Following Fiona contains affiliate links which may earn me a commission for any bookings at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Check out the Privacy Policy for more information.

Is Edinburgh Worth Visiting?

Many first-time visitors to the UK don’t venture beyond London, but many other parts of the United Kingdom are worth visiting. If you are considering Edinburgh as a destination as part of a trip to the UK then let me help you out.

Yes, Edinburgh is absolutely worth visiting.

I’ve been to Edinburgh several times, usually as the starting point for a Scottish road trip. So if you want to know more about why you should go to Edinburgh beyond a resounding yes, keep reading!

Overview of Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, and although it’s not the largest city (Glasgow is bigger) I think it’s the best city in Scotland to visit. 

You’ll find it in the south-east of Scotland, with a population of around 560,000. Edinburgh is known for its arts scene, literary importance, history and architecture. 

So, let’s get into the reasons why Edinburgh should be on your vacation list.

Reasons To Visit Edinburgh

History

From the iconic Edinburgh Castle perched on Castle Rock to the Royal Mile lined with historic buildings, the city is steeped in centuries of fascinating stories. Edinburgh’s past as a royal residence and its pivotal role in Scottish history make it a must-visit destination. 

Food and Drink

Haggis might be Scotland’s most famous dish, but it has a lot more to offer than that. Fresh seafood, venison, whisky and more.

Edinburgh has lots of amazing restaurants to try, as well as plenty of places to sample a dram or two of whisky.

Arts and Culture

Edinburgh has a great arts scene with several museums and galleries. 

At the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, both of which are free to visit, art enthusiasts are spoiled for choice. 

If you are interested in listening to traditional Scottish music, you’ll find bagpipes being played most days near Edinburgh Castle. Whether you’re exploring traditional Scottish art or contemporary works, the Edinburgh arts scene offers a variety of music and art.

Festivals

Several well-known annual events take place in Edinburgh. One of the most famous is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival occurring every August. 

The festival showcases thousands of performances across various art forms like comedy, theatre, music, and dance. 

The Edinburgh International Festival, held at the same time as Fringe, presents high-profile theatre, opera, and classical music performances. So, whether you are interested in stand-up comedy or opera, August in Edinburgh offers something for everything.

For those in Edinburgh at the end of the year, you might catch the famous Hogmanay celebrations.  Hogmanay is the Scottish term for the last day of the year, and the New Year’s Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are especially famous with live music and fireworks. 

Architecture

Edinburgh’s architecture is a mix of ancient and modern styles that blend throughout the city. From the cobbled streets of the Old Town and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, through to the modern Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh has a wide range of styles and ages in its buildings. 

It really is a very pretty city. 

Road towards the Isle of Skye

Location

Any visitor to the UK should try to spend some time in Scotland – the highlands and islands are worlds away from the busyness of cities like London. Edinburgh is the perfect starting point for a Scottish adventure. 

You can reach areas like Loch Lomond within a few hours of the city, or spend more time in the region visiting Skye, the Scottish Highlands, Glencoe and more. 

Literature

Edinburgh has a significant literary heritage, with a history steeped in the works of renowned writers and poets.

Edinburgh continues to be a hub for literary enthusiasts. Writers such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Irvine Welsh have all left their mark on the city. 

And of course, the most famous of the city’s many literary exports is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In addition to the range of bookstores in the city, you can also find shops and attractions dedicated to the wizarding world. 

Best Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh from the castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress that showcases Scotland’s past. Within its walls, you can explore centuries of history, including ancient buildings, the Scottish Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny. The castle’s strategic location also provides stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. 

A significant amount of the castle is dedicated to military history, with the Scottish National War Memorial located in the Edinburgh Castle grounds. The memorial commemorates the lives of Scottish soldiers lost in conflicts since World War I. 

Edinburgh Castle is a must-visit for anyone visiting Edinburgh for the first time.

One of my many explorations of the Royal Mile

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile refers to a line of streets that runs from the castle down to Holyroodhouse. Although none of the streets are called the Royal Mile, it’s fairly clear on a map – it’s a straight line from the castle to palace. 

