Mountain view of the city of Edinburgh with clock tower as focal point

EdinburghTravel Guide

There’s so much to love about Edinburgh, for this city has a personality that burns bright all year round. From the portside suburb of Leith with its new craft ales, to the historic Royal Mile, the views of the city from Calton Hill (best at sunset), the galleries, the museums, the festivals, the whisky-tasting tours and on and on… it’s no wonder that Edinburgh has inspired writers for generations. Sit in the cafe where JK Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter stories, wander the streets and immerse yourself in that Edinburgh charm.If you’re planning a visit, explore our Edinburgh travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in the Scottish capital. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have all sorts of suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay in Edinburgh, getting around and more.

Edinburgh quick facts

Language

National language

English

Beverages

Bottle of Coke/Pepsi (330ml)

CAD $3.07

Local time

Thursday

8:31pm

Currency

Pound sterling

CAD $1.00 = GBP £0.57

Eating out

Restaurant meal (casual dining)

CAD $27.77

Electricity

Plug type: G

3 pins • 230V

Explore Edinburgh

Where to stay in Edinburgh?

Choosing where to stay in Edinburgh is tricky. This attractive, historical city has so much to offer! If you’re looking to splash some vacation cash, then the New Town, close to shopping hot-spots like Princes Street and George Street, is a must. On the other hand, if you want to delve into the city’s past, put yourself close to the Royal Mile or Grassmarket. For a quieter time, the best areas to stay in Edinburgh are around Stockbridge or Leith. Both are a short walk or bus journey from the city’s centre, so you get to enjoy a more relaxed vibe without being too far from all the attractions.

Located in Edinburgh's Old Town, the Royal Mile stretches from Edinburgh Castle all the way to Holyrood. Packed with traditional Scottish and souvenir shops, it's a bustling area. If Edinburgh's history interests you then it's here you'll find Edinburgh Castle, the underground warren of Mary King's Close, The Witchery, and the grand St Giles' Cathedral.


Situated in the Old Town, Edinburgh Grassmarket was a livestock market until the 19th century. Today, there's a wider selection of goods sold. It's also full of vibrant bars and restaurants that offer great views of Edinburgh Castle. Stay here and explore the colourful boutiques on Victoria Street, or seek out the small Greyfriars Bobby Memorial – dedicated to a dog who stayed by his owner's grave after his passing.


This is the upper-class area of town. Stockbridge boasts cobbled streets and the Royal Circus – a collection of beautiful Georgian-style houses and private gardens. Stay here and it's only a short walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. There's also good access to the Water of Leith walkway. Market day falls on the weekend, but during the week there are artisan food shops and fine-dining restaurants nearby.


Facing Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh New Town is where you'll find attractions like Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the Edinburgh Dungeon. Should Edinburgh shopping be on your to-do list, base yourself here. Get your retail fix by exploring the vast Jenners department store, or independent boutiques around Rose Street and designer stores on George Street.


A little way out of central Edinburgh, Leith was once the city's maritime centre. Stay here and you'll want to make sure you take an audio tour around the splendid Royal Yacht Britannia – the former floating vacation home to Queen Elizabeth II. Afterwards, splash some cash in the vast Ocean Terminal shopping centre, or take a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith, which is one of Edinburgh's most picturesque walkways.


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  • Close up of exterior Scottish parliament building
    • Statue on a water fountain in front of sun gazed castle
    • Dark City view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
    • Edinburgh Ruins in Holyrood Park
  • Close up of exterior Scottish parliament building
    Close up of exterior Scottish parliament building
    Close up of exterior Scottish parliament building
  • Statue on a water fountain in front of sun gazed castle
    Statue on a water fountain in front of sun gazed castle
    Statue on a water fountain in front of sun gazed castle
  • Dark City view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
    Dark City view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
    Dark City view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
  • Edinburgh Ruins in Holyrood Park
    Edinburgh Ruins in Holyrood Park
    Edinburgh Ruins in Holyrood Park

Things to do in Edinburgh

You’ll find things to do in Edinburgh that suit every vacation style. Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline, but don’t let it distract you for too long. Look out for hidden alleyways – these often lead to historical treasures like Mary King’s Close and unique boutiques selling one-off souvenirs. Attractions span the city, so you’ll never be stuck for things to see in Edinburgh.

In the middle of the city stands Edinburgh Castle. It's hard to miss. The sheer, jagged cliff it sits on gives it a menacing look, but walk around the site and you'll see a softer side as you enjoy beautiful views of the city. You may even catch the daily 1pm gun going off. Inside the castle and fortress walls you'll discover its royal history and Great Hall.


