15 Thrilling Things To Do In Edinburgh

Discover the best things to do in Edinburgh! By our expert guide features top attractions, must-see landmarks, and hidden gems.

Travel Letter

Planning to visit the lively city of Scotland, Edinburgh? Here are the 15 thrilling things to do in Edinburgh that’ll make your trip more exciting. Edinburgh has much to offer, from castles to markets, gardens to galleries, and serene towns to bustling pubs. Whether you like peace, serenity, rock music, or crowded streets, Edinburgh has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to experience thrill, adventure, and peace on the streets of Edinburgh. Keep the checklist handy not to miss any fun activities in the city. Let’s begin!

1. Hike The Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcanic hill that majestically rises above Edinburgh’s skyline. Located in Holyrood Park, this iconic landmark offers stunning panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Its rugged beauty, diverse flora, and fauna beckons adventurers and nature lovers. Hiking to its summit reveals a sense of accomplishment, rewarded by breathtaking vistas of Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth, and the rolling hills beyond, positioning it among the best things to do in Edinburgh. 

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can try paragliding from Arthur’s Seat. Experience the thrill of soaring above the city and taking in the bird’s-eye view of Edinburgh. This activity is usually done with a trained instructor, so you can feel safe while enjoying the adventure. Whether you seek a tranquil walk, a challenging hike, a moment of reflection, or an awe-inspiring sunset, Arthur’s Seat promises an unforgettable experience that captures the heart and soul of Edinburgh.

Nearby Attractions To Arthur’s Seat

  • Holyrood Palace: Situated at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. You can take a guided tour to learn more about this palace.
  • Holyrood Abbey: Adjacent to Holyrood Palace is the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. This medieval abbey holds significant historical and architectural value and is among the fascinating things to do in Edinburgh.

2. Explore Leith

Leith is an exciting district north of Edinburgh’s city centre. It boasts a distinct character, blending its industrial past with contemporary charm. Its historic waterfront, lined with warehouses and docks, reflects its maritime roots and evokes a sense of nostalgia. 

The vibrant streets of Leith are filled with a mix of traditional pubs, trendy bars, independent shops, and award-winning restaurants. The famous Leith Walk, a bustling thoroughfare, offers many shops, cafes, and markets, creating a lively atmosphere. Visit these eating joints to taste the best food in Scotland. 

Leith is also home to many notable landmarks. The iconic Royal Yacht Britannia, once the floating residence of the British Royal Family, is permanently moored here. There are many outdoor activities and historical treasures in Leith. You can take a day to tour the district. The fun activities, history, markets, and street food, put the Leith tour among the fun things to do in Edinburgh.

3. Walk Through The Meadows

If you want to get out of the hustle & bustle of the city and enjoy serenity in greenery, head to the Edinburgh Meadows. It is a vast public park in the heart of Edinburgh. It is a beloved recreational space for locals and visitors, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city centre. Also, the place has various cafes and eating joints in its surroundings. Sitting on the green grass while grabbing a bite of your favourite snack is indeed among the best things to do in Edinburgh; you must try it.

The Edinburgh Meadows also offers a range of amenities to enhance visitors’ experiences. You’ll find tennis courts, a playground for children, and designated barbecue areas to enjoy a cookout with friends and family. The park provides a serene and idyllic setting for leisure, recreation, and socialising. Its lush green spaces, recreational facilities, and central location make it a cherished part of the city, inviting locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Nearby Attractions To Meadows

  • Surgeons’ Hall Museums: Located a short distance from the Meadows, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums are a unique and intriguing collection of medical artefacts, specimens, and exhibits that delve into the history of surgery and medical advancements.
  • The National Library of Scotland: Just a short walk from the Meadows, the National Library of Scotland is a treasure trove of knowledge and literature. It houses a vast collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and documents that offer insights into Scotland’s history and culture.

