Skip to main content

Contemplating a visit to Edinburgh? There’s so much to see and do in Scotland’s capital city! We’ve put together a list of all the top reasons why a visit to Edinburgh should be at the top of the list for your next holiday destination or weekend getaway. 

Keep reading to discover the most compelling reasons to explore this fascinating city! 

1. Explore Edinburgh’s History   

Scotland, and in particular Edinburgh, is rich with history dating all the way back to Roman times. Everywhere you turn, there’s a story to be told and Scottish history to soak in. The city has plenty of museums and art galleries to explore, beautiful architecture — make sure to look up — and of course, the world-famous Edinburgh Castle, built on a 700 million-year-old extinct volcano.

Here are some brilliant ways to take a step back in time and learn more about Edinburgh’s history. 

Visit the Majestic Edinburgh Castle

Perched atop Castle Rock, an ancient volcano, Edinburgh Castle demonstrates the fascinating Scottish history of Edinburgh. Dating back to the 12th century, the castle has been a royal residence, military base, and prison.

As you explore the awe-inspiring castle grounds, you’ll discover its role in shaping Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the castle’s ramparts, take in breathtaking views of the city and immerse yourself in the rich history that defines Edinburgh.

Admire St Giles Cathedral  

Step inside St Giles Cathedral and be amazed by its stunning Gothic architecture. Located on the Royal Mile, this 12th-century cathedral features a breathtaking vaulted ceiling, intricate stained glass windows, and the iconic crown spire that dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. 

Make sure to visit the Thistle Chapel, an ornate architectural gem within the cathedral. This stunning example of Gothic craftsmanship is the home of the Knights of the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s most prestigious order of chivalry. St Giles Cathedral is a stunning example of the incredible architecture Edinburgh is known for and is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the city centre.  

Explore the Regal Holyrood Palace   

At the end of the Royal Mile, you’ll find the magnificent Holyrood Palace, one of Edinburgh’s most iconic centuries-old buildings. Built in the 16th century, this historic structure was the official residence of British monarchs in Scotland.  

Surrounded by the lush greenery of Holyrood Park, the palace provides a glimpse into the lives of Scottish royalty through the ages. Explore the stately apartments, admire artworks, and stroll through the beautiful palace gardens on your Edinburgh holiday.   

Escape to Calton Hill

For breathtaking views of Edinburgh’s cityscape, head to Calton Hill, one of the Scottish capital’s most popular viewpoints. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to several iconic monuments, including the National Monument, which resembles an ancient Greek ruin, and the Nelson Monument, a tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson.

The hill’s strategic location in the city centre offers panoramic views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat. Whether you’re admiring the treasured wonders or simply soaking in the stunning vistas, Calton Hill is one of the most popular tourist spots in Edinburgh.   

Marvel at the Scott Monument 

In the heart of Princes Street Gardens stands the Scott Monument, a piece of stunning architecture dedicated to the renowned Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. This intricate Victorian monument, the world’s largest of its kind honouring a writer, showcases Scott’s literary achievements through its elaborate design and sculpture work.

Climb the 287 steps to the top of Scott’s Monument for beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town. The monument’s location within the picturesque Princes Street Gardens makes it a popular spot for tourists visiting Edinburgh.         

2. Meet Edinburgh’s Vibrant People   

Scots are a friendly bunch, and you’ll always get a warm welcome when you visit Edinburgh! Whether you’re looking for directions, recommendations, or to find out more about the city, there will always be a local happy to oblige. Why not hop off your tour bus and into a charming whisky pub, where you’ll find plenty of local people to chat with and a wide range of whisky to try?    

Here are some of the best ways to truly experience Edinburgh’s warm culture. 

Stop for a Drink at Quaint Scottish Pubs 

For a true taste of Edinburgh’s vibrant local culture, step into one of the city’s many Scottish pubs. These charming establishments offer the perfect opportunity to connect with friendly locals, sample traditional Scottish drinks, and immerse yourself in the welcoming atmosphere.  