At the foot of the Royal Mile and close to Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament Building. Its design, which combines steel, oak and granite, caused much discussion before its official opening due to the scale of the budget. However, the result is a stunning piece of architecture. Public areas are open six days a week, so pop in for a visit before exploring the nearby Salisbury Crags.


The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building surrounded by green space. The contemporary art collection – made up of Scottish and international artists alike – spills from the galleries out into the grounds. Whether you're an art lover or not, the collection of paintings, sculptures and photographs will provoke a reaction, or at least give you something to ponder.


A trip to the National Museum of Scotland offers a deeper understanding of the country's rugged history. Exhibits clearly demonstrate how proud Scotland is of its past. Across several floors, collections of artefacts and information show how Scotland emerged as a nation and looks at modern history and the present, as well as the past.


You'll need a strong stomach when visiting the Surgeons' Hall Museums. Charting the city's remarkable relationship with the development of modern medicine, discover information on theatre practices of yesteryear and a host of bottled curiosities in the Wohl Pathology Museum. It's also where you'll find a book said to be made from the skin of 18th century body snatcher, William Burke.


This was once the queen's favourite way to vacation – it's rumoured she cried when the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Take an audio guided tour around the ship and you'll see why. Considering it was built for royalty, it has a very homely, down-to-earth feel. See how the Windsors lived when on board, then go below deck and explore the quarters and the engine room.


The Edinburgh Tattoo is an annual Royal Military event held under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Castle and thousands of spectators. The Tattoo celebrates Commonwealth and international music, entertainment, and military ceremony. There's a different theme to the performances each year, so no two Tattoos are ever the same. A seat to this show will allow you to see Highland dancing, military bands (including bagpipes), and acts from international entertainers.


The Scotsman Steps have long been a thoroughfare, linking Edinburgh's Old and New Towns. After years of being left to ruin, they were finally given a new lease of life by artist Martin Creed. Now, each step has been resurfaced with marble from around the globe. The idea is that you're not only walking from one part of town to another, you're also stepping through the world.


Visit the Royal Mile and chances are you'll have passed Mary King's Close, but it's unlikely you'll have noticed it. This warren of 17th century streets are hidden underground, quietly holding onto some of Edinburgh's darkest history. If you're feeling brave of heart, book a tour through the close and discover how people survived and what part Mary King's Close played in ridding the city of The Plague.


Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city on appearance, but look beyond this and you'll find a history that's full of horror, gore, and questionable characters. A trip to Edinburgh Dungeons will unveil the likes of grave robbers Burke and Hare, half-hanged Maggie Dickenson, and cannibal Sawney Bean – all once residents of Edinburgh. Special effects, theatrical actors and rides will take you to Edinburgh's dark side.


Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Edinburgh travel tips

Make sure your vacation goes smoothly by picking up some Edinburgh travel tips. While there are many similarities between Australia and the UK, there are also some subtle differences. Things like remembering to check plug adapters (you’ll definitely need one) or sorting out visas can slip your mind in all the vacation excitement. One thing you won’t need are vaccinations. While it’s always good to check with your doctor that you’re in good health before you travel, you shouldn’t need any extra jabs. As in Australia, tap water and ice are all fine to consume straight from the tap. As far as vacation admin goes, there’s minimal preparation required.

Australian residents don't need to organise UK visas before travel. If you visit Edinburgh for six months or less as a tourist (this includes visiting friends and family) then you simply show your valid Australian passport at the UK border control. Planning to work or study? Then you may need to apply for a different, non-tourist visa. Check the UK Government's website for current visa requirements before you depart.


There are lots of western dishes you'll be familiar with when exploring Edinburgh food. If you're keen to try regional specialties make sure you have tatty scones for breakfast (like potato pancakes) and black pudding (blood sausage). For an all-out Scottish experience, search for haggis with tatties and neeps (potato and swede) on the side.


While both Australia and the UK run on a 230V system, the catch is the shape of the plugs and sockets. You should be fine to use your electrical appliances without a converter, but you will need an Australian to UK adapter to plug them into the mains. Pick an adapter up at the airport or travel store before you head off. Failing that, you'll spot travel plugs in electrical, souvenir and even some pharmacy stores in Edinburgh.