4. Visit Edinburgh Castle

Learn more about the history of Edinburgh at the Castle. It is a testament to Scotland’s rich heritage, spanning several centuries. Its history dates back to the 12th century, although the site has been occupied since ancient times. As you explore its ancient buildings, you’ll discover layers of history and architectural marvels, ranging from the oldest surviving part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, to the Great Hall, which dates back to the 16th century.

Perched high above the city, Edinburgh Castle offers a commanding presence with its majestic stone walls and towers. Its strategic location atop Castle Rock provides breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh and its surroundings, including the picturesque Old Town and the bustling Princes Street. 

1st April to 30th September – 9:30 am to 6 pm (Last entry at 5 pm)
1st October to 31st March – 9:30 am to 5 pm (Last entry at 4 pm)

Nearby Attractions To Edinburgh Castle

  • The Scott Monument: Located on Princes Street, just a short walk from the castle, the Scott Monument is a towering Gothic monument dedicated to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. 

5. Stroll Through The Royal Botanic Garden

Visiting the Royal Botanic Garden is one of the serene things to do in Edinburgh, as it is a haven of natural beauty and biodiversity, offering a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a treasure trove of plant life, featuring an extensive collection of plants from worldwide. As you explore the garden’s diverse landscapes, you’ll encounter various flora, from delicate wildflowers to towering trees.

The park is divided into different sections, each with its unique charm. The Rock Garden showcases alpine plants and features rocky outcrops and cascading waterfalls. The Woodland Garden offers a tranquil setting with shaded paths winding through a canopy of trees, while the Chinese Hillside transports you to the Far East with its traditional Chinese-inspired design and plantings. 

With its stunning landscapes, captivating plant collections, and dedication to conservation, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, botany enthusiasts, and anyone seeking tranquillity amidst the vibrant city. 

November to January: 10 am to 4 pm (last entry at 3:15 pm)
October and February: 10 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4:15 pm)
March to September: 10 am to 6 pm (last entry 5:15 pm)

Nearby Attractions To The Royal Botanic Garden

  • Stockbridge: A short walk from the Botanic Garden, Stockbridge is a charming and vibrant neighbourhood known for its independent shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. 
  • Dean Village: Situated just west of the Botanic Garden, Dean Village is a hidden gem that feels like a step back. It features picturesque old buildings, quaint streets, and a peaceful riverside setting. 

6. Climb The Calton Hill

Calton Hill stands out as a striking landmark, with its distinctive Greek-inspired architecture and prominent position overlooking the city. The hill’s grassy slopes and pathways make it one of the most enthralling things to do in Edinburgh for locals and visitors alike. The hill offers breathtaking views and a beautiful atmosphere. 

One of the most recognisable structures on Calton Hill is the National Monument, often referred to as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace.” Resembling the Parthenon in Athens, this unfinished monument pays homage to Scottish soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Despite being incomplete, it has become a symbolic feature of Edinburgh’s skyline. Whether seeking a peaceful retreat, a panoramic viewpoint, or a glimpse into Edinburgh’s architectural heritage, Calton Hill offers a delightful experience. 

Nearby Attractions To Calton Hill

  • Edinburgh Playhouse: At the bottom of Calton Hill, Edinburgh Playhouse is a historic theatre known for hosting many performances, including musicals, plays, concerts, and comedy shows. If you love art & drama, visiting Edinburgh Playhouse could be one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.

7. View Unique Art At The Jupiter Artland

If you’re a fan of art & culture or love visiting unique places, you must see Jupiter Artland. It is a contemporary sculpture park and art gallery located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It combines nature, landscape, and thought-provoking artworks. Nestled within 100 acres of woodlands and meadows, Jupiter Artland provides a captivating fusion of art and nature. 

The outdoor sculptures seamlessly integrate into the landscape, offering a harmonious blend of art and natural surroundings. From large-scale installations to delicate sculptures hidden among the trees, each artwork adds a distinct character to the park and sparks a sense of wonder and contemplation. Viewing nature in various artistic forms is surely one of the unique things to do in Edinburgh. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply seeking a serene and thought-provoking outing, Jupiter Artland is a must-visit destination.

