I love Edinburgh, yes I do, I love Edinburgh, how about you? Okay, in fairness to you, you might not actually love Edinburgh just yet. I mean, you’re probably planning your very own Edinburgh itinerary as we speak and reading this article to help familiarize yourself with some of the most famous Edinburgh landmarks out there.
And that makes total sense, even to a planning averse traveler like me. Because real talk? Yeah, I really only “plan out” my travels when a wicked awful case of FOMO kicks in and I feel like I’m gonna miss out on things like, oh, I don’t know, the coolest Edinburgh landmarks ever.
Yes my friends, the FOMO is very real indeed.
Luckily for you though, I am hardcore obsessed with Edinburgh and have visited more times than I can count. No seriously. Between the history, food, culture, and aesthetic beauty of this beyond GORG city, I’ve definitely visited at least five times and cannot wait to go back for more Edinburgh goodness.
That’s why I also have a TON of expert tips and secret tricks that I want to share with you RIGHT NOW! This way, you can quickly and easily plan a beyond perfect trip to Edinburgh.
You can also use my super snazzy travel advice to help you avoid any wicked awful Edinburgh travel mistakes that you might possibly make. Because before you even ask, yes, I really did make all of those egregious mistakes outlined in that hyperlink above.
Yup. Hi! My name is Girl with the Passport (it’s actually Kelly but whatevs) and I’m a total walking travel disaster of the most epic proportion.
But thankfully, you don’t have to be anything like me – as long as you read this uber-handy post on all of the most famous Edinburgh landmarks out there.
So, have your 90’s era, Lisa Frank trapper keeper binder (or a notebook if you’re a slightly more normal human) and uber-fancy ballpoint pen at the ready since we’re about to swan dive into this post about 20 of the most famous Edinburgh landmarks out there!
You also may want to rock a rogue tartan kilt or two since, well, that’s what all the beyond cool Scottish kids do and it may just help set a mood of total awesomeness that embodies the gloriousness of Edinburgh. #justsayin’
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
***Looking for a place to stay in Edinburgh? Then definitely check out Old Town Chambers, Castle View Guest House, St. Valery Guest House, and Fraser Suites Edinburgh. And if you need a bit more information on where to stay in Edinburgh, then check out my super-detailed, Edinburgh accommodation guide right now. ***
1. Edinburgh Castle
Of all the super famous Edinburgh landmarks listed here. Edinburgh Castle is easily the most iconic of them all and one of the most famous landmarks in Britain. I mean, hello, Mary Queen of Scots actually gave birth to her son James VI in a bad chamber here.
So yeah, need I say more? And yes, I may or may not have needed to look that fun little factoid up on Google.
Anyway, history buffs of every variety will absolutely love this Edinburgh landmark since it has played an important role in Scottish history as both a royal residence and military fortification.
That’s also why it really isn’t the uber-cushy, opulent AF castle that you’re probably used to. Yeah, sorry to disappoint any Instagram mavens out there but this place is more of a fort that anything else.
Additionally, it sits atop the Royal Mile and offers visitors wicked awesome panoramic views of the surrounding city – panoramas that I’m sure King Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret both heartily enjoyed when the castle was first made into a royal residence in the 11th century.
However, this castle has a lot more to offer visitors than killer views. It’s also home to the Honours of Scotland (aka Scottish Royal Jewels), the Royal Apartments (so you can see how the other half lived for centuries), the National War Museum, St, Margaret’s Chapel, the Scottish National War Memorial, the Regimental Museums, Half Moon Battery, the Stone of Destiny (an ancient symbol of the Scottish monarchy), the One O’Clock Gun firing (held every day of the week at 1:00 pm), and more.
So, if you’re a total history nerd like me, then definitely plan to spend at least a half a day here (read, four hours). And while you can always buy a regular entry ticket, I’d opt for the skip the line ticket with a guided tour since it will save you precious time and help you better appreciate what you’re looking at.
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom
Hours: Open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Adult tickets are £15.50, concession tickets are £12.40, children’s tickets are £9.30 (aged 5 to 15), and children under five are free.
2. Royal Yacht Brittania
Well, shiver me timbers and batten down the hatches, or whatever other nautical nonsense people mutter. Because even if you’re prone to seasickness like me, you’ll still love one of the best and most famous Edinburgh landmarks around.
Yes my fellow non-seafaring mateys, the Royal Yacht Brittania is now very stationary and currently moored at the Ocean Terminal in Leith. So, to actually get here, you will have to take a bus from Old Town to the Ocean Terminal.
However, once you finally arrive (it’s really only maybe a twenty-minute bus ride), you’ll be delighted by a sailing vessel that was originally built in Cydesire and that was once an integral part of the British Royal Family’s floating holiday home between 1953 and 1997.
So, snag an audio guide (included with the price of admission) and take a self-guided tour through this monument to 1950s decor – a floating mansion that showcases a wealth of elegant, simple, refined rooms that once housed up to 45 members of the royal household. This floating mega-residence also may or may not have held up to five tonnes of luggage and a super nifty Rolls-Royce.