Edinburgh International Airport is only 12km from the city centre. It services international and domestic flights. There's a regular bus and tram service to and from the airport, or it's easy to hail a taxi. When visiting, give yourself enough time to pose with the Edinburgh sign outside the arrival doors. This will make a great ‘in Edinburgh' photo to take home.


The UK currency is the British pound (GBP), which is generally stronger than the Australian dollar. Currency can be easily changed before you depart, or once you're in the UK. You'll find plenty of money exchange outlets, or head to banks and post offices with a bureau de change service. ATMs are commonplace and contactless credit and debit card payments are widely accepted.


There's a good minimum wage across the UK and Scotland, so if you decide to tip for exceptional service it will top up an already reasonable salary. Tipping is generally reserved for hospitality staff and taxis. You may also see plenty of buskers and street performers throughout the city, so having loose change on hand for an especially great bagpipe player won't go astray.


English is the primary language in Edinburgh, but the city attracts students and visitors from around the world. Don't be surprised if you hear myriad languages. What might trip you up is the Scottish accent and local dialect. Expressions like ‘wee' for small, ‘dram' for a measure of spirits, and ‘aye' for yes are commonly thrown into conversation. If you're not sure what someone said, simply ask them to repeat it.


Flights to Edinburgh

Edinburgh food and drink

The Edinburgh food and drink scene is a reflection of the city’s rich multiculturalism. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Indian or fresh seafood caught off the shores of Scotland, there are dining options to suit your palate. Experience cheap and cheery pub grub along Rose Street, or enjoy celebrity-approved dining at The Witchery by the Castle. You’ll also find plenty of familiar restaurant chains in the city centre.   Wash your meal down with a wee dram of Scotch. Why not sign up for a tasting session at one of the many whisky dens across the Old and New Town?

Rose Street offers a selection of dining options. Fresh local seafood restaurants sit comfortably next to pubs serving British favourites like fish and chips and hearty pies. For a wider selection, head to Lothian Road or The Royal Mile where you'll find British, Indian and Italian fare. Dining out for a special occasion? Look no further than The Witchery by the Castle – a true culinary and Edinburgh cultural experience.


Like many areas of the UK, the artisan Edinburgh coffee scene is on the up. Peel off the main streets and away from the coffee house chains to find pockets of quality roasters and baristas. Broughton Street and York Place are home to several notable cafes, but good coffee spots are fairly evenly distributed between Edinburgh's Old and New Town.


Real ales are big in the UK. Lothian Road is full of bars serving craft beers on tap, while the lively Grassmarket offers outdoor drinking and great views of the castle. For a quieter time, travel to The Causeway and enjoy a cosy pint in the 600-year-old Sheep Heid Inn. Add a shot of entertainment to your drinking session by visiting one of the city's many comedy bars.


Edinburgh does a good line in food markets, with the majority of them held on weekends. Freshly made food sits beside seasonal produce from local growers. Head to Stockbridge Market to pick up everything from cured meats to local crafts, or the larger Leith Market and Edinburgh Farmers' Market to satisfy your inner foodie. Around the Royal Mile? Then the Grassmarket offers locally sourced food, drink and regular street entertainment.


Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Edinburgh through your eyes

Where to shop in Edinburgh?

It’s wise to set some of your vacation budget aside for Edinburgh shopping trips. The lure of Edinburgh fashion stores on Princes Street and one-off souvenir opportunities around Stockbridge and West End are difficult to resist. That’s even before you’ve hit the mighty Jenners department store!If you feel like you can’t leave Scotland without some authentic tartan, make sure you head up to the Royal Mile or over to Rose Street. Here you’ll find retailers specialising in traditional Scottish fashions. Treat yourself to a tartan scarf or some wonderfully soft and warm Scottish wool clothing.

New Town is Edinburgh's main shopping destination. It starts at Princes Street, where you'll find many well-known high-street stores, and includes George Street and Rose Street. Here you'll find designer brands, antique jewellers, and boutiques selling traditional Scottish dress (like kilts). It's also where you'll find the Jenners department store – Edinburgh's high-end shopping destination since 1838. It's big. Luckily there are cafes in store for when you need a breather.


Cobbled streets and Georgian buildings add an air of elegance when shopping in Edinburgh's West End. The style of the area is reflected in the many contemporary designers and swish boutiques that are here. Need a shopping break? Head to one of West End's beauty salons or spas for some R and R, or simply grab a refreshing pint in one of the cosy pubs before getting back to it.


