When most people think of Scotland, it is Edinburgh that typically comes to mind first. This beautiful city is rich in Scottish history and culture. It is a place of importance for art, as well. In addition to all of these compelling reasons to visit, Edinburgh is a bustling, thriving city of 500,000 people who partake in many different activities including the Edinburgh Festival and Edinburg Fringe. Here, we tell you exactly how to experience the best of Edinburgh during your stay.

  1. Royally Perfect
  • Edinburgh Castle

The placement of majestic Edinburgh Castle is no accident. Perched atop a tall rock, the soaring structure is not only a vital part of the skyline, it is also situated perfectly for defending the city. Sights at the castle that inspire awe include the Stone of Destiny and the crown jewels of Scotland. The former was used in the coronations of British monarchs. Speaking of royalty, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots both called the castle home at one time.

  1. Ancient Illusions
  • Camera Obscura

The oldest tourist attraction in Edinburgh is a place of fantasy that dates back to 1835. When you visit the gallery, you can experience mind-bending attractions including a vortex tunnel, a room that seems to shrink around you and a mirror maze. These visual illusions are accompanied by an impressive view of the city seen through telescopes.

  1. Immersive History
  • Mary King’s Close

Located in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, Mary King’s Close gives you a chance to experience the history of this warren of underground streets and passages rumored to be haunted. Costumed tour guides and well-preserved sites make tours on these ancient streets undeniably immersive.

  1. Scottish Art Showcase
  • Scottish National Gallery

The national art gallery of Scotland is not to be missed. Highlighting an impressive collection of artwork from Scottish artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn and Peter Graham, the gallery also displays work by masters including Rubens, Gainsborough and Van Dyck. Visitors can also take in impressive views across the Princes Street Gardens and enjoy tea and a snack at the onsite Scottish Café and Restaurant.

  1. Mother Nature’s Finest
  • Royal Botanic Garden

There are plenty of outdoor attractions to enjoy in Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden is among the most outstanding. Created in 1670 for the purpose of studying the medicinal benefits of plants, it is now a popular tourist attraction that is used for conservation as well as study. 70 acres of exquisitely landscaped acres house about 275,000 plants. Sites to see at the botanic garden include Inverleith House and the Temperate Palm House. The latter is the tallest in all of Britain.

  1. Portrait of a Royal
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery

After you visit the Scottish National Gallery, take a stroll through the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which is – you guessed it – dedicated to showcasing the portraits of notable Scottish people. The building itself, designed in the gothic style and presiding over the center of town, is a sight to see even before you consider the portraits.

  1. Holy History
  • Greyfriars Kirk

One of the most important landmarks representing the history of Edinburgh is also a place of worship. Erected in 1620, Greyfriars Kirk was vitally important for the Scottish Covenanters and was used as a barracks during Cromwell’s history-changing invasion of Scotland. Today the church is used for multiple purposes including services and artistic performances.

  1. Inside Look at a Day in the Life
  • Gladstone’s Land

If you want to get a vivid idea of what life was like in the 1600s in Edinburgh, you need to visit Gladstone’s Land. While the 17-story tenement house is not glamorous like the castle, it offers a genuine glimpse into the lives of the people who were the very lifeblood of the city. Learn about Scottish culture by getting an up-close look at period pieces that represent every social class from the threadbare poor to the lavishly wealthy.

All of the aforementioned attractions are some of the many reasons Edinburgh has endured for decades as a favorite of travelers. Regardless of how you choose to explore this world-class city, one thing is certain:  You will not soon forget your time here.

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Jim Bozzelli