Edinburgh, a city in Scotland that went beyond my expectation. It’s a modern capital city, but it has a classic old town vibe with beautiful architecture on every corners of the city.
As a first timer in Edinburgh, I took two days to explore the city.
Turns out, I discovered a lot of places in Edinburgh that are reachable by walking distance. I even spent visiting destinations on these list just by walking, without taking public transport.
Even though some destinations on these list required you to take a longer walk (like the last destination No. 7 & 8), I still recommend exploring the city by walking since the city streets has so much to offer. Every corners of the city has this old town vibe that is still very memorable in my mind.
Here are 8 places you shouldn’t miss on your first visit to Edinburgh.
1. Calton Hill
Calton Hill is a hill located on the central of Edinburgh city, near to Princes street. The hill kinda gives a 360 view of the city. From the top of the hill, you can see an amazing view of Edinburgh city, including Arthur Seat and Edinburgh Castle. It is listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The hill itself consisted of an unfinished National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the City Observatory, and more.
- The best spot to take pictures at? Definitely at back of the Dugald Stewart Monument. It’s a memorial for the Scottish Philosopher Dugald Stewart, in which the monument is built based on Greek architecture.
- They say it’s one of the best places to see sunset.
Budget: Free to walk around
2. Arthur Seat
From Calton Hill, you can see the view of Arthur Seat. Arthur Seat is the main peak of the group of hills that forms most of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.
To add another extreme slot on your itinerary, can hike to the top of the hill to take a better view of Edinburgh city. It will take you up to 2 hours through a circular walk from Holyrood Palace. Since I only have limited time at that moment, I didn’t really took a hike there though, but instead just saw the view from Calton Hill.
Free to hike up to Calton Hill
3. Greyfriars Bobby
This is rather a heart warming story that I discovered through Edinburgh’s Harry Potter Walking Tour.
In the 80s, Bobby, a wee Skye Terrier dog stayed at the graveside of his master in Greyfriars Churchyard who died of tuberculosis. He always tried to stay at the graveside. When he was send a way by the caretaker, the little dog eventually return and refused to leave, whatever the weather conditions.
Despite how the keeper of the Kirkyard graveyard put efforts on following the rules dog aren’t allowed in the graveyard, Bobby still refused to be enticed away from the grave for some length of time. Isn’t that cute? It touched the hearts of many local residents.. so they decided to build a monument of Bobby in front of the graveyard.
Join Edinburgh’s Harry Potter Walking Tour to enter the Kirkyard graveyard, and find out that JK Rowling even got inspiration for Harry Potter in a graveyard! Their meeting point is actually located here at the Greyfriars Bobby monument.
Free as the monument is located on the street
Which brings me to the second point…
4. Victoria Street, The Elephant House, and other “Harry Potter” related places I discovered through Harry Potter Trail Walking Tour
Though Edinburgh was not a shooting place for Harry Potter, there are so many Harry Potter in Edinburgh because it was where Harry Potter was born inside of JK Rowling’s imagination. Yes, the author used to spend a lot of time on some writing the book in Edinburgh, and being inspired by some places in Edinburgh.
There are also The Elephant House; a cafe where Rowling claim to spend a lot of time writing there. I saw Potter fans intensely took pictures in front of the cafe!
The walking tour is of charge! Can you believe it? However, they are open for voluntary donations.
5. Edinburgh Castle
This is definitely the main iconic Scottish tourist attraction. Standing on its great rock is the Edinburgh Castle. The castle was home to kings and queens that ruled Scotland. Up until today, some parts are still a military base, but a lot of parts are open to public as it is now a famous tourist attraction.
Even though I saw the castle from outside without getting in, it still is marvelous to walk by.
Everyday (Mon – Sun); 9:30AM–5PM, with last entry on 4PM
For on-site price;
However, you can get a slightly cheaper price if you buy the tickets in advance online.
5. Stroll around Edinburgh University
The University of Edinburgh is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland’s ancient universities. It can be fun to explore the campus’ open area.
Teviot Row House came to be nice looking at night because. It came to have pretty lights at night. A student union building where also has six bars including The Library Bar that serves food, including the Balmoral Burger
6. Scottish National Gallery
For me, art galleries are a must to explore every time I visited a new city. Scottish National Gallery was one of the main original museum that has a neoclassical style. This museum displays a lot of artworks from greatest artists in the world, including Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Raphael, Monet, and more.
Check out ongoing exhibitions at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibitions/current?filters=national. The entrance is free. But to visit a certain exhibition, you need to pay a certain fee.
Everyday (Mon – Sun); 10AM–5PM,with last entry on 4PM, except Thursdays they are open until 7PM
Free admission, charge for some exhibitions
7. Scotland Museum of Modern Art
I have to say, this was uniquely my favorite destination! The Scotland National Gallery of Modern Art shows an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art.
My favorite part? The unique monuments outside of the gallery. The coolest one would have to be the “There Are No Miracles Here”, or “Everything Happens for a Reason” sign on the building.
It is also nice to spend the afternoon chilling beside the river in front of the museum.
- Take time to explore the monuments outside of the museum
- Go to the souvenir shop because it also sells kinda cool stuff, from hippie art books to cute journals
- Dean village was just behind the place (check my next point)
Open daily, 10am-5pm
Free admission, charge for some exhibitions
8. Dean Village
Last but not least, an underrated classic you shouldn’t miss.
Dean Village is a picturesque village that you can’t find on the city centre. Located near the Stockbridge neighborhood of Edinburgh, it’s basically a private residential area, so we need to respect the peace and quiet for those who lives there.
- Be respectful of the residents living on the area by not making a fuss or noise as a tourist
- This place isn’t a tourist spot, so there is no restaurant nor public restroom. If you want to eat or order a taxi, you can walk uphill on Bells Brae which is the more populated area of town.
- It can take you around 1 hour to explore or take pictures of this scenic place. You can only pretty much enjoy the atmosphere and take photos.
Budget: Free, since it’s literally a neighborhood!
Greetings from the classic capital city which is Edinburgh