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edinburgh city view

Edinburgh City Travel Guide

04 May 2018 15 min 0 comments

If you have reached our Edinburgh Guide it is because you are interested in learning more about this European capital or you are going to visit it soon. You may not know where to start, so let us make it easy for you with this virtual tour of those places that you cannot miss.

“There are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street-lamps. When I forget thee, Auld Reekie, may my right hand forget its cunning!”

This was written by the famous author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson. And it was not for less, this city had been his birthplace and also his inspiration, as it would also be for the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle.

But we assure you that Edinburgh is much more than beautiful street lamps. As you can see, it is also the birthplace of great celebrities from the arts and sciences. In addition, it is a young and university city, full of places to discover. A century-old castle, some volcanic hills, a Gothic cathedral or a national museum where you can meet Dolly the sheep herself, are just a few examples. Do you want to know more and organize your perfect visit to this city? Go ahead, just keep reading;)

What to see in Edinburgh?

We don’t want you to miss out on what this historic city can offer you, we have selected these essential places in our Edinburgh Guide.

The Royal Mile

At the foot of the castle is the most important street in Edinburgh. It was built on the lava tongue of the volcano that comes from the castle itself. Its name (Royal Mile) is divided into two parts: first, because it was the street that the kings used to cross the city; second, because it measures one Scottish mile, 1814 meters.

This street is full of important monuments. Thus, at one end is the Edinburgh Castle. On the opposite side, there is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Throughout it we can see the Saint Giles Cathedral, the statues of David Hume and Adam Smith, or the Parliament, all worth photographing.

If you are interested in taking a souvenir of the city, here you can visit numerous shops. In them you have the possibility to buy from a postcard up to a kilt, the classic Scottish “skirt”. If you want to stop between the different visits it also has interesting cafes and breweries.

When to visit the Royal Mile?

It is advisable that you pass when the main places to visit and the commercial establishments are open. Therefore, you can consider Edinburgh business hours from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday), extended until 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. And in particular, the establishments of the Royal Mile usually remain open until 20 hours.

How to get?

The Royal Mile is the central axis of the Old Town and therefore you can easily find it almost from anywhere in the old city. Technology and mobile applications will always be able to help you find it, but if you are from the old school and choose to ask any passer-by, we are sure that they will answer you without hesitation where the Royal Mile is. And if your thing is to get hold of the cities you visit by orienting yourself, there are two points of reference that you should take into account. The first, of course, Edinburgh Castle, since it is located at one end of the Royal Mile and can be seen from many points in the city. And the second is the other end of the street, where we find the famous Holyroodhouse Palace.


Ticket price

Since we are talking about one of the main public roads, you can walk along this street freely whenever you prefer.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh castle from Princes's garden

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous fortresses in Europe. This residence of the royal family is located at one end of the Royal Mile, on top of a hill of volcanic origin. Being on the historic center (Old Town) offers an excellent view of the city. We are sure that you will enjoy very much walking through the battlements, the esplanade and the rest of the buildings that make up the castle.

However, what is it that makes this castle so special? Of course, it is surrounded by very steep ravines. The main gate can only be reached via the Royal Mile. This makes the fortress a perfect strategic location to defend it. It is also necessary to point out the great antiquity of these walls. Along with remains of the s. XI, much of what we see today are reforms of the s. XVI onwards.

Inside are the crown jewels and the Scone stone, on which all the Scottish kings were crowned. Ah! If you hear a cannon shot at noon, don’t panic. From Monday to Saturday, since the 17th century, they fire a salvo at 1:00 p.m. Today is a tradition, but they did it so that the boats could synchronize their clocks. If you want to know more, you can check out the visit to the Edinburgh castle with the ticket included.

When to visit the castle?

Unless the royal family spends their holidays here, and depending on the month you choose, there are different schedules. Between April and September it opens from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Instead, between October and March, it does it from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on December 25 and 26 and on January 1 it has a special schedule, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

How to get?

You can get there from the Royal Mile, the most famous street in the city. Once there, you take the road to Castlehill, just the opposite direction to Holyroodhouse Palace.

Ticket price

Admission is £ 15.50 (revised on August 03, 2020) and allows you access to all of the castle’s museums and exhibitions. Also note that Edinburgh Castle is one of the attractions included in the Explorer Pass, the tourist card that will save you a few pounds if you intend to visit various monuments and historical buildings throughout Scotland.

