From family days out to cultural pursuits, Edinburgh has a wealth of top attractions to satisfy all tastes, including some of Scotland's most visited free and paid-for attractions.
The city’s backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh’s Waterfront make the city a remarkable place to live. In just one day you can explore the city’s exciting new waterfront development, wander through the cosmopolitan streets of the Port of Leith, take a cruise on the River Forth and explore the rugged terrain of the volcanic Arthur’s Seat.
Depending on how long you have, why not visit some of these top Edinburgh attractions, perfect for family days out.
Situated at the top of the Royal Mile on top of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is the number one visitor attraction in Scotland and the most iconic building in the city.
Perched on top of an extinct volcano, the Castle and its Esplanade offers unparalleled views of Edinburgh. Once inside you can explore some of the oldest and most important buildings of the city, including St Margaret's Chapel, The National War Memorial and the Half Moon Battery. The regal Crown Square is a real highlight, where you will find the magnificent Grand Hall and Scotland's Crown Jewels - including the famous Stone of Destiny.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG (website)
A fantastic day out for all the family, Edinburgh Zoo is only a short bus ride from the city centre and home to over 1,000 fabulous animals, including the UK's only giant pandas. The Zoo is situated in beautiful parkland settings and includes fabulous flamingos, cute koalas and cheeky chimpanzees.
There is a jammed packed schedule of talks every day, given by expert keepers. Get there for around lunchtime and you'll catch the world famous penguin parade, when some of the King, Gentoo and Rockhopper colonies leave their enclosure and have a wee waddle around!
134 Corstophine Road, Edinburgh EH12 6TS (website)
The Real Mary King's Close
Step down into Edinburgh’s hidden history at The Real Mary King’s Close; voted Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience.
Discover over 400 years of history and learn about the intriguing real stories of Edinburgh’s past residents. From the deadly plague epidemic, to a famous royal visitor, there’s a myriad of tales just waiting to be told. Journey through time and find out why the Close, once open to the skies and bustling with trade, came to be underground.
An experience rooted in social history, this one hour character-guided tour also includes an immersive walk-through of the city’s uniquely preserved streets and spaces; all located underneath Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. Expect a truly unique glimpse into the city’s past.
2 Warriston's Close, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PG (website)
Blair Street Underground Vaults - Mercat Tours
The only 5 Star walking tour company in Scotland, Mercat Tours thrill and entertain visitors with their tales of ghastly ghouls, hauntings and mysteries of Edinburgh of old.
They offer exclusive access to the renowned Blair Street Underground Vaults, an underground world hidden underneath the streets of the city centre, full of goulish and gory tales of the residents who lived here hundreds of years ago.
Since 1985, Mercat Tours have also operated historical tours of the Old Town which are designed to both entertain and educate. Bespoke tours are available to private groups.
Tel: 0131 225 5445 (website)
Our Dynamic Earth
It starts with a bang – a big bang! Learn about the creation of our planet and travel through time as we explore Earth's past, present and future.
Get thrust back in time to the very beginnings of our universe, and witness first hand the big bang and the very first moments of our galaxy and solar system. Make your way back to the present day through volcanic explosions, landscape-forming glaciers and the evolution of our life on Earth.
Come face to face with our evolutionary ancestors and explore the diversity of our world's climates by flying through it all with their latest '4Dventure flight simulator'!
Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS (website)
The Edinburgh Dungeon
Uncover Edinburgh's grisly history at The Edinburgh Dungeon - if you dare! Laugh and scream your way through this fantastic visitor attraction, where you'll come face to face with Scotland's ravenous cannibals, discover the secrets of the Green Lady and have a close encounter with Edinburgh's infamous killer duo Burke and Hare.
With immersive actor-led shows, state of the art special effects and two thrilling underground rides, this is a must-visit for anyone fascinated with the dark side of our city. Are you brave enough...?
31 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DF (website)
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions - where seeing is not believing!
Welcome to the oldest visitor attraction in Edinburgh, delighting visitors since 1835. Don't miss this Aladdin's cave filled with illusions, tricks, puzzles, hands-on experiences and unbelievable effects to experience and interact with.
Serve your own head up on a silver platter, visit the room where little and large become interchangable, and pick the people of Edinburgh up in your hand in the city's 150 year old Camera Obsura show.
Get involved, play, touch everything! Will you find your way out of the magical mirror maze? Will you manage to stay on your feet in the Vortex Tunnel? Great fun for all the family.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND (website)
National Museum of Scotland
Discover the delights of the natural world, explore world cultures and enthuse at treasures from around the world. Featuring a diverse range of art and design exhibits, interactive displays and games, a visit to the National Museum of Scotland will appeal to all ages.
