Five things to do in... Edinburgh, Scotland


Bridging the gap between England and the wilds of the Scottish highlands, Edinburgh demands the world’s attention. Charming you with its flavours of Georgian, Gothic and Victorian architecture, its winding vaults and narrow-lane wynds offer the threat of mystery and adventure with every step.

And yet, just around every corner lies the opportunity to lose yourself in a field of green, to scale craggy rocks, and capture a stunning view of the city and sea.

Bur Edinburgh is as much a cultural capital as any of the cities of Europe, offering so much to a visitor interested in just about everything and anything.

Music sessions break out seemingly spontaneously, pub crawls practically conga through the streets, Scotland’s unique take on cuisine beckons, and the arts scene is beyond compare. Particularly in August, when the annual Festival, and its Fringe, takes a cultural and (unfortunately when it comes to finding a place to stay) impractical hold of city, but pays back in dividends with the most important dance, theatre, and comedy on show.

Here are our five things to do in Edinburgh.

5. Edinburgh Castle


Arguably the biggest tourist attraction in town, Edinburgh Castle is hard to avoid. Perched high above the city, stoutly on top of Edinburgh's other extinct volcano, the castle stands as a symbolic souvenir of Scotland's history. Tours led by actors taking of the roles of people who lived there bring the cold walls to live, and view of the city is wonderful.

4. Arthur's Seat

[Flickr/Andrey Korchagin]

The other other extinct volcano, and arguably the better known one, Arthur's Seat towers above the grassy meadows of Holyrood Park. But it's an easy ascent for even the most amateur hiker, with the top just poking past 250m. And from there, the truly wonderful architecture of the Athens of the North, as Edinburgh is known, lies for the eyes to take in. On May 1st, the young women of Edinburgh traditional rise at the crack of dawn to wash their faces with the dew, and it's a unique way of waking up in the morning

3. The Festival (and the Fringe)


The annual highlight of a Summer in the Scottish capital is this performing arts festival. Spread across three weeks from mid-August, acts from all over the world seek a coveted spot in the line up. But it’s by invitation only, meaning the festival still commands some of the biggest names in music, theatre, opera, and dance.

For those who prefer something with bit more edge, the Fringe, which has been running in parallel to the main festival since 1947, offers even more. It’s wall to wall culture and not for the fainthearted. 

2. The Scottish National Gallery

[Flickr/pallab seth]

Catering for all tastes, the bright burgundy walls of Scotland's National Gallery are not the only ones on offer in the large complex on Princes Street.

The varied collection is a who’s who of European painters from the Renaissance through to post-Impressionism. Artists on display include Verrocchio, who taught Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Poussin, Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Monet, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Cézanne.

1. The Cameo

[Flickr/angus mcdiarmid]

A favourite of some of the world's most celebrated cinéphiles, Quentin Tarantino among them, this opulent and beautiful picture house celebrated its centenary last year. But don't be put off by its vintage, as a recent refurbishment saw the rickety old seats replaced with some of the comfiest recliners you'e ever likely to sit on.

For film fans, it's a dream, with curated showings of world cinema and classic movies. While a trip to the flicks might seem an odd choice, after all the walking you'll do in Edinburgh, it's nice to put your feet up and take in a movie like a real Scot. 

To listen to travel writer Manchán Magan's tips on a trip to Edinburgh, click on the link below:

Back to top