What are the five best things to see and do in Edinburgh?

Joseph Reaney

As one of the United Kingdoms’ great cultural hubs, Edinburgh is home to a wealth of assorted attractions. Here are five that should not be missed:
 
1. Explore Edinburgh Castle. One of the most impressive fortresses in Europe, Edinburgh Castle has been in continuous use for more than 1,000 years, yet it remains in top condition. Perched on an enormous volcanic rock and looming over the city below, it is now home to a number of fascinating exhibitions, including the famous One O’Clock Gun and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which happens goes on for three week every August.
 
2. Experience the Fringe. You’re unlikely to find another festival like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The world’s largest arts fest, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs for three weeks every August and hosts over 2,500 shows. That’s more than 40,000 performances in total, with productions from more than 60 countries held in at least 250 venues. With drama, dance, stand-up comedy, music and more, it promises to leave a lasting impression.
 
3. Stroll around the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Founded 900 years ago by David I, King of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse remains an official royal residence to this day. When the queen isn’t staying there in the summer, you can visit the palace and explore its grand interiors, imposing gatehouse and manicured grounds.

4. Spit on the Heart of Midlothian. As you walk along Edinburgh's cobblestoned Royal Mile, look down to see the Heart of Midlothian, a decorative heart-shaped mosaic. However, you'll want to avoid walking over it — locals have been known to spit on the heart to show disdain for the public execution site that used to stand there.

5. Go ghost hunting in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Considered one of the world’s most haunted destinations, a nighttime tour of the 16th-century Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of Scotland’s spookiest experiences. However, the ancient cemetery is also home to a more uplifting sight — a moving memorial to Greyfriars Bobby, a local Skye terrier who guarded his master’s grave uninterrupted for 14 years until his own death.

  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best Edinburgh food experiences?

    Porridge and meat pies might not sound that appetizing, but many visitors to Edinburgh are pleasantly surprised by how tasty the food is. So while you’re there, be sure to experience these five Scottish food musts:
     
    1. Fish and chips. Though you can find this staple nearly everywhere in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh serves its fish and chips a little differently. They come with a “salt and sauce” (a mixture of Gold Star brown sauce and vinegar), making it unique to Edinburgh. We suggest trying out the fish and chips at The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar on Albert Place.
     
    2. Haggis with neeps and tatties. Haggis is a must-eat in Scotland — even if you don’t want to know how it’s made. You will find this traditional combo of haggis, neeps (swede/turnip) and tatties (potatoes) in almost every Edinburgh eatery.
     
    3. Full Scottish breakfast. Although it contains the standard ingredients of sausages, back bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, buttered toast and a mug of tea, the Britain-wide breakfast is made distinctly Scottish with the addition of regional black pudding, sliced sausage, tattie scones and, on occasion, a little haggis.
     
    4. Porridge with salt. If your stomach (or, indeed, your heart) can’t manage the traditional greasy breakfast, enjoy a bowl of porridge instead. But be warned — the Scots likes their oats with salt, not sugar.
     
    5. Meat and fish. Scotland is famous for its meat and fish — from juicy Aberdeen Angus steak to succulent Highland venison to world-renowned wild salmon — so don’t leave the country without sampling some of its home-grown delights. Vegetarians, you can look for a traditional lentil dish.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best annual events held in Edinburgh?

    Come August, Edinburgh plays host to some larger-than-life festivals, not to mention top cultural events all year long. Here are give that you don’t want to miss:
     
    1. Hogmanay. The first and final event on the cultural calendar, Edinburgh’s spectacular Hogmanay festival is a massive New Year’s Eve party. It includes four days of concerts, theatrical productions and multi-street parties. It all culminates in a fireworks display behind the Edinburgh Castle, a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne and, if you’re lucky, an impromptu Gaelic dance.
     
    2. Children's International Theatre Festival. If you are coming to Edinburgh with children, there’s no better time than May. Not only is the rain finally starting to ease, but it’s also when the Children's International Theatre Festival takes place, boasting around 15 productions of theatre, dance and music from international companies.
     
    3. Edinburgh International Film Festival. It may not be as famous as Cannes or Sundance, but the film festival phenomenon started in Edinburgh in 1947 – and it’s still going strong today. Running for two weeks, the festival features shorts, dramatic films and documentaries in some of the most historic movie venues on earth.
     