Canongate Church and Cemetery

Cannongate church

On the busy Royal Mile you will come across one of the temples most visited by royalty, Canongate Church (Canongate Kirk). Its construction was ordered by King Jaime VII. It was built between 1688 and 1691 by the master and freemason James Smith. It was made to stop Canongate residents from going to Holyroodhouse Abbey Church.

At first glance, the facade seems simple, but it has elements worth noting. Above all, the antlers of a Balmoral deer stand out, placed by order of King George VI in 1949. A little further down you will see its large windows. Right in the center are the coats of arms and his inauguration plaque. The entrance has a simple pediment and a portico supported by Doric columns.

The interior has been remodeled over the centuries. However, we are talking about a church with a lot of light. It contains a pipe organ installed in 1998 and the last restoration took place in 1991. This is the church that Queen Elizabeth II normally attends on her official visits to Edinburgh. In addition, her granddaughter’s wedding in 2011 would also take place here.

Surrounding the church is one of Edinburgh’s heritage cemeteries. Place where the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, was buried, among other illustrious ones. In addition, it would be inspired by Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

When can you visit the church? And the cemetery?

Although they can be visited at any time of the year, keep in mind that in the church, in addition to the masses, weddings, baptisms and funerals are celebrated. For this reason, it is interesting to take a look at their calendar, where you can check which events will take place on the days of your visit.

How to get?

You will easily reach it on foot from the castle or from the Holyroodhouse palace. If you want to go by bus you can take the following lines: nº 6, 15, 25, 35, 60, 104, 113, X26, X44.

Ticket price

You’re lucky, it’s free!

Calton Hill

Edinburgh from Carlton Hill

Al igual que Roma o París, esta capital fue erigida sobre siete colinas. La más famosa es Calton Hill, donde puedes disfrutar de una panorámica única de la ciudad.

Desde ella puedes ver las dos mitades de Edimburgo: la medieval (Old Town), de calles estrechas e irregulares y coronada por el Castillo de Edimburgo; y la más contemporánea (Ciudad Nueva), con trazados de líneas rectas y calles amplias de edificios grises. Además, también puedes contemplar los acantilados de Salisbury Crags, el Arthur’s Seat, el parque Holyrood, el fiordo de Forth y los puentes que cruzan sobre el Mar del Norte.

The Calton Hill Monuments

If you want to improve these views, it is advisable to go up there to the Nelson Monument. It is a 32 meter high tower. It was built to commemorate the victory and death of this English admiral in the Battle of Trafalgar.

The hill also has some interesting neoclassical monuments. For example, the National Monument, dedicated to those who died in the Napoleonic wars. Curiously, it is an unfinished copy of the Athenian Parthenon. We say unfinished because public funds ran out before we could finish it. Even so, it is a spectacular work, in which you will surely be able to take some good photos before continuing your visit.

Another of these monuments is dedicated to Dugald Stewart. He was a mathematician and philosopher who taught at the University of Edinburgh.

To end this visit you can go to the two observatories of the city: the City Observatory and the Old Observatory House. Both were built in the 19th century. Although the second is not open to the public, its facade is worth seeing.

When to visit Calton Hill?

The best way to enjoy Calton Hill is on a clear day. On the last day of April there is a party that celebrates the arrival of summer. It’s called the Beltane Fire Festival. It is a show of music, fire and ritual dances.

In the month of August it becomes one of the centers of the Edinburgh festival. The perfect place to see fireworks!

How to get?

It is very easy to get to because it is in the center of the city. On foot, from Princes Street, you can reach it in just ten minutes. Also, depending on where you are, you can take the following bus lines: # 15, 25, 104 and 113. The stop is Saint Andrew’s House.

Hours and price of tickets

You can access it at any time of the day and it’s completely free.

Holyroodhouse Palace and Abbey.

Holyrood House

At the other end of the Royal Mile you can find the Abbey and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The name of Holyrood comes from the words holy, which is equivalent to sacred, and rood, an old denomination of cross. Thus, its meaning would be Santa Cruz.

The palace has been the residence of the ancient kings and queens of Scotland since the 15th century. It covers six centuries of history. It was built on an old abbey guest house in 1498. Today it is a residence for the Queen of England at certain times of the year.

What you can see today is the result of numerous extensions and reforms. Inside you can admire the furniture of the time, the Queen’s Gallery, and the most beautiful tapestries and paintings. This building owes part of its fame to María Estuardo. You cannot miss a visit to the tower where she lived the most intense moments of her life. By the way, if you want to know more, here we leave you a brief biography of the best known queen of Scotland.

The abbey was long before the palace. It was built by order of King David I of Scotland in 1128. It would be the place chosen for numerous coronations and marriage ceremonies. Throughout its history it would pass through different hands and would undergo numerous assaults. The roof collapsed in the 19th century and remains in ruins since then.

