Edinburgh Attractions

Edinburgh offers visitors a range of local attractions both in the city of Edinburgh and in the surrounding areas. The compact city has a number of attractions located across it offering visitors plenty of places to discover. The city includes a choice of attractions including museums, galleries, historic buildings, theatre, concerts and events. Edinburgh’s location means the scenic Scottish countryside, national parks and the port side are all within reach; offering plenty of things to see and do.

We have outlined a number of interesting attractions and places to visit for visitors to Edinburgh, these include:

The iconic Edinburgh Castle is the most famous attraction in the city and is located at the top of an extinct volcano. The castle attracts large numbers of visitors each year, the historic castle is part of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site and has been a mainstay in the Edinburgh landscape since the 12th century. Highlights inside include the Scottish crown jewels, the great hall, the great palace and the Scottish national war memorial. Visitors can enjoy a free guided tour of the castle from the knowledgeable guides.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tatoo is a popular visitor attraction performed annually in August each year. The performances take place with Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop, there are performers from over 40 countries giving the performances an international flavour offering visitors one of the most stunning shows in the world. Visitors can see a range of drums and pipes performances and pyrotechnics displays.

St Giles’ Cathedral is located on the Royal Miles in the Old Town of Edinburgh close to the Palace of Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle. Dating back to the 12th century, the cathedral is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and is well known for its crown steeple. The Grade I listed building has been a focal point of worship for the Church of Scotland for many years, the church is known for its stained glass and memorials. Guides and guided tours of the church are available to learn more about the cathedral and its rich history.

The area of Holyrood is home to both the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, also referred to as Holyrood Palace, it is a favourite attraction among visitors. Inside highlights include the Queen’s Gallery and Royal Apartments, with guided tours available to learn more about the palace and its fascinating history.

Holyrood Abbey dates back to the 12th century, the abbey has been in ruins since the 18th century. Once an abbey church, the site gives an insight into early architecture and is a protected as a scheduled monument of national importance and is part of the world heritage site.

The Scott Monument is located East Princes Street Gardens , the historic 19th century monument commemorates writer Sir Walter Scott and is one of the largest monuments to a writer in the world. The monument is designed in Victorian Gothic style, it is 200 feet high and includes a number of viewing decks that offer some splendid views over Edinburgh.

Carlton Hill is located in the heart of Edinburgh, the scenic views over the city from the hill are used in many pictures and postcards. The hill includes some iconic Edinburgh monuments including Nelson’s Monument, National Monument, Robert Burns Monument and the City Observatory.

George Street is one of the original Edinburgh Georgian New Town Streets. Edinburgh is well known for its shopping facilities and boasts an impressive range of shops, visitors will find that Edinburgh Shopping has plenty to offer, there is high street shopping found at Princes Street and George Street well known for the famous name shops along with smaller independent shops. There are shopping centres such as Princes Street Shopping Centre and St James Street Centre located in the heart of the city offering visitors a range of shops to choose from.

The city currently has the most intact Georgian city in Europe. Edinburgh has had world heritage site status since 1995, in recognition of the history and culture of the city and acknowledging the great importance of the planning and architecture of the city. The main areas of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site include, the Landscape setting, Topography of Hills and Valleys and Juxtaposition of the Old and New Town. Also included are Historic Buildings and Parks, Gardens and Graveyards among others.

History is one thing Edinburgh is renowned for its origins back to the dark ages Edinburgh city centre can be thought of as divided in two, there is the Old Town that is situated in the area between the hilly terrain between the castle and Holyrood Palace and for a number of years the city was confined to these parameters. Later other development took place outside of the Old Town with a lot of building upwards instead of outwards.

Edinburgh's New Town is the other main area of the city that has areas such as George Street and Princes Street shopping areas. It also has the National Galleries of Scotland that includes the Scottish National Gallery exhibiting a world renowned art collection including both Scottish and international art. The gallery includes a number of displays, exhibitions and events for visitors to explore.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is set in scenic parkland in Edinburgh, the gallery is home to an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art, visitors can explore the various exhibitions, displays and events and see the sculpture parks. The Scottish Portrait Gallery is located on Queen Street, the gallery includes exhibitions featuring portraits of famous Scots through history and sculptures.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is located one mile north of the city centre. Started back in the 17th century, the gardens are spread over 70 acres of scenic landscaped grounds offering visitors a peaceful and tranquil retreat close to the city centre. There are a choice of gardens to explore including the famous Rock Garden known for its alpine plants and herbaceous border, The Scottish Heath Garden includes plants and the landscape from the Scottish Highlands. The gardens are a world renowned centre for horticulture.

The New town also hosts Edinburgh Zoo is located a few miles to the west of the city centre. The zoo opened back in 1913 and is set in over 80 acres of parkland and is home to approx 1,000 endangered and rare species, a trip to the zoo offers a fun and educational day out for the whole family. The zoo is home to giant pandas, mammals, birds and reptiles from around the world. The daily penguin parades are among the more famous things to see, it is guaranteed to be a hit with the children

The compact nature of Edinburgh means it is possible to do a lot in a relatively short time span. Visitors to Edinburgh are unlikely to be short of things to do. During the day looking and the world-class art galleries and museums are popular with visitors, the city is also famous for its shopping so shoppers can indulge themselves here. At night, there are a number of theatres, restaurants, cafes and clubs. Edinburgh has an enviable reputation internationally as a Festival City lightly, as its incredible calendar of annual events clearly shows.

