When Kyle and I told people we were planning 5 days in Edinburgh, we got a lot of the same responses…. “What are you going to do in Edinburgh for 5 days?”. Well it turns out there is a lot more to do when visiting Edinburgh than I think most people realize!
From castles, to shopping, to historic monuments, there are countless things you can to do fill your day while visiting Edinburgh.
If you do end up feeling bored of all that Edinburgh has to offer, there are also a number of day trips that you can take to add some variety to your trip! COMING SOON – more information on day trips.
Here are the top 10 things that Kyle and I would recommend doing while visiting Edinburgh!
This may be one of Edinburgh’s more well-known attractions. However, what Kyle and I didn’t realize until we got there was that this was less of your typical castle and more like a small village atop a hill overlooking the city.
There are tons of things to see and do once inside the “castle”. There are tours and guided audio available if you would like to go that route. If you prefer self-guided, I would suggest visiting the castle website and reviewing the itineraries that they have posted. This will help you to get the most out of your visit. You can also purchase your tickets ahead of time here, which I would highly recommend.
If you are visiting Edinburgh Castle in hopes of seeing the crown jewels, I would recommend going there first. Because it is towards the end of the guided tours, going there first will help you to beat the crowds!
Royal Yacht Britannia
For those of you interested in the life of the Royals, this is something you won’t want to miss while visiting Edinburgh! This Yacht, which has now been decommissioned, was home to the Royals as they cruised around the world. It also played hosted to many famous visitors over its 40 years in service.
You are able to tour the five decks of the Britannia with its free audio guide. For me, the best part of the Royal Yacht was that it is still the exact way that the Queen had it designed. You are able to visit the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s bedrooms just as they were when they were in use.
This gives you a real glimpse into the way that the Royals lived and traveled! And, to finish off your tour, you can enjoy tea on the yacht! Definitely a must see while on your visit in Edinburgh.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Did you know the queen has a palace in Edinburgh? Well you do know! It’s called the Palace of Holyroodhouse and this is her official residence when in Scotland. The palace boasts beautiful gardens and views of Arthur’s seat.
You are also able to go into the castle and tour, which is something Kyle and I almost missed! Once inside the castle courtyard, if you go to the right, there is a door that you can open with a staircase to access the inside of the castle. It isn’t very obvious, which is why we almost missed it, and the door was closed when we were there with a small sign that said push to enter.
Once inside, you are able to see things like the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, the throne room, the great gallery, and more. When you have finished touring the inside, take a stroll through the meticulously manicured gardens!
The moment we stepped onto Victoria street during our Edinburgh visit, I said to Kyle “I didn’t know Edinburgh was so colorful!”. This street is lined with shops, each painted in a uniquely bright color, giving this street a lively feel. It is worth visiting just to get a photo of the beautifully lined streets as well as to check out the shopping!
Take a walk to Dean Village to see this picturesque location for yourself! The walk there alone is worth it as you travel along the water of Leith along a wooded path. You’ll pass under a bridge and on the other side is the darling Dean Village.
Keep in mind, this is a residential area, so there are no bars or restaurants. But there is beautiful scenery that you won’t want to miss while on your visit to Edinburgh.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
If you are looking to get outside and enjoy the fresh air while in Edinburgh, you might take a hike up Arthur’s Seat. Kyle and I didn’t end up doing this, but from what I’ve read there are a variety of trails which will get you to the top with varying levels of difficulty. Once there, you are sure to have beautiful views of Edinburgh… unless it happens to be a misty day, then you might be out of luck with the view!
The Scotch Whiskey Experience
Located near Edinburgh castle is The Scotch Whisky Experience. I wish Kyle and I had done this as it has marvelous reviews. If you are looking to take a tour and taste some scotch, this is the place to do it! They offer about 6 different tour options varying in duration. You’ll be sure to find something that works for you. You are in Scotland after all, give a wee dram of whiskey a try!
St Gilles Cathedral
I feel like you can’t visit a town in Europe without popping into an old Cathedral! St Giles Cathedral was founded in 1120s. It has a beautifully pained blue ceiling, not quite like anything that I have seen before above the beautiful stained glass windows. Inside the church, you can also visit the famous Thistle chapel!
The Scott Monument stands near the Waverly station, and you will likely pass it while walking through Old Town. It was built as a memorial for the Scottish literary figure, Walter Scott. What I found to be the most exciting thing about the monument, is that you can climb to the top for sweeping views of Edinburgh.
This is another spot that offers a variety of views of Edinburgh. You have views of the city as well as out to sea. Calton Hill is also the home of many iconic Scottish monuments. Kyle and I visited Calton Hill with our photographer ( Jill Cherry Porter Photography, she was amazing!) to get some travel photos taken. If you are thinking of getting photos taken while in Edinburgh, this is the place to do it!
At the end of the day, there is a wide range of things that you can do and see while visiting Edinburgh. If you are in a hurry, you could probably see all of these things in 2-3 days. Or, you could take your time and soak in the beauty that is Edinburgh and enjoy these sites over a longer period. Either way, Edinburgh will not disappoint!
Looking for more travel inspiration?! Check out these posts for some ideas!
How to spend 4 days in London
Our Trip to Positano
Florence Travel Recommendations
How we spent 3 days in Rome
Our Honeymoon – Moorea & Bora Bora
Essentials for International Travel
Weekend Getaway to Kohler Wisconsin