Meg’s Top 10 in Edinburgh

Last March my boyfriend and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Scotland’s beautiful capital, Edinburgh. Scotland is known for many things including the love-it or hate-it music made by bagpipes, delicious scotch whisky and the wonderful national animal, the unicorn. There are many beautiful areas to explore in Scotland and the capital city is in the most populated one known as the Lowlands. Edinburgh is quite a hilly city and is mainly split into the old town and new town area. As the names imply, one is old and more historic, and the other is the newer, more modern area. Pretty much all of my top 10 in Edinburgh are in the old town but we didn’t really explore the new town too much, so perhaps there’s even more to see there as well. 

10. Botanical Gardens

To start off this list, we have the Botanical Gardens which are in the new town area of Edinburgh. The gardens are very big and have loads of different areas to explore. This was a great place to visit during our trip because the weather was lovely, dry and sunny. The views from some of the hillier points of the garden are great. We walked from the old town down to the gardens and picked up a bit of lunch from the Tesco along the way, so that we were able to have a little picnic when we arrived. You can buy a map at the visitor’s center but you really don’t need to. There are signs along the way and the pathways are pretty clearly marked. 

9. Calton Hill

Now this is a sight that includes some other bonus sights. Calton Hill is a hill in central Edinburgh and it’s even the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. To walk up to the Nelson Monument you need to get to the bottom of the hill in new town and then take a short stroll up to the top. It doesn’t take long to get to the tip and it’s really not a difficult path either. The route we took was mainly steps but there are a few different ways to reach the top of the hill. We watched the sunset from the top of Calton Hill and it was beautiful! The Dugland Stewart Monument is a great viewing point of the city and also a great sight in itself. This is definitely a very Instagram-able spot that you’ll probably recognise if you’ve seen any Edinburgh Instagram content. In a similar style and only a few meters away is the National Monument. You can also see the Nelson monument at the top of Calton Hill which is just another reason to get on up there. On the way up, depending on which way you walk, you pass by a headquarters of the Scottish government and the Robert Burns Monument which beautifully decorate the walk up.

8. Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat was one of my absolute favourite sights in Edinburgh and the only reason it’s so far down on the list is the fact that it’s quite weather dependent. This is one of the main hills in Edinburgh and it’s a pretty easy about half an hour walk up and it’s certainly worth it. This was another one of our sunset viewing points and it was absolutely stunning. The stroll up is great and I’d recommend taking a little something to drink and maybe a snack for when you reach the top. It’s pretty rocky at the top which means there are some reasonably comfortable places to sit and enjoy the view but you may prefer to stand. Whatever you decide to do, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to enjoy this natural gem in the Scottish capital. 

7. Royal Mile

You certainly can’t or at least shouldn’t visit Edinburgh without walking up or down the Royal mile. This is the main street in Edinburgh’s old town. It is mostly pedestrianized and it’s certainly worth taking the time to walk up and down it at least once for an insight into the city’s atmosphere and history. Depending on where you go and what you end up doing, you may have no choice but to explore the Royal mile many times and you’ll realise that you can notice something new every time you’re there. The highlight of the Royal mile is of course the Edinburgh castle that marks the top of the street. There are shops, pubs and cafes along the way and amazing architecture frames the mile from top to bottom.

6. Harry Potter inspiration sights

As you may know, J.K. Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter books in Edinburgh which is way there are character, location and general Wizarding World inspiration sights scattered around the city. For anyone who’s a Potterhead, this makes for a great scavenger hunt. I personally loved exploring Edinburgh whilst in search of some famous names and sights that J.K. Rowling wrote about and turned into the wonderful world of wizardry that we know today. Diagon Alley is clearly inspired by Victoria Street (more below). Edinburgh is one of the very few cities I know of where the graveyard is also a bit of a highlight for any Harry Potter fans. The names of people buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard will be recognisable for anyone who’s read the HP books or seen the films. It’s a nice stroll to explore and try and find the names we all know and (maybe ;)) love. Do remember to be respectful though, as this is still a graveyard. From the kirkyard, you also have a view of George Heriot’s School which definitely has some Hogwarts vibes about it. The Elephant House Café is one of the locations where J.K. Rowling wrote so many of the iconic words that shaped the Harry Potter world, but it was sadly the location of a big fire in 2021 and has been closed since. All in all though, the entire city has a very “wizardy” feel and you may find flecks of inspiration around every corner.

