Edinburgh’s top 25 attractions – descriptions and photos

25 popular attractions in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is an ancient bastion shrouded in mists and laden with legends. It has more than once been the site of grand historical events. Here the memory of the legendary freedom fighter William Wallace – “brave heart” – is still kept, the images of the beautiful chivalrous novel “Ivanhoe” live on in the stern castles, and the stone Walter Scott pens his book pensively against the background of Gothic domes.

Edinburgh’s unbroken spirit grows stronger in the high-pitched melodies of the Scottish bagpipes, and takes the visitor deeper and deeper into the strata of time. Over the centuries, prominent Scotsmen look out at the National Portrait Gallery, the ruins of Holyrood Abbey stand as silent witness to the church’s former strength, and the walls of Edinburgh Castle still remember the last Scottish monarch.

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The most interesting and beautiful places to walk. Photos and a brief description.

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is a collective name for several streets located in the center of the Scottish capital. Their total length is approximately 1,800 meters, which corresponds to the size of the Scottish mile. It concentrates a large number of attractions. The mile begins in the square by Edinburgh Castle, passes through the High Street and Loun Market, and ends at Holyrood Palace.

The Royal Mile.

Edinburgh Castle.

An ancient residence of Scottish monarchs, which is mentioned in documents since XI-XII centuries. As a result of the long war with England the fortress was repeatedly exposed to destruction after which it was rebuilt again. In the XV century, the residence was moved to Holyrood Palace, and Edinburgh Castle was used as a prison. In the 17th century, by order of the English monarch Charles II, an arsenal was placed in the castle. Since the 19th century, it has been open to the public.

Edinburgh Castle.

Holyrood Palace

Official residence of British monarchs in Scotland. The palace has been erected in the XV century at the time of Scottish governors, later it was rebuilt at the time of English monarchs, as Scotland lost its independence. By the beginning of XVIII century the building fell into disrepair, only under George IV they undertook its restoration. Since the 1920s, Holyrood Palace became a residence, where official events were held.

Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood Abbey

The abbey was built in the 12th century under the monarch David I. Several Scottish rulers were crowned here. David II, James II and James V were also buried on the Abbey grounds. In the 16th century, as a result of the spread of Reformation ideas, the monastery stopped supporting the Catholic tradition and adopted the new doctrine. In the XVIII century, the facade of the main building collapsed, it was not restored. Now the complex of ruins is a protected historical monument.

Holyrood Abbey.

Craigmillar Castle

A castle from the beginning of the 15th century, presumably built by one of the barons of Craigmillar. The castle went through several major expansions in the 16th century. Queen Mary Stuart stayed in the castle several times. During the XVIII and XIX centuries the building gradually fell into disrepair. In the middle of the XX century it became part of the state, after which some of the rooms were cleaned up and opened to tourists.

Craigmillar Castle.

Mary King’s cul-de-sac

An underground street within the Royal Mile that is steeped in many legends. One of them says that during a plague epidemic, all the infected were brought here, which led to the formation of a “city of the dead” in the street and the surrounding neighborhoods. A little girl with the plague was even walled up alive in one house. Mary King cul-de-sac was underground due to the construction of a new building for the city government in the 18th century. In 2003 the street complex was excavated and opened for tourists.

Mary King's cul-de-sac.

The building of the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish parliament stopped existing in the beginning of XVIII century when it was announced about the union of England and Scotland. For almost 300 years local patriots demanded restoration of the national assembly. In 1997 a referendum was held and the Scottish Parliament reconvened. The new building for the revived legislature was designed by Catalan E. Miralles.

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The Scottish Parliament building.

Georgian house

An eighteenth- and nineteenth-century residential house located on Charlotte Square. The building was designed by architect J. Craig in the best traditions of Georgian architecture. Since the middle of the XVIII century there was so little space in the Scottish capital that it was decided to build the New Town near the old Edinburgh. St. George’s House is one of the first structures erected as a result of the expansion of the Scottish capital.

Georgian House.

St. Egidio’s Cathedral

The cathedral is the main temple of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, it was named in honor of the patron saint of lepers and cripples – St. Giles (St. Egidius). The building was erected in the XIV century. The temple has a massive and gloomy architecture, but the situation is saved by the graceful Victorian stained glass windows decorating the main facade. Inside the cathedral is the Chapel of the Thistle, where initiation into the order of the same name takes place.