Yup, this super snazzy vessel will give you special insight into the private lives of the royals as you explore the Admiral’s Quarters, the Crew’s Quarters, the State Apartments, the Bridge, and the Royal Tea Room (if you’re feeling extra fancy, you can even have tea here).
Seriously, it really is an awesome place to visit and one of my all-time fave Edinburgh attractions. Which is why you should 100% get your ticket right now!
Address: Ocean Dr, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ, United Kingdom
Hours: Open daily November through March from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm and April through October from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. And both closing times are the last admission.
Price: Adult tickets are £17.00, concession tickets are £15.00, children’s tickets are £8.75 (aged 5 to 17), and children under five are free.
3. Scottish Parliament Building
Located at the very bottom of the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament Building was first opened by the Queen in 2004 and currently sits atop the site of an old brewery.
It also features the uber-modern designs of Catalan architect, Enric Miralles and is one of those buildings that you’ll either love or hate the deisgn of since there really is no in-between (I think it’s pretty dang ugly but that’s just me).
Yeah, apparently the overall look of the structure is supposed to represent the ‘flower of democracy rooted in Scottish soil’ – a concept that you can better appreciate from atop the nearby Salisbury Crags and that is definitely lost on me.
However, to really get the most out of your visit, definitely join a free, one-hour tour (book in advance on their website) that will introduce you to the Debating Chamber, a committee room, the Garden Lobby, and the office of a member of parliament (MSP).
And if you can’t make it on a tour? Well, then you can always check out the Main Hall, which is home to a fascinating exhibition on Scottish history as well as a little cafe and gift shop. You can also stop by the public gallery – a space that gives you a literal, inside look into the Debating Chamber.
***If you’re really into politics and want to see the Scottish Parliament in action, then visit their website for more info. But generally speaking. they are n session during normal business hours on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. ***
Address: Edinburgh EH99 1SP, United Kingdom
Hours: Open Monday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and open Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm (closed Sundays).
Price: Free and the perfect part of any backpacker’s guide to Edinburgh.
4. Palace of Hollyrood House
Known presently as the home of the royal family whenever they are in Scotland, the Palace of Holyrood House is a true Edinburgh landmark that is dripping with opulence, grandeur, and all that jazz (fellow lovers of musicals will enjoy that Chicago reference right there).
My fellow history nerds out there will also love that it served as the temporary home of none other than Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th-century. Yup, uber-cool indeed.
So, snag a super sweet entry ticket right now and use the accompanying self-guided audio tour to visit jazz hands level awesome highlights like the royal apartments, the Throne Room, Holyrood Abbey (it’s basically some super cool ruins), and the Palace gardens.
Finally, conclude your visit to the palace with a stop at the awe-inspiring and aptly named, Great Gallery. Yeah, not gonna lie, it’s pretty damn impressive since it’s home to 89 different portraits of Scottish kings – many of which were commissioned by Charles II since this is apparently a visual representation of his “unbroken” lineage to Scotia, the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter who discovered the infant Moses in a reed basket along the Nile.
However, no visit here could ever be complete without a stop at the aforementioned Mary’s bed-chamber, which also just happens to be connected by a secret stairway to her husband’s bedroom. Yup, feel free to be duly be impressed by my slightly useless wealth of knowledge about Mary Queen of Scot’s.
Anyway, this bed-chamber was Mary’s home between1561 and 1567. It was also where her beyond jelly second husband, Lord Darnley, restrained the then-pregnant queen while his loyal entourage murdered her secretary and favie fave, David Rizzio.
So yeah, stop by this Edinburgh landmark, get your history-loving swerve on, and be the beyond happy human that I know you are.
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, United Kingdom
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and closed sometime in July when the royal family visits and is in residence.
Price: Adult tickets are £16.50, tickets for disabled patrons are £9.50, tickets for students and anyone over 60 are £14.90, children’s tickets are £9.50 (aged 5 to 17), and children under five are free. Remember, get your tickets now to avoid long lines!
5. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
This is another one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that I legit love with my whole heart. And trust me, that is a real miracle since I don’t even like modern art al THAT much. Yeah, I know. Kind of shocking but 100% true since a lot of times I just don’t “get it”.
But, this place is different since around almost every turn you’ll discover new and exciting artistic treasures – truly unique pieces that you never even thought were possible.
And, added bonus? This place is totally free to visit and consists of two separate buildings (not so uniquely named buildings one and two), that contain a series of wonderfully unique exhibits that give you real insight into the development of the modern art movement in Scotland.
So, feel free to explore the wonderfully whimsical series of artistic treasures that are housed here and see distinctly Scottish interpretations of Cubist, Expressionist, post-war, and contemporary art movements.
Also, be sure to leave plenty of time to take a leisurely stroll through the complex’s expansive grounds. This way, you can savor the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape and enjoy some of the area’s mesmerizing, outdoor architecture, including a fantastic sculpture park with works from Henry Moore.
