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This post on unusual things to do in Edinburgh was last updated on  September 17, 2020.

Look, I like to be a total tourist as much as the next person, especially if it’s my first time in a city and I NEED to plan a one day in Edinburgh itinerary where I do all those super touristy things that no respectable local would be caught dead doing. 

But sometimes you gotta get off the beaten path and try some rather quirky attractions, like the assortment of unusual things to do in Edinburgh that you’ll find in this post.

Which makes sense when you understand that I am a total weirdo, with a capital W. I’ve also been to Edinburgh countless times (no really, I am hardcore obsessed and would move there in a heartbeat if I could)

That’s why, I am 110% qualified to tell you about all the beyond magical, Edinburgh hidden gems that you’ll find around every corner – truly non-touristy things to do in Edinburgh that will make you fall madly, truly, and deeply (cue the 90s song now) in love with this city, just like I did. 

Now, I know not all of these Edinburgh tourist attractions and Edinburgh landmarks are SUPER original, but whatever.

Sometimes you’ve gotta throw caution, not give a fig about what everyone thinks, and just do something because it’s fun.

Ya, feel me?

God, I hope so because otherwise, this whole blogging career thing isn’t gonna work out too well and you’re gonna totally scoff at this epic list of quirky things to do in Edinburgh (PSST…you can also visit all of these attractions before you take on the North Coast 500 by motorhome).

Plus, everything on this list is really and truly Girl with the Passport approved and super fun, at least to an insanely ridiculous homo sapien like me.

So without further ado, let’s awkwardly fall into this list of unique Edinburgh attractions and Edinburgh hidden gems that your brother’s, sister’s cousin is sure to love.

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. ***

Contents hide

Free Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh

1. Dunbar’s Close Garden

The vibrant greenery and gravel pathways of the garden at Dunbar's Close.

The vibrant greenery and gravel pathways of the garden at Dunbar’s Close.

This quaint little community garden is tucked away behind all the much fancier, Edinburgh landmarks that you’ll find along the Royal Mile.

But if you have a moment and want to get away from the crowds, then this is the place to be.

Located next to, you guessed it, Dunbar’s Close, this teeny tiny garden is free to the public and open to all. It offers visitors a quiet place to sit, amidst the well-manicured greenery, where you can enjoy Edinburgh’s historically charming architecture.

Plus, you can freely take a butt load of pictures since no one is here to judge you and your acute Instagram obsession.

And if you can, wait for an all too rare, warm sunny day so that you can enjoy a nice picnic here with a takeaway from Mimi’s Bakehouse which is literally right down the street (the perfect place to stop if you’re backpacking Edinburgh).

Address: 137 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BW

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Canongate Kirk stop

2. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

A sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi on the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

A sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi on the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

Real talk? I legit love this place, and I don’t even like modern art THAT much. Because yes, this really is one of those unusual things to do in Edinburgh that really is THAT awesome. 

Especially since just around every corner, there is a new and exciting artistic treasure just waiting to be discovered – a truly unique piece of art that you never even thought was possible.

Now, not only does the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art consist of two entirely separate buildings (aptly named buildings one and two), but there are some truly unique exhibits here that give you a real insight into the development of the modern art movement in Scotland.

So, explore the amazing, artistic treasures housed here and see distinct, Scottish interpretations of the Cubist, Expressionist, post-war, and contemporary art movements.

Also, take a leisurely stroll through the museum grounds and enjoy the surrounding landscape architecture, which was designed by Charles Jencks and which is home to a fantastic sculpture park that exhibits some of Henry Moore’s iconic pieces.

And if all this epic art has you feeling a bit peckish, then stop by the cafe and garden terrace at Modern One or head over to the more formal Café at Modern Two which serves a lovely afternoon tea.

PSST…

This is one of the many awesome places to visit in Edinburgh that is also just a short walk from the Water of Leith walkway, Dean Village, and Stockbridge. Therefore, you could easily see all four in one day.