St. Aegidius Cathedral.

Greyfriars Kirk Church

The temple is located within the Royal Mile. It was erected in the early 17th century on the site of a Franciscan monastery. Greyfriars Kirk was the first church in Edinburgh to be built after the victory of Reformation ideas. At the temple there is a cemetery, where the earliest burials began in the sixteenth century during the existence of the Catholic abbey. The church is the oldest structure outside of Old Edinburgh.

Greyfriars Kirk Church.

National Museum of Scotland

The collection was formed by the merger of the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scottish Antiquities. The exhibition is located on the territory of two buildings, one built in 1998, the other is an example of Victorian architecture of XIX century. The museum exhibits archaeological finds, objects belonging to the heritage of national and world culture, natural science exhibits and much more.

National Museum of Scotland.

National Gallery of Scotland

An art gallery that preserves and exhibits a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The museum building is located near the Royal Academy of Sciences and was built in the classical style. In addition to the exhibition halls, the National Gallery houses a library with archival documents and valuable books of the 13th-19th centuries.

National Gallery of Scotland.

National Portrait Gallery

The basis of the exposition of the National Portrait Gallery was the private collection of the Earl of Buchan, who collected portraits of famous Scots. The museum was organized in the late 19th century with funds from local philanthropist J. Ritchie. The Neo-Gothic style building for the gallery was designed by R. Anderson. The collection consists of portraits of kings, writers, scholars, statesmen, and national heroes.

National Portrait Gallery.

Scottish Whisky Heritage Center

A museum dedicated to Scotland’s most famous and revered national drink, whisky. The exhibition will tell you about the history of the drink and reveal some of the secrets of its brewing. Because of its incredible popularity, the museum operates during holidays and weekends. During the tour, tourists will be able to see the process of whiskey making and learn to distinguish the varieties of the drink even without tasting.

Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre.

National Gallery of Contemporary Art

The collection is housed in a historic 19th century neoclassical building that originally served as a school. The gallery exhibits interesting and current works by contemporary artists. There are also paintings by recognized masters – Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Warhol, Nicholson and others. There is a garden near the museum building, where you can see some interesting sculptures.

National Gallery of Modern Art.

Our Dynamic Earth” Museum

A science and entertainment center and museum whose exhibits are based on modern technology. The tour begins by boarding a “time machine” that takes a person back 14 billion years to the time of the Big Bang, which gave birth to the universe. Gradually the entire history of star formation, the solar system, our planet, the birth of life and evolution passes the viewer by.

Our Dynamic Earth Museum.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

A 1953 yacht created for the current Queen of Britain, Elizabeth II. Since 1997 the royal family has not used the ship, so Britannia has been moored at the quay in Edinburgh. The yacht is now used as a museum. Visitors can tour the living quarters, dining room, and ceremonial halls. Compared to today’s luxury yachts, the ship looks rather modest inside, despite her status as a former royal residence.

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Royal Yacht Britannia.

Scott Monument

A grandiose neo-Gothic monument dedicated to the writer Walter Scott, built in the 19th century to a design by J. Kemp. The monument was erected of sandstone, so over time its surface has darkened. In the 1990s, the need for restoration arose. It was restored using the same material that was used in the construction. The monument resembles the shape of a hollow bell tower with a sharp spire. Inside it is a statue of the writer.

Scott Monument.

Fort Bridge

Railway bridge over the Firth of Forth Bay linking Edinburgh and the Fife area. The structure is over 2.5 km long and is made entirely of steel. The bridge was built over a period of 7 years, during the work were killed a few dozen people. For the construction of the Fort Bridge 10 times more metal was needed than for the Eiffel Tower. The bridge is supported by three large pillars more than 100 meters high.

Fort Bridge.

Edinburgh Zoo

The zoo was founded in the early twentieth century on the initiative of the Royal Zoological Society. From the very beginning, if possible, natural conditions were created for the animals. Nowadays it is a usual and obligatory practice in European zoos, but almost 100 years ago it was quite a progressive view on the keeping of animals. One of Edinburgh Zoo’s first residents were penguins.

Edinburgh Zoo.

