Of all the famous landmarks in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle is arguably the most famous. What’s more, it’s visible from most parts of Edinburgh. The castle was built from the 12th century and holds a lot of history therefore a full day is required to explore it. You can buy a regular entry ticket, alternatively, you’ll learn a lot more with a skip the line ticket plus guided tour. Don’t miss the One O’Clock Gun firing each day at 1pm. Finally, an interesting fact is that the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden in a castle cellar during World War II. Today, they’re proudly on display in the Crown Room. Did you know the know the Scottish Crown Jewels are older than the English ones you’ll find in London?
Once you’ve explored the castle you should definitely take a stroll down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Stroll from the castle down through Edinburgh’s historical hub, including St Giles Cathedral, the Museum of Edinburgh and the iconic Scottish Parliament Building. You can spend hours going in and out of the sites or simply admiring the architecture.
Arthur’s Seat was formed by a now extinct volcano. Additionally, both the adjacent hills of Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill were also formed by this volcano. For this reason, as you climb the hill be sure to take note of the unique formations you’re walking through.
Why is Arthur’s Seat called Arthur’s Seat?
Nobody knows why it’s called Arthur’s Seat however, there are 2 possible explanations. Firstly and most likely, ‘Ard na said’ is Gaelic for ‘Height of Arrows’. Therefore it’s true name is Height of Arrows. Alternatively and less likely is that it’s the former site of Camelot and King Arthur.
Sunset from Arthur’s Seat – Top Edinburgh Instagram Spot
What will be your reward if you climb Arthur’s Seat? As well as a good exercise, you’ll witness wonderful panoramic views over Edinburgh. As a matter of fact, you can see the majority of the Edinburgh landmarks from the top of Arthur’s Seat. I recommend you visit around sunset to witness something majestic.
Calton Hill – Edinburgh Acropolis
Did you know Edinburgh is often referred to as the Athens of the North? The reason for this is Calton Hill and its monuments. In fact, Calton Hill is also known as Edinburgh Acropolis. The UNESCO Calton Hill is adjacent to Edinburgh New Town and it’s a much easier climb than Arthur’s Seat. Lastly for photographers, Calton Hill photographs better from a distance, just as the Athens Acropolis does.
National Monument of Scotland
The National Monument of Scotland was built from 1826 to 1829. It honors both the Scottish soldiers and sailors who lost their lives during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803 to 1815. Based on the Athens Parthenon, the Scottish equivalent is clearly unfinished. Nevertheless it’s still a sight to behold and a rare remembrance of the Napoleonic Wars.
On the highest point of Calton Hill is Nelson Monument. Take note of the time ball on the monument which serves the same purpose as the Edinburgh Castle One O’Clock Gun.
Dugald Stewart Monument
The Dugald Stewart Monument is based on the design of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. But who is Dugald Stewart? Dugald Stewart was a philosopher and professor at Edinburgh University.
Old Royal High School
The Old Royal High School is a Neoclassical style building abandoned on Calton Hill. With Edinburgh’s ghostly history, I wonder what it’s like inside? Lastly, other monuments on Calton Hill include, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs’ Monument as well as the City Observatory.
Victoria Street – Top Edinburgh Instagram Spot
Victoria Street is a cobbled street close to the Royal Mile. What’s more, its curve and colorful buildings make it a top Edinburgh Instagram spot. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see girls posing for photos in the middle of the street. Finally, as you walk down Victoria Street, don’t miss the Harry Potter store!
The residence of the British Monarch in Scotland is officially known as the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Effectively, it’s the Buckingham Palace of Scotland and one of the most famous landmarks in Edinburgh. However, the difference between this and Buckingham Palace is that it’s much easier to visit. With an entry ticket you can walk freely throughout the palace and explore the royal interior. There’s also some Rembrandt paintings on display.
Adjacent to Holyrood Palace are the ruins of Holyrood Abbey which are an important part of the Edinburgh landmarks list. The history of this church dates back to the 12th century. You gain access to the abbey with your Holyrood Palace ticket.
Firstly, entry to the Scottish Parliament is free. What’s more, you can watch the ministers debate. However, if you visit when they’re not debating, you’re welcome to photograph the debating chamber. As you would expect, this is a popular selfie spot in Edinburgh! Visit the official Scottish Parliament website for more information and the debating times.
At one end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace. At the other end is Edinburgh Castle. A walk along the Royal Mile guarantees you see several Edinburgh Landmarks. In addition, the street is lined with pubs, restaurants, souvenir shops and even a few iconic red phone boxes.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral is the principal religious building in Edinburgh. It was built in the 12th century and is a major landmark on the Royal Mile. I highly recommend you visit the interior to view the huge stained glass windows. In addition, you’ll see tombs as well as a huge organ. Lastly, when I visited there was a huge moon hanging from the ceiling.
Scotch Whisky Experience
Scotland is known for the best whisky in the world. For this reason, you may want to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience. Here you’ll find the largest private collection of whisky in the world, all in one room! How about this as a top Edinburgh Instagram spot? Additionally, you can take a whisky tasting class and learn all about this Scottish drink. Read about my visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience on my travel blog.
National Museum of Scotland
On a visit to the National Museum of Scotland you’ll learn all about the history and culture of Scotland. Moreover, there are many antiquities from around the world including ancient Egypt. For the latest information and exhibits check the official Museum of Scotland website. How much does it cost to enter the museum? Entry is free but they do accept donations.
The first Edinburgh landmark you’ll see may be Scott Monument if you arrive in Edinburgh by train. The Scott Monument is adjacent to Edinburgh Waverley train station. It’s a tall Victorian Gothic monument, as a result it will definitely grab your attention. Who is Scott? The monument is in honor of Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. An interesting fact is that it’s the second tallest monument in the world in honor of an author.
