Our top sights, highlights, and exclusive tips
It’s hard not to be smitten with 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 is something magical and cinematic about Scotland’s capital: 1,000-year-old gothic spires rise from cobble-stoned streets, and a vast dormant volcano named Arthur’s Seat towers ominously above the city. You’ll soon succumb to Edinburgh’s intoxicating charm.
Standing proudly above 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 have a pint on the way back in one of the cozy pubs nearby.
If you’re arriving by train, bus, or car, you’re likely to start your visit to Edinburgh on Princes Street. Lined with department stores and cafes, this thriving thoroughfare is the beating heart of Edinburgh. The south side of the road is parkland and is bereft of building, which results in stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat.
The official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, Holyrood Palace is also home to bucolic gardens, ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, and magnificently maintained historical apartments. After a nice lunch, stroll down the Royal Mile and enjoy the home of Scottish royal history. This is one of the most beautiful castles in all the land.
A walk down the High Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town leads 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 windows, and a gothic crown spire typical of Edinburgh.
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. The National Covenant of 1638 and an uncanny reconstruction of Field Marshal Earl Haig’s headquarters on the Western Front during WWI are highly recommended, and provide a perfect snapshot 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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