Princes Street Gardens

A popular public park in the center of Edinburgh where many national festivals, concerts, and other events are held. The gardens were created as a result of the expansion of the capital and the drainage of Loch Nor in the early 19th century. The park has a fountain, concert stage, flower clock, several monuments and the “Eye of Edinburgh” – a 33-meter Ferris wheel.

Princes Street Gardens.

Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh

Botanical Garden was founded in 1670 by scientists R. Sibbald and E. Balfoer as a kitchen garden with medicinal plants. In the XVIII and XIX centuries, it moved to a new place twice. The garden covers an area of 25 hectares and includes: a palm greenhouse, a rockery, a heather garden, an arboretum, a palm orangery, a Chinese garden, an ecological garden and demonstration rooms.

Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh.

Portobello Beach

The beach area is just east of Edinburgh, a 20-minute drive from the city. It was a popular seaside resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The water temperature of Firth of Forth Bay is not ideal for comfortable bathing even in warm weather, but many people come to Portobello Beach to sunbathe, have a picnic or have a pint in the many pubs.

Portobello Beach.

Calton Hill.

A city hill with an observation deck and several historic buildings: the Admiral Nelson monument, the Acropolis, a monument honoring philosopher D. Stewart, and others. The hill was outside of Edinburgh until the mid XIX century. First a prison was built here, then came the Scottish government building. At the foot of Calton Hill is Holyrood Palace.

Calton Hill.

Arthur’s Throne.

A plateau at the top of the mountain located in the grounds of Holyrood Park. From here you have a magnificent view of Edinburgh. You can see the North Beach Bridge, the new parliament building, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile and other landmarks. You can get to the observation deck with a stone staircase. Arthur’s Throne is the highest point of the Scottish capital.

Arthur's Throne.

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Edinburgh’s 25 Greatest Sights

Spread across three picturesque hills, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of the largest cities in the United Kingdom. It’s a thriving place that has retained the mystical charm of the past, preserving ancient architecture and national traditions.

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Who Should Come to Edinburgh and Why?

The central part of the city with its ancient buildings and Gregorian-style mansions is almost entirely protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. People come to see the medieval streets, knightly castles, Gothic churches, listen to the sound of bagpipes and learn more about the heroic past of the Scottish people.

Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist destination in Britain. Every year 13 million people visit here.

In August visitors are attracted by the famous music festival. For three weeks there are concentrations, performances and exhibitions. Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, is an unforgettable experience. The festivities last for two days and include fire shows, fireworks and other fun with fire. In May, people flock to Beltain. Participants hold a pagan fire ritual on one of the hills of the capital city. The fun is accompanied by games, contests and dancing.

Lovers of night entertainment can go to the clubs Cabaret Voltaire, Venue Night, The Bongo. These venues in Edinburgh feature well-known DJs and rocking discos.

Adherents of active recreation can enjoy modern sports centers. Tourists enjoy visiting Braid Hills Golf Club, located in the southern part of Edinburgh.

For children and adults in the city are open unusual museums, interesting exhibitions, attractions, zoo. To buy souvenirs and memorable gifts, you should go to Princes Mall. There you can buy collectible whiskey, clothing and accessories.

Historical sights

Holyrood Palace

holirudski dvorec

At the end of the 15th century a Renaissance-style palace was built on the site of Holyrood Abbey for the rulers of Scotland. Now it is the residence of the British Queen, who comes here every year for a week on an official visit.

The rest of the time the palace is open to tourists. On a tour show the ancient interiors, the chambers of Mary Stuart, and the mantle used during the initiation of knights of the Order of the Thistle. There are exhibitions on the grounds of the palace that tell the story of Scotland’s turbulent history.

Edinburgh Castle.

edinburgski samok

Right in the heart of the city rises Castle Rock. The building erected on it in the beginning of XII century is considered the oldest monument of architecture in Great Britain. Originally Edinburgh Castle was a residence of Scottish kings.

After unification with England, a military base and a prison were situated here. In the XIX century the palace complex was restored, declared a national treasure and opened inside the War Museum. Every day except Good Friday, Christmas and weekends at 1 o’clock the Clock Cannon is fired at the castle.

Craigmillar Castle

samok kreigmiller

In the southeastern part of Edinburgh rises Craigmillar Castle, which is steeped in mystery and legend. Mary Stuart stayed in its upper chambers more than once and received English ambassadors. In the depths, in the dungeon, James III’s brother languished in prison, suspected of treason.

