Edinburgh Ultimate Travel Guide for First Timers

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, not only it is a well-known tourist destination alongside with Glasgow. Edinburgh is also a definite contender for one of the United Kingdom’s most breathtaking cities. In addition, Edinburgh was the first city to be called the UNESCO city of literature! With its picturesque mediaeval town, romantic cobblestone streets, rich history and culture, nature, and friendliest people, you are guaranteed to have an incredible time there!


In this blogpost, I am going to show you places you should visit (including those hidden gems), things to do and food to try. Not to mention, I also included some tips for first timers who are traveling to Edinburgh.


How I Go?– Flight. We took Easyjet, one of the budget airlines. However, the experience was terrible. After we have board the flight, the aircraft had some issues so we were sent back to the airport. And we have to wait another 10 hours at the airport for another flight. So, our first day in Edinburgh was waisted.

Where I Stay?Staycity Apartment. It is very comfortable if you’re traveling in a group. It also has fully equipped kitchen for those who want to cook to save some bucks. Not to mention, you could easily hop onto a bus and head to the city.

How I Travel in Edinburgh? – Despite the hills, Edinburgh is a great walking city, but you can take the bus for 1.60 GBP per trip or get a full day ticket for 4 GBP. Make sure you have the exact amount as the bus driver won’t be giving you any change.

What to Pack? – Pack layers, including a raincoat/ parka hoodie and umbrella. Regardless which time of year you travel, Scottish weather is very unpredictable. There can be rain, wind, sunshine in the same trip.

1. Catch Sunset at the Calton Hill


Climb the Calton Hill (which is a 5 minute easy climb) and you will be rewarded with picturesque views over the Edinburgh, surrounding countryside and sea. Calton Hill is a perfect spot to catch a sunset, sunrise or both! Not to mention, you will also find various monuments like the Nelson Monument, Robert Burns Monument and National Monument of Scotland a.k.a Athens of the North.

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2. Climb the Arthur’s Seat


Situated at the highest point in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano which offers incredible views of the city aside from Calton Hill. The hike will take approximately 30 to 50 minutes depending on your hiking skills. Make sure you wear comfortable sneakers instead of high heels.

3. Listening to Bagpipes at Royal Mile


There are a few things that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of Scotland. Bagpipe is definitely one of it. You could easily spot bagpipers along the Royal Mile. Usually there will be one in front of the High Court of Justiciary which is right opposite the St GilesCathedral. The plaintive sounds of the bagpipe echo through the streets of Edinburgh and can be heard blocks away.

4. Admire St Giles Cathedral


St Giles’ Cathedral is the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. The highlights of St Giles’ Cathedral include beautiful stained glass windows, the impressive Rieger organ, and the famous Thistle Chapel.

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5. Walk the Royal Mile


The Royal Mile is the heart of Edinburgh.  On one end is Edinburgh Castle is at one end and the Palace at Holyroodhouse at the other. While strolling along the Royal Mile, you can see Old Town, Edinburgh’s most impressive buildings.

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6. See the underground streets of Mary King’s Close


Mary King’s Close is one of Edinburgh’s secret cities. It is buried deep beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Mary King’s Close and neighbouring Closes used to be at the heart of Edinburgh’s busiest and most vibrant streets, open to the skies and bustling with traders selling their wares to the Old Town’s residents. Why would this street find itself underground 400 years later?

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7. Immerse yourself in the history of Edinburgh Castle


You can’t imagine Edinburgh without Edinburgh Castle which is one of the City’s iconic landmarks. On top of an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is the tallest structure in the whole city. The castle itself is steeped in a rich and bloody history that is worthy of a film script.

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8. Unlock the secrets of the Millennium Clock Tower


Standing almost ten metres high, the Millennium Clock echoes the form of a medieval cathedral. Besides marking the passing of time, it is also a summary of the best and worst of the twentieth century.

The official website -> here

9. Enjoy mussel feast at Mussel Inn


There is nothing better to have a hot pot of mussels in the windy Scottish weather. There are a tons of mixed reviews on Mussel Inn, but glad that we had a great experience there. We ordered mussels in shallot, mussels in Moroccan, Shellfish Pasta and a bowl of fresh soup of the day. We didn’t make reservation in advance but we went there super early.

The official website -> here

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10. Search for Harry Potter Inspiration


If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, there are a few magical places you must visit in Edinburgh.

  • The Elephant House Café – where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the first book.
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard ancient churchyard beside the Elephant House was a popular haunt of J.K. Rowling. Some gravestones have inspired the names of Harry Potter characters. Keep your eyes peeled for the grave of Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle (Riddell), and William McGonagall.
  • Diagon Alley – Victoria Street is a colourful, historical, and beautiful split-level cobbled road not far from the Elephant House, and it’s thought to have been the inspiration for the fictional Diagon Alley, along with the adjacent Candlemaker Row.
  • The Writers’ Museum – primarily pays tribute to historic Edinburgh-based writers Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, however it also hosts exhibits about J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter as well.
  • Spoon Cafe – another one of J.K. Rowling’s favourite writing spots.

11. See Scotland’s Treasures at National Museum of Scotland


The National Museum of Scotland is a huge museum housing Scotland’s treasures as well as pieces of nature and world culture. It has diverse and fascinating exhibits which is suitable for all ages. P.S The admission is free.

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12. Visit the Not So New Town


Aside from the Old Town, the New Town also forms a part of Edinburgh that stands in contrast to its ancient buildings. Characterised by its long straight streets and Georgian architecture were designed in the 18th Century to remove Edinburgh from the ‘squaller’ of the old town.

13. Step into a time machine, Dean Village

Entering the Dean Village is like stepping into a time machine. The pavement beneath your feet is transformed into cobbled streets, and the white noise of the city melts away into tranquil silence that you could hear the Leith River gently flow by and birds chirping.

14. Climb the Scott Monument 


At 200 feet (61 meters) tall, the Scott Monument is the largest monument in the world dedicated to a writer, Sir Walter Scott.  ​The blackish colour gives off an eerie beauty. Contrasting with the blackened construction, is the white marble statue of Sir Walter Scott that shines when the rays of sun hit it. After climbing 287 steps, you will be rewarded with a scenic panoramic view of the city.

The official website – > here

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15. Try Scottish Whisky 

Credit: Simon Smith

Even if you’re not normally a whisky drinker, you can’t visit its home country without trying a drop from one of the Scotland’s 100 distilleries. Find out how it’s made at the Scotch Whisky Experience near the castle, where a guided tour comes with a whisky taster.

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