5. Pub visit

This one is a must on any visit to anywhere in the UK. There are pubs all around the world nowadays, but none are quite like the ones in the UK and Ireland. The best time to go is usually during a football game or some other sporting event that’s on TV but of course, it depends on what kind of vibe you’re after. Most pubs offer a variety of themed nights and events, so this is certainly worth looking into near your accommodation. The atmosphere in pubs is comfortable, fun, and inviting which makes them a great spot if you’re travelling alone or with someone. Pub grub is also an experience in itself even if it’s not really a healthy one sometimes, it’s worth it. We explored the pub opposite our hotel and braved some Scottish delicacies. The Beehive Inn was a great place for me to show off pub culture to my boyfriend and travel companion. He tried and didn’t hate haggis; he drank that much Irn-Bru that I thought his heart would explore and the general amount of food consumed in that pub was more than enough. A pub visit is a must on any visit to Scotland and the UK in general whether it’s for a quick drink in the day or dinner in the evening.

4. Comedy club

Edinburgh is not only known for the Fringe Festival but also generally for its Comedy club scene. The afore mentioned pub, The Beehive Inn had an additional great factor called the Comedy Attic. We asked the waitress if she had any comedy club recommendations and it just so happened that there was a show on in the attic that evening and not only was it convenient but it did not disappoint my expectations of an Edinburgh comedy club. It’s easier to find a show if you’re in the city at the weekend but there are so many comedy clubs around that there’s always something on offer. If you want to go somewhere bigger or more famous, then you should look into the tickets in advance and maybe even book. We looked into some things while we were there and anything that was widely known had been booked out far in advance. It’s an experience you need to plan into your Edinburgh visit without a doubt.

3. Victoria Street

Another point on the Harry Potter and overall Edinburgh sightseeing list is Victoria Street. Victoria Street is one of the main streets in Edinburgh’s old town and this is quite obviously the street that J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley is based on. There are so many nice cafés and even Harry Potter themed book shops along this street that I highly recommend you visit. You can also explore some beautiful boutiques and grab a drink outdoors if the weather is nice. It’s just all round a great street to explore, wonder around and just take some time to see what there is. 

2. Whisky tasting

This is a bit of a specific activity, and it is a great one. It was one of if not my favourite thing we did whilst in Edinburgh. One of the things Scotland is famous for is of course, scotch whisky. Scotch is a specific type of whisky that is only made in Scotland. Even if you don’t like to drink or don’t really like scotch at all or much, a scotch tasting tour is still something you should consider for the experience and the history alone. The tasting factor is simply an additional bonus or a great highlight for someone who enjoys drinking scotch. We were pretty last minute with our booking and honestly struggled to find something, yet we still ended up with one of the best rated tours around. The Scotch Whisky Experience is on the Royal Mile very close to Edinburgh Castle and has everything you could want from this kind of tour. There’s a small ride along experience with videos and information, an exhibition area, one of if not the largest whisky collection in the world (or at least parts of it are on display), a great bar with a view at the end and the staff during the tour and at the bar are both competent and extremely friendly. I wasn’t sure what to think going into it but would now certainly say that it is a do not miss part of the Edinburgh adventure.

1.Edinburgh Castle

My absolute top sight in Edinburgh is the Edinburgh castle. This is the castle at the top of the Royal mile and is one of the landmarks of the beautiful Scottish capital. At the moment, you need to book your tickets in advance online which I can only recommend. The system is very easy to use and the time slots are half an hour increments. You will have the option of downloading an e-ticket or picking the ticket up on sight. Even if you’re there when you book the ticket, I would definitely recommend simply downloading the e-ticket. It’s more environmentally friendly and it saves you having to wait in the queue outside the ticketing booth. If you’re worried about your phone battery dying, then the ticket booth can always be plan b and if you’re not travelling alone, I find it’s always a good idea to send everyone all the tickets so that you definitely have them all and the chances of everyone’s phone dying at once is pretty slim. One of the main reason I really enjoyed our trip to the castle is because I feel like you really get to learn a lot about Scottish history in the appropriate setting. 

In addition to all of that, you can do a haunted bus tour, walking tours – both haunted or historic during the day – you can eat amazing Indian food and generally try some great restaurants and bars. This Scottish capital is worth the visit 110%. I went into my Edinburgh trip not quite knowing what to expect and was so nicely surprised. Of all the European capitals I’ve been to so far, this is one of my favourites for so many of the afore mentioned reasons and more. Lastly, I think all I can say is, give it a chance and find out how Edinburgh makes you feel and hopefully you’ll see all the beauty that I was able to see.

If you’re interested in more Top 10s, some travel and packing tips or more information on different destinations, then check out some of my other Meg’s Places articles and stay tuned for more! In case your questions aren’t answered here, or you have any comments or personal experiences you’d like to share, don’t be afraid to get in touch, comment and let me know. 

You can also follow me @megsplaces on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook to follow my travels and get regular updates, pictures, story polls and video clips!

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