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Unlock the Enchanting Charms of Edinburgh: A Guide to the Scottish Capital (in pictures)

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Edinburgh's enchanting blend of landscapes and architectural treasures makes it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking both natural beauty and cultural delights. In our most recent adventure, we spent three nights in this wonderful city where ancient stories merged seamlessly with the contemporary. From exploring centuries-old castles and traversing cobblestone streets to immersing yourself in beautiful Scottish culture, Edinburgh offers a captivating experience like no other.

The Edinburgh Castle
The Edinburgh Castle

Let's start with the basics.


Is Scotland part of the UK?

The United Kingdom (UK) is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, yes, Scotland is a UK-constituent country.

The heart on this map is where Edinburgh is located in the UK.
The heart on this map is where Edinburgh is located in the UK.

Do you need a visa to travel to Scotland?

Any visa you have for the UK covers visiting Scotland too. If you don't need a visa to enter the UK, then the same rules extend to Scotland.

How to get to Edinburgh:

By air, with an international airport serving various destinations.

By trains - Train service is great if you are traveling from another part of UK. The train station is conveniently located in the middle of all the action.


Whats the best time to visit Edinburgh?

June through August, when days are long! This season is especially ideal for art enthusiasts as it coincides with the renowned Edinburgh Fringe, a three-week extravaganza held in August.


What is the local currency in Edinburgh?

The local currency in Edinburgh is the British Pound (GBP). Credit cards are accepted. If you have a Visa or Mastercard, you should be good! AMEX is not accepted everywhere. If you are withdrawing cash, get it from a local Edinburgh bank / ATM.


Is the city good for those with walking difficulties?

Please wear flat, comfortable shoes as you will be walking a lot! There are a lot of up and down alleyways, too many steep stairs and cobblestone streets in Old Town where all the tourist attractions are! But New Town is easier and mostly flat. Bus service is good, taxis are available and these modes of transportation can get you pretty close to the major tourist attractions.

Old Town Cobblestone street in Edinburgh. Photo by Jim Divine on Unsplash
Old Town Cobblestone street in Edinburgh. Photo by Jim Divine on Unsplash

Where to stay in Edinburgh - Old or New Town?

I personally prefer Old Town for its charm but if you like shopping, new and sparkling, and flat ground, New Town is the way to go. Old Town is certainly more touristy, castle and all.



Scroll down now for a deeper dive that can help you plan your travel.



THINGS TO DO IN EDINBURGH


To explore Edinburgh's stunning hills, to take in the breathtaking views, to explore the splendid mix of architecture, and to experience the city's vibrant culture, here are our top experiences that any visitor to this magical city should consider:


Participate in a Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee")

The word "ceilidh" itself means a social gathering or party in Gaelic. Ceilidhs are lively gatherings where people come together to dance, socialize, and enjoy traditional Scottish music. The atmosphere is friendly and inclusive, and no experience is required to join in as a dance caller guides you through the steps. This is a great way to experience the joy of traditional Scottish dancing! Live music makes it even more fun.

A Ceilidh social event in Edinburgh is an experience you will remember!
A Ceilidh social event in Edinburgh is an experience you will remember!

We went to the EDINBURGH CEILIDH CLUB WITH TEANNAICH. All the dances were taught by the band so we could participate! The event was at 7:30 pm and it cost us £13.00 per person. Well worth it! Also, usually there is no food at these places, just drinks that you can buy at the bar.


Explore Edinburgh Castle

Entrance to the Edinburgh Castle
Entrance to the Edinburgh Castle

Perched on top of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic landmark and a must-visit attraction. Step through its ancient gates to unlock the secrets of Scottish royalty, military prowess, and the Crown Jewels.

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of the Great Hall while taking in splendid city views!


Witness the One O'clock Gun salute - Fired every day except Sundays! The first gun was fired in 1861 to provide an audible time signal for ships in the Port of Leith.


Map of Edinburgh Castle by HES 2022
Map of Edinburgh Castle by HES 2022

The castle is huge but this map above will help you narrow down the 8 most important things to see on your visit. You can rent a reasonably-priced audio guide at the entrance of the castle if you want. The lines to see the Crown Jewels can be long. There are also gift shops and two cafes inside - the Redcoat Cafe and The Tea Rooms. In other words, plan to spend a good amount of time at the castle!


IMPORTANT TIP

The Edinburgh Castle is a must-do attraction but tickets do sell out quickly. So buy in advance, way in advance!


Each summer, the castle's esplanade is used as a unique concert venue. Accessible tickets are available. Find more details on their FaceBook page. When we were visiting, Rob Steward performed to a full house. It was pretty cool!


Take a hop-on, hop-off bus

Sometimes, the best way to see the city in a short time is to take a city bus that takes you around the top attractions.

Hop on Hop Off Bus in Edinburgh
Hop on Hop Off Bus in Edinburgh

We chose to buy a one day, 24 hour ticket on the City Sightseeing Bus to see some of the attractions we had missed in the first two days of our visit. It cost us under $25 per person. There were a few definite advantages:

  • Discounts at gift shops and cafes

  • Discounts in admission tickets at some attractions and tours

  • Free Wi-Fi on the hop-on, hop-off buses

One secret tip based on our experience:

We didn't have tickets to the Edinburgh Castle and we checked a few times online - they were all sold out for two days - which meant we would be leaving Edinburgh without seeing the castle.


Disappointed, we chose to see other attractions by buying city sightseeing bus tickets. Once we sat in the bus, the bus driver made an announcement: He had fast-track tickets to the castle.


Whaaatttt? So there were tickets available, just not sold by the castle. Lucky us.


So, now we know. Tour operators may have access to tickets that traveling tourists may not. Keep this in mind, peeps.


Climb Arthur's Seat

Embark on a hike up Arthur's Seat, an ancient volcano and one of the city's seven hills. Enjoy breathtaking views of Edinburgh and its surroundings from the summit.

View from Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh
View from Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Climbing up should take you 1 hour and 35 minutes. It is steep, slippery and rocky in places and you need good hiking shoes. Early morning is a good time to go. If you have less time, you could start at Dunsapie Lock on the south eastern side of the park - from here the route is shorter but it is still steep. This map by GeoWalks.co will help:

Arthur's Seat Map Edinburgh
Arthur's Seat Map Edinburgh

Sample whisky!

Scotch Whisky must, by law, be distilled and matured in Scotland in oak casks for at least three years and bottled at a minimum alcoholic strength of 40% ABV. If you are of drinking age, here are some ways to celebrate this popular drink in Edinburgh:


This is a fun whisky destination that offers a distinctive and immersive experience for enthusiasts. From interactive exhibits to personalized whisky blending sessions, visitors are invited to explore the world of Johnnie Walker, an iconic Scottish brand.


The Scotch Whiskey Experience