But wait! Has visiting all that beyond epic art left you feeling a tidbit hungry? If so then haul your cutie booty on over to the cafe and garden terrace at Modern One or the more formal Café at Modern Two (Spoiler Alert! They serve a decadently delightful afternoon tea).
And just as an FYI, this is one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that is just a hop, skip, and jump away from other iconic Edinburgh tourist attractions like the Water of Leith walkway, Dean Village, and Stockbridge. Therefore, you could totally see all of these beyond magical places in a single day.
Address: 75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
6.National Museum of Scotland
Not gonna lie, the National Museum of Scotland is easily one of my most favorite famous Edinburgh landmarks on this list.
Why you may rightly wonder? Welp, not only is it free (my favorite price ever), but this museum is jam-packed with a wealth of wicked awesome artifacts that are sure to intrigue even the most fervent haters of history.
Add in exquisite modern designs (think enchanting glass roof ceilings) that are perfectly complemented by original Victorian-era motifs and you have the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon in Edinburgh.
However, to really get the most out of your visit, snag a nifty little audio guide and use it to explore the wealth of interactive exhibits and historic artifacts that you’ll find meticulously placed along the five floors and two distinct buildings that encompass this museum.
Because yeah, this place really does have it all, including fascinating exhibits on natural history, archeology, design, decorative arts, fashion, and more. Also of note are fabulous specimens like the Lewis Chessmen, the Arthur’s Seat Coffins, Dolly the Sheep (Yup, the first living thing to ever be cloned), the Cramond Lioness, and the Schmidt Telescope, among others
Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom
Hours: Open daily from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm.
Price: Free but you may have to pay for special exhibits.
7. Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Oh how I love the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, let me count the ways.
Okay, yeah. Sure, I could definitely write an elaborate sonnet that professes my undying love for this next level GORG, famous Edinburgh landmark.
But, I’m 100% not going to do that since you’re a busy human who really doesn’t have time for me to get all lyrical up in here, ya dig?
Of course, you do.
So, let’s cut to the chase. Because not only is the Scottish National Portrait Gallery every Instagrammer’s idea of a photographic wonderland (Yeah, this meticulously curated art collection actually sits inside a former Venetian Gothic style palace), but it is home to several alluring galleries that tell the fascinating history of Scotland through various paintings, sculptures, and photographs that are displayed here.
Exquisite pieces of art that depict some of Scotland’s most notable citizens, including Mary Queen of Scots, Sean Connery, Jackie Kay, and more.
So, step inside the stunning Grand Hall and marvel at a fantastic frieze, painted by William Hole, that depicts a series of historic Scottish citizens.
Next, grab one of several themed leaflets from the central information desk (like the Hidden Histories Trail) and use it to explore all of the portraits that seem the most interesting to you.
Or, you could always be a total art monger like me and just slowly make your way through every nook and cranny of the museum.
Either way, plan to spend at least two or three hours inside this famous Edinburgh landmark since it really is THAT awesome.
Address: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD, United Kingdom
Hours: Open Sunday through Tuesday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Free but you may have to pay for access to some special exhibits.
8. Princes Street Gardens
Tucked away inside a crevice that was once filled with water from the Nor Loch (AKA North Loch), this is one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that is hard to miss!
It sits along Princes Street (AKA the main thoroughfare in Edinburgh that separates the Old Town from the New Town) and is a favorite picnic spot among locals in the summer.
And that makes sense since this stunning city garden is home to a wealth of famous Edinburgh landmarks like the Scot Monument – a massive Gothic Spire that sits along the eastern side of the park, was built in honor of beloved novelist Sir Walter Scot, and that offers visitors stunning panoramic views from the top.
Other must-see Prince Street Gardens attractions include the Floral Clock (a working clock dating back to 1903 that is surrounded by a unique design of flowers), the Ross Bandstand (a popular concert venue), and the aptly named Mound, a giant pile of dirt in the middle of the park that was first created when local workers constructed a street between the Old and New Town in the 1800s.
Address: Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2HG, United Kingdom
Hours: Open daily from dawn until dusk.
9. The Real Mary King’s Close
Located right on the Royal Mile, just a hop skip and jump away from Edinburgh Castle, is Real Mary King’s Close – a slightly ominous feeling, underground museum that gives you an in-depth look at what life was really like for 17th-century residents of Edinburgh.
Now, as you probably already guessed, I am a huge fan of this amazing Edinburgh landmark since it has anything and everything to do with one of my favorite things in the whole, wide world…history. It’s also open pretty late (at least at the time of my visit) and is an ideal place to hang out if you have no idea how to while away your evenings in Edinburgh.
I mean, seriously, who doesn’t want to check out a slightly macabre, uber-awesome, underground city that is a veritable labyrinth of interactive exhibits. A buffet of historic displays and knowledgeable guides that enthusiastically explain the slightly darker side of Edinburgh’s fascinating history.