When to visit the palace? And the abbey?

Since the palace is used by royalty, opening hours are subject to change with little foresight. Between November 1 and March 25 you can access from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From March 26 to October 31 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Once inside, you should not take photos or videos. Although, it is always a good idea to check the official website.

How to get?

You can get there very easily because it is at the eastern end of the Royal Mile and just fifteen minutes from Waverley Station or the North Bridge. If you want to take a bus, you must take # 6 or # 35.

Ticket price

The price of admission is £16.5 for adults including the Queen’s Gallery (price updated at the 03-08-2020). At the entrance it is possible to get an audio guide in the language you may need. 

Walter Scott monument

Walter Scott monument

Above Princes Street Gardens stands this monument dedicated to one of the most popular authors of world literature. Even by accident you will find it as it has a very characteristic silhouette. It is a large dark-fronted tower built in the mid-19th century, a clear example of Gothic architecture, 61 meters high,… so you can see it from a distance. The staircase inside will narrow as you climb to the top. Nothing more and nothing less than 287 steps. You can already imagine the magnificent views that you will enjoy, especially of the New Town.

As a curiosity, the 64 characters in the novels created by Walter Scott are carved in stone. Surely if you look closely you will see the famous Ivanhoe. Finally, note that at its base you have a marble sculpture of the writer himself.

When to visit the tower?

Depending on the month you choose to visit the Walter Scott monument, there are time slots. Between April and September it opens from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Instead, between October and March, it does it from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

How to get?

It is very well located in the middle of Edinburgh, next to the Princes Street Gardens and just a few minutes from Waverley train station.

Ticket price

it is only £5.

Scottish National Museum

Scottish National Museum

On Chambers Street you will find the National Museum of Scotland. It was opened in 1998 and is an essential visit for all tourists. It contains more than 8000 archaeological and historical pieces distributed over six storeys high. The seventh and last of these is the Rooftop Terrace, which has a 360º panoramic view of Edinburgh.

What can you see in this museum? On the first floor you can get closer to the prehistory of Scotland, from its first forms of life to the conformation of its geography. In the second, you take a tour of the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, important stages for the birth of Scottish national sentiment. On the third floor you can get to know the most contemporary Scotland, when it has already united its fate with that of England. On the fourth and fifth floors you can see how Scotland has adapted to the industrial era. In the last exhibition, on the sixth floor, the history of Scotland awaits you from the First World War to the present day.

Among the most interesting things you can enjoy in this museum is the first mammal cloned by humans, Dolly the sheep. You can also marvel at the Monymusk reliquary, made in the eighth century in wood and metal. Another of the significant pieces to admire are the Lewis chess pieces, which appeared on the island of the same name. They are believed to have been carved in the 12th century. Here you will see eleven, the rest are in the British Museum.

When to visit it?

It is open from Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It remains closed on December 25, but opens on New Year’s Day and Boxing Day from 12:00 to 17:00. If you travel with children they will especially enjoy it because they will be able to learn with a multitude of interactive games. An audio guide in your own language is also available.

How to get?

It is located in Old Town and its address is Chambers Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1JF. By bus you can take the following lines: nº 23, 27, 35, 41, 42, 45 and 67. The stops are at Chambers Street or at the National Museum.

Ticket price

Here you are also in luck, the visit to the museum is free!

Saint Giles Cathedral

Saint Giles cathedral

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Gilles, the patron saint of Edinburgh. Although it was originally considered a cathedral, today it is actually the mother church of Presbyterianism. Presbyterians do not hold titles, for this reason they do not refer to it as a cathedral. We can find it on the Royal Mile, as you already know, in the old part of the city.

The oldest remains of this cathedral date from the 12th century, some authors point to the year 1124. It is unknown which king ordered its construction because that same year Alexander I died, succeeding his brother, David I. We also do not know what it was like at this time because in 1385 suffered a serious fire. This would make the following centuries receive reforms and extensions that today make up what you see.

The reconstruction of the Saint Giles Cathedral would be done in the English Gothic style. It has three naves, the central one being taller and wider than the lateral ones. A fourth ship would be added for the Order of the Thistle. The addition of several private chapels would distort the Latin floor, drawing one more linked to Protestantism. The last reform would be from the 20th century, where the neo-Gothic Thistle Chapel would be incorporated.

When to visit the cathedral?

Hours are Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Sundays you can visit it from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

How to get?