Address: 75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 13 bus to the Gallery of Modern Art stop

3. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The lovely lilly pads, ponds, and green plants you'll find inside the greenhouses of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The lovely Lilly pads, ponds, and green plants you’ll find inside the greenhouses of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

I’ll admit it. I’m really not much of a plant person. I mean yeah, they’re pretty to look at and smell nice but generally speaking, I find them about as dull as dishwater.

However, I can say with the utmost honesty that I truly enjoyed my visit to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh.

Not only is this park enormous, and mostly free (you do have to pay to enter the glasshouses), but it’s a great way to escape the urban chaos of the surrounding city, at least for a solid five minutes.

And while I concur that this is not the most original idea on this list of unusual things to do in Edinburgh, this green space is still a fantastic escape from the crowds of Edinburgh Castle.

So, on the first sunny day you get, wander over to this relaxing and peaceful, 70-acre park, which is just a 15-minute walk from the city center.

Embrace the tranquility of this place and get lost among the trees, shrubs, and rare plants that give this garden its botanical charm.

If you do get caught in a passing shower, feel free to seek refuge in the Victorian Palm House or in the pinecone and seashell ensconced, stone pavilion in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden; both of which are absolutely worth a visit.

Not content with just watching the grass grow? Then head over to the John Hope Gateway and exhibitions in 18th-century Inverleith House for a guided tour of the gardens. Just don’t forget your camera since this place is ridiculously photogenic. 

Address: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 8, 23, 27 bus to the Royal Botanical Garden stop

4. Stockbridge

Who knew that this hidden gem in Edinburgh was just a 10-minute walk away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street?

Not me!  Because it looks and feels a world away from the hordes of tourists that invade New Town – in a neighborhood where clicking cameras and selfie sticks are replaced by pretty streets and enchanting squares, making Stockbridge a true wonder to behold.

Plus, Stockbridge is home to an insanely awesome cheese shop that I seriously considered never leaving.

But it’s not just the cheese that makes this neighborhood great Nope. There are a ton of fun and unique shops, galleries, cafés, bars, and restaurants that are just waiting to be explored.

You can even take a walk through Inverleith Park (you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the west gate of the Royal Botanic Gardens across the street) or stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway or eat/shop your way through the area’s amazing Sunday market.

Address: Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Price: Free

Hours: Depends what you want to do, the neighborhood, of course, is always open

How to Get There: Take the 24, 29, 42, X29 bus to the Raeburn Place stop

5. Dean Village

The old world charm of the buildings along Dean's Village and the central stream in Edinburgh.

The old-world charm of the buildings along Dean’s Village and the central stream in Edinburgh.

One of the absolute best Instagram spots in Edinburgh…EVER.

Because Dean Village is insanely beautiful and one of the many delightful, Edinburgh hidden gems out there that is perfect for anyone with a slight Instagram addiction. It’s also conveniently located just outside the city center and is nestled along the one and only, Water of Leith walkway.

Historically, Dean Village was at the center of Edinburgh’s booming milling industry, Today, though, that industry is long gone and has been replaced by avid Instagrammers wielding monumental tripods in their never-ending quest for that ever-elusive, perfect shot of Dean Village.

Before you leave though, don’t just Instagram it up. Instead, explore the area’s fascinating history by visiting  Well Court (a 19th-century house that has been fully restored to its original grandeur), Dean’s Cemetery, and St Bernards Well (used in the past to draw water from the local river). 

Address: Dean Path, Edinburgh EH4 3AY

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Walk there via the Water of Leith Walkway, or you can take a Hop-on-Hop-off bus if you’re totally lost

6. Museum of Childhood

Some of the vintage toys for boys you'll find at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood. Image sourced from Colin Gould on Flickr.com

Some of the vintage toys for boys you’ll find at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood. Image sourced from Colin Gould on Flickr.com

Besides the creepy room full of dolls that reminded me of Chuck, the Museum of Childhood provides visitors with a pretty neat walk down memory lane, featuring a ton of interactive exhibits that are perfect for families with smallish children.