Also, just another little fun nugget of knowledge for you, this museum is actually named for Mary King, a high-class female merchant who lived in this close (AKA alley) way back when,
And because much of modern-day Edinburgh was actually built upwards, the museum actually now sits just beneath the Royal Mile and transports you back in time, when this winding assortment of narrow corridors was a vibrant center of trade and commerce.
So, stand back in awe as your tour guide magically transforms into an Edinburgh resident from the 1600s (and no, you cannot explore the close on your own and must go as part of an organized tour) and prepare to be amazed, astounded, and mystified by the close’s murky past and what you see before you.
No really. Some of the stuff on display here is next level bizarre, like this insane birdman outfit on display that was actually used to help ward off the plague. Yeah, the verdict’s still out on whether or not this outfit was actually useful.
Also, as you might have guessed from my distinct lack of photo-age, you are very much not allowed to get all snap happy up in here. And that’s totally fine since the tour guides here are so great that you’ll likely forget all about becoming an Instagram maven of wonder.
Oh, and since I’m not the only homo sapien out there who adores this place like whoa (very technical term), be sure to reserve your tickets in advance, especially during the summer when they can sell out wicked fast.
Address: Warriston’s Close, 2, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PG
Price: £17.95 (PLEASE book your tickets in advance so that you don’t miss out on one of the most famous Edinburgh landmarks. I visited in July and tickets were sold out for three straight days)
Hours: Open Monday to Thursday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm; Friday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. They vary by season though so do check their website for more info.
10. The Royal Botanic Garden
I’ll be the first one to heartily admit that I am absolutely not a plant person. Sure, they’re nice to look at and smell oh so delightful, but that’s where my fondness for most forms of botanical bliss ends.
However, I felt quite differently about my visit to The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, since, well, I enthusiastically enjoyed my time here and give this Edinburgh landmark a rousing huzzah of support.
I mean, not only is this oasis of greenery gigantic, and mostly free (although will have to pay a nominal fee to go inside the glasshouses), but it’s a great place to go and escape the sometimes overwhelming urban chaos that is Edinburgh.
So, on the first sunny day you encounter (and they can be hard to come by in rainy Scotland) meander on over to this 70-acre park – a tranquil, thin slice of heaven that is a short 15-minute walk from the city center.
While you’re here, channel your inner peace monger and enjoy a bit of solitude as you get lost among the trees, shrubs, and rare plants that make this place more than a little delightful.
And if you do get caught up in a rogue rainstorm or two, you can always seek shelter in the Victorian Palm House or in the pinecone and seashell ensconced, stone pavilion in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden.
What? You don’t just want to around and watch the grass grow? If so then you can always mosey on over to the John Hope Gateway, in 1the 8th-century Inverleith House, for a super snazzy guided tour of the gardens.
Also, don’t forget to take copious amounts of photos since this garden is infinitely more beautiful than I’ll ever be.
Address: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
11. Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat…the man, the myth, the legand. It’s also easily one of the most famous landmarks in Edinburgh. So yeah, clearly this place is pretty rad indeed. Especially if you like hiking.
But in my personal experience, a lot of people really don’t actually hike up to the tippy top. Which is a real shame since the views from the summit are next level exquisite – even if it’s windy AF and you feel like you’re about to see a small child fly by at any given moment.
Plus, I mean, hello? How many world metropolises actually have an extinct volcano lying around in the center of town? Yeah, not a whole heck of a lot. And that makes Arthur’s Seat EXTRA special.
It’s also cool to note that this volcano last erupted about 340 million years ago. So yeah, no need to worry about running into any liquid hot magma when planning your very own 4 day Edinburgh itinerary.
So yeah, a brisk hike up Arthur’s Seat is clearly worth a solid three hours of your time. And that’s round trip. Not one way, thank God.
Also, do yourself a favor and prepare for a walk that can definitely get intense at times. I mean, I saw people scamper up like freakin’ billy goats, but not this chick right here.
However, can you blame me? I mean, this hike is more or less a three-mile-long, constant incline that will take you between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete, depending on how fit you are and how much you stop along the way.
Therefore, let’s just say that when I finally arrived at the summit, I was sweaty AF, out of breath, and a very un-hot mess. Also, decent hiking shoes and a backpack are a total must since the trail can get tricky and there’s no place to stop for refreshments along the way.
Yes, you have been adequately warned, you intrepid traveler you.
Address: Edinburgh EH8 8AZ
Hours: Open 24 hours
12. St. Giles Cathedral
Located along Edinburgh’s famed Royal Mile is St. Giles Cathedral, just one of the many famous Edinburgh landmarks out there.
It’s basically this insanely large, giant mass of a church (pun intended) that dates all the way back to the 15th century. Although truth be told, much of the building was most recently restored in the 19th century.
And what this grand building lacks in opulence, it more than makes up for in historical awesomeness since a super snazzy Norman-style church was actually first buitl here in 1126..and then unceremoniously destroyed by English invaders in 1385. Womp, womp, womp.