The huge variety of galleries and exhibitions in this grand and visually stunning building means that you could quite easily spend an entire day here.
Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF (website)
National Galleries of Scotland
Edinburgh is home to three of the National Galleries of Scotland (website): the National Gallery on the Mound, the Portrait Gallery on Queen Street and the Gallery of Modern Art on Belford Road. Offering a mixture of permanent art collections and exciting visiting exhibitions, a visit to the galleries is a great day out for art lovers.
The Scottish National Gallery
In the heart of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery boasts some of the world's finest art by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet and Raphael.
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
This beautiful red sandstone building can be found in the New Town, and is home to over 3,000 portraits of men, women and children from Scotland and beyond.
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Just a short taxi ride from the city centre, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art has three main spaces: Modern One hosts the gallery's permanent collection, Modern Two has ever-changing exhibitions and displays, and an expansive park full of fascinating sculptures. It's a must for any modern art fan in the city.
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR
The Museum of Childhood
The Museum of Childhood is a fun day out for the whole family. Young people can learn about the children of the past and see a fantastic range of toys and games, while adults enjoy a trip down memory lane. And you can see the Subbuteo set in our adverts!
Hands-on activities, including a puppet theatre and dressing up area, together with our fantastic museum shop, help to make your visit a memorable one.
42 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG (website)
The Scott Monument
The largest monument to a writer in the world commemorating the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott. Built in the 19th century, it is one of the most striking landmarks in the Edinburgh city skyline.
Climb the 287 steps to the top and enjoy breathtaking views of Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside.
East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ (website)
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Every year, around the end of June, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stay here and participate in official engagements in the city and beyond.
Various areas of the Palace are open for public viewing, where visitors can trace historical links through time and learn about its legendary former inhabitants. Have a look at the State Apartments, including the Throne Room and the Morning Drawing Room, where The Queen gives private audiences to the likes of the First Minister of Scotland and the Lord High Commissioner.
You can also take a look at Mary, Queen of Scots' Chambers, where she resided after her return from France in 1561, which offers a fascinating insight into how our monarchs lived during that time.
Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX (website)
The Queen’s Gallery
The Queen's Gallery, located in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in November 2002 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Now, it hosts a programme of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection. A worthwhile stop on a visit to the Royal Mile.
Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX (website)
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh’s Old Town is home to Scotland’s thoroughly modern Parliament building. Open to visitors Monday-Saturday, why not take advantage of a free tour and learn about its history, work and contemporary architecture? You can even visit a debating chamber and if Parliament is in session, view proceedings from the public gallery.
Keep an eye on their website and look out for the regular Art Tours where you can discover selected pieces of the Scottish Parliament’s Art Collection. This popular guided tour lasts an hour, so be sure to book your place to avoid disappointment.For literary fans, their Literary Tour explores their links with famous Scottish writers over the years.
With so much to see and do, you might like to recharge your batteries with a coffee or light bite in their bright cafe and no visit would be complete without a browse around their attractive gift shop.
Horse Wynd, Edinburgh EH99 1SP (website)
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life or are interested in learning more about triopical plants from around the world, then the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is the place to go. Located a short 20 minutes’ walk from Edinburgh city centre, a lovely walk through the city’s New Town, or a short cycle (bike stands provided at East and West Gate), here you will find one of Edinburgh's most valuable treasures. With its collection of 100,000 plants and 70 acres of beautiful green space, the Botanic Garden should be on everyone's Edinburgh wish list. During your visit you can learn all about the Garden’s rich and diverse Living Collections and discover a history dating back 350 years.
The Garden offers superb panoramic views of Edinburgh’s skyline featuring Edinburgh Castle. Perfect place to enjoy Edinburgh's beauty.
Entry to main garden is free
20a Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR (website)
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Take a barrel ride as you actually become part of the whisky making process. From the gently swaying fields of barley all the way through the distillery equipment to the steaming and bubbling Pot Still.
Experience for yourself the varying aromas of our regional whiskies and whether you like fruity, sweet or smoky flavours our experts will help you select your perfect dram. Enter the vault containing the world's largest collection of Scotch Whiskies and enjoy a special tutored nosing and tasting of your dram.
354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE (website)
Rated Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction for 13 years running, The Royal Yacht Britannia was Her Majesty The Queen’s floating palace for over 40 years. Sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world, Britannia is now moored permanently beside Ocean Terminal in Leith.
With a complimentary audio tour, available in 30 languages, follow in the footsteps of royalty to discover the heart and soul of this most special of royal residence.
Ocean Terminal, Leith EH6 6JJ (website)
Forever Edinburgh: Discover Edinburgh’s top visitor and tourist attractions and enjoy great family days out in the capital of Scotland.