It is quite close to Edinburgh Castle, so you can walk to it on the Royal Mile. It is five minutes from Waverley train station.

Ticket price

Admission is free.

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh from Arthur Seat       

Literally translated as Arthur’s seat. Its name comes, as you can surely imagine, from the Arthurian myth. There is also another theory that says his name is different, Archer’s Seat, the goalkeeper’s seat. All in all, it is the highest of the Holyrood Park mountains. With its more than 250 meters high, the views are spectacular.

The natural space is very similar to that of the Highlands. It is only a kilometer and a half from Edinburgh Castle. It is quite a popular walk for its simplicity. In fact, you can climb almost from any direction, although the easiest is from the east. Like the castle, the Arthur’s Seat sits on a rock of volcanic origin.

If you are a good observer you will also be able to see the prehistoric settlements that are still preserved. Seventeen small coffins containing carved human figures would be discovered in the 19th century.

When can you visit it?

It is preferable that you choose a clear day. Although the journey is not very hard, it can be long, so we recommend that you bring something to eat and drink to recharge your batteries when you reach the top.

How to get?

The easiest way to climb is from the eastern trail, which starts from Lake Dunsapie. It only takes 25 minutes around here. If you want to take a longer walk and enjoy the scenery you can go from the parking near the Holyroodhouse palace. Two paths start from it, either one is attractive and worth it, although it will take you over an hour and a half to reach the top.

Ticket Price

Access is free for all hikers.


Portobello beach

Yes, there is a beach in Edinburgh. It is perhaps one of the best options for you to get closer to the sea in Scotland. It is located east of the city and many tourists emphasize how beautiful the environment is. The promenade is spectacular and the good terrace atmosphere that is breathed will invite you to relax.

Being located in a fjord the waters are calmer, but very cold. So maybe in August you can take a bath, but in winter it is only suitable for the brave. The sand is fine and white and extends almost two kilometers. In the two weeks of heat that the weather allows it fills up with people. The rest of the year, families often bring their children and pets to enjoy freely when the tide goes out.

In the 18th century it was one of the most popular destinations for the Scottish middle class. It is famous for being one of the first beaches where batching machines were installed. They were booths invented in the Victorian era that allowed bathers to change without being seen. It also came to have a recreational pier in the late 19th century and a huge shopping complex that included a wooden roller coaster. In the middle of the 20th century its tourist position was declining and many of the shops, bars and facilities were closing. Today it seems that that ancient splendor reappears.

As you can see, it is an ideal plan if you want to spend a quiet afternoon and have a good Scottish beer while watching a sunset.

When to visit it?

Depending on what your plan is, you can visit it practically at any time of the year.

How to get?

From the center of Edinburgh you can take a bus that will leave you very close to the beach in less than half an hour.

Ticket price

Completely free.

What’s the weather like in Edinburgh?

The Scottish capital is located on the east coast, on the banks of the Firth of the River Forth. This geographical situation determines that the city enjoys less rain than in other cities such as Glasgow, located on the opposite coast.

Edinburgh Temperature and Rain Probability Table:

edinburgh weather

The amount of rainfall is similar to what you will find in cities like Gijón or Vitoria-Gasteiz. The precipitations are usually in the form of mist and drizzle. In fact, Edinburghians say that in their city all four seasons can be seen in one day. The months of May, June and September are the driest and with the clearest skies, however, it is not an impediment for you to meet with occasional rains at any time of the day. Try not to forget the umbrella or, even better if there is wind, the raincoat. The temperatures that you will find in Edinburgh are relatively mild, especially if we take into account the latitude at which we are. In winter it is rare for temperatures to drop below 0º C. Summers are more or less cool, averaging 15º C. You can check here a bite more of information related to the Edinburgh’s climate.

How to travel to Edinburgh?

The Scottish capital has become a top tourist destination. The number of low-cost routes has grown considerably in recent years, making it possible for more and more people to get closer to Edinburgh. The main means of transport to consider is the plane. Today it is possible to travel for low cost prices thanks to companies like Ryanair, Flybe or Easyjet. If you don’t get cheap flights in the city where you are, you have the option of travelling to Glasgow, which is an hour by train from the capital. Once you are at Edinburgh Airport, you can take the Airlink or Skylink bus, which connects to the Waverley Bridge station; buses 35 and N22, which connect the airport with Ocean Terminal; the streetcar, which leaves you in New Town; or a taxi.

The train is another of the possibilities you have. Getting to Edinburgh is comfortable if you are already visiting other cities in the United Kingdom. If you are travelling from outside the island, the first step would be to get to Paris and from there take the Eurostar to London, from where you can connect with the Scottish capital.

