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Edinburgh’s Top Attractions

About Edinburgh, United Kingdom · about Sightseeing

Edinburgh's top attractions which includes castles, palaces, centres, monuments and viewpoints.

By Anita Draycott

Edinburgh’s best viewpoint - Arthurs Seat
Take a scenic walk through Holyrood Park up to Arthur’s Seat, where you will get some of the best views of Edinburgh. The park contains two of Edinburgh's most impressive natural features, Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags. Arthur's Seat stands an impressive 823 feet above sea level and provides an inspiring view of the City, as do the equally stunning but smaller Crags. Arthur's Seat is the remnants of a volcano that erupted between 350 to 400 million years ago, but current residents and visitors have no need to worry since they've been extinct for a few million years now.

The Royal Mile
Edinburgh's Royal Mile has stretched since the 11th century between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House, the Queen's residence in Scotland. Scotland's new Parliament building is at the bottom of the Royal Mile opposite the palace. Bustling all the year round, the Royal Mile takes on a new look during the Festival and the Fringe in August and September. Pipers, Street Theatre, Music and a range of exciting and eccentric events take place in the street from dawn to dusk. Over the centuries, many legendary figures have tread the Royal Mile's cobbles. From the romantic Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie to the sinister Burke and Hare and Deacon Brodie.
The Royal Mile boasted the world's first skyscrapers with tenements soaring high above the Royal Mile and even higher from Cockburn Street. Much of the street is built on top of older streets and closes, some now opened up to explore. The Royal Mile is now a charming street of history, of old closes (lanes), of ghost stories and a living street of bars, restaurants, shops and houses.

Edinburgh Castle
Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Scotland's number one visitor attraction. Edinburgh Castle sits on a volcanic rock at the top of the Royal Mile, dominating the skyline of Scotland’s capital and housing the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, 15th century Mons Meg, otherwise known as the One O' Clock Gun, and the National War Museum of Scotland. This most famous of Scottish castles has a complex history and dates from the 12th century, many battles and sieges have been fought over its ramparts, many royals have lived within its walls, and countless generations have taken inspiration from both its grandeur and legacy. Today Edinburgh Castle is a world famous icon of Scotland, part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, and a destination in its own right.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse
Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Her Majesty The Queen's official residence in Scotland, stands at the end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur's Seat. The Royal Apartments, where The Queen hosts State ceremonies and other official occasions, are infused with centuries of history and have witnessed many important events in Scotland's rich history. The Palace is perhaps best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots and as the setting for the most dramatic episodes in her reign, culminating in the murder of her secretary Rizzio. The new Queen's Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse hosts a programme of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection.

Scotch Whisky Experience
Royal Mile, Edinburgh
The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre is situated beside Edinburgh Castle in a unique historical building. Relax over some of Scotland’s finest and unusual single malt whiskies and take a barrel ride as you actually become part of the whisky making process. Discover the stories behind maturation - the secret and magical ingredient of time. Explore Scotland’s diverse whisky regions and the flavours that the countryside imparts to its whiskies. Your guide will then allow you access to the vault containing the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection; the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whiskies. Enjoy a tutored tasting of a Scotch Single Malt Whisky and discover how Scotland’s majestic scenery influences the flavour and character of the whiskies.

The Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal, Leith
For over forty years Britannia served the Royal Family, travelling over one million miles. Discover the fascinating past of the most famous ship in the world.

Writers Museum
Lady Stair's Close, Lawnmarket, Royal Mile,

Situated in Lady Stair's House, built in 1622, The Writers' Museum is dedicated to the lives and work of Scotland's great literary figures, in particular, Robert Burns (1759 - 1796), Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894).

National Gallery of Scotland
The Mound, Edinburgh

The Royal Scottish Academy Building is situated on The Mound adjacent to the National Gallery of Scotland. The building, like its neighbouring gallery, was designed by William Henry Playfair and first opened to the public in 1826. It has recently been renovated and refurbished, as part of the National Galleries of Scotland's Playfair Project - a dramatic scheme linking the two buildings via an underground extension.

Edinburgh City Sightseeing Bus Tour
Waverly Bridge, Edinburgh
What better way to experience the delights of Edinburgh than on the open-top city tour bus. Pick up your headphones, choose your channel, sit back and relax as you hear how Edinburgh’s past has shaped the city you see today. Use the 24-hour ticket to hop on and off at stops along the route so you can explore the places of interest that you are hearing about.

National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh
Collections tell the story of Scotland: its land, people and culture. Connect with Dolly the sheep, design a robot, test drive a Formula One car or blast off into outer space. Following three years of refurbishment, the Victorian Royal Museum section reopened in 2011 with 16 breathtaking new galleries, a learning centre, two hands-on discovery areas and a café and bistro.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Inverleith Row, Edinburgh

Just one mile from city centre, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers visitors peace and tranquillity amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery. Founded in 1670, the garden is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the world where unusual and beautiful plants can be found.
The garden is alive with opportunities for discovery, from an eco-tour of the world in the magnificent Glasshouses, featuring Britain's tallest Palm House, to the award-winning art gallery at Inverleith House. Enjoy the serenity of Chinese Hillside, explore the world-famous Rock Garden or stroll amongst the magnificent giant Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden.
Open all year, the garden hosts a popular programme of events, exhibitions and guided tours.
The Botanics Shop has a great selection of gifts, souvenirs, crafts and plants available, while the Terrace Cafe serves daily a delicious selection of high quality hot and cold food for all tastes.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
After a dramatic renovation, the new Scottish National Portrait Gallery opened in December 2011.
It is one of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings - come and enjoy new displays and explore a comprehensive overview of Scotland past and present through a wealth of imagery ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, encompassing painting, photography, sculpture and film.

Scot Monument
East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh,

When Sir Walter Scott died in 1832, the great and good of the city came together to agree on a fitting monument to this outstanding Scottish literary figure. In 1836, an architectural competition was launched, inviting designs for an appropriate memorial. Two years later, the trustees approved the design submitted by George Meikle Kemp, and construction began in 1840.

Edinburgh Zoo
134 Corstorphine Road, Murrayfield, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Zoo has always been popular but is now definitely worth a visit as it has just become home to two new star attractions, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas. Make sure you don’t miss out by going online to reserve a place to see the pandas before heading to the zoo. Other exotic residents include Asian lions, chimpanzees, penguins and zebras.
Edinburgh Zoo is owned by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). The Society was founded in March 1909, and the Zoo opened in July 1913. The Zoo is set in 82 acres of sloping parkland, situated three miles to the west of Edinburgh city centre and is home to over 1,000 rare and endangered animals

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