Edinburgh’s hidden corners swirl with myths, legends and tall tales

There’s something about Edinburgh and storytelling. After all, this is the city that inspired Barrie, Stevenson and Rowling. Let your imagination take flight in Old Town’s maze of streets, then write your own story in the home of haggis, single malt whisky and deep-fried Mars bars. Och Aye!

Find accommodation in Edinburgh

Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle


Hail the seat of Scottish power! This lofty castle’s perched atop an extinct volcano, a vaunted vantage point it’s held for over a millennium. Stare down the stony visages of Scottish heroes Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, whose statues guard the gate. Admire arcane accessories like the wonderfully named Stone of Destiny, used in coronations since the Middle Ages.

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Scott Monument


The Scott Monument’s a curious thing. Once described as a “vulgar” by Charles Dickens, it definitely catches the eye for better or worse. This freestanding Neo-Gothic tower looms over Princes Street in blackened sandstone, complete with fin-like protrusions and statues of characters from Sir Walter Scott’s writings. Huff and puff your way up its 287-steps for tip-top views.

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Princes Street Gardens


What a change! Once upon a time, there was a putrid moat called Nor Loch, which gave Edinburgh its nickname of “Auld Reekie” (Old Smelly). All that changed when it was transformed into charming gardens with rolling lawns, stately statues and fetching flowerbeds. Head there on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) for a full-on Scotch knees-up complete with fireworks and live music.

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St Giles' Cathedral


As mediaeval masterpieces go, this cathedral takes some beating. Gothic arches soar heavenward, borne atop thousand-year-old columns, inspiring awe in many a neck-craning visitor. The Thistle Chapel is every inch a modern-day Camelot, injecting intrigue with complex carvings in wood and stone. It wouldn’t be Scotland without bagpipe-playing cherubs on stained-glass windows!

Accommodation near St Giles' Cathedral
  • St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, EH1 1RE
  • Open Monday-Saturday 09.00-17.00, Sunday 13.00-17.00. Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
  • http://www.stgilescathedral.org.uk/
Scottish National Museum


What do Dolly the Sheep and a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton have in common? They both “live” in the Scottish National Museum, of course! Behind its façade – half-sleek cladding, half-stained Victorian stone – lies a treasure trove of interactive exhibits, covering topics from Ancient Egypt to video games. If you’re a fan of Scottish history, then you’ve come to the right place.

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Camera Obscura

Popular areas

Even in the age of “selfie sticks” and plasma TV, there’s a nostalgic pleasure to be taken from seeing an old camera obscura. At this museum, you can marvel at the same projected images of Edinburgh that have delighted curious visitors for the last 150 years. Since then, they’ve added a raft of other mind-bending illusions, including holograms, a hall of mirrors and a giant kaleidoscope.

Accommodation near Camera Obscura
  • Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2ND
  • Open Monday-Sunday 10:00-18:00. Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
  • http://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/
Calton Hill


If Edinburgh’s known as the “Athens of the North”, it’s down to the National Monument on Calton Hill. But rather than fronting a hilltop temple complex, its giant Parthenon-style columns stand alone against the sky, frozen in an eerie state of undress. This unfinished monument’s a dramatic photo op. Romantics take note – the sunset over Edinburgh’s sure to set hearts ablaze.

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Holyrood Park


Cluttered by cobwebs? Blow them away with a bracing walk around blustery Holyrood Park. Its tawny, windswept cliffs and icy lochs will give you a stirring taste of Scotland’s wild countryside. Scramble up the volcanic crag of Arthur’s Seat, stopping to shudder at the ghostly silhouette of crumbling St Anthony’s Chapel. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the city.

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Royal Yacht Britannia


A seafaring palace. Britannia used to be Queen Elizabeth II’s floating royal residence, ruling the waves for 44 years and clocking up over a million miles. It’s now a moored-up museum, where mere mortals can imagine regal life on the high seas. Marvel at the engine room and admire her Majesty’s own Rolls Royce. High tea and scones in the tea room is the icing on the cake.

