Edinburgh Visitor Guide 2021: Everything you need to know
Scotland's capital is one of Europe's most fascinating cities. With excellent transit connections to the rest of the UK and other destinations in Europe, Edinburgh is a city that is increasingly embracing its tourist potential. And there's plenty of that. With iconic historical sites such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace plus the stunning scenery of Scotland just a short journey outside the city, whatever you're into, chances are good you'll find it here.
Scotland is increasingly finding its own feet as a nation separate from its larger identity as part of the United Kingdom. Edinburgh is the center of Scottish art and culture and is the perfect place to explore Scotland's growing self-confidence. Auld Reekie, as the locals call it, is a city that deserves the ever-increasing numbers of tourists who discover it for themselves.
A weekend in Edinburgh
With everything there is to do in Edinburgh, a weekend may not be enough to fully get to grips with the city. However, a couple of days does give you time to see some of the Scottish capital's most famous attractions. Drop off your heavy bags at a luggage storage shop in Edinburgh and see what the city has to offer for yourself.
Edinburgh Castle is hard to miss. Built on a volcanic plug overlooking the city, the castle is Edinburgh's most famous monument and dominates the skyline of the town. It's also the ideal place to get to grips with Scotland's complex history.
Visit the Queen's official Scottish residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Home of Scottish royalty since the 16th century, this impressive palace is still used by the British royal family today. When the Queen is not in residence, the palace is open to the public, including its stunning art gallery and exquisite gardens.
Explore the beating heart of the city along the Royal Mile. This street runs from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood and is the main entertainment, shopping, and tourist district of the city. You'll find all the best-known brands here, along with some uniquely Scottish names. It's also a great place to eat and drink, with a wealth of restaurants, cafés, and pubs set up along the road.
Thanks to its ancient origins, Edinburgh is a city made for walking. The mile-long walk from the castle to the palace will expose you to much of what makes the city so charming. But on foot, you're free to explore all kinds of lesser-known attractions too. Leave your bags behind at a luggage storage service in Edinburgh and spare yourself the hassle of carrying extra stuff up and down Edinburgh's famous Hills.
Off the beaten path in Edinburgh
As a city with a long and colorful history, Edinburgh has plenty of secrets. Everyone makes their way to the castle and to the Royal Mile, and there's a good reason for that. But once you've checked off the major sites, there's so much more to see in Scotland's capital.
The Royal Mile gets all the attention, but underneath the famous street, you can explore an older side of Edinburgh. The ancient streets of the city were buried in the 17th century. Now excavated and open to guided tours, they offer a glimpse back into an earlier period of life in the city that you won't get anywhere else.
Take in the vibe in Grassmarket. Located south of the castle, this recently redeveloped district is pedestrian-friendly and is a great place to wander among ancient buildings and explore unique stores, restaurants, and other hotspots.
Explore the truly unique exhibits at the Surgeon's Hall Museum. This medical museum contains some truly fascinating — and occasionally horrifying — exhibits. If you've never seen a book bound in human skin, this is your chance. Drop off your heavy bags at an Edinburgh luggage storage locker before visiting this ghoulish attraction.
What to do alone in Edinburgh
Despite its frequently gray weather, Edinburgh can be a very friendly city. It's also extremely safe. Whether you're visiting the city on vacation or business, you can easily keep entertained all by yourself.
Explore Scotland's most famous export with a whiskey tour. Many of the nation's most legendary distilleries are located close to the city of Edinburgh. A guided tour will give you a deeper understanding of this iconic Scottish drink, and the many tasting samples will help you loosen up with other visitors.
Sometimes the best friends you'll ever make have four paws. Drop into the Edinburgh Cat Cafe and get up close and personal with cuddly felines. If you're missing your cat back home or just want to meet some new furry friends, this is the place to do it.
Immerse yourself in Scottish culture at an Edinburgh pub. Drop off your heavy bags for the night at a bag storage in Edinburgh and track down one of the many pubs in the city center that offer live music. Scottish folk music is a celebrated part of the country's culture, and there's nothing better than a few drinks and some lively music to help you meet other travelers and locals.
The best souvenirs in Edinburgh
Scotland is famous for many things that make great gifts and souvenirs. Knitted goods are a popular and practical item, and you'll find some exquisite knitted goods at Bill Baber. Alternatively, visit Kathy's Knits to pick up yarn and knitting supplies to make your own. On the other hand, if you've developed a taste for Scotland's national drink, a good bottle of single malt whiskey makes the perfect memento of a trip to Edinburgh. You'll find dozens of whiskey shops along the Royal Mile, but if you walk another couple of blocks south of the castle, you'll find The Whisky Shop, which offers knowledgeable staff, incredible selection, and tastings to help you decide on the perfect dram.