Additionally, this edifice also sat at the heart of the Scottish Reformation since none other than John Knox himself served as minister here between 1559 and 1572, So yeah, it’s got that super cool fact going for it too!
Anyway, St. Giles still has a ton of super cool things for visitors to see, like the Thistle Chapel with its ornate, Gothic-style stalls that are topped with the helms and arms of no less than 16 different knights! It was also first constructed in ye olde 1911 and dedicated to the, you guessed it, Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.
Other uber-fab church-related highlights include the tombs of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, Archibald Campbell, and Marquis of Argyll, as well as a bronze memorial to author Robert Louis Stevenson, and a copy of the National Covenant from 1638
So, go forth, visit freely, and be the overly enthusiastic history lover that I know you are…deep, deep down inside.
Address: High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE, United Kingdom
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm but do check their website for exact opening and closing times.
13. The Scot Monument
Locally known as the “Gothic Rocket” (their nickname, not mine), this is one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that was erected in honor of one of Scotland’s many famous citizens.
See, following the death of iconic Scottish author Sir Walter Scot in 1832, this enormous monolith was erected along Princes Street, where it stands today, just a hoot and holler away from Waverly train station (Translation? It’s really close to Edinburgh’s main train stations).
So, if you dare, and have an extra lung or two handy, embark on an arduous climb up the structure’s narrow, 287 step, spiral staircase for impressive views of downtown Edinburgh.
Another fun little Who Wants to be a Millionaire level cool fact for you? This is also the second-largest monument in the world that is dedicated to a writer – a structure that also features 68 different statues, 16 of whom represent other famous Scottish poets and writers.
Yup, uber-cool indeed. Just like me! Kidding, I saw that eye roll you precocious reader you.
Address: E. Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ, United Kingdom
Price: General tickets are £8 while concession and children’s tickets are £6.
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 9:00 in the summer, with the last admission at 8:30 pm, and from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily in the winter. PSST…you’ll also want to arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds.
14. The Balmoral Hotel
Look at any photo of the Edinburgh skyline and you’ll immediately see the iconic clocktower that sits atop the plush AF, Balmoral Hotel.
Just one of the many iconic Edinburgh landmarks that is a gorgeous relic from the Golden Age of architecture – a beautiful specimen of construction that was first built in 1902 to accommodate railway passengers from Waverly Station.
Apparently, the hotel’s clock is still three minutes fast so that no one ever has to worry about missing their train! Now that’s what I call smart thinking!
As of today though, this next-level beautiful building still prominently sits at the intersection of Princes Street and North Bridge. It’s also apprently so luxe, that no less than JK Rowling herself booked a room here. You know, just so that she could finish writing the Harry Potter series in relative comfort. LOL.
And if you wanna channel your inner Rowling and make this Edinburgh landmark your temporary home while in the city, you’ll need to be prepared to shell out around $500 per night to book a room here.
Yeah, sadly, I am not that much of a baller and took a hard pass on spending the night here. But, I did manage to enjoy a decadently delightful afternoon tea here, so that’s gotta count for something!
Address; 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ, United Kingdom
Hours: Twenty-four-hour front desk service.
Price: Rooms here at $250 per night,
15. National Monument of Scotland
Nestled atop Edinburgh’s immortal Calton Hill (more on that later) is the now infamous, National Monument of Scotland.
Yeah, this is one of those wonderfully weird Edinburgh landmarks that comes with a fascinating back story. I mean, just from looking at the above photo, you’re probably wondering why the aforementioned monument looks so similar to the Parthenon and why it appears to be only half finished.
Welp, that’s because when this edifice was first constructed, it was paid for by public subscription and designed as a moving tribute to all of the Scottish soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars.
Now, this would have been all fine and dandy, except for the fact that financing for the project, which was designed by William Playfair in 1826, basically shriveled up and died after only three years.
The result? An enormous, un-finished monument modeled after the Parthenon that now sits unfinished atop Calton Hill. And that you can easily visit while you’re in downtown Edinburgh.
Address: Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA, United Kingdom
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day.
16. Calton Hill
Not surprisingly, there is way more to Claton Hill than just the National Monument of Scotland.
Therefore, I highly recommend that you haul ass out of bed early (I know it’s hard but you can do this. And by early I mean before the sun rises) so that you can watch the sunrise from one of the most epic Edinburgh landmarks ever.
The climb also isn’t all that bad and is pretty easy, at least when compared with the trek up nearby Arthur’s Seat.
And after the sun has officially risen? Well, feel free to check out the Nelson Monument (It sits at the very highest point on the hill and stands in honor of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson), the Dugald Stewart Monument (super photogenic and designed to commemorate the philosopher and professor of the same name at Edinburgh University), the Old Royal High School (an abandoned neoclassical style building), the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument, and the City Observatory.
