Edinburgh is one of the prettiest cities I have ever visited. This historic old town has a wondrous range of activities and things to do, with heritage, culture and festivals. The contrasts of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and New Town has bundles of history. The city was leading the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century and retains its cosmopolitan feel with its summer festivals.
Having lived in Dunedin (Edinburgh of the South) in New Zealand, before visiting Edinburgh, it was really extraordinary to see the similarities. Mostly with the street names and styling of buildings and monuments, but they really did attempt to make Dunedin an Edinburgh of the south.
Top Sights to See in Edinburgh
This majestic castle is one of the icons of Scottish history atop Castle Rock in the centre of Edinburgh. There has been a royal palace in Edinburgh since the 12th century, although today it remains more of a military garrison. The castle is steeped in history with the Crown Jewels and Gatehouse, St Margret’s Chapel and Mong Meg. If you are in the city you can still hear the one o’clock gun being fired.
Edinburgh Military Tattoo
One of my bucket list experiences for the UK. As half-a-Scot (my mother is from Glasgow) I love anything with tartan and bagpipes (yes cliche I know!) but I am also a big supporter of the armed forces. This celebration is of the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands is performed on the esplanade of the castle. This celebration with music, fireworks and an air jet fly past. The tattoo started in 1950 and has since become renown worldwide, with bands from Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Canada performing. The tattoo has sold out for the last straight 18 years, so book tickets early in advance. There is no overhead protection in the seating areas, so take a waterproof jacket.
Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano, and the hike to the top offers walks, solace, wildlife, volcanic geology and unparalleled vistas of the city from its many vantage points. This hike is not something that you can do with your trainers, you need to be prepared with walking shoes and weather appropriate clothing. The walk can take about an hour depending on the route that you take, just do some research beforehand!
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Holyrood Palace is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. At the end of the royal mile from Edinburgh Castle, this enormous palace has its origins from the 17th century. The Queen spends one week at the start of the summer at Holyrood, which is just opposite the modern Scottish Parliament building. The palace has an admission fee but has quite a lot of history and things to see (about a 90-minute visit).
The royal mile extends from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood House. This old town has its narrow alleys and cobbled streets and is worth just wandering up and down, taking in all the history and architecture. This lovely romantic street is what credits Edinburgh as being one of the prettiest cities. Stop off at one of the many pubs on the mile, usually to take shelter from the pouring rain.
Edinburgh has to be the UK’s best city for festivals. In August the town is flooded with arts, music, dance, comedy and theatre performances. You cannot move along the Royal Mile without seeing a performer or being handed an invite to a show or concert. The city is fit to burst in August, and the hotels are costly, so either book well in advance or visit at another time of year.
Royal and National Museum of Scotland
The Royal Museum of Scotland has a substantial vaulted atrium that you can wander. It is filled with light, and when I was there, they were filming an art programme. It is so beautiful and completely unexpected from the outside. The two museums are located next to each, and you could lose the whole day getting caught up in the exhibits. There is a big emphasis on being interactive, so great for kids.
Scotland Parliament Building
The new Scottish Parliament building is located opposite Holyrood Palace. This was built in 1999 in glaring contrast to the buildings around it. What has heralded as innovative postmodern cost an absolute fortune to make, I personally think is overrated and just not in keeping with the surrounding area. Be your own judge though!
Scotland Rugby at Murrayfield
I was lucky enough to win tickets to see Australia vs Scotland at Murrayfield last year. Murrayfield is the greatest stadium in Scotland and hosts both rugby and football matches (football is also hosted at Hampden Park in Glasgow). Scots are very patriotic, even if their teams are the best in the world. When walking from Haymarket train station to the stadium, bagpipers are busking, songs being sung and all-around laughter and fun that it always associated with rugby. I love watching live sport and was pleased that I was able to see such a cracking game and feel the electric atmosphere (Scotland lost 22-23 to Australia)
Edinburgh is a beautiful city, family friendly and suitable for a budget (but book hotels etc… well in advance especially around the festivals), prepare for every weather (well it is Scotland after all!) and pack some good walking shoes as there are lots of hills and cobbled streets to cover. Edinburgh is easy to get to by train from other UK destinations, and the tram links are available from the Airport straight into Edinburgh Waverley in the centre of the city.