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Things to do in Edinburgh

The capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, is one of the most beautiful and stunning cities in the whole of the UK. With its medieval history through to its world-renowned cultural centres, it truly is one of the top places to visit when in the British Isles. But what are the top things to do in Edinburgh? We have taken a look at those attractions and events that millions of people a year flock to enjoy.

Discover many things to do in Edinburgh whether you live in the city or are travelling from another country. Or even taking a long weekend break in the city, there is something for everyone.

Fun Things To Do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is an amazing city with centuries of history and culture all combined into a small area. There are so many fun and different things to do in Edinburgh no matter what your taste. From historic sites to the worldwide cultural experience that is Edinburgh Festival. You will find something for all the family to enjoy.

Edinburgh Castle

Built in the 11th Century on Castle Rock which has been inhabited since the Iron Age, Edinburgh Castle is the biggest attraction in the city. Welcomes over 2,000,000 visitors a year! The castle is located in the centre of the city and has been home to kings and queens for centuries. Edinburgh Castle also holds the title of being the most besieged site in Britain.

Visiting the castle is a must-do for all visitors to the city. As well as the historic buildings and castle walls, it is also home to a number of significant artifacts in Scottish history. The Honours of Scotland, which are the oldest crown jewels in the UK, and many other jewels are all available to be seen on your visit. It is the perfect day out for couples, families, and those taking a solo trip to the capital city.

Edinburgh Dungeon

For those who like their sightseeing to have a bit more of an edge, Edinburgh Dungeon should be your first port of call. The Edinburgh Dungeon uses live actors, special effects, and rides to tell some of the spookiest stories from the past. Covering all the gruesome aspects of Scottish history.

From Sawney Bean to Burke & Hare, visitors can expect tales of bloodshed, murder, and all things dark during their time in the Dungeon. While it may not be suitable for the really young, Edinburgh Dungeon is a great way to spend a day in the city. The shocks and jumps will keep you laughing for years to come.

Edinburgh Festival

If you are visiting Edinburgh during August then you are guaranteed to find yourself swept up in festival fever! Every year thousands of performers, dancers, comedians, and artists descend on the city. They put on over 300 shows during the course of the month. The popularity of the Edinburgh Festival has confirmed its spot as the top cultural festival in the world!

Things to do in Edinburgh - Edinburgh Festival - Copyright: Edinburgh International Festival

Some of the world’s biggest names in performing arts either started or boosted their careers at the festival. Steve Coogan, Miranda Hart, Rachel Weisz, and the late Robin Williams all started their career at the festival. Tickets for shows can be bought online ahead of shows or on the door for smaller performances. Catching a performance at the festival is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh when visiting in August. As well as potentially opening yourself up to other cultures, you never know whether you might come across the next big thing!

Things To Do in Edinburgh for Young Adults

If you are travelling to Edinburgh as a young adult then you are guaranteed to have a great time! If the historic side of things doesn’t interest you as much then you can try other things. You can always use your trip to improve your language skills or taste the delights of Scottish food and drink. Or even delve into the dark side of the city with a ghost walk. There are hundreds of things to do in Edinburgh for young adults, but here are just a few of our recommendations.

Scotch Whiskey Experience

While IrnBru might claim to be the most famous drink in Scotland (we aren’t denying its popularity!), Scotch Whiskey is probably the most well-known outside of the UK. For those who want a real taste of Scotland, the Scotch Whiskey Experience is a definite must on your list of things to do in Edinburgh.

You will be fully guided through a historic and tasting experience of this Scottish tipple during your time at this top attraction. There are plenty of tour packages to choose from. You will be able to experience everything all the way up to a 3-course Scottish food degustation from the highly acclaimed Amber Restaurant.

Courses by Cactus

For those living or studying at University in Edinburgh, why not take the opportunity to expand your knowledge on other languages? Cactus offers evening language courses in the centre of Edinburgh for over 10 languages. The courses are structured to take place over 11 weeks and are suitable for all ability levels.

These group-learning courses are designed to help you progress and develop your skills in a structured way. Whether you are looking to learn for fun, career prospects or to communicate better with friends and relatives. The courses run from 6:00pm every Tuesday evening with new courses starting every January, April, July, and October.

BSC English Language Courses

Are looking at visiting Edinburgh for a longer period of time and want to take the opportunity to improve your English? Then British Study Centres offer English courses to suit your needs. With the added option of including residential accommodation when booking. The best option to develop your English skills.

While you study during the day, you have the freedom to explore the city in the afternoon/evening. This mix of study and recreation also allows you the ability to practice what you have learned in an English-speaking environment. BSC Edinburgh offers a range of accommodation options, or if you prefer to find your own, they offer a ‘course only’ option too.

Ghost Tours

With such a long history it is no surprise that Edinburgh is reportedly home to a number of ghostly residents. It is also no surprise that this has led to a large number of Ghost Tours being on offer across the city. So for those who like their tours to be that little bit dark and spooky, these are the perfect guides for you.

While you might not get the same experience as you would on a traditional city tour, you will definitely come away with some grizzly facts about Edinburgh.

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Free Things To Do in Edinburgh

If you are on a budget then you will always be looking at free things to do in Edinburgh. Due to its history, there are plenty of notable buildings, gardens, and exhibitions you can visit free of charge all year round. We have taken a brief look at some of the most popular locations in Edinburgh.

Scottish National Gallery

Hosting Scotland’s national collection of fine art, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the top, free-to-visit days out in Edinburgh. Holding Scottish and international artwork dating from the Renesaince through to the 20th Century, the gallery is a great place to lose yourself for a few hours as you envelop yourself in artistic culture.

Not only is the inspiring artwork a draw but also the architecture of the building. First opened to the public in 1859, the gallery is nestled in the heart of the city centre and offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city outside. As well as the permanent galleries, there are also rotating exhibitions that change throughout the year.

St Giles Cathedral

A stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle is St Giles Cathedral. This stunning gothic place of worship sits in the heart of Old Town and is a wonder to behold. The exterior of the cathedral is postcard perfect and you can even go inside. Built in the 12th century, St Giles has been a mainstay of religion in the city for almost 900 years!

Things to do in Edinburgh - St Giles Cathedral

While it is free to enter the building, donations are welcome to go towards the upkeep of the cathedral and its grounds. There are a few restrictions on access due to the fact the cathedral is still in use as a place of worship. But, you will generally find you can visit this amazing building almost any day of the week.

Dean Village

A trip to Edinburgh is not complete without a visit to Dean Village. This oasis in the middle of the city is a former village directly northwest of the city centre. The village was constructed around water-milling buildings, many of which can still be seen today. The tranquility of the village is accentuated by the Water of Leith which runs through it and is crossed by the Dean Bridge.

Things to do in Edinburgh - Dean Village

The centre of the village is pinpointed by Well Court. This iconic building was built to house mill workers in the 1880s and now has become one of the most photographed buildings in the city. The picturesque nature of Dean Village provides a perfect backdrop to a lovely few hours in Edinburgh.

Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a historic and culturally rich city to visit and offers so much to the millions who flock there every year. From castles and dungeons to exhibitions and cathedrals, we have covered a few of the top things to do in Edinburgh. But by no means is this list exhaustive, there is plenty more to discover in the Scottish capital.

One of the most popular and rewarding things to do in Edinburgh is to take the opportunity to learn a new language. Cactus offers 10-week courses in the heart of Edinburgh for 12 different languages and all abilities throughout the year. Our group learning experience is built on proven methodology and guarantees you a progressive and rewarding learning experience. Once you have chosen the language you wish to learn, then take our quick, level test to find out which course would be the best for you.

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