So yeah, clearly there is a whole hell of a lot of Edinburgh awesomeness (as well as stunning panoramic views of Arthur’s Seat) awaiting you at the top of Calton Hill.
Address: Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA, United Kingdom
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day.
17. Bute House
Located in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, this lovely, five-stroy, neo-classical/Georgian style stone building was first erected in 1793.
But apart from its exquisite architecture, this house is known for being the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland. At least since 1999 when the first minister moved in and officially called this place home.
Since then though, political officials have used the drawing-room to welcome various dignitaries to Scotland and for a multitude of politically related receptions. Similarly, the dining room is also used as the backdrop for more formal occasions like state dinners.
Either way, just think of this as like the 10 Downing Street of Edinburgh. And while you can’t actually go inside, you can visit the Georgian House next door (at number 7). It’s a fantastic public museum that is made up of a fully restored, 18th-century townhouse in New Town that showcases a wonderful collection of paintings, artifacts, vintage attire, and period piece furnishings
So, grab your ticket (for a mere £8 each) and marvel at this residence’s marvelous drawing room and dining room, as well as an assortment of famous paintings that include works done by Scottish artists Sir Henry Raeburn, Allan Ramsay, and Alexander Nasmyth.
Address: 6 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day since you’ll just be standing outside.
18. Usher Hall
While Edinburgh is home to a number of different music venues, this Edinburgh landmark is probably one of the most famous. And rightfully so since the breathtaking Usher Hall was first built in 1910 and features a wealth of stunning, Beaux-Arts style decor that is marvelous to behold.
But, it gets even better guys. Because guess what? This 2,200 person facility was first built in 1914 and was actually designed after a contest was held in honor of famed whisky distiller, Andrew Usher, Yup! He apparently gave the city £100,000 to find a fantastic design for a building with next-level awesome acoustics that could be used to hold various concerts and recitals.
That’s why, even if you can’t actually see a show here, you can always stop by and admire its unique circular walls, classic architecture, and domed roof,
Plus, I’m gonna throw a little bit of extra awesome at you. Because this place actually hosted the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest (did anyone else just think of the movie Eurovision with Will Ferrel?). Yup, learning that definitely made my heart happy.
Address: Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2EA, United Kingdom
Hours: Open 10:00 am to 5:30 pm every day except for Sundays.
Price: Depends on the tickets you buy.
19. Greyfriar’s Bobby Statue
No list of famous Edinburgh landmarks could possibly be complete without mentioning this famous statue. I mean, without a doubt, this the spot where all the hordes of slightly uninspired, selfie-stick-wielding tourists go to nab that uber-Instagrammable selfie of their dreams.
However, if you’re not yet in the know and have exactly no idea what the pandemonium surrounding this life-size statue of a Skye Terrier is all about, let me give you the skinny or the inside 411 if you will.
So, as legend has it. Greyfriar’s Bobby was a Skye Terrier who rose to fame in the late 19th century when the dog would routinely go to Greyfriar’s Kirk (graveyard) and stand watch over the grave of his former master, an Edinburgh police officer by the name of John Gray, between 1858 and 1872 – until the dog himself eventually passed away.
And while the truth behind this tall tale is somewhat questionable, the fame surrounding the Greyfriar’s Bobby Statue is not. I mean, hello. A Walt Disney movie was made about this famous pup, need I say more?
That’s why, as you probably already surmised, this uber-famous doggie is routinely engulfed by throngs of overly eager tourists. So, if you want to snag a primo picture without tons of people in it, be sure to stop by early in the morning when everyone else is asleep.
You can also visit Bobby’s very own pink-granite gravestone, just near the entrance of Greyfriars Kirkyard, and see his original collar and dog bowl hidden away in the Museum of Edinburgh.
Address: Edinburgh EH1 2QQ, United Kingdom
Hours: Open all day, every day.
20. Dean Village
Frantically frolicking through streets while searching for some of the best Instagram spots in Edinburgh? If so that say hello to the Edinburgh landmark of your dreams…Dean’s Village!
Because this place? Well, it looks like something straight out of a fairytale. It’s also conveniently located just outside the city center and is tucked away along the picturesque Water of Leith walkway.
However, back in the day, this place was at the heart of Edinburgh’s growing milling industry, A past life that is now long gone because this industry has since shriveled up and died like a nasty, three-month-old prune.
And in its place? Well, you’ll find a wealth of snap-happy Instagrammer who routinely troll through Dean’s Village and wield their monumental tripods of might in an effort to procure that perfect shot of Dean Village.
Before you leave though, don’t forget to stop and experience some of the area’s rich history at Well Court (a 19th-century house that has been fully restored to its original grandeur), Dean’s Cemetery, and St Bernards Well.
Address: Dean Path, Edinburgh EH4 3AY
Hours: Open 24 hours
21. Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
Walk around Edinburgh for a solid five minutes and you’ll quickly discover historic cemeteries, cemeteries, and, oh yeah, more cemeteries!