Accommodation near Royal Yacht Britannia
Edinburgh Zoo


This is Edinburgh’s animal kingdom, where kings parade on a daily basis. King penguins, that is. Every day, these two-tone birds go for a regal waddle round a route lined with adoring fans. Birds not your bag? Monkey around in the impressive Budongo Trail, dedicated to the conservation of chimpanzees. Book ahead to catch a glimpse of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only pandas.

Accommodation near Edinburgh Zoo
  • 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS
  • Open Monday-Sunday 09:00-16:30. Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
  • http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/

Accommodation and hotels in Edinburgh

Motel One Edinburgh-Royal

8.8 Fabulous

Score from 3866 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 18-21 Market Street, Old Town, Edinburgh
Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh

8.7 Fabulous

Score from 2085 ratings.


Average price per night
  • The Royal Mile, Old Town, Edinburgh
Apex Grassmarket Hotel

8.4 Very good

Score from 2877 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 31-35 Grassmarket, Old Town, Edinburgh
Motel One Edinburgh-Princes

8.9 Fabulous

Score from 3098 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 10-15 Princes Street, New Town, Edinburgh
The Roxburghe

8.8 Fabulous

Score from 1716 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 38 Charlotte Square, New Town, Edinburgh
Jurys Inn Edinburgh

8 Very good

Score from 2692 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 43 Jeffrey Street, Old Town, Edinburgh
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa

9.1 Superb

Score from 828 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 1 Festival Square, West End, Edinburgh
The Scotsman Hotel

8.5 Very good

Score from 1368 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 20 North Bridge, Old Town, Edinburgh
Apex City of Edinburgh Hotel

8.7 Fabulous

Score from 1983 ratings.


Average price per night
  • 61 Grassmarket, Old Town, Edinburgh
Discover Edinburgh

Popular neighbourhoods in Edinburgh

West End

154 properties

West End’s all about performance. This district’s chock-full of theatres, cinemas and concert venues. It really comes into its own during August’s Fringe Festival, when you can barely walk for grinning street comics or touts thrusting flyers into your hand. Need a break from the theatricality? Slip into Caley Sample Rooms for an off-stage brew.

Princes Street

108 properties

A thoroughly famous thoroughfare. This mile-long street’s a hit with retail fiends, who flock to emporia like Jenners Department Store. It’s also foremost on the tourist trail, with the Scott Monument and sweeping views up to the castle. Sniffy about Scottish cuisine? Buck those hesitations at classy Contini’s, inside the National Gallery.

Old Town

95 properties

Edinburgh Old Town oozes mystery. Its cobbled “wynds” (narrow alleyways) entice and delight with unexpected nooks and crannies that urge you to explore. In the town that spawned Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, let Grassmarket’s cosy pubs bring out the bard in you. To unravel the ghostly tales behind Old Town’s hidden gems, join a guided tour.

Royal Mile

86 properties

This street’s a mile-long history lesson. As you stroll down from Edinburgh Castle towards Holyrood Palace, look out for St Giles Cathedral – it leaves onlookers agape with its Gothic flourishes and fifty shades of grey sandstone. During the Fringe Festival, the Royal Mile teems with street performers and enthralled tourists.


70 properties

Hay ho, let’s go! Commuters zoom in and out of Edinburgh’s central business district in a whirl of brogues and briefcases. On match days, you’ll see (and hear) rugby fans bustle their way to iconic Murrayfield Stadium. There’s plenty to please foodies, too – from First Coast’s Scottish fare to Lovecrumbs’ exceedingly good cakes.

New Town

50 properties

Don’t be fooled by the name – New Town’s not that new. But its open spaces and elegant Georgian façades stand in stark contrast to the scrunched mediaeval maze of Old Town. Hidden behind neo-classical columns, New Town’s flats are among the city’s most sought after. If you fancy going the full Scottish, pick up a bespoke kilt from 21st Century Kilts.