For many years the castle was in disrepair. In the middle of the last century, the owners transferred the rights to it to the state. After the restoration the tower was turned into a tourist attraction, where you can explore the life of medieval feudal lords.

St. Egidio’s Cathedral

sobor st egidii

The jewel in the Royal Mile is the Cathedral of St. Aegidius. The first mention of it dates back to 1124. Unfortunately, the ancient buildings were destroyed by fire. The new temple founded in XIV century became a representative of Gothic architecture. It was rebuilt several times, but managed to preserve its medieval grandeur.

Every day tourists and pilgrims come there to see stained-glass windows with biblical scenes, icons and statues. The cathedral is the burial place of prominent people of Scotland, including the writer Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Church of the Franciscans.

cerkov franciskancev

In the center of Edinburgh, you can find a working church built in 1620. The interior was damaged by a fire in 1845, but was quickly rebuilt by parishioners. It is the first Presbyterian church in Scotland to have colored stained glass windows and an organ.

The innovation provoked a flurry of criticism, but then became widespread. The church is surrounded by perennial trees, and in its courtyard is a cemetery where famous residents of the city are buried.

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Neo-Gothic St. John’s Church, built in the 19th century in Old Town, attracts attention with its 73-meter tower. It used to hold services, but the church has been closed since 1979. To keep the building busy, it’s now a hub for the Edinburgh Festivals. Here regularly hold concentrations and exhibitions, which are visited by more than 500,000 people a year.

University of Edinburgh

edinburgski univer

The University, located in the Old Town, was founded in 1583. Travelers are attracted by the majestic look of the architectural complex and the anatomical museum, opened on its territory in 1800. Shocking exhibits are preserved there: the skeleton of murderer William Burke, the skull of George Buchanan, and human organs. The museum, which occupies a small room, receives visitors on Saturdays.

Interesting places

Old Town

old city

The historic center is easy to find in the Scottish capital. It consists of medieval buildings and buildings from the Reformation period. The main attraction is the Royal Mile – a series of narrow streets 1.8 km long.

The first wooden buildings were erected here in the XII century. A few centuries later they were burned by the English in suppression of the Scottish revolt. New houses were built in stone and have survived to this day.

Walking around “old Edinburgh” you can see St. Aegidius Cathedral, the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh Castle, stop in souvenir shops and buy national clothes and woolen plaids.

Mary King’s cul-de-sac

tupik merri

The street, which had been shored up in the Royal Mile in the 16th century, was bricked up and used as a foundation for the construction of new houses in the 16th century. Early last century, the buried houses were uncovered and cleared by archaeologists. That’s when Mary King’s cul-de-sac gained museum status. When you visit the landmark, you can see the beautifully preserved buildings and experience the atmosphere of an old Scottish town.

New Town

new city

The central district is famous for the mansions built in the XVIII-XIX centuries in the neoclassical style. The decision to build the streets was made during the Enlightenment to expand the boundaries of Edinburgh. The New Town has many residential buildings, stores and museums.

Tourists come here to visit the National Gallery and see the official residence of Scotland’s first minister and admire the Neo-Gothic monument to Walter Scott.

Calton Hill.

kalton hill

Calton Hill is a popular tourist attraction. There is a stargazing observatory, monuments to Robert the Bruce, Dugald Stewart and an unfinished monument to soldiers who fell in the war with the French.

In the center rises a tower that looks like a giant spyglass – a monument to Admiral Nelson. There’s an observation deck on the roof, offering a sweeping panorama of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh’s cellars

edinburgskie podvali

Under the arches of South Bridge there are 120 rooms considered a tourist attraction. They were used as storage rooms in the 18th century and later turned into slums where the poorest people gathered. The entrance to the cellars had long been closed and covered with rubble. It was accidentally discovered in the 1980s.

During the excavations they found a well, utensils, toys, wine barrels, more than 1,000 oyster shells. Now the Edinburgh cellars offer guided tours for thrill-seekers. Many people believe that the gloomy dungeons are haunted by spirits.

Our Dynamic Earth.

nasha semlia

In a modern building, reminiscent of a white tent, operates a museum, revealing the secrets of unusual natural phenomena. In specially equipped rooms you can feel yourself in the epicenter of an earthquake, watch a volcanic eruption. You can feel how the planet breathes. The guide starts a dialogue with visitors, shows videos and photos of natural phenomena.

