Our top sights, highlights, and exclusive tips
It’s hard not to be smitten by Edinburgh from the moment you step foot in it. Wander from New Town to Old Town, rounding the Royal Mile, or simply have a pint at one of the city’s age-old pubs after a stroll at Arthur’s Seat, and you’ll see why. There’s an intoxicating, almost filmic charm to Scotland’s capital, and magic is in the air. In a city where 1,000-year-old spires rise from cobble-stoned streets, you’d be hardpressed not to feel what draws tourists to this city year after year.
Looming across Edinburgh’s cityscape, the world-renowned Edinburgh Castle beckons you in with its gothic towers and fortified walls. This majestic castle dates back to the Iron Age, and when you walk by St Margaret’s Chapel—constructed in the 12th century—you’ll see just how well-preserved the fortress really is. Climb Castlehill and explore Scotland’s most visited attraction—and don’t forget to have a pint on the way back in one of the cozy pubs nearby.
There’s no better place to start a jaunt through Edinburgh than on Princes Street. Lined with department stores and cafes, it’s hard not to be intoxicated by this thoroughfare’s enchanting gothic spirals and jovial atmosphere. The real treat? The view of the Castle from the southside, bereft of buildings for your gazing pleasure.
One of the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is home to bucolic gardens, ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abey, and magnificently maintained historical apartments. After a nice lunch, stroll down the Royal Mile and enjoy the home of Scottish royal history, not to mention one of the most beautiful castles in all the land.
A walk down the High Street will inevitably lead to this magnificent cathedral, famed for being the stomping ground of John Knox, the prophet of the Scottish Reformation. Besides its wood-crested Thistle Chapel, which is itself a wonder to behold, St. Giles houses an organ encased in redwood, colorful, stained glass, and a gothic crown spire. Stop at this enchanting church on your way down the Royal Mile, and don’t forget to take a picture of the Chapel.
Also located on the Royal Mile, this unmissable museum showcases the city’s fabled and complex history, with exhibits that date back to the Iron Age. Not to be missed here: the National Covenant of 1638 and an uncanny reconstruction of Field Marshal Earl Haig’s headquarters on the Western Front during WWI—a perfect dose of history before heading up to the Castle.
The unmistakable Athenian spires of Calton Hill are home to the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the City Observatory. But even without hitting all three of these landmarks, a walk to Calton Hill is the perfect way to cool down after a dose of history on the Royal Mile. Climb up to the hill at sunset and see the amber sunset in the summertime.
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