I previously wrote a Top Ten Things to do in Edinburgh post from that which I’d gathered from here there and everywhere. It was a collection of “Best Of”s from around the internet. Now, having been there, I will regale you all with my own personal preferences.
1. Explore the City
Edinburgh is a fabulous city for walkers. You do not need to take a guided tour, or hop on one of the many (four) bus lines that offer prerecorded or live audio tours of the city. All you need to do is put one foot after the other. Your first stop should be the tourist centre on the North Side of Northbridge. There you can pick up a handful of city maps (you will lose them.) They’re free, and they’re accurate. These maps also have locations of free public toilets! An added bonus. What more could you want? Once you have them, you can plan your own route for three distinct tours: New Town, Old Town, and the West End.
2. Eat Deep-Fried Food
I recommend Bene’s located at 162 Canongate. They have all your favourite foods deep fried. Bear with me here, yes they have fries, and cheese sticks. You can understand that – They also have the Scottish favourite, a deep friend Mars Bar. But wait, there’s more. They deep fry Hamburgers, and Pizza, and Haggis as well. This is not a store for tourists, either. It’s a local haunt. This is truly a cultural experience, and you can grab your bottle of IRN-BRU there as well.
3. Make Your Way to the Top of Calton Hill
There are a number of reasons to hike up Calton Hill. Perhaps you’re looking for a nice walk, or you have a desire to see – up close – all those monuments that have been towering over the city. If it’s a sunny day, the view from the top of the hill offers sights of the city, the ocean, or surrounding towns you didn’t even know existed.
4. Visit the National Gallery of Scotland
The National Gallery of Scotland is located on “The Mound.” It’s in the heart of Edinburgh just West of Waverly Bridge. Aside from being a fabulous free art gallery, it also finds itself one of the city’s hubs. There is a grassy park on which you will always see people picnicking, sunning, and running around on, trying to get a kite into the air, or some other such delightful nonsense. This is also a good spot to see yourself a bagpiper playing for tips. Mind you, more often than not these pipers aren’t Scottish – still, you can keep the dream alive.
The only strange thing about this gallery is that they keep the Scottish collection hidden away in the basement, at the back of the main hall, and down some stairs. Unless you were looking, it can easily be overlooked. I highly recommend you view this area, as it had some of my favourite art, including my now-favourite piece, The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania.
5. Visit the Modern Art Galleris
You thought that you’d seen it all once you visited the National Gallery, but no: there is still the Modern Art Gallery. These too are free. The only slight downside about these galleries is that they are somewhat removed from the city centre. The Dean Gallery is in the North West part of Edinburgh but it can easily be made part of a trip to view the beautiful Dean Village.
6. Take a Trip through the Dean Village
The Village, itself, is worth the time. It’s quaint little area so close to the city that it can be easily overlooked. But try to make time to stroll through the streets, and take in the waterwheels still in operation. Joining the Village and the Modern Galleries is a riverside path called The Waters of Leith walk. It also makes for a beautiful little journey.
7. Lounge Around in Princes Street Gardens
Want to spend a day reading? Enjoy people watching? Looking for a great place to have a picnic? Princes Street Gardens is the place to go. You can walk the short paths, view the flowers (there is a clock here completely covered in them. I mean, sure? Why not?) or grab an ice cream from any number of vendors that make this area their home. But best of all, the view of the castle, overlooking an ornate fountain is one of the best castle views the city has to offer, and believe you me, the city offers a lot of those views.
8. Enjoy the National Museum of Scotland
Do not confuse this for the Museum of Edinburgh, the Museum of Childhood, or the People’s Story Museum (all free, and located within a half mile of each other on the Royal Mile). No, this is the Museum of Scotland (which, you know, is also free. You’d hardly need ever open your wallet in this city!) It is located just across the street from Greyfriars Bobby (literally – turn around in this image, and you’ll see the statue of the Dog.)
This is a fantastic Museum where you can visit Dolly, everyone’s favourite cloned sheep. Don’t be shocked when you find her stuffed, and no longer living though. Even sheep have a time when they must pass.
9. Explore the Bus System
Do not be afraid of the buses. Just grab a Lotian bus map from their store front near Waverly Bridge. From here you’ll want to take the 26 all the way to Portobello Beach. It’s a beautiful beachfront, and an enjoying ride out. If you stay on the bus after the beach, until is stops at Seaton Sands, and then get off on the return you’ll be treated to a lovely vision of the eve stretching oceanfront through the left side window.
10. Make the Journey to The Forth
This will take you out of the city, but the Forth Bridge is so close that a return train ticket is only 6 pounds. The bridge is a Scottish Icon. Feel free to read the Wikipedia article about it. It is not to be missed, and there are few better ways to see it then by walking across the automobile / pedestrian bridge that runs parallel to it. You can read part of my own Bridge Crossing tale here.
There is so much to do in this city, and this is a very limited list. I didn’t even touch on the castle itself, or a day trip into Glasgow. Edinburgh is a tourist’s city. It’s as if Disney Land made a “Scotland: The Ride.” It’s not a city to be missed, and most-definitely, if you’re feeling up to it, spend an hour climbing up Arthur’s Seat. What’s that you ask? Oh – the second you get into the city and see it looming over you to the south, you’ll know.