Things to do in Edinburgh
In the middle of the city stands Edinburgh Castle. It's hard to miss. The sheer, jagged cliff it sits on gives it a menacing look, but walk around the site and you'll see a softer side as you enjoy beautiful views of the city. You may even catch the daily 1pm gun going off. Inside the castle and fortress walls you'll discover its royal history and Great Hall.
Edinburgh Castle overlooking the city
Royal Yacht Britannia
This was once the queen's favourite way to holiday – it's rumoured she cried when the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Take an audio guided tour around the ship and you'll see why. Considering it was built for royalty, it has a very homely, down-to-earth feel. See how the Windsors lived when on board, then go below deck and explore the quarters and the engine room.
Royal Yacht Brittania berthed at the port of Leith
The Scottish Parliament Building
At the foot of the Royal Mile and close to Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament Building. Its design, which combines steel, oak and granite, caused much discussion before its official opening due to the scale of the budget. However, the result is a stunning piece of architecture. Public areas are open six days a week, so pop in for a visit before exploring the nearby Salisbury Crags.
The Scottish Parliament Building
The Edinburgh Tattoo is an annual Royal Military event held under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Castle and thousands of spectators. The Tattoo celebrates Commonwealth and international music, entertainment, and military ceremony. There's a different theme to the performances each year, so no two Tattoos are ever the same. A seat to this show will allow you to see Highland dancing, military bands (including bagpipes), and acts from international entertainers.
Celebrations over Edinburgh for the Royal Military Tattoo
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building surrounded by green space. The contemporary art collection – made up of Scottish and international artists alike – spills from the galleries out into the grounds. Whether you're an art lover or not, the collection of paintings, sculptures and photographs will provoke a reaction, or at least give you something to ponder.
The gardens of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The Scotsman Steps have long been a thoroughfare, linking Edinburgh's Old and New Towns. After years of being left to ruin, they were finally given a new lease of life by artist Martin Creed. Now, each step has been resurfaced with marble from around the globe. The idea is that you're not only walking from one part of town to another, you're also stepping through the world.
Entrance to the Scotsman Steps, connecting North Bridge to Market Street
National Museum of Scotland
A trip to the National Museum of Scotland offers a deeper understanding of the country's rugged history. Exhibits clearly demonstrate how proud Scotland is of its past. Across several floors, collections of artefacts and information show how Scotland emerged as a nation and looks at modern history and the present, as well as the past.
Mary King's Close
Visit the Royal Mile and chances are you'll have passed Mary King's Close, but it's unlikely you'll have noticed it. This warren of 17th century streets are hidden underground, quietly holding onto some of Edinburgh's darkest history. If you're feeling brave of heart, book a tour through the close and discover how people survived and what part Mary King's Close played in ridding the city of The Plague.
Surgeon's Hall Museums
You'll need a strong stomach when visiting the Surgeons' Hall Museums. Charting the city's remarkable relationship with the development of modern medicine, discover information on theatre practices of yesteryear and a host of bottled curiosities in the Wohl Pathology Museum. It's also where you'll find a book said to be made from the skin of 18th century body snatcher, William Burke.
Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city on appearance, but look beyond this and you'll find a history that's full of horror, gore, and questionable characters. A trip to Edinburgh Dungeons will unveil the likes of grave robbers Burke and Hare, half-hanged Maggie Dickenson, and cannibal Sawney Bean – all once residents of Edinburgh. Special effects, theatrical actors and rides will take you to Edinburgh's dark side.