The Royal Mile goes past a few museums and St Giles’ Cathedral. The buildings along the route are lovely, and you’ll also pass by several shops, cafes and occasionally some street performers. It’s the perfect route for a stroll through the centre of Edinburgh. 

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ Cathedral is a historic landmark known for its distinctive crown spire. Originally founded in the 12th century, it has survived several significant religious changes in Scottish history, including the Reformation in the 16th century. 

The cathedral’s architecture features a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles, with notable elements such as its stained glass windows and Thistle Chapel.

Victoria Street

Victoria Street

Victoria Street is known for its colourful buildings and independent shops. The street is close to the castle and curves down through Edinburgh’s Old Town. There are also several restaurants on this relatively short street, so it’s worth walking down and seeing what sparks your interest. 

You’ll also find some Harry Potter-themed shops on the street. 

Scott Monument of Princes Street

Princes Street

Princes Street sits to the north of the castle and marks the southern boundary of Edinburgh’s New Town. Given Edinburgh’s long history, New Town is a relative term. Most of the streets in this area were originally built in the 18th century.

 New Town now forms one of the major shopping areas in Edinburgh, especially along Princes Street. It’s also an interesting mix of old and new – on one side of the road you’ll find lots of shops.

The road itself includes tram lines as part of Edinburgh’s public transport system. On the south side of the road is the Scott Monument

The monument is one of Edinburgh’s major landmarks, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and constructed in 1840. 

The Princes Street Gardens are also lovely to wander around – a large green space next to the castle with fountains and memorials. 

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh has some steep hills, and the most obvious of those is Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano to the southeast of Edinburgh city centre. It is part of Holyrood Park, and stands at 251 metres high, offering panoramic views over the city. 

There are a few routes through the park and up to the summit, but be aware that the path is uneven with some steep sections so you will need a reasonable level of fitness to take the most direct route. 

Whisky bar under the Scotch Whisky Experience

Whisky

Whisky is probably Scotland’s most well-known export, and I highly recommend you try some while in Edinburgh.

The Scotch Whisky Experience is just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle. You can join tours and experiences to learn about how whisky is made and do a tasting, however, if you don’t know much about whisky and just want to try some, the tours can be on the expensive side.

I would recommend that instead you head down to the whisky bar, with its collection of 450 types of whisky. The staff are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. 

They’ll be happy to recommend something within a reasonable price point – there are usually many types that you can order by the dram (usually 35ml) for around £5-6.

It’s a good way to try some whisky as a novice without spending a lot of money. 

For fans of whisky, it’s also a great place to try some whiskies that might otherwise be difficult to get hold of.

The whisky bar is very small, so it’s best to visit in the early afternoon to try and grab a spot. If you want to eat at the Amber Restaurant rather than just having a drink at the bar then you should book a table. 

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is a free museum that is well worth visiting. It has a collection spanning history, science, technology and the natural world. If you are interested in learning about Scottish history, this is the place to go. 

From 8000BC to the 20th century, discover ancient artefacts and the stories of famous Scottish figues such as Wiliam Wallace and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Other galleries include exhibitions on design and fashion, science and technology, and the natural world.

Perhaps the museum’s strangest exhibit is Dolly the sheep. Famous for being the world’s first successful cloned animal, Dolly’s body was preserved and put on display in the museum.  

Greyfriars Kirkyard 

If you enjoy a spooky tale, then consider visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard Cemetery. This graveyard sits next to the National Museum of Scotland and is a popular visitor spot for several reasons. 

The most famous grave is that of Thomas Riddle – the inspiration for the name of the primary villain in the Harry Potter world. There are numerous other graves for notable figures in Scottish history, including several who met grisly ends.

 If you want the full creepy experience, you might want to consider going on a walking tour of the kirkyard and nearby Nidry Street vaults. 

Book your walking tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Vaults here!

Camera Obscura

For a more light-hearted attraction, Camera Obscura offers a very different experience for visitors compared to Greyfriars. Located near Edinburgh Castle, it provides panoramic views of the city through a series of optical illusions and interactive exhibits. 