37 properties

Broughton’s an up-and-comer. This residential district’s flourishing into a nucleus of fine dining, funky bars and boutiques. Treacle serves up curious cocktails, Kitchin’s a hit for slap-up meals and the Pink Triangle flaunts fab nightlife for all persuasions. Intrigued by the local delicacy, deep-fried Mars bar? Tuck in at Café Piccante.


7 properties

Local cheesemongers, high-class delis, microbreweries, vintage clothes shops… no wonder Stockbridge is consistently voted among the UK’s coolest places to live. Adjust your horn-rimmed specs, fasten that top button and join the locals at Stockbridge Tap Pub or Raconteur. To escape society’s trappings, go for a stroll along leafy Water of Leith.


6 properties

Bruntsfield’s a leafy district where students eat, drink and sleep. On sunny days, grab a corner-shop beer and join the fresh-faced crowds in The Meadows Park, where you’ll find picnics, frisbees and sun cream galore. Head to funky gastro-pub Blackbird for Sunday brunch, before stopping off at Cameo Cinema’s cosy bar for a pre-film pint.


5 properties

Morningside – lovely name, lovely place. This quiet area’s townhouses are home to Edinburgh’s best-lined pockets. Potter around like a leisurely local, stopping off for lunch at Nonna’s Kitchen (try the pumpkin ravioli). Then spend an evening of well-oiled repartee in legendary pub Canny Man’s, purveyor of countless single malt whiskies.


5 properties

“Oh I do love to be beside the seaside…”. Well, by the Firth of Forth, anyway. Portobello combines the faded charm of old-time beach resorts with an eco-conscious community spirit. You won’t find your standard superstores here – just friendly joints serving organic, locally sourced grub. Check out the Espy or The Tide to sample the “Porty” vibe.

Local tips for Edinburgh

Water of Leith
by Sally

Sally moved to Edinburgh over 3 years ago and enjoys its sights as much as its friendly atmosphere.

The Water of Leith riverside trail is a lovely way to explore the city by foot or bike. The river flows from the Pentland Hills, through the city and onto the Firth of Forth inlet. The 19-kilometre-long path is home to a diverse number of plants and animals.

  • Water of Leith Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road Edinburgh EH14 1TQ
  • www.waterofleith.org.uk
  • Open Monday-Sunday 10:00-16:00
Edinburgh's hidden bars: Panda and Sons
by Brogan

Brogan is new to Edinburgh but already loves its vibe and that there is always something going on.

Disguised as a barber shop, I was lucky enough to stumble upon this wee gem. One of the city's many hidden bars, Panda and Sons is a modern-day speakeasy serving quirky cocktails. If you go on a Saturday night, there is the added bonus of free popcorn to nibble on.

  • 79 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4NF
  • www.pandaandsons.com
  • Open Monday-Thursday 16:00-01:00, Friday-Sunday 15:00-01:00
Greyfriars Bobby
by Noemi

Noemi swapped sunny Spain for a rather chillier Edinburgh but still loves it 11 years later.

A dear icon of the city, wee Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who supposedly guarded the grave of his master for 14 years and has been commemorated in books and films. Stop to view the pooch’s famous statue next to Greyfriar’s Kirk Church, in the heart of the old town.

  • Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, EH1
Arthur's Seat
by Dympna

Dympna was born and raised in Edinburgh and is still resident in the capital city.

For an invigorating adventure, a hike up Arthur’s Seat is a must. A mountain in the middle of the city, join its footpath starting across from Holyrood Palace, or head up towards Pollock Halls. The walk is certainly worth it and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over Edinburgh!

  • 1 Queens Drive, Edinburgh, EH8 8HG
  • www.edinburgh.gov.uk
  • Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
The Shore
by Casey

No matter how many times she leaves, Casey always finds her way back to her beautiful hometown.