The last of the transports is the bus. Perhaps it can be the means that presents more problems, more than anything due to the number of journeys you should make. At least, as in the case of the train, it would be necessary to get to Paris, to later cross the English Channel to London, and, from there, finally connect with Edinburgh.

Where to stay in Edinburgh?

In Edinburgh, as in almost all European capitals, you have many options to stay and adapted to suit all budgets. There are more than 500 hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts, apartments and hostels where you can reside for as long as you want. In addition, we recommend that you book in advance, especially in high season.

Here we will collect the different types of accommodation so you can decide with more information:

Hotels

In Edinburgh you have a good number of hotels. It is the most traditional form of accommodation and the rates are usually around € 100 on average per night for the most central. In more remote hotels prices can drop to € 60 per night. Of course, keep in mind that in August prices can double for the Edinburgh festival.

Hostels

In Edinburgh there are a good number of hostels. It is the cheapest option, although probably not the most comfortable. The facilities are usually very basic and you may have to share a room with other tourists. However, you can sleep for about fifteen or twenty euros per night. If you travel in a group it may be an option to consider.

Bed & Breakfast

It is one of the most interesting lodgings for travellers. These are private homes converted into small hotels. They are said to have been born from the hospitality of the Scottish clans, evolved into business today. The positive is that you can feel at home, breathe a family atmosphere and try their succulent breakfasts. Prices are comparable to those of hotels and may vary according to the chosen area.

Apartments

Renting an apartment is one of the best options if you travel for several days and even more if you go with your family or group. As you can imagine, it is a tourist house with all the comforts and equipment necessary to live. There are also other homes where you only have one room, being the community kitchen, living room and laundry. Prices can also vary according to the chosen area, although it is always important to consider the savings of cooking in what will be your home for a few days, reducing the number of times you will go to restaurants and cafes.

Do you need more info? Check our post about accommodation in Edinburgh.

What areas to stay in Edinburgh?

It all depends on what your plan is. If you are only going to spend a couple of days in the capital, it is better to look for a central accommodation that allows you to visit it on foot. For this reason we recommend the Old Town, and if possible its main axis, the Royal Mile. On the other hand, if you prefer New Town, it is better to be as close as possible to another of its main knots, Princes Street.

How to get around Edinburgh?

The Scottish capital is very comfortable to get around. It is a relatively small city, therefore most places can be reached on foot. However, it is interesting to combine the walks with other means such as the tram or the bus to shorten routes and make the most of the day. Another very good option for the most athletes would be the bicycle, yes, you must be willing to face some slopes. As you can see, on foot, by bicycle, tram, bus or in your own vehicle, you have multiple possibilities in a city where everything is close.

Waverley Train Station, St. Andrews Square Bus Station and the Airlink (Direct Airport Bus) parking lot at Waverley Bridge are the main hubs of commuter movement.

Guided tours and excursions in Edinburgh

This Edinburgh Guide is very useful, right ?, but to visit the city, not miss any detail and get to know all its history, curiosities and anecdotes, we recommend that you consult all the tours of the city of Edinburgh. Our guides will take you through the most interesting corners of the city, so you just have to let yourself go and enjoy everything they will tell you while you visit the main points of interest with their hand and in a fun and entertaining way. If your time is limited and you have to choose, we recommend the Guided Walking Tour of Edinburgh, since in 3 hours you can have a global perspective of Edinburgh surrounding its central artery, the Royal Mile, at a very reasonable price.

Points of interest in Edinburgh

And finally we leave you information about some points of interest in Edinburgh such as the Tourist Office, the Consulate or our own offices, where we will be happy to assist you 🙂

Tourist office – VisitScotland

The Edinburgh Tourist Information Center is located in Old Town, specifically on its main street, the Royal mile. You have another office for the tourist at the airport. Here we leave you the addresses and the means of contact:

VisitScotland ICentre
249 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1JY
Telephone: 0131 473 3820
E-mail: [email protected]

LochNessBuss office

Our offices are in the center of Edinburgh’s Old Town, on one of the streets perpendicular to the Royal Mile. Here is our address and contact information:

LochNessBus.com
3 Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh EH1 1RW, Reino Unido.
telephone: 0131 297 1010
Telefone from your country: +44 131 629 0189
E-mail: [email protected]
Opening times: from 10:00- 8:00, Monday to Sunday

Edinburgh Map

On the following map you can find our LochNessBus office location. Where we will be happy to assist you, provide you with physical maps and give you all the information you need about Edinburgh.

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