10 things to do in Edinburgh

  • Published
  • By Gina Randall
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A city for everyone, Edinburgh is not only beautiful but has a mix of areas, many alive with activity, as well as peaceful parks and meadows - all in the heart of the city.

Getting to this amazing city couldn't be easier. Take a plane in less than an hour from Stansted. Go by train from Ely, with fabulous views of the British countryside rushing by as you relax. Or travel by car on the A1 leading right into the city center.

One you're there, take a walk up a cobbled street and see the city at night from a castle while looking down on the bright lights of the historic buildings and the colorful people going about their business. And take the time to check out these 10 worthwhile sites and events.

1. Edinburgh Castle. The castle was built on an inactive volcano. Royalty lived and died within its walls; battles and sieges were fought over it. The castle has sheltered many Scottish monarchs. In the 1600s, the castle became a military base. Today it dominates the city. Princes Street Gardens surround this magnificent castle.


2. The Royal Mile.
The name Edinburgh comes from the ancient Gaelic "Dun Eidyn" which means "hill fort on the sloping ridge." People have been living on Castlehill for the last 7,000 years. The road runs downhill from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. It's in the historic part of the city, where many souvenir sellers have set up shops.


3. Mary King's Close. The real Mary King's Close is buried deep beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile, a series of rooms and streets frozen in time since the 17th Century. This street was closed off during the plague. Said to be haunted by the souls that were left to die in this street, this place is not for the faint hearted!


4. The Meadows. Located near the heart of the city, wandering through the meadows gives visitors the feeling of being a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Grass underfoot and surrounded by trees, families sit on a blanket and enjoy a relaxing picnic and children run in the soft grass and runners stretch their legs round the perimeter of beautiful trees.


5. Arthur's Seat. Once an active volcano rising 822 feet above sea-level, this mound in the city is a great place for a walk. It is the highest of Edinburgh's seven hills and offers fantastic panoramic views of the city and the Firth of Forth to the north. Its height enables visitors to see the city from high elevation after an exhilarating climb. For those wanting a gentler walk, there is a road around the mountain providing a gradient of slope rather than a climb. It is located near Holyrood Park at the bottom of the Royal Mile.


6. Holyrood Palace and Park. Home to the Royal family when they visit Edinburgh, the palace is certainly "fit for a queen." The Queen is in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during Holyrood Week, usually taking place from late June to early July. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh entertain around 8,000 guests from all walks of Scottish life during Holyrood Week. Prince Charles resides at Holyroodhouse for one week a year, carrying out official duties as The Duke of Rothesay.


7. The Fringe Festival. During the month of August, the city comes alive. The Fringe Festival is the world's largest arts festival with more than 40,000 performances and more than 2,500 shows packed into 250 venues across the city. There are comedy acts, music shows, arts and street shows all over the city. The atmosphere is truly electric with the mix of people and the performances.


8. Edinburgh Zoo.
The largest and most exciting wildlife attraction in Scotland, committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, conservation and environmental education. Visit the Giant Pandas, chimpanzees, Sun Bears, hilltop safari, gardens, koalas and African wild dogs.


9. Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Held every August, this electric atmosphere showcases the best military bands, pipers, drummers, dancers and display teams from across the globe. Held on the castle grounds, visitors get a fantastic view of the city while enjoying the Tattoo. It is an open air performance and with the unpredictable weather, it is advised that visitors bring a warm rain coat.


10. Botanic Gardens. Established in 1670, with more than 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the Botanic Gardens provide a tranquil haven just one mile from the bustling city center. Features include a Chinese Hillside, Woodland Garden, Rock Garden, Queen Mother's Memorial Garden and Alpines.


The city is worth a look and has everything a family could wish for. Choose the time of year very carefully. During Christmas and New Year time, the city comes alive, but the weather is a great deal colder in the north of the U.K., so wrap up warm.

(Editor's note: There is no intended endorsement of Edinburgh or its tourism sites.)