Glenkinchie Distillery


Fans of Scotch whiskey can’t miss a trip to the Lowlands area on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It’s home to the Glenkinchy distillery, which produces malt varieties with a pleasant herbal flavor. Visitors can see the manufacturing process and taste the drink itself. At the distillery there is a store where one can buy the whiskey of their choice.

Cultural attractions

National Gallery

nac galery

On the artificial hill of Manude is a bright stone building decorated with massive columns. It contains the National Gallery which has a very rich collection of paintings. In the spacious halls you can see paintings by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Gauguin, and Monet. Clay, stone and metal sculptures are preserved in separate rooms.

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Royal Theater

korolevski teatr

The theater, designed by James Davidson, has symmetrical austere forms. The building has been the cultural center of Edinburgh for more than a century. People come every day to see plays, attend exhibitions and meet famous people. The interior of the theater is dominated by marble, mahogany, and gilding finishes.

Portrait Gallery

portretna galery

The Art Gallery presents to the attention of visitors the portraits of famous Scots. Its vast collection includes images of revolutionaries, national heroes, kings, actors and writers. Tourists can admire the portraits of Sean Connery, Walter Scott, Mary Stuart and Robert Burns.

Edinburgh Museums

National Museum of Scotland

nac musei scotland

The museum collection tells the story of Scottish history from antiquity to the present day. The vault contains archaeological, ethnographic exhibits that reveal the cultural characteristics of the people. Popular are the collection of ancient coins, weapons, national clothes and stuffed lamb Dolly, cloned at the end of the last century.

Scotch Whisky Museum

musei viski

The Scotch Whisky Heritage Center in Old Town invites visitors to Edinburgh to see the largest collection of bottles filled with the fiery drink. Tourists learn the history of whisky and watch a film about the technology of whisky distilling. Everyone is given the opportunity to taste and compare drinks from different parts of the region.

Museum of Childhood

musei detstva

In the Royal Mile there is a Museum of Childhood, dedicated to toys and parenting. The collection contains exhibits dating back to the 18th and 21st centuries: toys, books, and clothes. Thematic expositions tell about the problems of children’s health, education and upbringing in different historical epochs.

Yacht Britannia


The 1951 Britannia, formerly owned by the British royal family, stands in Leith Harbor. Monarchs used to visit different countries and relax on her. Now the famous ship has become an open-air floating museum. Tourists can stroll around the deck and check out the cabins where Princess Diana and Prince Charles honeymooned.

Parks and Recreation

Botanic Gardens

bot sad

The UK’s oldest botanical garden was founded in 1670 to study medicinal and ornamental plants. Here are planted rare trees, shrubs and flowers. Guests of the park can see the representatives of Chinese flora, enter the palm greenhouse, heather garden, rock garden.

In the administration building is stored herbarium, which holds 3 million exhibits. A special place is occupied by the collection of Charles Darwin, collected by the scientist during his circumnavigation of the globe.

Deep Sea World


A large aquarium opened on the outskirts of Edinburgh. There is a 112-metre long transparent tunnel under the water which allows you to observe sea creatures in their natural habitat. Thematic exhibitions of the aquarium acquaint adults and children with the life of tiger sharks, piranhas, fish from the Amazon, and seals. A separate aquarium houses a large population of frogs, including their rare poisonous species.

Princess Street Gardens.

sadi princess

Edinburgh has a beautiful park planted on the site of dried up Lake Nor Loch. There are shady alleys, original flowerbeds and marble statues. In the center is the Ross Fountain, a flower clock, and a platform where musicians perform in the evenings. Within the park are modern attractions. Popular attractions include a 33-meter-high Ferris wheel, a rock climbing wall and an indoor ice rink.



More than 1,000 animals live on the hill in the park area. The zoo’s calling card is the largest captive population of penguins. The animals live in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible. Observation platforms are built to watch them.

There are also rare Amur leopards, lions, monkeys and giraffes. The pearl of the collection are koalas and pandas. The zoo has picnic lawns, a playground with swings, and a cafe.

A distillery and alco-museum, a royal yacht and ancient palaces, a huge oceanarium tunnel – you’ll see it all in Edinburgh.

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