Edinburgh things to do

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Edinburgh Castle

Price guide: Mid-range
#1/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Best for First-time visitors -
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Dominating the city skyline, Edinburgh Castle is a must-see.

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Camera Obscura

Price guide: Mid-range
#2/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Best for Families -
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: hours of hands-on fun for all ages.

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Edinburgh Zoo

Price guide: Mid-range
#3/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Edinburgh Zoo: 82 acres of animal heaven.

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#4/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Ancient street underneath The Royal Mile, opened to the public after hundreds of years.

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#7/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Expert overall rating:4.8 (out of 5)

Concorde is among dozens of planes in this fascinating aviation museum.

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Our Dynamic Earth

Price guide: Mid-range
#11/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

Great fun for the youngsters!

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Mercat Tours

Price guide: Mid-range
#13/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Best for Fun -
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

Walking tours of medieval Edinburgh in the company of some great and fun characters!

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Royal Yacht Britannia

Price guide: Mid-range
#14/22
expert-rated things to do in Edinburgh
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

Visit the ship the British Royal Family used to tour the world.

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Planning ahead is the way to ensure you make the best use of your time and money. There are certain areas that are attraction overkill, like The Royal Mile aka The High Street. You could literally spend two days meandering down here and visiting all the attractions so I have tried to sort out the good from the bad; the must-see from the don't bother. Of course it's objective but if I tell you I am a mother who has marched these streets with a baby, a toddler, a tweenie, a teenager, a best friend, a husband and a mother and father then I hope you think I have done enough research and I am qualified to recommend places that offer something for everyone.

On a more practical level, there are always deals for group bookings and if they are not immediately obvious, haggle. Why not? They want your business. Another way to save a few quid is to get a pass which will give you entry to several different attractions.

Three of my top attractions include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and The Royal Yacht Britannia. If you intend to visit all three then consider the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. It gives you entry to three attractions and two days travel on Edinburgh Bus Tours, which transport visitors between these three locations and cover a lot more of the city besides. It costs £40 for adults, £35 concession and £20 for kids between five and 15. You can buy tickets from the ticket sellers on Waverley bridge or online at www.royaledinburghticket.co.uk

Even more attractions are available with The Edinburgh Pass, which also includes special discounts and vouchers (www.edinburghpass.com).

How I’ve picked my things to do: 

Edinburgh offers an embarrassment of riches in the way of attractions so I have picked a good cross-section of things that are historical, fun, indoors, outdoors, natural, man-made, some you pay for, some are free, and all are appropriate for the whole family.

If you only have one day and you are travelling with youngsters  my top 3 would be Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura & Mary Kings Close all at the top end of The Royal Mile but offering history, fun and drama.

If you only have one day and you have no youngsters in your party then  start with the Open Top Bus which will give you a good tour of the city and an idea of where you want to go next time whilst dropping you practically at   Edinburgh Castle, the centre of everything  followed by delving into The Museum of Scotland . Geographically an easy walk from one to the other and close to some great bars and restaurants.

If you have a few days then you will find a lot of these attractions are all based round The Royal Mile so a day or two there and then the outposts such as The Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith, The Modern Art Gallery or The National Air Museum are a more an effort to get to but well worth it. 

If the weather is good or you are geared up for some good walking then I have included numerous options including Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill and The Water of Leith. But hopefully a scroll through all the things I recommend  will inspire you to go and try something new.

Set focus

Edinburgh offers an embarrassment of riches in the way of attractions so I have picked a good cross-section of things that are historical, fun, indoors, outdoors, natural, man-made, some you pay for, some are free, and all are appropriate for the whole family.

If you only have one day and you are travelling with youngsters  my top 3 would be Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura & Mary Kings Close all at the top end of The Royal Mile but offering history, fun and drama.

If you only have one day and you have no youngsters in your party then  start with the Open Top Bus which will give you a good tour of the city and an idea of where you want to go next time whilst dropping you practically at   Edinburgh Castle, the centre of everything  followed by delving into The Museum of Scotland . Geographically an easy walk from one to the other and close to some great bars and restaurants.

If you have a few days then you will find a lot of these attractions are all based round The Royal Mile so a day or two there and then the outposts such as The Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith, The Modern Art Gallery or The National Air Museum are a more an effort to get to but well worth it. 

If the weather is good or you are geared up for some good walking then I have included numerous options including Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill and The Water of Leith. But hopefully a scroll through all the things I recommend  will inspire you to go and try something new.