Nicknamed the Pearl of Scotland, Edinburgh is known for its large annual festivals, the impressive Military Tattoo and its dramatic castle. Discover the many gems of the Scottish capital with this handy Finnair travel guide to Edinburgh.
Sights in Edinburgh
With distinct old and new areas, Edinburgh presents a captivating blend of the modern and the historic. Follow the Royal Mile from the magnificent hill-top fortress of Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse Palace, the British Queen’s official residence in Scotland and the home of a large collection of royal art. The Camera Obscura on Castle Hill provides panoramic views of the entire city. Steeped in legends and local lore, Mary King’s Close in the Old Town is said to be haunted! Gladstone's Land, with its stunning painted ceiling, St Giles' Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament are other highlights of the Old Town. In the New Town you can wonder at the beautiful neoclassical buildings and stunning gardens. The ruins of Craigmillar Castle, located in Little France, are atmospheric. The National Museum of Scotland offers great insights into the city and country, while art lovers shouldn’t miss the National Gallery of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Head to St. Stephen Street and you’ll find a number of small, modern art galleries to admire too. Families are sure to enjoy the large zoo and you can enjoy nature, views and an array of interesting monuments with a walk up Calton Hill. The Royal Botanic Garden is a pleasant place for a picnic in the sunshine. As night falls, visit the traditional and lively pubs around the Old Town and Leith for folk music and fun. If you visit Edinburgh in the summer, you’re in for a treat with the diverse festivals. Although the city is perhaps now more famous for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival has been going strong since the 1940s. There are festivals dedicated to various musical genres, theatre, film, and more.
Things to See and Do Near Edinburgh
- Rosslyn Chapel – Made famous by the Dan Brown novel “The Da Vinci Code”, and the film of the same name, this interesting religious building is just a short bus ride from the city centre.
- Arthur’s Seat – Located to the east of the city, this now-extinct volcano offers terrific views of the city and a nice day of walking.
- Scottish Seabird Centre – Watch live streams of thousands of birds on Bass Rock. The centre is located in North Berwick.
- Peebles – A charming historical town in the pretty Tweed Valley, Peebles can lay claim to having the oldest inhabited house in Scotland—Traquair House—as well as other old buildings, independent shops, and nature-based activities right on its doorstep.
Shopping in Edinburgh
As a large city, Edinburgh’s shopping offers almost anything a retail therapy enthusiast could wish for.
- Grassmarket – Located in the Old Town and once home to the city’s horse and cattle market, you’ll find a wide selection of independent stores, quirky boutiques, vintage shops and art galleries here today.
- Royal Mile – You’ll find the most souvenir shops along this historic route.
- Multrees Walk – Situated in the New Town, this is the best place to find luxury brands and high-class fashions.
- Princes Street – This New Town street has a number of department stores along one side of the road; the other side is building-free, providing great views across the Old Town.
- Victoria Street – Believed to have been the road that inspired “Diagon Alley” in Harry Potter, this Old Town street is full of character.
Food and Drink
- Haggis – Probably the most well-known traditional Scottish dish, haggis consists of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with offal, oatmeal, suet, onion, and spices. It is the national dish of Scotland and it’s commonly served with potatoes and turnips.
- Salmon – The waters around Scotland are major breeding areas for salmon and the fish is known globally for its delicious taste and soft texture.
- Porridge – A traditional breakfast food, porridge is made from oats, water and a pinch of salt.
- Scotch Pie – Stuffed with minced meat, this filling pie is made with crusty pastry.
- Leek and potato soup – A warm winter comfort food; mop the bottom of the bowl with chunky pieces of bread.
- Black pudding – Made from congealed pig’s blood, oatmeal, and sausage, black pudding is a Scottish delicacy.
Transport in Edinburgh
With a reasonably compact centre and a decent public transportation system, exploring Edinburgh is generally hassle-free. Do keep in mind, however, that the city is quite hilly, so even though distances may appear short, you may not want to plan to walk everywhere.
- By foot – The main tourist centres of the Old Town and New Town are pleasant for walking, and many sights are close together. Do prepare for some steep streets and hill climbs, though.
- Buses – Several bus companies operate in and around Edinburgh. Fares are different and tickets from one provider cannot be used on services by another company, though the companies do use some of the same bus stops. Buses are the main way of getting around the city, but you should plan ahead, especially at peak travel times, for congestion.
- Trams – Open since 2014, Edinburgh’s tram line connects York Place with the airport. Services operate every ten minutes throughout the day.
- Taxis – There are two types of taxi in Edinburgh: black cabs, which can be hailed on the street and have a meter; and minicabs, which are pre-booked and may charge a flat rate or by the meter.