Plan on traveling to Scotland but don’t have enough time to spend in Edinburgh? That’s okay, this is your guide to seeing what Edinburgh is all about!
Edinburgh, unlike Glasgow, has a much older feel to it. Walking down the Royal Mile (the mile long walk from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood House, where the Queen stays when she visits) is like taking a step back in history. So, of course, your first stop is the Royal Mile. It doesn’t matter where you start, you will get to see it all. The Royal Mile is on a hill with Edinburgh Castle at the top. It is not necessary to spend 10 quid on admission (roughly $20). You can walk up to the main part and get an amazing view of the city, and you can see the castle from almost any angle because it is on the very top of a hill. Let’s say you start at the top, Edinburgh Castle. Afterwards, you will walk down towards Holyrood House. There are lots of little souvenir shops if that is something you are interested in. You will also pass St. Giles Cathedral, which is rather impressive. Also there are two main statues: one is of David Hume, a philosopher sitting in a chair. The other is of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, the statue is a tall pedestal with the Duke standing at the top. The current Duke of Buccleuch is the 8th and owns a palace not 20 minutes from Edinburgh (the reason I know this all so well is because I lived in that palace for a time).
There are several museums which may be of interest. For instance, the Childhood museum is on the lower half of the Royal Mile, admission is free and it is 4 stories of interaction and nostalgia. Not too far from Edinburgh Castle is the Kodak museum. It holds optical illusions and is also very interactive, admission is around 7 GBP ($14). A few blocks off of the Royal Mile is the National Museum of Scotland. This is an amazing, enormous museum. It has the entire history of Scotland since the beginning of time. It is the home of Dolly, the sheep that was cloned. The portion devoted to Science and Industry is very entertaining and there are little stations for kids to learn about history and to interact with it. The museum is free, and, if you ask me, if you go to the 8th floor you will get one of the best and easiest view of Edinburgh. It is an outdoor deck which not only is a garden, but it allows you to see the entirety of the Royal Mile. Finally, at the base of the Royal Mile is Holyrood House. This is something you might want to go inside to look at. The extravagance and elegance is phenomenal. The price is around 4 GBP ($8). The history of Edinburgh is vast, but there is one thing that sticks out in the eyes of everyone who has seen it. The new parliament building is absolutely atrocious, and, unfortunately, it is hard to miss. Ask anyone who lives there what they think of the building, and they will tell you it is hideous. It is an attempt to assimilate the new, modern architecture, and it fails. The Royal Mile itself, can take a day to experience, but if you are time efficient you will have plenty of time to see everything.
The next stop is Princes Street. The Princes Street Gardens (where the BBC show is filmed) directly below the castle. When the castle still functioned, the gardens were for sewage, which is why they are so verdant today. In general, Princes Street is not known for its sights, it is known for its shopping. Here you will find the best shopping in Edinburgh. It has everything from Boots (pharmaceutical) to 2 H&Ms (clothing), it even has a Gap. There is one thing that should be recognized though. The Sir Walter Scott Monument is an impressive, tall spire. It is, obviously, a monument to Walter Scott, and it is possible to go inside and climb to the top for a fee (3 GBP, $6).
You might see something that looks like an incomplete Parthenon. Thats because on Calton Hill, there is a replica of the Parthenon that was never completed. Edinburgh is known as “Little Athens” and so, to honor that, the city decided to build a replica. They ran out of money for the project before it was finished, and so it remains. If you have time, the walk to the top of Calton Hill isn’t difficult, and, on a clear day, you may even be able to see the Forth Rail Bridge in the Firth of Forth.
That basically entails all of the sights, but what of food? You can’t leave Scotland without trying some haggis. Don’t let descriptions fool you, haggis, in my opinion (I was born and raised in Minnesota and didn’t even see Scotland until I was 19), is delicious; especially if you have it with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), put a little brown sauce on there and mix it all up for a taste of heaven. Some restaurants will even offer a traveler’s menu with discounted prices. If you are looking for food on the go, not only do they have fast food like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway; they also have fish and chips shops scattered about. Fish and chips (breaded fish and fries) is a classic food of the UK. It is good to at least try it. Brown sauce for the fries is a nice touch as well!
Finally, after a day of good sights and good foods, a good pub is on the list. There are plenty great pubs in Edinburgh. There is Frankenstein, a very classy dance club that you really have to dress up for, it is a couple blocks away from the Royal Mile. Another good pub is Three Sisters, which is just a few blocks away from Princes Street, loud music, good fun. If you are looking for a nice, quiet, clean, out-of-the-way pub, you can take a drive to Dalkeith and go to Sam’s (20 minutes away by cab).
Edinburgh in a day is difficult because there is so much to see and do, but if it must be done, these are the things you should see!