Filled with an assortment of historic toys, games, and clothes, this FREE museum along the Royal Mile does a great job of explaining the role of play in childhood development. This museum also defines childhood for guests and shows how this period in our lives has dramatically changed over time.

Far from just another toy museum, this facility walks you through every facet of childhood and looks at everything from health to games to home decor.

Is it my favorite museum in Edinburgh? No, far from it. But, it’s a charming place to spend an hour or two, especially if you have kids and have no idea what to do with them (minus all the creepy dolls).

Address: 42 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1TG

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Museum of Childhood stop

7. The Water of Leith Walkway

The scenic natural and beautiful bridges you'll find along the Water of Leith Walkway.

The scenic natural and beautiful bridges you’ll find along the Water of Leith Walkway.

Trust me, this pathway is way more than a place to stretch your legs. Filled with rich history and charming natural beauty, the water of Leith walkway is a fantastic place to escape the chaotic frenzy of  Edinburgh (add this to your Edinburgh itinerary and you won’t be sorry) and really get back to nature.

And all without leaving the city I might add!

Now sure, this pathway is insanely charming, but it’s ridiculously long. Because in total, this path is a 12-mile walk that begins in Balerno and that ends by the Leith Docks. Yeah, no way was I walking the whole thing.

Personally, I opted for the short and sweet walk between Stockbridge and Dean Village. Not only were the views of the river exquisite, but I also got to take about a thousand pictures of a super snazzy, ancient well along the way (insert oohs and ahs here).

Be forewarned though, It does rain a lot in Edinburgh (yeah, all the rumors are true), so this path can get pretty muddy. Therefore, wear appropriate boots because nobody wants to be that chick (or dude) who busts their ass, falls into a mud puddle, and gets strange looks for the remainder of the day because they look like they just pooped themselves.

Been there, done that and it’s very anti-fun. And I meant the whole falling in mud thing, not pooping my pants.

Also keep an eye out for some amazing wildlife since this area is a designated urban wildlife refuge where you can find an assortment of wildflowers, herons, kingfishers, and roe deer – making this one of the many altogether quirky things to do in Edinburgh.

***You can also start at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre in Slateford and then head towards Leith. Along the way, you’ll pass Dean Village and a Thomas Telford bridge. From here, continue past St Bernard’s Well to Stockbridge or Canonmills where you can take the bus back to Princes Street.***

Address: Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Will depend on where you’re entering from.

8. Museum of Edinburgh

The vibrant exterior of the Museum of Edinburgh.

The vibrant exterior of the Museum of Edinburgh.

Not gonna lie. When I first walked into this free museum along the Royal Mile, I did not expect much since I had just visited the icredible, National Museum of Scotland and seriously wondered what else I could possibly learn about this magical city.

Well, I am delighted to say that I was totally wrong because the Museum of Edinburgh is more than a great place to hide out from the rain.

Because this magical maze of interconnected 16th-century buildings offers visitors a detailed look at the history and development of the city of Edinburgh. Between the National Covenant of 1638, a document that resulted in the civil war, and the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, the legendary Skye terrier whose loyalty touched many, I promise that everyone will be able to find something fascinating here.

An extra perk? Unlike many top Edinburgh landmarks, this museum is relatively quiet. Therefore, no need to put your college self-defense class into practical use, just so that you can see the infamous collar of Greyfriar’s Bobby.

Address: 142-146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Canongate Kirk stop, it’s just outside the Museum

9. Innocent Railway Path/Tunnel

The slightly ominous feel of the innocent Railway Tunnel, one of the many unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

The slightly ominous feel of the innocent Railway Tunnel, one of the many unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

One of the most random and unusual things to do in Edinburgh I discovered totally by accident.

And it’s none other than the Innocent Railway Path near Holyrood Park. Yeah, while getting fabulously – and, uh, purposefully (wink, wink) – lost I stumbled upon this mysterious underground tunnel.

