Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is a popular vacation destination. Edinburgh is sometimes called “the Athens of the North”, and it’s full of places of historical interest as well as modern amusements. Edinburgh is an excellent place to get a feel for Scottish culture, both past and current. Edinburgh is also a huge city with many districts to visit and explore. If your time there is limited, you’ll want to have a sense of the most important places to visit, so you can be sure to plan your time in order to fit them all in. Here are a few of the top destinations in Edinburgh that you’ll want to include in your itinerary.
- Edinburgh Castle. This grand castle is definitely a must-see. You’ll be able to get a glimpse of the former home of Mary Queen of Scots from miles away, but you’re definitely going to want to get a look at the iconic castle up close. Explore the Great Hall, view the crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, and witness the One O’clock Gun – a time keeping tradition that is only suspended on Christmas Day and Good Friday. You’ll also want to see the peaceful St. Margaret’s Chapel and tour the National War Museum. There are plenty of castles to visit in Scotland – Cragmillar Castle, Lauriston Castle, and Crichton Castle are among the many interesting castles to visit – but if you only have time for one, go to Edinburgh Castle.
- National Museum of Scotland. If you like museums, Edinburgh is a great destination for you. The National Museum is huge, with more than 20,000 exhibits. They have a collection of items associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, Egyptian mummies, and a treasure house full of rare objects. Other museums in Edinburgh that you might be interested in exploring include the Museum of Childhood, dedicated to the history of childhood, and the Writer’s Museum that chronicles the lives of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
- The Scotch Whisky Experience. Whiskey drinkers will appreciate this attraction that takes visitors through the whiskey making process. There are several types of tours, but they all start with a barrel ride through a mock distillery, feature an interactive guided tour, and end with a Scotch Malt Whisky tasting for the adults (children are served Irn Bru, a Scottish soft drink.)
- Cammo Estate. Located on the Northwest outskirts of Edinburgh, Cammo Estate is a historical park with beautiful meadows, woodlands, ponds, glades and grasslands. The rich and diverse flora and fauna along with fascinating history add to the charm of this place. You can explore the remains of what once used to be the grandest residences of Edinburgh. Some even say that the estate grounds are haunted. The Cammo House, the old canal and the striking Cammo tower are a must visit while you’re here. Unlike recreational parks, Cammo Estate has a character of its own.
- Edinburgh Zoo. All the old favorites are here: Asiatic lions, South American monkeys, zebras, funky little marmosets and tamarins – this is a sure-fire hit for children and adults alike. The jewel in Edinburgh Zoo’s crown has to be the penguins, who make a regular parade outside their enclosure when weather permits. Or they can be viewed swimming underwater in the world’s biggest penguin pool. You can also arrange to handle the smaller animals (such as snails, rats and snakes) or to take a safari ride in an open-sided trailer. Take the opportunity to meet some of the keepers and learn about the more exotic and endangered inhabitants here. There’s a great little gift shop with lots of affordable goodies, and a handy coffee shop/restaurant.
- St. Andrew Square. Dating back to the 18th Century, St Andrew Square is a prominent attraction in the heart of Edinburgh. The square is easily distinguishable by the ornate column of the Melville Monument, commemorating Henry Dundas, the first Viscount Melville. Inside the square, the renovated St Andrew Square Gardens are now open to the public. Once the financial hub of the city, now the square is largely dominated by pubs, restaurants and many designer shops.
While you’re there, stop and eat a relaxed lunch at First Coast, which specializes in fare like spicy grilled chicken breast with homemade sweet chilli sauce and coconut rice and desserts like a deep fried jam sandwich with vanilla ice cream. Or have an elegant dinner of Shetland mussels, haggis, beef or salmon at No. 3 Restaurant. Scotland is an excellent place for foodies. Make sure you get a chance to take in all the wonderful experiences that Edinburgh has to offer.