Top 5 Things to do on a Trip to Edinburgh

If you want to know what the top 5 things to do on a trip to Edinburgh are, no need to look at Trip Advisor just ask the locals. Here are our top 5 things to do on a city break to Edinburgh.Some are only a short walk from Princes Street. Others are a bus ride away. So, here’s our selection from the many attractions. The order of the attractions may change over time, but their ease of access will stay the same.

One piece of advice, if you have brought a car with you leave it parked somewhere secure. Car parks are expensive and traffic jams are common place in the city. Don’t spend valuable time driving and sitting in traffic queues.  The best way to see the city is on foot or take a short bus ride.

Our Top 5 Things to Do on a Visit to Edinburgh

  1. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – our son would vote this number 1 in his things to do.  He loves the optical illusions, and the Vortex Tunnel (added in 2010).  The Mirror Maze was another favourite – see above. Recently, I visited the shop to buy birthday presents there as they have a great gift shop which has some unusual presents.  The Tantrix game is one of our current favourites
    Top 5 Things to do on a trip to Edinburgh
    Camera Obscura
  2. Royal Yacht Britannia – it’s a while since we’ve visited the Royal Yacht Britannia, but I do have the honour of saying that I’ve attended a cocktail party on board before it became a tourist attraction – and jolly fun it was too!  The Lothian Bus service  goes to Ocean Terminal from Princes Street or you can catch Service 35 at the Queen Mary’s Bath House stop at Abbeyhill (by Palace of Holyroodhouse) – if you have decided to visit Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat beforehand. A visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia is definitely on my things to do particularly if the weather is a little unpredictable. You can also spend a few hours at the Ocean Terminal complex too.  There is a cinema, shops galore as well as lots of restaurants. You can now catch a tram all the way from Princes Street or Leith Walk to the Royal Yacht
    Things to do in Edinburgh
    Royal Yacht Britannia
  3. Royal Botanic Gardens – a perennial favourite and on my things to do at any time of year.  You can almost walk to the gardens from Princes Street (it’s downhill all the way) or catch the Lothian Bus  from North Bridge to Inverleith Row. There is a world class collection of alpine plants in the new alpine house (pictured) and plenty of interest all year round, as well as great views towards the Castle.
    Top 5 things to do on a trip to Edinburgh
    Glasshouses Royal Botanic Garden
  4. Edinburgh Castle – is on everyone’s things to do with fabulous views from atop Castle Hill, northwards over the city towards the River Forth, or south towards the Pentland Hills. Centuries of history, so pick your favourite and head there.  It’s looked after by Historic Environment Scotland, so if you’re likely to be visiting other castles such as Craigmillar Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Stirling Castle or Dirleton during your stay in Edinburgh, it might be worth investing in an annual season ticket or explorer pass.
  5. TopTip Numbers are limited so buy your tickets online. I suggest you buy a few weeks in advance as the summer months are months of very high demand. Click this link to purchase tickets
    Top 5 things to do on a trip to Edinburgh
    Edinburgh Castle
  6. Arthur’s Seat – The start of the path to climb Arthur’s Seat can easily be found by walking into Holyrood Park at the Horse Wynd Entrance.  Many people make the climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat through a variety of routes – some by walking round to the back of the hill by Dunsapie Loch and ascending that route (the easiest way to get to the top), and others by taking a more challenging route.  Don’t attempt this without adequate footwear.  At the very least a stout pair of trainers/sneakers, but more sensibly a good pair of walking shoes or boots.  We love the views from there, but equally if you’re not ready for a mini-mountain in the city, then Calton Hill offers great views too.
    Things to Do in Edinburgh
    Arthur’s Seat

We hope you’ll take the opportunity to find your own Edinburgh Top 5 on a visit here, and leave your list for us in our comments box.

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We do hope you enjoy your trip to Edinburgh.

Blog post updated March 2024

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