With its history dating back to the 19th century, Camera Obscura is a fascinating attraction where visitors can learn about the art of photography, the secrets of magic tricks, and how optical illusions work. 

How Many Days Do You Need In Edinburgh

I would recommend at least 2 days to explore the city’s main attractions. If you want to venture further afield for day trips to areas like Loch Lomond, then you’ll need at least 4 days. 

If you do only have one day to spare, check out this one day in Edinburgh itinerary.

Where To Stay In Edinburgh

I highly rate Premier Inns in almost any location around the UK. They aren’t on sites such as Booking.com so are often overlooked by tourists.

They aren’t particularly luxurious, but I have stayed in a lot of them and found them to be reliably clean, safe and comfortable as well as good value for money. Head to their website to book directly.

If you do want some luxury then consider the Balmoral Hotel – the most famous hotel in the city.

At the other end of the scale, if you need to keep costs down then there are some good budget options as well. 

If you are visiting during the summer, you can book a room in Edinburgh University dorm rooms for a low price.

CoDE Pod offers unusual hostel dormitories which offer a bit more privacy in mixed or female-only dorms.

Cranachan at Whiski Rooms

Where To Eat In Edinburgh

Every time I’m in Edinburgh I always go to the Whiski Rooms. They serve Scottish dishes such as venison and salmon, and my favourite Scottish dessert – cranachan. It’s a delicious mix of toasted oats, cream, honey, whisky and raspberries. Sort of like a Scottish version of eton mess. 

If you fancy some seafood, head to White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar. Their menu is made up of small plates so you can try several things. If there are two or more of you, you could also try their seafood platters. 

If you are on your own, get advice about how much to order. I accidentally over-ordered and couldn’t finish the enormous portion of crab-topped fries!

You’ll also find lots of pubs serving great food, such as Devil’s Advocate and Tolbooth Tavern. Edinburgh is full of great places to eat, but it is worth booking in advance. 

Best Time To Visit Edinburgh

Late spring and summer are the best times to visit. Unless you specifically want to attend Fringe, avoid August as prices will shoot up and the city becomes very busy. It can get very cold in winter so I would recommend you visit in the milder months. 

Royal Mile

FAQs

Do Scottish people speak Gaelic?

Most people in Scotland speak English. There are some Scots who speak Gaelic but this is usually as a second language. The Scottish accent can be very strong and some people do find it difficult to understand.

Is Edinburgh expensive?

Yes, Edinburgh can be expensive especially during peak times such as August during Fringe. There are ways to save money by staying in hostels and focusing on free attractions and outdoor activities, but it is an expensive city. 

What currency is used in Scotland?

Scotland uses the same currency as the rest of the UK – pound sterling (GBP/£). The confusion comes from the fact that Scotland has its own design of banknotes. 

Scottish banknotes have the same value as banknotes produced in England. You can use English notes in Scotland and Scotland in England – they are all legal currency in the UK as they are all pound sterling.

Is Scotland part of the UK?

Yes, Scotland is one of the four countries that make up the nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Is Edinburgh a walkable city?

Yes, with a caveat. The city centre is small enough to walk around, however, it has some very steep hills. You’ll be climbing long sets of stairs or walking up hills a lot to get around. 

How do you pronounce Edinburgh?

Visitors to the UK often get the pronunciation of Edinburgh wrong – mostly because it is one of many places names in the UK that isn’t said the way it is written. The correct pronunciation is ED-in-bruh. 

Not Ed-in-borough or Ed-in-berg. 

Edinburgh or London?

The capital cities of England and Scotland are very different. London is my home so I’m somewhat biased, but to give you a full breakdown I have a dedicated article to choosing between Edinburgh and London.

Final Thoughts – Is Edinburgh Worth Visiting?

I hope this travel guide has convinced you it is worth visiting the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Scotland is a stunning part of the UK, and Edinburgh is the best city to visit in Scotland. 

There is plenty to do for a few days, lots of great food, and it is a perfect starting point for a wider trip around Scotland. 

Please Share!