Last updated on July 23rd, 2017
In this post, I wanted to tell you about 10 best attractions in Edinburgh. This is not just another listicle – we actually TRIED 95% of the attractions in Edinburgh ourselves and wanted to share with you our findings and the 10 best attractions in Edinburgh, Scotland.
First of all, I wanted to say big thanks to VisitScotland, who provided us with ASVA cards, with which we could visit the majority of the attractions in Edinburgh (and not only in Edinburgh) free of charge. It was a massive help for us and I hope this article will be also helpful for you, if you’re unsure, which attractions in Edinburgh to visit.
10 best attractions in Edinburgh, Scotland
1. Edinburgh Vaults
You can only visit the vaults as part of a tour, but don’t worry, the tours go multiple times a day and are not that expensive (actually, they are cheaper than many attractions in Edinburgh). We took the Doomed, Dead and Buried tour by Mercat Tours and wrote a detailed review about it in this post. Also, this might not be the best tour to visit with young children, but if you’re a young professional (just like us), you’ll love this tour! You’ll learn a lot about the history of the city and you’ll see the famous underground vaults, which have a special atmosphere (and I was even a little bit scared there).
2. Edinburgh Dungeon
Edinburgh Dungeon is an interactive museum with 3 amazing small rides. You might think that it’s pretty much the same as Edinburgh Vaults or Mary King’s Close, and yes, it is similar, though it is way more interactive and way less historical than the others.
3. Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo is an amazing place to visit. Even though I’m strictly against the animal cruelty and I generally don’t like zoos, the animals in Edinburgh Zoo had plenty of space for them and looked well taken care of. Also, you can see a panda in Edinburgh Zoo (but you need to book a spot for a viewing in advance).
4. Edinburgh Whisky Experience
Edinburgh Whisky Experience is one of my favourite attractions in Edinburgh even though I’m not a whisky connoisseur. However, I was really interested in the production process of whisky and finally learnt what does Angel’s Share mean. Do you know what it is? If not, you should definitely visit Edinburgh Whisky Experience.
That is a tour for adults only, though minors also can go on this tour, obviously can’t participate in the whisky tasting.
5. Edinburgh Dynamic Earth
I was so impressed by Edinburgh Dynamic Earth that I wrote a separate post about it! It is a must-visit, especially if you have kids (and even if you don’t have any) and you’re interested in the history of our Universe and the Planet Earth.
6. Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is a former yacht of the Royal Family of the UK, and it was decommissioned and transformed into a museum in the late 90s. Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia is a very interesting experience – you get a mobile tour guide for free and can listen to the history of the yacht and about its working years. The yacht remains like how it basically used be when it was on duty – you can see the cabins of the Royal Family with the original furniture, the cabins of the engineers and the sailors. Also, you can have a lunch or even an Afternoon tea on the Royal Yacht Britannia!
7. Edinburgh Castle
Now you might be wondering, why Edinburgh Castle is on the place 7? Well, it is amazing, without doubts, but what’s inside the castle, was somewhat … boring. And way too expensive for the ticket price. However, some people loved it, so you should decide for yourself, whether to go there or not! I warned you, though!
8. Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura is one of the 10 best attractions in Edinburgh because it is really fun! It is also the oldest purpose-built attraction in the city – it was built early in the 19th century for… entertaining the public! It is not a museum in a traditional sense, I would say it’s a collection of some fun exhibits, labyrinths, puzzles and optical illusions! If you have enough time in the city, the Camera Obscura is definitely worth paying a visit. It also has a lovely terrace with some very beautiful views over Edinburgh and the Royal Mile, so you can take some really nice photos there.
9. Palace of the Holyroodhouse or Holyrood Palace
Palace of the Holyroodhouse is one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth and it was built in the 17th century. You won’t see anything posh and lavish inside the castle – nothing compared to the palaces in Russia or France, so it’s rather ascetic. You can go on a tour around the castle and also visit the Queen’s Gallery and you will also have the access to the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey from the early 12th century.
10. Mary King’s Close
And the last but not least of the 10 best attractions in Edinburgh, Scotland is Mary King’s Close. I didn’t like it THAT much because of, first of all, we visited it after the Edinburgh Vaults Tour – and this tour was amazing! Secondly, it was very commercial – you couldn’t take photos inside, somebody takes a photo of you in a certain place and sells it to you for 15 pounds. And finally, our guide seemed tired at the end of the day, so she wasn’t really interested in the group at all. While the experience is quite fun and quite interesting, everything looks very commercialised, and that’s a wrong thing in such a medieval city like Edinburgh. Nonetheless, there are people who loved the attraction, so I won’t tell you not to visit it.
Other attractions we visited and didn’t include them in the list of the best attractions in Edinburgh: Rosslyn Chapel (the famous chapel featured in Da Vinci code with the connection to Masons), Edinburgh Hop-on Hop-off tour – it doesn’t make sense to take this tour in such a small city like Edinburgh, All the museums – National Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery – they are nice, but not so impressive! Scott Monument – you can climb up to the top and the view is very nice from there. The Royal Botanic Garden is a lovely place to visit, but there is not much to do. Museum of Childhood, City Art Centre and Surgeon Hall, as well as the Talbot Rice Gallery, are also nice, but not a priority for Edinburgh first-timers.
Read more posts about Edinburgh here:
Looking for accommodation in Edinburgh? Check our post about best affordable hotels in Edinburgh or the post about best hostels in Edinburgh City Centre! Looking for something more affordable? Check this post about these 15 free things to do in Edinburgh!
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