Edinburgh - A Local's Guide
- History of the Edinburgh Old town & New
- Best shopping streets
To help you get the very best from the city we've gathered some of Edinburgh's best attractions from a local's perspective. It was tough to narrow it down but here's our word-of-mouth guide to things to see & do in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh.
Top things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland's compact, hilly capital city is jam-packed with great things to do. Here are some of the best loved tourist attractions in Edinburgh - with a few of the lesser-known, but equally attractive, spots thrown in. Explore the history, culture and landscape of this unique city.
History of the Edinburgh Old town & NewHistorical Interest
If getting caught up in the history and grandeur of it all is your cup of tea, then a visit to Edinburgh Castle & Holyrood Palace is a must. At one end of the historic "Royal Mile" (the crag) sits Edinburgh Castle and at the other end (the tail) is the Queen's residence, Holyrood Palace.
Edinburgh has two very different historic characters; the Old Town and the New Town. It's the unique contrast of these areas of the city that gives Edinburgh so much character. To better appreciate the architecture and historic culture of these two areas, simply take a wander!
We'd recommend visiting the National Trust's Georgian House on Charlotte Square and Gladstone's Land on the Royal Mile. These fascinating properties have been fully restored to their original historic period. Both offer guided tours and an insightful glimpse into the very different lives of Old and New Town inhabitants in centuries past.
MuseumsEducation & Museums
The Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street is a building of two halves. The beautiful Victorian museum has a large modern extension, this houses a Scottish artefacts section with imaginative displays and beautiful spaces. There is usually a feature exhibition for a fee but the majority is open for no charge. The cafe in the old museum atrium is worth a visit.
Perhaps a lesser known Edinburgh museum, Surgeons Hall Museum, was founded in 1505. Originally it was developed as a teaching museum for students of medicine. The fascinating collection includes medical specimens, artefacts and works of art and has been open to the public since 1832. This makes it among Scotland's oldest museums and probably most unusual - if a little macabre at times!
Edinburgh benefits from wonderful green spaces such as The Meadows and the Bruntsfield Links right in the heart of the city. There are very few cities that have a hill quite like Arthur's seat right in the centre!
If the hustle and bustle gets too much then take a trip down to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Climbing Arthurs Seat, Calton Hill or along the Water of Leith walkway could make the perfect afternoon escape.
Once you've stretched your legs, pop along to Stockbridge for tea & cake. Sample the excellent local cuisine and a cocktail or two at the end of an exhilarating day!
For a healthy dose of culture, visit the upcoming exhibitions in our National Galleries. For Scotland's finest, but perhaps more traditional treasures, take in the National Gallery complex on the Mound. Contemporary art can be found at the Modern Art Galleries on Belford Road, both of which have excellent lunch time eateries. The independent Fruit Market Gallery, just by Waverley Station is often worth a visit. It also has an excellent café.
Other notable galleries include the City Arts Centre on Market St, and the contemporary Collective Gallery on Calton Hill. For photography, Stills on Cockburn St. is excellent. The National Portrait Gallery receives excellent reviews and is easy to find on Queen Street.
StorytellingTours & Traditional Arts
Scotland is famed for it's culture of storytelling throughout the ages and modern times are no different. The Real Mary Kings Close tells the spooky story of historic Edinburgh in a 16th Century Close. Nearby, along the Royal Mile, multiple ghost tours tell a more gruesome version of the cities past. These are generally best experienced once it is dark! Some are tame and suitable for kids but others are genuinely scary!
Visit the home of Scotland's stories at the Scottish storytelling centre on the Royal Mile. They showcase the traditional art form believing that, 'Story telling happens when a story is told person to person live without print or technology.' Check their website for details on live storytelling, theatre, family events & workshops all year round.
The Scotch Whisky Experience and the new Johnny Walker Experience on Princes Street offer various tours to suit. From a brief introduction to our national drink to evening master-classes or a whisky tour with tasting menu! Storytelling with tasters - sounds pretty good to us!
Best shopping streetsShopping
The shops on George Street are second to none. Beautiful Georgian shop façades are punctuated with bars and eateries all along its length and the lovely Lowdown Coffee house
Thistle Street, Victoria Street, Stockbridge, Bruntsfield and the Westend are great for contemporary, independent shops and special finds. Wonderful design and gift shops burst at the seams with ideas to inspire you.
For something completely different, why not head to the Edinburgh Zoo to see the giant pandas! Keeping up the monochrome theme, Edinburgh zoo is also famed for its penguin parade. The penguins wander around the zoo to everyone's great delight. Lot's of fun for kids big and small.
A far lesser known city attraction, The Scott Monument, forms part of the iconic skyline. If feeling energetic, it can also be scaled by its 287 steps. From the top, enjoy breathtaking views of Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside.
Getting into Edinburgh
Getting into Edinburgh from Eastside Cottages couldn’t be easier.
- From the bottom of the farm track turn left onto the main road (A702).
- Carry on on this road until you reach the centre of town.
Parking your car in Edinburgh
There are many car parks in Edinburgh city centre - we list a few here. They're more expensive than on-street parking but give the peace of mind of not risking a fine!
On-street parking is possible but read parking notices carefully - the wardens are infamously strict! On-street parking is cheaper in some streets than others. If you don't mind a short walk, parking on Queen Street Gardens or Heriot Row is cheaper than more central streets. Use the Ringo App for reminders and the ability to ‘top up’ parking time.
- NPC Car Park Castle Terrace (the most central) Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2EW tel: 0345 050 7080
- Princes Exchange Car Park, 9/2 Riego St, Edinburgh EH3 9BL
- Q Park Quartermile, Simpson Loan, Edinburgh EH3 9AU tel: 0870 442 0104
Park & Rides around Edinburgh
An alternative to parking in Edinburgh is the Park & Ride with a bus service provided by Lothian Buses. The closest is:
- Straiton Park & Ride, Located on the A701 opposite Straiton Retail Park, just south of the A720 City Bypass. EH20 9NP
Want to wine and dine in town? The taxi service can be fairly patchy in the sticks but we do have a brilliant, reliable alternative. Scoot allows you the flexibility of taking your own car into town and getting driven by one of their drivers back to Eastside.