Pop into the historic Cafe Royal, known for its stunning Victorian decor and lively conversations, or visit the cosy Bow Bar, a favourite among whisky lovers and locals.  

Spend the Day Like a Local with Edinburgh’s Community

Edinburgh’s friendly locals truly come alive during the summer months when the city hosts an array of world-renowned festivals, attracting visitors from around the globe. Take a stroll through the charming streets and soak in the buzzing atmosphere created by the locals and fellow holidaymakers.   

For a peaceful escape, head to St Margaret’s Loch, nestled at the foot of the stunning Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park. Here, you’ll find locals enjoying picnics, walks, and the company of friends and family.

Stroll Through Charming Neighbourhoods 

When you holiday in Edinburgh, be sure to explore the city’s many charming neighbourhoods, each with its own character and atmosphere. Walk through the cobbled streets of the historic Old Town, where you’ll find yourself transported back in time as you navigate the winding streets and alleyways.     

Enjoy tours of the picturesque Dean Village, a hidden gem along the Water of Leith, featuring stunning architecture and a tranquil ambience. You also won’t want to miss the vibrant Stockbridge neighbourhood, known for its bustling market, independent shops, and delightful cafes. 

Discover Fascinating Myths & Legends  

One of the most captivating aspects of engaging with Edinburgh’s locals is the opportunity to discover the city’s myths and legends. Strike up a conversation with a friendly local in a cosy pub or during a walking tour, and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in tales of ghostly apparitions, mysterious underground vaults, and ancient Celtic folklore.  

From the tragic tale of Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years, to the spine-chilling accounts of the Edinburgh underground vaults, these fascinating stories are a crucial part of the city’s heritage.

Indulge in Family Activities 

Scotland’s capital boasts exciting, family-friendly activities, making it one of the top reasons to visit Edinburgh. Take your loved ones on an adventure through the lush greenery of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, where you can explore the stunning glasshouses and interactive exhibitions.

For a thrilling experience, brave the Edinburgh Dungeons, an immersive attraction that brings the city’s dark history to life through storytelling, special effects, and live actors. Also, don’t miss the daily firing of the iconic One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, a tradition that has captivated visitors for over 150 years.   

3. Savour Local, Delicious Food & Drink

Edinburgh is the perfect place if you love to try new food and drink. There’s a wide range of eateries to suit everyone’s taste, from cosy cafes to Michelin-star restaurants, and you can’t come to Scotland without trying haggis, whisky or our amazing seafood.    

Let’s explore some of the ways to immerse yourself in Edinburgh’s culinary delights. 

Delight in Traditional Scottish Cuisine

No visit to Edinburgh or Scotland is complete without indulging in the city’s traditional cuisine. Start your day with a hearty traditional Scottish breakfast at one of the many charming cafes, such as The Edinburgh Larder. This filling meal typically includes sausage, bacon, black pudding, tattie scones, baked beans, and a choice of eggs.

For a true taste of Scotland, head to The Witchery by the Castle, a renowned restaurant that offers an exquisite menu featuring classic dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties, as well as prime Scottish beef and game.

Sip a Dram at Edinburgh’s Whisky Bars

For whisky enthusiasts, Edinburgh is a dream destination, boasting an impressive variety of whisky bars. Step into the warm atmosphere of the Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar, located within the iconic Scotch Whisky Experience, where you can choose from over 450 different whiskies and learn about the rich history of this beloved spirit.

If you prefer a more contemporary setting, head to the Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, where you can sample rare and exclusive single-cask whiskies in a stylish environment.

Indulge in Michelin-Starred Restaurants  

Edinburgh’s culinary scene is truly world-class, with a number of Michelin-starred restaurants that showcase the best of Scottish and international cuisine. For an unforgettable dining experience on your holiday to Edinburgh, reserve a table at Restaurant Martin Wishart. Here, you’ll enjoy French-inspired dishes crafted with the finest Scottish ingredients.

