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Being a Tourist in Edinburgh


There is so much to do and see during your stay Edinburgh. The city is especially fantastic during the summer when the weather is a little brighter and the city explodes in green parks and festivals.


Edinburgh Castle

We may be biased, but we think Edinburgh has one of the most beautiful and distinctive city skylines in the world, and Edinburgh Castle is a big part of that. Home to the Scottish Crown Jewels as well as Mons Meg - the cannon that fires at 1pm every day - it’s also lit up by fireworks every night during the festival after the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo have finished their elaborate performances on the esplanade beneath the castle. A historic fortress, there is evidence of human habitation as far back as 2 AD and these days it’s open to the public, attracting over 1 million visitors a year.

Hug a tree (or some plants) at the Botanic Gardens

If you feel like a bit of countryside without leaving, head to the New Town and get lost in the Royal Botanic Gardens. With over 70 acres of landscaped grounds a brisk walk from Princes Street, it features everything from a miniature version of the Scottish Highlands to the largest collection of wild origin Chinese plants outside China. If it’s raining - which, let’s face it, is always a possibility - take shelter in one of their many greenhouses stuffed full of lush foliage which will make you think you’re in the tropics…at least until you go back outside. 

Holyrood Palace

The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile that connects it to the Castle. It has served as the principal residence of the Scottish monarchy since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining. You can climb a steep, winding staircase to the oldest section of the palace, the north west tower that was once home to one of Scotland’s most famous monarchs - Mary, Queen of Scots. Her chamber is on display, as is the supper room where her faithful secretary David Rizzio was stabbed. They say you can still see the bloodstains…

Arthur’s Seat

The best view of Edinburgh isn’t from the Camera Obscura or even from the train as you chug into Waverley Station (though that does take some beating). It’s a short but steep clamber to the top of the extinct volcano that looms over the city and from a certain angle looks a little bit like a sombrero. 

Accio tourist trail!

There’s no getting away from it - the boy wizard is one of Edinburgh’s most famous exports. Nearly every coffee shop in the city claims that one of the books was written there, but with a bit of research you can walk in JK Rowling’s footsteps and eat cake while you’re doing it. Start off at the Elephant House, a coffee shop by the university that was the first to hitch its wagon to the Hogwarts Express. These days, they really lean into their claim to fame - you can even add your own message to the wall of Potter-themed graffiti in the toilets. 

Once you’re caffeinated, the next step is Greyfriars Kirk. It might sound morbid, but this graveyard costs the names of some of the magical world’s most famous residents - including one Tom Riddle… Maybe don’t get too close to that one. Then it’s on to Victoria - rumoured to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley, this winding cobbled streets also has some of the best shops in Edinburgh, from Walker Slater’s perfectly tailored tweed to the stinky but delicious offerings at I.J Mellis, Cheesemongers. There’s also a whole shop dedicated to everything Potter - hit up Diagon House for your House scarf, Ron Weasley cut out or even one of Ollivander’s wands. If you’re feeling tired and your Gringotts’ bank balance is looking healthy, you can head over the bridges to the Balmoral Hotel and check into room 552, otherwise known as the J.K Rowling Suite, and stay in the room where the final book was written.

Why not experience life in Scotland's capital whilst studying at the University of Edinbrugh's Summer School? Explore our courses today >