. This is a must do Edinburgh bucket list activity if you love Harry Potter!
Learn at Edinburgh Castle
No Edinburgh bucket list would be complete without mentioning Edinburgh Castle. Sitting atop a giant rock that was formed as the result of a volcanic eruption, Edinburgh Castle is a majestic site.
Admire the 12th-century castle from the outside before heading inside to discover royal history – you’ll find fascinating artifacts on display, like the crown jewels and the stone of destiny.
Marvel at artifacts and art in the National Gallery
The National Gallery contains a curation of Scotland’s most incredible artwork, created by local artists throughout multiple different time periods. A visit offers the chance to dive deeper into Scotland’s history and immerse yourself in the gallery’s remarkable collection.
Try Haggis, a local delicacy
Scotland’s national dish is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s certainly not for vegetarians! Haggis is made up of a sheep’s pluck (its heart, liver, and lungs), minced and combined with onions, spices, and stock, and boiled in the sheep’s stomach.
Though it might sound unpleasant – it’s a delicious culinary delight and should definitely be tried!
Attend Festival Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest performing arts festival. It usually takes place in August, lasting for around three weeks, and it can host as many as 60,000 performers! There are shows to suit every taste, and the atmosphere in Edinburgh during the fringe is electric.
As Scotland’s national drink and biggest export, spending time in Edinburgh without trying whisky would be criminal. Why not try a whisky-tasting session to learn about the history and manufacturing process behind each drop of this much-loved amber nectar?
Explore the Royal Botanical Garden
Escape from the bustle and noise of the city center and visit the Royal Botanical Garden, 72 acres of beautiful landscapes with the most peaceful and serene atmosphere in all of Edinburgh. It’s regularly voted as one of the best Botanical gardens in the world and is home to an impressive range of species.
Pub hop at local pubs
Edinburgh is home to no shortage of pubs and bars, with everything from traditional Scottish venues to upmarket cocktail bars on offer.
To get a real taste of Edinburghian life, spend an evening pub hopping through all the local pubs and soak up their vibrant atmosphere and warm hospitality. Pub hopping should be on everyone’s Edinburgh to do list!
See the Scott Monument
The Scott Monument is one of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks. It’s dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland’s most outstanding literary figures. Visit the monument to admire one of the largest monuments dedicated to a writer anywhere in the world.
Go on a hop on hop off tour
Arguably one of the best ways to explore Edinburgh is on the top deck of a hop on hop off bus tour. Sit back and relax as the audio commentary teaches you about the history of each site you pass, and admire the city’s beautiful architecture from above the crowds.
See Rowling’s inspiration in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
On a visit to this special graveyard, you might find yourself spotting a few names you recognize – particularly if you’re a Harry Potter fan!
There are multiple headstones here with names that are believed to have inspired characters – keep your eyes peeled and try to spot Robert Potter and William McGonagall (to name a few!).
Take a photo on Cockburn Street
This sweeping, narrow street in Edinburgh’s old town is renowned as one of the most picturesque streets in Edinburgh. Visit in the early morning to snap the perfect photo of this quintessentially Edinburgh-esque landscape before enjoying breakfast at one of its charming cafes.
Final Thoughts: Best Things to do in Edinburgh
So, there you have it – a complete roundup of the best Edinburgh bucket list activities. Whatever you decide to do, one thing is guaranteed – you’ll fall in love with this charming city.
Which items will you tick off on your Edinburgh adventure?
Watch our vlog all about our 24 hours in Edinburgh!
Explore Edinburgh & Scotland
Be sure to check out the rest of Scotland while you’re visiting! See more of our posts below.
- 12 Fun Edinburgh Harry Potter Tours for Literary Muggles
- 15 Best Day Trips from Edinburgh by Train
- 16 Best Edinburgh Instagram Spots
- 13 Best Restaurants in Edinburgh Scotland
- Where to Stay in Edinburgh, Scotland | Ultimate Accommodation Guide
- How to Spend One Day in Edinburgh, Scotland
- 19 Most Beautiful Towns in Scotland
- 10 Edinburgh Ghost Tours That Will Freak You Out