Another standout is The Kitchin, led by renowned chef Tom Kitchin, who passionately champions Scotland’s natural ingredients. The restaurant’s innovative tasting menus feature the best seasonal produce, seafood, and game.

Unwind in Charming Cosy Cafes  

Edinburgh’s winding streets are lined with cosy cafes, perfect for whiling away an afternoon with a good book or catching up with friends over a cuppa. For Harry Potter fans, a visit to Dun Dun Delicious at 6a Nicolson Street is a must when you travel to Edinburgh.

Although not in this particular cafe, it was in this location that author J.K. Rowling wrote much of the early Harry Potter books, drawing inspiration from the bustling crowd and stunning views of Edinburgh. 

Dive into Delectable Fresh Seafood 

No Edinburgh travel experience is complete without indulging in the city’s incredible fresh seafood offerings. As a coastal city, Edinburgh has access to some of the best seafood in the world.   

Head to the Fishmarket Newhaven, a bustling seafood restaurant. Here, you can sample freshly caught lobster, crab, and oysters. Another must-visit for seafood lovers is the Ondine Restaurant, a stylish eatery in the city centre that specialises in sustainable Scottish seafood.      

4. Experience Unforgettable Events

No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something going on in the city. In the summer we hold the annual fringe festival, where you can see a whole host of shows, comedy, music and art. 

The Edinburgh Tattoo is also well worth attending, where you’ll see some amazing military performances in front of the castle, be quick, though, as tickets sell out fast! Or, if you fancy a winter trip, our Christmas markets and Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations make Edinburgh a great place to visit during the festive season. 

Here are some of the most unforgettable events you won’t want to miss.

Attend the Edinburgh Festival Fringe    

The annual Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival, attracting thousands of performers and tourists from around the globe every year. This event transforms the city into a vibrant hub of creativity, with an array of musical and theatre performances, comedy shows, art exhibitions, and street entertainment.  

Be sure to check out the festival’s programme, which features established artists and up-and-coming talents. Also, don’t miss the chance to catch a show at the renowned Festival Theatre, one of the city’s premier performing arts venues.    

Celebrate at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a spectacular annual event that showcases the best of Scottish and international military talent. Held on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, this breathtaking display of music, dance, and precision drill attracts thousands of visitors worldwide.   

The Tattoo’s grand finale, a haunting rendition of the Lone Piper playing from the castle, is a moment of magic that will stay with you long after the event has ended.    

Immerse Yourself at the Edinburgh International Book Festival   

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a must-attend event for literature lovers, as it brings together acclaimed authors and poets from around the world. Held each August in the picturesque Charlotte Square Gardens, this two-week event features a diverse programme of readings, discussions, workshops, and book signings.  

As you wander through the festival’s tented village, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with your favourite writers, discover emerging talents, and immerse yourself in thought-provoking conversations.      

Unwrap the Joy of Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets 

The city’s Christmas markets are a magical addition to the already impressive list of Edinburgh tourist attractions. As the festive season approaches, the city transforms into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights, traditional decorations, and the aroma of spiced treats filling the air.   

The most popular of these markets is the Edinburgh Christmas Market, located in the heart of the city in East Princes Street Gardens. Here, you’ll find a charming array of wooden chalets selling everything from handcrafted gifts and artisanal goods to delicious local delicacies and warming drinks.       

Ring in the New Year with Hogmanay Celebrations  

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Celebrations are world-renowned, drawing visitors from far and wide to experience the city’s New Year’s Eve festivities. The celebrations kick off on December 30th with the stunning Torchlight Procession, where thousands of torch-bearers create a river of light through the heart of the city. 

On New Year’s Eve itself, the city comes alive with a host of events, including the famous Street Party. You’ll get to enjoy live music, street performers, and a dazzling fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle at midnight.      