The main street of Edinburgh New Town is the Princes Street. As well as access to Edinburgh Waverley train station, the Edinburgh tram runs down Princes Street. The street is lined with restaurants, hotels and shops. In addition, adjacent to this busy street is the peaceful Princes Street Gardens which offers Edinburgh Castle views.
Murrayfield is the largest stadium is Scotland and home to Scottish Rugby. Sports and rugby fans in particular would enjoy a visit to this iconic stadium. Check the schedule to see if there’s a rugby match on when you’re in town or alternatively, take a Murrayfield Stadium tour.
St Andrews Square
St Andrew Square is a huge city square which makes up the Edinburgh New Town. Although the square itself isn’t full of character, from the square you can see how organised the UNESCO Edinburgh New Town is. Additionally, it’s surrounded by unique buildings, shops and restaurants. Lastly, Edinburgh bus station is adjacent to the square if you’re arriving or leaving by bus.
Braid Apartments – New Town Edinburgh
I stayed in the UNESCO New Town in Edinburgh. The Braid Apartments by Mansley are located in a stunning Georgian building. To stay in such a grand building was an experience in itself. What’s more, my apartment included a fully equipped kitchen and washing machine. Read about my experience in the Braid serviced apartments Edinburgh by Mansley.
Edinburgh is home to the Heart of Midlothian football club. Hearts FC play in the Gorgie district of Edinburgh at Tynecastle Park. To experience a Scottish Premiership match is a once in a lifetime experience. I recommend you check the Hearts fixtures to see if they’re playing when you’re in town. Alternatively, you could also take a stadium and museum tour. Read about my Hearts FC matchday experience at Tynecastle Park.
I mentioned Hearts FC and their city rivals are Hibernian FC. Hibernian play closer to the center of Edinburgh at Easter Road. If there is no Hearts game on, why not check if Hibs are playing?
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard of Greyfriars Kirk. Many famous Scots have been buried here and historians will appreciate a walk past their graves. However, I’m going to mention the graves which inspired Harry Potter characters. On a walk through Greyfriars Kirk you’ll pass the graves of the following;
Thomas Riddell – Birth name of Lord Voldemort
William McGonagall – Professor Minerva McGonagall (inspiration for surname)
Elizabeth Moodie – Mad Eye Moody
Could these be the graves which inspired these Harry Potter characters? JK Rowling did write the series in a coffee shop nearby.
Greyfriars Bobby – Top Selfie Spot
Firstly, John Gray was an Edinburgh policeman and Bobby was his dog. When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby spent the remainder of his years sat on John’s’ grave. Finally, as well as the Bobby statue outside Greyfriars Kirkyard, you can also find the John Gray grave inside.
Museum of Edinburgh – Top Edinburgh Instagram Spot
The museum of Edinburgh is in the 16th century Huntly House. Today, this historic building has been painted yellow, as a result it’s a top Edinburgh Instagram spot. Additionally, entry to the museum is free. An interesting artefact inside is the original dog collar of Greyfriars Bobby.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in 2 historic buildings. Art lovers will be in their element viewing the over 6000 pieces on display. For the latest exhibitions visit the official Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art website. Lastly, entry to both buildings, known as Modern 1 and Modern 2 is free.
Dean Village – Top Edinburgh Instagram Spot
On the outskirts of Edinburgh New Town is Dean Village. The Water of Leith is the main river which flows through Edinburgh and it passes through Dean Village. As a result the splendid architecture of Dean Village reflects perfectly in it. For this reason, this is a top Edinburgh Instagram spot. Additionally, there’s a path running along the banks of the Leith which offer further beautiful views.
The 5 star Balmoral Hotel is an Edinburgh landmark in itself. Famous for its clock tower, it also boasts a regal interior. Book your room at the Balmoral Hotel.
Vennel Viewpoint – Top Edinburgh Instagram Spot
One of the best views of Edinburgh Castle is from the Vennel Viewpoint. Not only do you see Edinburgh Castle from a unique angle but you also bring a historic vennel into the frame. As a result, the Vennel Viewpoint is a top Edinburgh Instagram spot.
Princes Street Gardens
Adjacent to Princes Street are the Princes Street Gardens. Not only do the gardens offer excellent viewpoints of Edinburgh Castle but there are a few Edinburgh landmarks located within it. Other monuments in the park include both the Ross Fountain and Wojtek the Bear.
Michelin Star Edinburgh – Taisteal Restaurant
When you visit Edinburgh it’s important you choose a good restaurant. A fairly priced Michelin star restaurant I can recommend is Taisteal. Moreover, the Taisteal Restaurant is close to Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden which also makes an excellent addition to your Edinburgh itinerary.
Museum on the Mound
The Museum on the Mound is located in the grand former building of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Today, it’s a museum on the history of money. Check the Museum on the Mound official site to view the latest exhibitions. Lastly, entry is free.
The Elephant House
JK Rowling wrote the majority of the Harry Potter books at the Elephant House. It’s very close to the Royal Mile therefore you must visit. It is said that JK Rowling would enjoy coffee and cake whilst writing in the cafe. Finally, due to the popularity of Harry Potter, it’s highly likely there’ll be lots of people photographing the building. Why not enjoy a little coffee and cake yourself in the cafe?
George Heriot’s School
George Heriot’s School is visible from Edinburgh Castle. As it’s a school you cannot visit. However, it certainly lets you know where JK Rowling gained inspiration for her Harry Potter stories!
Enjoy your trip to Edinburgh
There’s quite a lot to see in Edinburgh therefore you must prioritise your favorite Edinburgh landmarks. If you wish to see absolutely everything in the city then you must stay for at least 5 days. Enjoy!