    4. Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. One of the largest annual military events on earth, the Edinburgh Tattoo is a spectacular display of military-based entertainment, including army band music, march choreography and theatre. What makes it even more magical is that the major events are held on the grounds of the Edinburgh Castle.
     
    5. Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the top arts festivals in the world, boasting more than 40,000 performances of theatre, dance, stand-up comedy and music during its annual three-week run. To get an idea of how big it is, here’s a handy stat: During the Fringe, the population of Edinburgh actually doubles.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What is the best thing to bring home from Edinburgh?

    Edinburgh has a style that’s distinctly Scottish, making for some great souvenirs. Here are five superb buys:
     
    1. Knitwear and fabric. Edinburgh is world-famous for knitwear – think woolen coats and cashmere sweaters – so this is an obvious souvenir choice. Perhaps less well known are Edinburgh’s fine fabrics, which are used to make everything from tartan kilts to patchwork haberdashery.
     
    2. Scotch whisky. As the spiritual home of whisky, you will find historic distilleries throughout Scotland – and lots of places to buy its produce in Edinburgh. Although all versions of the beverage are aged in oak barrels for at least three years, we recommend the oakiest of them all: Laphroaig and Bowmore.
     
    3. Foodstuffs. Though it may not have the reputation for it, Scotland is home to some spectacular food. If you are a fan of unusual savories, pick up some black pudding or a tin of haggis for your friends back home to try. Or, if you’d rather play it safe, go for sweet treats like shortbread or vanilla fudge.
     
    4. Celtic jewelry. Head into any Edinburgh jeweler and you’ll find a wide variety of silver pieces – bangles, brooches, earrings, lockets – with traditional Celtic designs. Alternatively, if you want something a little more touristic, look for tartan and heather designs.
     
    5. Golf equipment. With its reputation for top-notch golf – the St. Andrews Links are just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh – so it is the perfect place to find the latest golfing equipment. Even if you don’t play, why not try the old-school golf fashions on sale throughout the capital, like the traditional plaid trousers?
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  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What is the best way to see Edinburgh in one day?

    Edinburgh has far too many sights to pack into a single day — but you’ll be surprised how much you can do with just a little forward planning and some topsy-turvy thinking. For example, the best place to start a long day in the Scottish capital is at its most famous attraction: the Edinburgh Castle.
     
    If you don’t want to pay the admission fee, you can simply enjoy the site from the outside, taking in the view of the city before starting the long walk down the collection of streets on the Royal Mile. On your way down, keep an eye out for the Heart of Midlothian outside St. Giles’ Cathedral — the decorative heart-shaped mosaic marks the spot where a public execution site once stood (so don’t be surprised if you see passing locals spitting on it). However, what you’re really looking for is Chocolate Soup, where you can pick up a  pastry and hot chocolate for breakfast.
     
    Next, continue in the same direction — beyond John Knox House, the Storytelling Centre and the People’s Story Museum — until you reach the Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite royal residences. Walk around the manicured gardens and then, if Her Majesty isn’t in residence, take a long look around the grand interior, too.
     
    After you have visited the palace, take a quick peek at the love-it-or-hate-it Parliament Building (its design and location have been the subject of debates across Scotland), then head along Calton Road into the valley and back up the other side to Princes Street. Home to the city’s best shopping, Princes Street is most famous for the historic Jenners Department Store, as well as other attractions like the Princes Street Gardens and the Sir Walter Scott Monument.
     
    If you still have some, you can enjoy an easy hike up Calton Hill to see an incomplete replica of the Parthenon, and watch the sun go down over the city and into the Firth of Forth. Head down the hill to enjoy a traditional Scottish dinner at Stac Polly, then finally head across to Old Town for a pint of ale in one of the city’s many time-honored taverns (we like Maggie Dickson’s).
     
    Then, if you still have the energy or inclination, party the night away in the famous Liquid Room on Victoria Street.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    Where is the best nightlife in Edinburgh?

    Edinburgh has a varied selection of nightlife options. Aside from its extensive range of historic “real ale pubs,” including Maggie Dickson’s and The World’s End, it also boasts a number of cool cocktail bars, hip cabaret venues, top-drawer jazz clubs and bustling gay bars. However, the undoubted highlights of Edinburgh’s after-dark scene are the music venues and nightclubs.
     
