Things to do in Edinburgh

Now you've got your cheap tickets to Edinburgh, explore what the Scottish capital has to offer...


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1. Be amazed by the world’s best wildlife photography

Proud of your snap of cheeky meerkats playing at the zoo? Or your cat lazing on the lawn? Learn from the very best with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the National Museum of Scotland.

Don’t miss the chance to see this exhibition – on loan from the Natural History Museum – featuring 100 of the most awe-inspiring images from the natural world.

From curious seals in Antarctica to a surprisingly majestic toad in Spain, almost 50,000 hopefuls entered their photos – so you know the winners are really, really good.

Where is it? Chambers Street, EH1 1JF

How much? Free entry to museum. Exhibition entry £8 for adults, concession £6, under-16s free. 

2. Climb Calton Hill to the ‘Athens of the North’

The atmospheric, spooky architectural ruins that sit atop Calton Hill led to Edinburgh being known as the ‘Athens of the North’.

The National Monument on the top of the hill was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens – the huge ruined temple built 2,500 years ago dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena. The Scottish monument pays more than lip service to the Parthenon’s iconic pillars.

Ancient Greece aside, you can enjoy magnificent, sweeping views across Edinburgh – with Arthur’s Seat, the Holyrood crags, the Royal Mile and the castle all totally visible. No wonder Calton Hill is part of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage site.

Drink in the views with a latte from the hip Milk – Edinburgh’s highest coffee shop.

Where is it? Edinburgh city centre, beyond the east end of Princes Street

How much? FREE! Or just the price of a coffee 

3. Explore Picasso, Warhol and bona-fide art heroes

Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Mondrian, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein… These guys are real heavyweights of the art world.

See their work in this fantastic collection of Cubist, Expressionist, post-war and contemporary art at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

It often rains in Scotland. So use a rainy day to brush up on your culture – then hold a dinner party with your friends to show off about Picasso’s Cubism period or Warhol and pop art – smug, moi?

Where is it? 75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR

How much? FREE! Fee for special exhibitions

4. Don’t act your age at the Museum of Childhood

Those halcyon days of childhood seem a long way off as you start the slow climb from 30 – all careers, houses and raising families. Take a stroll down the memory lane of misty-eyed nostalgia at this museum.

From marbles and yo-yos to Monopoly and Ludo, you can’t fail to recognise things you had as a child. The Museum of Childhood is split into 5 galleries over several floors, with impressive collections of toy cars, puppets, dolls, board games and school games.

On a family trip? Your kids will be gobsmacked by how ancient mum and dad’s toys appear today. We can still hear them laughing.

Where is it? 42 High Street, EH1 1TG

How much? FREE! 

5. Walk like kings and queens along the Royal Mile

Running through the heart of the Old Town, the Royal Mile connects two royal residences – Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House.

Also part of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s jam-packed with things to see and do between the royal stuff.

There’s St Giles Cathedral – look out for the heart-shaped section of pavement outside, and law courts and parliament buildings. Gladstone’s Land is the ‘best surviving example of an Old Town tenement from the 1600s,’ reckon the heritage boffs at UNESCO.

All that sightseeing is thirsty work – stop off at one of the many historic pubs for a cheeky half between stops. 

Where is it? The Old Town, EH1

How much? FREE to walk the street, but some sites have admission fee 

6. Have a laugh at The Stand Comedy Club

The Stand is an Edinburgh institution. It has various stand-up, sketches and touring shows throughout the week, but every Sunday afternoon it holds a free improv session called Stu and Garry's Free Improv Show.

Hosted by The Stand’s resident comedy duo, it’s a great laugh. And there’s grub if you want a bite to eat while the mirth and mayhem ensue.

Where is it? 5 York Place, EH1 3EB

How much? FREE!