Once run-down and industrial, The Shore has evolved into a lively, vibrant area and one of my favourites in the city. It’s home to Edinburgh’s highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants, cocktail bars, pubs, a floating restaurant and one of the best cake shops in the city.

  • The Shore, Edinburgh, EH6 6QW
Mary King's Close
by Troy

South African Troy came to the city 9 years ago for 2 months and liked it so much he never left.

Below Edinburgh’s lively streets lies an underground city which housed its ancient population. Mary King’s Close’s amazing actors bring 17th-century Edinburgh to life, taking you on a tour along the remains of these subterranean streets and recounting the city’s murky past.

  • 2 Warriston's Close, High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1PG
  • www.realmarykingsclose.com
  • Open Monday-Sunday 10:00-17:00. Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
City Ghost Tours
by Emma

Now living in London, Glaswegian Emma enjoys visiting Edinburgh whenever she’s north of the border.

A great way to bring Edinburgh’s “nooks and crannies” to life is with one of the city ghost tours. Beginning on the Royal Mile, they lead you down eerie alleyways and into spooky cellars. Hilarious tour guides will entertain you, mixing history with jokes and the odd blood-curdling scream.

  • There are several providers in town.
The Elephant House
by Angel

Spaniard Ángel spent a year studying in Edinburgh and loves the magic that the city has.

You’ve probably heard the story of how J.K. Rowling began writing Harry Potter on a little paper napkin. What you might not know is that she did this in the Elephant House Café - a great spot to have a cup of tea in the midst of the atmospheric old town and overlooking Edinburgh Castle.

  • 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EN
  • www.elephanthouse.biz
  • Open Monday–Thursday 08:00–22:00, Friday 08:00–23:00, Saturday 09:00–23:00, Sunday 09:00–22:00
Inverleith Park
by Michael

Originally from the Western Isles, Michael loves Edinburgh’s charm, history and the lovely locals.

Inverleith Park is just a stone’s throw from Stockbridge and offers one of the best views of Edinburgh’s skyline. It hosts festivals and fairs throughout the summer, and there are also loads of shops, restaurants and bars nearby.

  • Arboretum Road, Edinburgh, EH3 5NZ

Like anywhere in the UK, history is in your face - which is one reason I love going there. Edinburgh is no exception. What with the Castle in the middle of town and the Palace of Holyrood on the east end, along with all of the other history steeped into every square inch of this elegant city, I recommend it to all. I first visited it as a mouthy 16 year old back in 1967 ... and yet I had enough maturity (buried somewhere deep inside me!) to fall in love with it even back then ... finally got to come back in 2007 and then again last week. An elegant city ... and don't confuse it as being just "more of England" ... it is TOTALLY different from England!

Edinburgh bus tours hop on hop off 1 day pass. Buy the ticket mid morning so you can use it until the time of purchase the next day. We used the second day to visit the Royal Britannia Yacht. Use google maps to inform on which local bus to catch back to your hotel location.

Booking.com asked travellers...

Why would you recommend Edinburgh for food?

Ate at a restaurant called McKirdy's Steakhouse. A family affair where the meat is supplied by the butcher who is a family member. Great knowledge & recommendation of steaks to fit your personal requirements. Friendly Staff and excellent service.

Explore on foot

Edinburgh castle was a fantastic, day out for the whole family, grandparents, parents and children. Loads to see, very informative staff and lots to see and discuss. View fantastic. Tip, book ahead on line to save long queue (we actually did it while stood in queue)

Yes - good vintage and retro shops


Great record shops!

International Science Festival events


Edinburgh transport

Air - Edinburgh International Airport

Edinburgh Airport is located 13 km outside the city. The Lothian Bus Airlink 100 connects you to Waverley Railway Station in 30 minutes and costs GBP 4 each way, also stopping at Haymarket Station and the West End. Nightbus N22 runs from 00:47 to 04:17, costing GBP 3. The city centre-bound trams run every 12 minutes from the airport, taking around 35 minutes and costing GBP 5 for a single ticket (GBP 8 return). A taxi to the city centre will cost you around GBP 25.