Timings: Wednesday to Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm
Monday & Tuesday: Closed

8. Shop At Edinburgh’s Shopping Streets

In addition to hills, parks, museums, and galleries, Edinburgh has various shopping streets which offer many local & international items for sale. Here are some shopping streets you must visit in Edinburgh.

Princes Street

Princes Street is one of the main thoroughfares in the heart of Edinburgh. It is a bustling and iconic street that runs parallel to the historic Royal Mile, offering a mix of retail, dining, and cultural experiences. The street is lined with an array of shops, boutiques, department stores, and high-street brands, making it a popular destination for retail therapy. Princes Street offers a diverse shopping experience catering to various tastes and budgets, from fashion and beauty to books and souvenirs. Walk along the street to find the perfect souvenirs or products for yourself.

Multrees Walk

If you want to shop luxury, visit Multress Walk. It is a prestigious shopping street located in the heart of Edinburgh. It is known for its luxury retail outlets and high-end designer stores, offering a premium shopping experience to customers. The pedestrianised street is lined with an impressive selection of international fashion brands, renowned designers, and upscale retailers, making it a premier destination for fashion enthusiasts and connoisseurs of luxury goods. Find the premium brands along the street and shop all you want on the Multrees Walk.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is one of the famous places in Europe. Stretching approximately one mile from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, it is a historic and atmospheric street lined with various shops, boutiques, and speciality stores. Visiting & shopping through the Royal Mile is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh, as the street offers visitors historical, cultural, and royal experiences. 

The Royal Mile is not just about shopping; it is an immersive cultural hub. Along the way, you’ll encounter street performers, musicians, and storytellers, adding a vibrant and lively atmosphere to the street. The presence of historic landmarks, such as St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament, further enhances the unique character of the Royal Mile as a shopping destination.

Also Read: Exciting Things To Do In Barcelona

The Scottish National Gallery is a world-renowned art museum. It is home to an extensive fine art collection, ranging from European masterpieces to Scottish works, and offers visitors a captivating journey through art history. As you enter the gallery, you’ll be greeted by iconic works by renowned artists such as Botticelli, Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, Monet, and Vermeer.

Visiting the National Gallery is among the exciting things to do in Edinburgh with kids, as the Gallery offers educational programs, guided tours, and interactive activities for visitors. With its diverse collection, thoughtful curation, and educational initiatives, it serves as a vital cultural hub that celebrates artistic expression’s beauty, creativity, and diversity.

Timings: Every day from 10 am to 5 pm

  • Princes Street Gardens: Adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery, Princes Street Gardens offers a tranquil green space in the city’s heart. Stroll through the gardens, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and relax by the Ross Fountain or the Dugald Stewart Monument.

10. Enjoy The Waves At Portobello Beach

In the list of exciting things to do in Edinburgh, the next enticing activity is visiting Portobello Beach. It stretches along the Firth of Forth and offers a picturesque sandy shoreline, stunning views, and a range of recreational activities. 

The promenade that runs parallel to the beach is an exciting hub of activities. Lined with charming cafes, ice cream shops, and seafood restaurants, it offers a delightful culinary experience. You can savour freshly caught seafood, enjoy a cup of coffee with a sea view, or treat yourself to traditional fish and chips. The beach should be a must-visit destination on your Edinburgh itinerary as it offers peace, serenity, and fun to its visitors. 

11. Get Lost In The World Of Illusions

Situated near the top of the historic Royal Mile, Camera Obscura and the World Of Illusions is housed in a striking Victorian building that captures the curiosity and imagination of its visitors. The main highlight of the attraction is the camera obscura, a fascinating optical device dating back to ancient times. 

From holograms and optical illusions to mirror mazes and vortex tunnels, Camera Obscura offers a myriad of interactive installations that will leave you amazed and bewildered. Its rooftop terrace provides stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh’s skyline, allowing one to capture memorable photographs of the city and its iconic landmarks. With various optical illusions that blend science, art, and entertainment, visiting Camera Obscura stands among the exciting things to do in Edinburgh.