Edinburgh University is one of the oldest and largest in Scotland, the campus is located in the Old Town and blends in with the rest of the city. You may realise you are in a university town from the plaque on one of the buildings or when you see the students moving around between their lectures. The Old College dates from 1815, a small amount of the university is open to the public. One such area is the Talbot Rice Art Gallery where you can view the university's collection of Art, there are a number of changing collections to view. The Edinburgh campus is a nice place to go for a wonder and walking guides are available if you want to roam around.
The Royal Mile is one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh. As its name suggest it is a mile long and consists of four separate roads, High Street, Castlehill, Lawnmarket, and Canongate. The area has enjoyed a boom in recent times and is seen as a desirable place to both live and work. The Royal Mile street has souvenir shops for visitors and some interesting buildings making it a popular place for visitors. High Street is a section in the Royal Mile, you will find the High Kirk of St. Giles, which has a stunning interior. Parliament Square has Law Courts and Parliament House. There is also the High Court of Judiciary, the City Chambers and the underground streets at Mary King's Close.

Canongate is another section of the Royal Mile. It has undergone a lot of re-generation, it houses The People's a museum that showcases life in the British Isles. The museum brings alive the sights, sounds from history including a prison cell, a servant at work, and a pub and tea room back from the 1940s, it really brings to life history to the modern day. The Museum of Edinburgh is located on Canongate, the museum houses exhibitions that are Scottish in nature bringing the past back to life. The collections illustrate the cultural and historical life of Edinburgh including decorative art and historical artefacts.

Visitors can also visit the Scottish Poetry Library free of charge. There are collections including works from both Scottish and international poets.

Edinburgh is synonymous with its various festivals one of these is the Edinburgh International Festival, a festival of performing arts that takes place over three weeks from around the middle of August. The International Festival brings world class performers of music, theatre, opera and dance from around the world to perform at the festival.

The festival began back in 1947 and has grown since then to the world acclaimed status it has today. The festival aims to be the most exciting and innovative Festival of the performing arts in the world and promote the culture, education for the people of Edinburgh and Scotland. It has grown to be a world wide draw and visitors from around the world now attend drawn to the innovation and dynamism shown at the festival.

The Hub is the home of the Edinburgh International Festival, The Hub is a stunning Gothic building located at the Royal Mile, close to the other great tourist draw in the city Edinburgh Castle. Inside are great collections of contemporary arts and craftwork. The Hub is open year round, has a restaurant, Cafe Hub, a Main Hall, a popular venue for concerts, banquets and parties.

There are also two other venues, the Dunard Library and the Glass Room, that are primarily used for meetings and parties. The Edinburg Festival Fringe is the world's largest arts festival, it began back in 1947 with the official festival with eight theatre companies that arrived uninvited. It now attracts a huge range of arts performers and also takes place around the middle of August each year.

The New Year celebrations in Edinburgh are internationally renowned they centre on the Hogmanay Celebrations. Edinburgh's Hogmanay is a 4 day festival that makes the city home to one of the most spectacular New Year celebrations in the world. Hogmanay is the New Year in Scotland and in Edinburgh, Hogmanay has evolved into a four day Winter Festival that annually takes place from 29 December to 1st January. The events include the Torch Light Procession where a Viking warship is taken up to Carlton Hill. On arriving at the hill firework displays light up the night sky.

The Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh is the main reason visitors come from all over the world to spend New Year's in Edinburgh. Over the years, this centrepiece of Edinburgh's Hogmanay has become a huge event with all tickets sold out well before the night itself.

The Hogmanay party takes place in Edinburgh City Centre with around 100,000 people taking to the streets. Music and dancing takes place along the entire length of Princes Street, Waverley Bridge and in Princes Street Gardens. Each year the party has become more elaborate and something new is added to keep the visitors coming back for more. One of the more interesting aspects of the party are shortly after midnight when people start hugging and kissing each other, regardless of whether they are acquainted or not. The crowd then sings Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year song with lyrics from Robert Burns, Scotland's celebrated poet.

It is recommended that prior to visiting Edinburgh; visitors do their research and ensure any sights and attractions they plan on visiting are actually open on the days you intend on coming. The transport is also worth checking as maintenance and engineering works can mean a restricted service on public transport.

For visitors, Edinburgh is a compact city that where plenty of exploring can be done by foot. The city includes a wealth of historic attractions, from its well known creative arts and culture scene, to its lively and varied nightlife and extensive shopping facilities there is plenty for visitors to see and enjoy here. The Scottish capital does a fine job of combining the traditional and historic with the contemporary offering something for everyone making it an interesting place to enjoy a short break, weekend away or for a longer stay.

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