This affluent area offers high-end shopping in Edinburgh. Expect artisan food shops and designer stores selling Edinburgh fashions and homewares, as well as some top-draw op-shops (or charity shops as they're called in the UK). Stockbridge is also home to weekend food and local craft markets. Pick up pies, fresh bread, locally brewed alcohol, handmade jewellery, and more. Just remember to bring cash; not all stallholders accept card.


If you prefer your souvenirs to have a quirky edge or your fashions to be a little more original than straight off the rail, then splash some cash in Cockburn Street. Curving off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh's Old Town, Cockburn Street is home to independent stores and antiques shops. Browse rails of vintage clothing, or spruce up your wardrobe with modern additions from one of the indie clothing stores.


Edinburgh's Royal Mile is a treasure trove of stores and restaurants. Along this (mostly) pedestrianised area you'll find authentic Scottish wool goods – for keeping out the winter cold – and fine cashmere. When not shopping for clothes, pop into one of the Scotch whisky stores or antique jewellers. The Royal Mile is often busy, so you may come across pop-up stalls and street entertainers making the most of the crowds.


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When is the best time to travel to Edinburgh?

The weather in Edinburgh often gets a bad rap. It’s stereotyped as always being cold. The northern location and winds blowing off the North Sea mean this is (to some extent) unavoidably true. Use this to your advantage though – cold weather simply offers an excuse to have a wee dram of authentic Scotch whisky or cosy up in a cafe! To compensate for the cold winters, Edinburgh’s summer days are some of the longest in the country. During July, it will stay light until 10pm. There’s something to love about all of the Edinburgh seasons, so picking the best time to travel to Edinburgh really does come down to personal preference.

This is the best time to travel if you can't deal with cold-weather vacations. Summer in Edinburgh is from late May to the end of August. Temperatures reach average highs of 20°C during the day. Heatwaves – anything 30°C and above – do happen in July and August. If this occurs, expect the parks and green spaces to be full of locals making the most of the sun and good weather. Appropriate clothing: Shorts, t-shirts, skirts and dresses, but a long-sleeved top for the evenings Don't forget: Sunscreen, and an umbrella for any summer showers


From the end of November through to March, it gets cold in Edinburgh. The winter months bring plenty of rain and grey-sky days. The average temperate is around 1.5°C, but may feel colder with wind chill. Sunset can be as early as 4pm, but this is when the cosy pubs and clustered restaurants offering warm food really come into their own. Appropriate clothing: Jumpers, trousers, and thick coats Don't forget: Gloves, hats, scarves, and an umbrella for winter downpours


Autumn in Edinburgh is beautiful as the city's deciduous trees turn rich red, burnt orange and gold. This is a great time to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. Make sure you take a coat as autumn temperatures from September through to mid-November start to drop, getting as low as 9°C during the evenings. Appropriate clothing: Trousers or jeans, t-shirt or jumper for the day, and a coat for the evening Don't forget: Gloves or a scarf – if the wind picks up you'll definitely feel it


Spring's in full swing in the months of April and May. The days will start to get longer and temperatures begin to heat up, reaching anywhere between 10°C and 17°C. Although considered one of Edinburgh's drier seasons, you can still expect rain. April showers do exist, but when it's dry, the fresh, clear weather will add a brightness to the city. Appropriate clothing: Trousers and jumpers mostly, although on warmer days a t-shirt could be enough Don't forget: A waterproof jacket or umbrella, just in case


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How to get around Edinburgh

From taxis to buses and trams, the Edinburgh transport system is modern and efficient. If you’re looking to get around the main city sites, walking Edinburgh could be your best option. Attractions like Princes Street Gardens, the Scottish National Gallery and The Edinburgh Dungeon are close together. For further afield hot spots, like the Royal Yacht Britannia or Holyrood Park, you may prefer to catch a bus. Fancy a day out of Edinburgh to explore nearby Glasgow or the many Scottish lochs? Not a problem. Edinburgh Waverly Train Station offers lots of options for easy trips out of the city.

Flagging Edinburgh taxis is simple. Similar to Australia, if the light is on, it's available. If you're out in the city, then you might be best to queue at one of the licensed taxi ranks. They're dotted all over the city, but you'll always find taxis close to Waverly Station. All cabs are metered, charging a standard, city-wide rate. Ride-sharing apps are also popular and commonly used.


Bike hire in Edinburgh is plentiful and pedalling your way around the city is a great option to get from A to B. A lot of Edinburgh residents choose to do just this, making the most of the cycle paths. However, it's worth remembering that Edinburgh is pretty hilly in places and the charming cobbled streets are a lot less attractive when sitting on the seat of a bike.