    The city is famous for its eclectic live music scene, and the best venues vary from The Queen’s Hall (hosting classical, jazz and folk concerts) to the pop and soul staple HMV Picture House and underground hard rock and indie haven Bannerman’s. However, Edinburgh is also famous for its huge, sweaty nightclubs, which play host to some of world’s top DJs every night. Some of our favorites are The Liquid Room, The Cabaret Voltaire and The Bongo Club.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    Where is the best shopping in Edinburgh?

    It may not be a renowned mecca for retail, but Edinburgh has more interesting shopping options than you might expect from a city of its size. From high-end fashions to low-end market goods, here are some of the best:
     
    Edinburgh is home to a number of shopping malls and department stores — from the enormous 19th-century Jenners to the shiny modern Ocean Terminal — but the city’s finest fashion outlets are actually the standalone stores. Our favorites include the high-end Totty Rocks, the extremely Scot-focused Concrete Wardrobe and the fabulously antiquated Armstrongs Vintage Emporium. Alternatively, you can pop into Hawick Cashmere — they’re known for having the best cashmere sweaters in the world’s knitwear capital.
     
    Be sure to check out the markets, too. Edinburgh’s best stalls are in the award-winning farmers’ market, held in the heart of the city on the first Friday of every month. There, you’ll find everything from organic beef, lamb and pork to wild boar, ostrich and water buffalo. Other favorites include Ingliston Market (for clothes), Greenside Place (for antiques) and the Christmas Market (for mulled wine and brats).
     
    Finally, you’ll probably want a souvenir to take home. The most obvious choice is a decent bottle of Scotch, but there are plenty of other traditional tourist knickknacks available — from kilts and tartan rugs to haggis and vanilla fudge. If you’re musical, you could even bring home a bagpipe.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Edinburgh?

    With permanent exhibitions and seasonal events galore, Edinburgh really is an ideal destination for families with children of all ages. Here are five fun things to with your kiddies:
     
    1. Have a bit of Victorian fun. Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions has been flummoxing visitors for more than 150 years. Housed in a Victorian chamber towering over the city, the camera allows you to create optical illusions of the city below – whether it’s redirecting traffic or meddling with pedestrians. The kids will be entertained for hours.
     
    2. Sit down for a story. Built just for the purpose of live storytelling, The Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile is a must-see attraction for tourists with young children. A 99-seat auditorium hosts a number of events that tap into Scotland’s rich tradition of tall tales, with narratives ranging from myths and legends to folk stories and local history.
     
    3. Take your pick of festivals. Each August, Edinburgh boasts thousands of hours of child-friendly fun. In addition to the world-class comedy, theatre, dance and music at Festival Fringe, the month brings The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Art Festival and the International Book Festival. Other child-friendly fests throughout the rest of the year include the International Science Festival (March/April), the Imaginative Festival (May) and the Storytelling Festival (October).
     
    4. Go for a walk in nature. Edinburgh is surrounded by hills, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to a family hike. City highlights include the volcanic Arthur’s Seat and the bucolic Holyrood Park, but you can also head to the nearby town of Leith to enjoy a coastal walk and some tasty fish and chips.
     
    5. Catch a movie. Open since 1914, the Cameo Picturehouse is one of Europe’s most historic cinemas — but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated. It’s kitted out with the latest movie-going technology and modern conveniences, so you can enjoy the newest Hollywood blockbuster or European art house flick in total comfort. Best of all, you’re allowed to take your own food and drink inside…just as long as you clean up after yourself.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best things to see and do in Edinburgh?

    As one of the United Kingdoms’ great cultural hubs, Edinburgh is home to a wealth of assorted attractions. Here are five that should not be missed:
     
    1. Explore Edinburgh Castle. One of the most impressive fortresses in Europe, Edinburgh Castle has been in continuous use for more than 1,000 years, yet it remains in top condition. Perched on an enormous volcanic rock and looming over the city below, it is now home to a number of fascinating exhibitions, including the famous One O’Clock Gun and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which happens goes on for three week every August.
     
    2. Experience the Fringe. You’re unlikely to find another festival like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The world’s largest arts fest, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs for three weeks every August and hosts over 2,500 shows. That’s more than 40,000 performances in total, with productions from more than 60 countries held in at least 250 venues. With drama, dance, stand-up comedy, music and more, it promises to leave a lasting impression.
     