Waverley Railway Station is Edinburgh’s main hub just next to Princes Street. Trains are used mainly to travel to the suburbs and neighbouring towns. The East Coast line ends at London Kings Cross, and regular connections to Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth are run by First Scotrail. Haymarket Station is the second main station and a commuter hub, it's also the closest station to Murrayfield Rugby Stadium and EEIC Conference Centre.


Edinburgh's maroon-coloured Lothian Buses run all over the city, while Lothian Country Buses go to the outskirts. The city centre is fairly walkable but buses are good for getting from one side to the other. A single ticket in the City Zone will cost GBP 1.50 and a day ticket GBP 3.50. You can also purchase a Ridacard, a weekly travel card costing GBP 17 which offers unlimited travel on all forms of transport. Nightbuses run hourly from around midnight.


The city's 14 km-long tram route goes between York Place and Edinburgh Airport and feeds into a network of over 70 bus routes. Stops include Haymarket, Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, Princes Street and the Gyle Shopping Centre. The service runs 7 days a week, from approximately 06:00 to 22:45. Unlimited travel tickets, including the week-long Ridacard (GBP 17), can be used across the whole public transport network.


Black cabs can be picked up around the city centre, or hailed at taxi ranks, and there's no need to pre-book. They are, however, generally quite expensive costing about GBP 15 for a cross-town trip. They can seat 5-6 people.


Driving in central Edinburgh is tricky in the old town and around Princes Street. There are a few 24-hour multi-storey car parks which will cost about GBP 3 an hour, or GBP 15 a day. You can't park on main roads between 07:30 and 18:30 Monday - Saturday and at all other times you must pay at a ticket machine, where rates are about GBP 1.60 per hour. Traffic wardens can impose a GBP 60 fine on cars without tickets. Remember not to park on double yellow lines!

Food in Edinburgh

Top restaurants in Edinburgh

High-end dining
The Witchery by the Castle
High-end dining
Mussel Inn
  • 61-65 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2NH
  • Open Monday–Thursday 12:00–15:00 and 17:30–22:00, Friday–Saturday: 12:00–22:00, Sunday: 12:30–22:00
  • www.mussel-inn.com
  • 0044 843289281
Cheap 'n' tasty
Castello Coffee
  • Castle St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH2 3AH
  • Open Monday–Friday 07:30–18:00, Saturday 08:30–18:00, Sunday 10:00–18:00
  • 0044 1312259780
High-end dining
Castle Terrace Restaurant
Cheap 'n' tasty
Cheap 'n' tasty
Wellington Coffee
  • 33A George St Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 2HN
  • Open Monday–Sunday 07:00–18:00
  • 0044 131226854
Good value
Bon Vivant
Good value
Good value
Middle Eastern
High-end dining
High-end dining
The Grain Store
High-end dining
Good value
Thai Orchid
High-end dining
Cheap 'n' tasty
Good value
Bar bites
Red Squirrel
Cheap 'n' tasty
Urban Angel
Cheap 'n' tasty
Mary's Milk Bar
  • Mary's Milk Bar, 19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2HS
  • Open Tuesday–Sunday 11:00–19:00
  • www.marysmilkbar.com
Cheap 'n' tasty
Le Café Bleu
  • 62 West Port, Edinburgh, EH1 2LB
  • Open Monday–Sunday 09:00–22:30
  • 0044 7463252666
Good value
Bar bites
99 Hanover Street
Good value
Middle Eastern
  • 73 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EE
  • Open Monday–Saturday 12:00–22:00
  • 0044 1312255755
High-end dining
High-end dining
Chez Jules
Good value
The Dogs
Good value
Find accommodation in Edinburgh

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