An excellent network of buses serve Edinburgh city and the surrounding areas. Ask the driver for a ticket and make sure you have the correct change. In Edinburgh for a while? It might be more economical to get a citysmart card instead. There's also a modern tram system running across the city and out to Edinburgh Airport. This is a great way to get around the sites.


Edinburgh isn't a small city – getting from central areas like Princes Street out to Holyrood is a good 45-minute stroll – but it's certainly walkable. Walking Edinburgh is also the only way you'll get to explore some of the intriguing narrow alleyways. Comfy footwear is a must if you decide to sightsee Edinburgh on your own steam as there are plenty of steep walkways and cobbled pavements to navigate.


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What are the best parks in Edinburgh?

From the wilds of Holyrood Park to the carefully curated plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens, whiling away hours of your vacation in one of the Edinburgh parks is easy. Each green space has its own story to tell, so you’ll be uncovering another bit of Edinburgh’s past as well as spending time among nature. Some Edinburgh parks are easier to get to than others. Princes Street Gardens, for example, are right in the city centre. Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park require a little more energy if you wish to take full advantage of everything these parks have to offer. The views are certainly worth it.

Sitting under the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, the public Princes Street Gardens stretch through the heart of the city. Among the rose gardens and grassy areas, you'll find the Scott Monument – a gothic structure dedicated to writer Sir Walter Scott – and the Floral Clock. The central location attracts small markets or local social groups hosting events. During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Ross Bandstand hosts open-air theatre.


Trek up Calton Hill and when you reach the top you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and the wild Salisbury Crags. Popular with locals, soak up the peacefulness of the park. Here you'll also find the Old Observatory House and an unfinished replica of the Parthenon in Athens, which was started in 1816 and intended as a memorial to those who died in the Napoleonic Wars.


The green, open space of Leith Links is a typical UK recreation area. Take a stroll and expect to see people enjoying an outdoor workout, walking dogs, or enjoying a picnic when the weather is fine. Historically, Leith Links was used for golf and it's here where the official rules of the game were outlined. A stone commemorating this sporting feat sits on the western side of the park.


Explore a collection of British native and international plants at the expansive Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. Located 1.6km from the city centre, the beautiful grounds are home to tropical houses and the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden. The design includes the Queen Mother's favourite flora from around the world, but it's the interior of the stone pavilion that will really impress.


The wildness of Holyrood Park is in stark contrast to the neat lawns around the nearby Scottish Parliament House and Holyrood Palace. Get a hint of the Scottish Highlands as you explore the ruins and diverse native flora and wildlife. Feeling energetic? Climb to the park's highest point, Arthur's Seat, and once your legs have recovered you'll be rewarded with a 360° view of Edinburgh and the Lothians.


Getting from park to park is so much better with your own wheels. Hitch your ride now!

Edinburgh Frequently asked questions

When packing for a trip to Edinburgh, don't forget the essentials like your visa, passport, chargers, camera, some GBP and the correct power adaptor. Clothing wise, check out the seasonality guides and pack to suit the conditions - aka plenty of  layers for winter and lighter options for summer. Other necessities include a raincoat, walking shoes, hat, and sunglasses. We also recommend doing some bicep curls in preparation for all the beer, whisky and gin samples you’ll no doubt be lifting throughout your stay.


Edinburgh is an incredibly walkable city, so you shouldn’t have any issues navigating all the sites. With this in mind, travellers generally opt to stay in Old Town, New Town, Stockbridge, Leith and Dean Village.


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While Edinburgh isn’t winning any prizes for year-round sunshine, it does give travellers the chance to experience all four seasons. Summer offers the hottest temps and long, sunny days between June and August, while winter will bring the cold, fog and snow between December and February. If you’re not a fan of the cold and are keen to make the most of your days in Scotland, we recommend visiting between March and August.


Beyond sampling haggis and shopping for your next kilt, Edinburgh packs a mighty punch when it comes to vacation activities. Take your pick from days spent wising up at history at the National Museum of Scotland, exploring the fortress on Castle Rock, enjoying a spot of shopping on Prince Street and sampling any of the city’s specialty beers, whisky and gin.


Flight Centre's travel experts are well versed in the art of decoding thick Scottish accents, and have worked hard to curate the best Edinburgh vacation packages on the market. Sign up to get the hottest deals sent straight to your phone & emails here. You can also check out our deals online, or speak to one of our Travel Experts.


The current requirements for travelling to Edinburgh

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