Yes, there’s clearly a reason why ghost tours are so damn popular here. There’s also a super good, totally free one that meets at and departs from a spot near St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.
But, I digress…per usual.
So, let me reel it back in and discuss Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, one of the most famous Edinburgh landmarks of them all. Not only is it an oasis or pure botanical bliss, but it’s home to a whole host of exquisite tombstones that belong to some seriously famous Scottish men and women.
You know, uber-fab individuals like poet Allan Ramsay, architect William Adam, and the aforementioned John Gray, as well as his insanely devoted canine companion.
It’s also worth noting, for all of my fellow Potterheads out there, that you can actually find the grave of a one, Thomas Riddell here. And anyone who loves Harry Potter almost as much as I do knows that Thomas Riddel was actually the name of Voldemort before he lost his shiz and became the dark lord.
That’s why, many people speculate that J.K. Rowling actually got the name of the character from this very place spot – a grave that was actually created in honor of a 19th-century gentleman who died in 1806 at the age of 72.
Intriguing? Well, this Harry Potter-obsessed individual sure thinks so!
Address: 26A Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QE, United Kingdom
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day.
***Feel like really scaring the crap out of yourself? Then book this 1.5-hour tour of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard now! Not only will you be able to visit this eerie cemetery at night, but you’ll also step inside an actual burial vault and learn about the infamous murderers Burke and Hare. Sinister? You bet your ass it is. And i mean that in the best possible way!***
22. Museum of Edinburgh
So, truth be told, when I first mosied on up to (yes, I am indeed a cowboy) this free museum on the Royal Mile, I didn’t really expect to like it all that much.
I mean, I had literally JUST visited the wickedly wonderful National Museum of Scotland and seriously doubted that there was anything else that I could possibly learn about this uber-fab Scottish metropolis.
Well, as usual, I was 110% wrong and truly enjoyed my time at the Museum of Edinburgh. Just think of it as this enchanting labyrinth of interconnected, 16th-century buildings that showcase a multitude of different exhibits – all of which give patrons a unique look at the history and development of the city of Edinburgh.
So, step inside this vibrant yellow building and admire museum highlights like the National Covenant of 1638 (a document that resulted in the declaration of civil war), as well as the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby,
And unlike many other top Edinburgh landmarks out there, this museum is actually quiet and relatively devoid of obnoxiously loud humans.
That’s why, there will be no real need for you to karate chop anyone out of the way so that you can ogle all of these fancy smancy historic relics.
Address: 142-146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
23. The Scotch Whiskey Experience
Ready to become either sir or madam Wastey McWaste-erson? Of course, you are!
Because this is one of those wildly wonderful, top Edinburgh landmarks where you can act like a former Jersey Shore cast member and drink until your liver begs for mercy.
Or, you can simply step inside this former schoolhouse and enjoy a fun and informative, multimedia experience that introduces you to all things Scottish Whiskey. There are even a ton of museum-like exhibits that demonstrate exactly how whiskey is made, from barley to bottle.
Heck, you can even stand in awe of the largest collection of malt whiskies in the world, which consists of a whopping 3384 bottles. Yup, pure, unadulterated, alcohol goodness at its finest.
And depending on the tour you choose (hint, hint, be sure to book your Scotch Whiskey Experience now since this museum is uber-popular and tickets sell out FAST) you can be treated to luxe life things while you’re here like elaborate whisky tastings and samples of authentic Scottish cuisine.
Plus, there’s even an on-site restaurant that churns out a reportedly delicious assortment of classic Scottish dishes that all the cool kids seem to love.
Address: The Royal Mile, 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE, United Kingdom
Price: Tour prices vary depending on the package that you get. However, base tour prices start at £17.00 for adults, £15.00 concession, and £8.00 for children.
Hours: The shop is open daily from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, while tours are typically given every hour, between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm.
24. Other Famous Edinburgh Landmarks you Might Want to Check Out
- Victoria Street – If you’ve ever gone on Instagram and done a search of Edinburgh, you’ll see this famous Edinburgh thoroughfare pop up all over the place. It’s a short little cobblestone street that is right off the Royal Mile and that is littered with a wealth of vibrantly colored houses. I also love going to the Harry Potter store here (Harry Potter nerds of the world unite). So, be sure to stop by after you Instagram it up at one of the many famous Edinburgh landmarks in the area.
- Royal Mile – Ah yes, you really can’t leave the city without strolling along this iconic street. It’s arguably THE most famous street in the city and takes you straight through Old Town, with Hollyrood Palace at one end and Edinburgh Castle at the other. You’ll also discover a ton of different photo ops, museums, cafes, pubs, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops as you walk up this iconic lane.
- Holyrood Abbey – If you visit Holyrood Palace, be sure to check out these slightly ghostly feeling ruins of a 12th-century abbey. Yeah, it’s equal parts creepy/beautiful and is super easy to visit since it sits adjacent to the main palace. So yeah, you’ll definitely be able to visit as part of any trip to Holyrood Palace.