5. Discover Top Attractions

From family trips to romantic breaks, there are plenty of tourist spots and attractions for everyone. Edinburgh Zoo, Dynamic Earth, The Edinburgh Dungeon, Camera Obscura, National Museum of Scotland, and the Royal Yacht Britannia are some of the top attractions you can access easily by hopping on and off our Bright Bus. 

Explore the best of what Edinburgh has to offer with our handpicked selection of must-see attractions.  

Experience the Thrill of Nature at Edinburgh Zoo      

Edinburgh Zoo is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Edinburgh for animal lovers and families. Located just a short journey from the city centre, this sprawling 82-acre park is home to over 1,000 rare and exotic animals. 

As you explore the zoo’s many exhibits and habitats, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with majestic pandas, playful penguins, graceful tigers, and many other fascinating creatures. The zoo also offers keeper talks, animal feeding sessions, and hands-on encounters.    

Ignite Your Curiosity at Dynamic Earth    

Dynamic Earth is a unique attraction that takes visitors on a thrilling journey through time and space. Located at the foot of the iconic Arthur’s Seat, this state-of-the-art science centre offers an immersive exploration of our planet’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day. 

As you navigate through the centre’s many exhibits and installations, you’ll witness the formation of the Earth, experience the power of volcanoes and earthquakes, and discover the incredible diversity of life that has evolved over billions of years.  

Defy Reality at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions  

Step into a world of wonder at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, one of Edinburgh’s most beloved attractions. Located just a short stroll from Edinburgh Castle, this fascinating museum displays mind-bending optical illusions, puzzles, and exhibits that will ignite your imagination.    

The show’s star is the Camera Obscura itself, a Victorian-era device that projects a live 360-degree image of Edinburgh onto a viewing table. This lets you spy on the Scottish capital from above and witness its bustling streets and landmarks in a whole new light.     

Journey Through Time at the National Museum of Scotland 

The National Museum of Scotland is a gem among Edinburgh’s many outstanding museums and galleries. Open year-round and one of Edinburgh’s many free attractions, this iconic attraction offers fascinating exhibits and artefacts that showcase the history and culture of Scotland and the world beyond.  

The museum’s stunning Grand Gallery is a highlight, with its soaring glass atrium and impressive displays of Scottish history and achievement. Throughout your visit, you can attend fascinating talks, workshops, and events that bring the museum’s exhibits to life and provide deeper insights into the stories behind the objects on display.     

Discover the Secrets of The Royal Yacht Britannia     

Step aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia, a magnificent floating palace that served as the official residence of The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years. Now permanently moored in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith, this legendary vessel offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and travels of the British monarchy.  

As you explore the yacht’s five main decks, you’ll discover a world of opulence, from the charming Royal Bedrooms to the gleaming Engine Room and the bustling Crew’s Quarters. Along the way, you’ll learn about the yacht’s remarkable history and the many dignitaries and celebrities who have graced its decks, including Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Frank Sinatra.      

Explore Scotland’s Capital City with Bright Bus Tours

There’s no better way to experience the magic of Edinburgh than with Bright Bus Tours — Scotland’s official open-top tour bus. Our Bright Bus open-top tour offers the perfect way to soak up the city’s sights, sounds, and stories.    

With our City Tour and Britannia Tour, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy informative commentary in 10 languages as you journey through the heart of the city and beyond. Our knowledgeable drivers and friendly staff are always on hand to provide insider tips and recommendations, ensuring that you make the most of your time in Edinburgh.

Best of all, our tickets are incredibly affordable, with prices starting at just £16 for 24 hours or £20 for two tours across two days. Plus, with our £25 ticket valid for seven days, you can hop on and off as much as you like. Explore Edinburgh at your own pace and visit all the top attractions, restaurants, and hidden gems that catch your eye!    

Explore the city with Bright Bus Tours — the brightest way to experience all the reasons why a visit to Edinburgh is unforgettable. Buy your tickets online and plan your incredible journey through Scotland’s capital today.