    3. Stroll around the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Founded 900 years ago by David I, King of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse remains an official royal residence to this day. When the queen isn’t staying there in the summer, you can visit the palace and explore its grand interiors, imposing gatehouse and manicured grounds.

    4. Spit on the Heart of Midlothian. As you walk along Edinburgh's cobblestoned Royal Mile, look down to see the Heart of Midlothian, a decorative heart-shaped mosaic. However, you'll want to avoid walking over it — locals have been known to spit on the heart to show disdain for the public execution site that used to stand there.

    5. Go ghost hunting in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Considered one of the world’s most haunted destinations, a nighttime tour of the 16th-century Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of Scotland’s spookiest experiences. However, the ancient cemetery is also home to a more uplifting sight — a moving memorial to Greyfriars Bobby, a local Skye terrier who guarded his master’s grave uninterrupted for 14 years until his own death.
  • On June 11, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where are the five best places to eat in Edinburgh?

    Walk along any of the major city thoroughfares and you will find them lined with generic tourist eateries, serving the same uninspired fare. But don’t worry — better culinary options are just around the corner. Here are the top five:
     
    1. The Witchery. On top of being one of Edinburgh’s finest hotels, The Witchery is also one of its top restaurants. Along with the luxury setting, the pan-European menu is extravagant too, with dishes like daube of ox cheek with celeriac purée and pan-roasted Atlantic black bream with lobster mayonnaise.
     
    2. The Plumed Horse, The seaside town of Leith is one of Europe’s gastronomic capitals, home to a disproportionate number of award-winning restaurants. The most interesting of the lot is The Plumed Horse, which serves up a complementary blend of traditional Scottish and French cuisine (dishes vary from wild salmon to organic veal to truffle lasagna), as well as a spectacular selection of fine wines.
     
    3. David Bann. You may not particularly associate Scotland with vegetarianism, but Edinburgh is dotted with many great veggie and vegan restaurants. The finest of them is David Bann, which serves gourmet cuisine from all four corners of the world. We recommend the Thai tofu fritter.
     
    4. Stac Polly. The height in traditional, gourmet Scottish fare, Stac Polly will have you looking at British cuisine in a whole new light. Get a genuine taste of the culture with dishes like bread-crumbed haggis with chutney and wild venison casserole with juniper berries.
     
    5. Chocolate Soup. If you are looking for a filling snack, rather than a full meal, go to this chocoholic’s paradise. You can expect chocolate muffins, strawberries dipped in chocolate, “choctails” (chocolate desserts served in a long glass) and the eponymous chocolate soup, which comes steaming in a bowl of white/dark hot chocolate. Those without a sweet tooth can munch on the non-chocolate sandwiches, soups and smoothies.
  • On June 11, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Edinburgh?

    Edinburgh might be small, but the city center is home to a huge number of accommodations, spanning from Old World to modern day. And unless it’s festival season, it’s easy to find a room. Here are five places to check out:  
     
    1. The Witchery. Once a decrepit 16th century building on the Royal Mile, today’s Witchery is a decadent boutique hotel that sets the standard in obscene extravagance. With dramatic themed suites like Inner Sanctum, the Armoury and Old Rectory, you can expect Baroque four-poster beds, lavish wood paneling and theatrical drapes. The Witchery also happens to have one of the city’s best restaurants.
     
    2. Hotel Missoni. Owned by Italian fashion brand Missoni, every detail in this high-fashion retreat is intricately designed. Look out for the doormen’s Missoni kilts and vibrant bedroom interiors.
     
    3. The George Hotel. Probably the best mid-range hotel option in Edinburgh, The George is located in the heart of bustling George Street and comes with colorful ornate interiors.
     
    4. The Bonham. An understated Victorian townhouse on the outside but a psychotropic canvas of color within — The Bonham is one of the city’s most surprising accommodations. Expect thick purple carpets, pretty wood-paneling, fine works of art and even the odd Edwardian copper bathtub.
     
    5. The Balmoral. Having originally opened in 1902, The Balmoral is one of Edinburgh’s most luxurious and well-known hotels. Though its steeped in history, the hotel is entirely modern, featuring a top spa, 188 contemporary rooms and suites, and a prime location across from Edinburgh Castle.