- Princes Street – This is another immortal Edinburgh thoroughfare that I’ve already mentioned about 10,000 times since many famous Edinburgh landmarks can be found here. So yeah, take a leisurely stroll down this crowded, Edinburgh street and stop in at any one of the shops and restaurants that you see along the way. You can also catch the tram from here or walk to nearby Waverly train station.
- Murrayfield – Apparently, this is the largest stadium in Scotland and is a place where various rugby matches are held. Real talk? Yeah, I’m not into sporting events and have exactly zero desire to ever visit this place. But, this one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that you’ll love if you’re into sports. And if you want, you can even take an uber-snazzy tour of the facility. At least, if that’s your bag baby. And yes, I really did just sound like Austin Powers.
- Hearts FC – This is just another one of those famous Edinburgh landmarks that all the sports enthusiasts out there will ADORE. Because this stadium is located in the Gorgie district of the city and is where Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian football (aka soccer) team plays. So you can either try to catch a game while you’re in town or take a tour of the stadium and its associated museum.
- St. Andrew’s Square – Located on the East end of George Street in New Town, St. Andrews Square is basically located in the poshest part of town. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this public garden with a towering Roman column (the 41 foot tall Melville Monument) at its center is surrounded by a variety of different high-end shops, pubs, and restaurants.
- George Heriot’s School – While you can’t visit the actual school itself, you can marvel at its grand exterior and see where J.K. Rowling might have drawn inspiration for the creation of Hogwarts. You know, the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry that I still need my acceptance letter for.
- The Elephant House – Another one of those top Edinburgh landmarks that all my fellow Harry Potter lovers will adore since this is where J.K. Rowling is said to have written the famous book series while sipping on a cup of coffee and eating a delicious piece of cake. So, check it out for yourself and see where this legendary author first dreamed up the beyond magical world of Harry Potter.
- Grassmarket – This famous Edinburgh landmark was once a cattle market (since the 15ht century)/site of execution way back in the day. And while this large square is still very much at the heart of the city, thankfully, you won’t see any more heads rolling by..literally. Instead, you’ll find an open-cobblestone square that is lined by tall tenement buildings, with Edinburgh Castle regally standing in the background. You’ll also discover a variety of lively shops, eateries, and pubs here, including the White Hart Inn, which has been in operation since 1516 and is through to be the city’s oldest pub.
- The Vennel – Located right around the corner from Grassmarket, the Vennel is an amazing set of stairs that you can climb for impressive views of Edinburgh Castle. If you can, try to stop at step number fifty for one of the best panoramas of them all. Then, continue all the way to the top for views of two historic defensive walls, the Flodden Wall and the Telfer Wall.
Enjoy a Free Interactive Map with 34 Famous Edinburgh Landmarks!
Hey you, my Scotland loving homie! I wanna thank you for making it ALL the way to the end of my insanely long post on more than 30 of the most famous landmarks in Edinburgh!
I hope you found it super useful and can now start creating the Edinburgh bucket list of your dreams. And if I somehow forget to mention one of your favorite Edinburgh landmarks of all time, feel free to let me know in the comments below!
And if you’re feeling uber-generous today, feel free to pin this post now so that you can read it again later! Come on, you know you want to!
Holidays from Hels
Saturday 19th of December 2020
Brilliant! Loved reading this. I've been to Edinburgh about 3 times, climbed Arthur' seat, seen the non bling-y Scottish crown jewels and walked in the steps of plague victims under the city - but I clearly need to go back for botanicals, Gothic art galleries and totally for the boat of Royals!
Saturday 19th of December 2020
Yes! That's what I love about Edinburgh! It's a small(ish) walkable city but there is always so much to do and see.
Saturday 5th of December 2020
I’ve heard so many good things about Edinburgh. Everyone who’s been there seems to love it and I can’t wait to finally go there on my own! :)
Wednesday 9th of December 2020
OMG I am obsessed and would move there if I could.
Saturday 5th of December 2020
You sold me; guess this is where I'll be headed next as soon as possible! The pictures of the architecture and nature look out of a fairytale! Thanks for an amazing itinerary and such a helpful interactive map already marked with the destinations :)
Wednesday 9th of December 2020
My pleasure and it's seriously such a beautiful city. Also a ton to see and do and great food.
Saturday 5th of December 2020
Unfortunatelly we have never been to Scotland, but oh my it always looks so beautiful!! Especially eager to visit Edinburgh one day, this is such a lovely and inspiring post :)
Wednesday 9th of December 2020
Thank you and a perfect place to visit in Scotland.
Holidays from Hels
Saturday 5th of December 2020
Amazing list! I want to see all of these - and stay in the Balmoral Hotel! I've mainly visited the outdoor bits - Greyfriars and the castle gardens but there is just so much more I need to explore in this city museum and gallery- wise. I will take this list with me as a handy guide for my next visit.
Wednesday 9th of December 2020
Yes! Clearly it's time to plan another trip.