Official Guide to Edinburgh
  • 11°C

Edinburgh Insider Sightseeing Tips

06 July 2016

[Image credit: Malena Astrom]

It always helps to have a guide in the know to show you around Edinburgh, so this week we welcome Gareth Davies from Edinburgh Expert to share with us his top insider sightseeing tips. Read on to find out how to get the most out the city and experience it like a proper seasoned Edinburgh explorer... 

As one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Edinburgh attracts millions of visitors from around the globe every year. I provide a personalised visitor information to visitors through Edinburgh Expert, and here are my top insider tips to help you stand out from the crowd, make the most of your visit, and get a unique experience of our city...

Plan in Advance

Edinburgh Castle By Edinburgh Expert

During the peak festival period of August in particular, it's highly recommended that you plan and book as much of your visit as possible in advance. Restaurant reservations especially will save you from having a 'hangry' breakdown on the Royal Mile when you still haven't found anywhere for dinner at 10.30pm, and at peak times you can avoid queueing for over an hour to get into Edinburgh Castle by booking online in advance. Don't make queueing your most enduring memory of Edinburgh!

Walk. Walk Everywhere.

Crags View Edinburgh Expert

As a fairly compact city, many places in Edinburgh's city centre are within walking distance of each other. Walking can be faster than taking a bus or taxi at peak times, driving a hire car around town can be challenging, and parking can be expensive. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes for negotiating the hills, steps and cobbles of the Old Town. Plus, seeing the city with a private walking tour is the best way to get up-close and personal with its history and character.

Don't Break the Bank

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh Expert

Edinburgh has a fantastic array of free entry attractions – from the National Museum of Scotland to the five buildings of the National Galleries of Scotland, as well as free tours of the Scottish Parliament, and attractions like the Museum of Edinburgh, The People's Story, and the Writer's Museum. The city's churches – such as St Giles Cathedral or the Canongate Kirk offer a peaceful opportunity to connect with the city's history, and don't forget to explore some of the city's many graveyards for famous burials and interesting monuments, such as Adam Smith's grave (in Canongate Kirkyard), and the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Old Calton Burial Ground.

Explore the New Town

Dean Village Edinburgh Expert

Escape the crowds along the Royal Mile in the Old Town to explore the Georgian-era New Town of Edinburgh. It has an entirely different style and culture, and a history of its own – plus, venture down to the Dean Village and follow the Water of Leith Walkway to Stockbridge to see a totally different side of our unique city.

Rise Above It

Camera Obscura Edinburgh Expert

Enjoy panoramic views across Edinburgh from some of its elevated viewpoints – climb Arthur's Seat or Calton Hill for some iconic outlooks, seek out the rooftop terrace at the National Museum of Scotland, the top of the Scott Monument, or peer through the telescopes at the top of the Camera Obscura to get a different perspective on the city centre.

Get Out of Town

Gilmerton Cove Edinburgh Expert

Visit some of the local attractions away from the main tourist drag of the Royal Mile. Check out the mysterious Gilmerton Cove, the beach at Portobello, or Da Vinci Code-related Rosslyn Chapel, all just a short Lothian Bus ride from the city centre. If the tides are right, enjoy a walk out to Cramond Island in the Firth of Forth, just north of the city, or take one of the regular train services from Waverley Station across the iconic Forth Bridge – Scotland's newest UNESCO World Heritage Site – to visit picturesque North Queensferry.

Dress for the Weather

Scottish weather is renowned for being changeable in the extreme. It's not unusual to experience four seasons of weather in one day, so be prepared for the sunshine of the morning to morph into a wet autumnal day by the afternoon. But don't even think about using an umbrella - in the crowded streets of the Old Town, umbrellas (like selfie sticks) are nothing more than lethal weapons.

Come Back for More

My final piece of advice for visitors is to start planning your return trip now, as Edinburgh – and Scotland as a whole – has far more to offer visitors than can reasonably be crammed into a single trip. Be a traveller in our city, not a tourist, and content yourself to be briefly immersed in the history and culture on offer, leaving yourself plenty of reasons to accept the traditional Scottish invitation: haste ye back! Come again soon!

For more Edinburgh inspiration, take a look at our itineraries >