Monday to Friday: 11 am to 8 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11 am to 8:30 pm

12. Experience Live Music At Queen’s Hall

The Queen’s Hall is a renowned concert venue known for its exceptional acoustics and hosts a wide range of musical performances, including classical music, jazz, folk, and contemporary concerts. The programming at the Queen’s Hall is diverse and eclectic, catering to a wide range of musical tastes. It regularly hosts performances by renowned orchestras, chamber ensembles, soloists, and choirs, showcasing the rich heritage of classical music.

Attending a concert at the Queen’s Hall is a truly captivating experience. The ambience is warm and inviting, and the venue’s intimate size creates a sense of closeness between the performers and the audience. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff contribute to the welcoming atmosphere, ensuring visitors feel comfortable and well cared for. Experiencing live music at the Queen’s Hall is indeed among the most exciting things to do in Edinburgh. 

Monday to Friday: 10 am to 2 pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

Nearby Attractions To Queen’s Hall

  • Dynamic Earth: Situated near Queen’s Hall, Dynamic Earth is an interactive science museum that explores the story of our planet. Journey through time, experience the forces that shaped the Earth and discover its geological history.

13. Visit The National Museum

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the largest and most popular museums in the country, offering a vast collection that spans art, culture, science, and history. The museum’s collection includes natural history, archaeology, science and technology, decorative arts, fashion, and world cultures. From the impressive Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton to the iconic Lewis Chessmen, countless treasures exist to explore and marvel at.

The museum’s galleries provide an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Through interactive displays, multimedia presentations, and hands-on activities, visitors can immerse themselves in the stories and objects that shape our understanding of the world. This place is a must-visit if you love to learn about different cultures & histories; also, it is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids, as it offers many opportunities to learn about Scotland’s culture.

Timings: Every day from 10 am to 5 pm

Nearby Attractions to National Museum

  • The Writers’ Museum: Located near the Royal Mile, the Writers’ Museum celebrates the lives and works of Scotland’s literary figures, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Explore the museum’s exhibits and delve into the rich literary heritage of Scotland.

14. Stroll Through Victoria Street

Victoria Street is a curved, cobblestone street that winds through Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. It is famous for its colourful and striking architecture, featuring various buildings with vibrant facades that create a lively and picturesque scene. It is lined with a diverse array of independent shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. These establishments offer a delightful mix of artisanal goods, unique souvenirs, vintage clothing, books, and more. 

Victoria Street is also known for its culinary offerings. The street is home to various restaurants and cafes, offering diverse cuisines to satisfy any palate. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional Scottish fare, international dishes, or a quick bite, there are plenty of options. With its distinctive architecture, independent shops, and culinary delights, it offers a unique and memorable shopping and dining experience. 

15. Have Fun At Paradise Palms

Visit a unique & creative venue in Edinburgh’s Cowgate Area. Paradise Palms is known for its unique blend of art, music, food, and entertainment, creating a dynamic and lively atmosphere. The venue boasts a distinctive retro aesthetic with colourful decor, vintage furniture, and an overall retro vibe that transports visitors to a different era.

It is among the enthralling things to do in Edinburgh because it is an entertainment hub with live music, art workshops, and delicious food. With its retro aesthetics, diverse program of events, and welcoming atmosphere, it has become a go-to destination for those seeking a vibrant and alternative nightlife experience. 

Monday to Friday: 4 pm to 1 am
Saturday and Sunday: 1 pm to 1 am

Final Thoughts

Edinburgh is a city full of majestic architecture, scenic views, hangout spots, and bustling markets. Whether you are looking to learn about Scotland’s history, architecture, and culture or want to indulge in delicious food, shopping, and relaxing in beautiful parks, Edinburgh offers everything you want. In this blog, we mentioned the top 15 exciting things to do in Edinburgh, but there’s always more when it comes to exploring. And if you’re planning a trip, consider the convenience and comfort of FlixBus to take you to these fantastic places and beyond. Stay tuned for more adventures!”

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