And what do you when you find a random underground tunnel? Why, naturally, you wander inside without a second thought to your own safety. Which is totally fine since this is Edinburgh and it’s pretty dang safe.

Besides, I make this classic, iconic, Girl with the Passport style mistakes so that you don’t have to. So definitely do as I say, not as I do!

Thankfully though, it turned out to be a well established running path and there were no serial killers crouched in a dark corner, waiting for me inside. Plus, there’s actually quite a bit of the Innocent Railway that’s outside on the other side of the tunnel too.

“But what is it?” I hear you asking (Figuratively, not literally since hearing actual voices is bad. Or so my invisible friends tell me).

Well, opened in 1831, it was not only Edinburgh’s first railway line, but it was actually the first underground railway passage in the entire United Kingdom. It was also used to bring coal to Edinburgh via horse-drawn trams from the mines in the south.

And the name? Well, there are two theories behind the name ‘Innocent Railway.’ One of them is written on a plaque outside the entrance and claims the name comes from the fact that horse-drawn trams were actually safer than steam engines.

However, wrangle up any local you can find and they’ll tell you it’s because no one died during the construction of the railway. And although a tad more distressing, I think I prefer – and believe – the second explanation.

Address: Innocent Railway, Edinburgh EH16 5BQ

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Walk along Holyrood Park Place towards Holyrood Park

10. Portobello Beach

A scenic vire of the slightly rocky shores of Portobello Beach in Edinburgh,

A scenic vire of the slightly rocky shores of Portobello Beach in Edinburgh,

I know, I bet you’re thinking what I was thinking. Which is basically, “Um, excuse me, Edinburgh doesn’t have a beach!”

But it does! I know, I was genuinely shocked too when I found out that there was a quiet, seaside (duh, Kelly) suburb of Edinburgh known as Portobello. A majestic place where you can kick off your shoes and relax along the equal parts rocky and equal parts sandy shores of Scotland.

In fact, Portobello Beach actually stretches out for several miles in each direction. A fact that totally blew my mind since it took me SEVERAL trips to Scotland to actually discover this place.

To be fair though, most locals are well aware of Portobello Beach’s existence. Which makes sense since, DUH, they live here and this is a pretty popular summer hangout spot for families.

But, it’s still one of the more unusual things to do in Edinburgh for tourists, if only for the novelty of seeing everyone fearlessly running around in their bikinis while I’m still debating whether or not it’s warm enough to take off my sweater.

Yup, the Scots truly are made of much stronger stuff than I’ll ever be.

And since we all know that you’re now totally heading straight for the beach once you get to Edinburgh (no shade, it’s what I would be doing!), don’t forget to check out my essential beach vacation packing list.

Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure to add a light jacket (at the very least) to that packing list because Scotland isn’t exactly your typical beach vacay destination!

Trust me on this. It’s still hella cold even in July. And that’s coming from a hardened New Yorker who knows a thing or two about cold weather.

Address: 1 Promenade, Portobello, Edinburgh EH15 2DX

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Take the train to Brunstane train station, it is then a 15-minute walk to the beach

11. Wild West Town

The Western-themed cantina and storefronts that you'll find in Edinburgh's wild west.

The Western-themed cantina and storefronts that you’ll find in Edinburgh’s wild west.

“But Kelly, this isn’t Scotland, this is America!” I hear you exclaim. 

Well, that’s what they want you to think, partner! But, tucked away in an alley in the heart of Edinburgh is a real, honest to goodness wild west town.

Just step off of the sidewalk of Springvalley Gardens and you’ll find yourself transported through space and time to the Old, Wild Wild West!

Yesiree, Yee to the flippin’ haw cowboy!

So, take a leisurely stroll through this wicked awesome part of town and enjoy a wonderfully quirky assortment of Wild West-style buildings and stores. Structures that include super-nifty things like a jail, saloon, general store, blacksmith, cantina, and even a trading post!

Cool! But why?

Well, the street was originally built in the 90s to help advertise a furniture store. I guess the Spice Girls gave off the wrong signals? LOL. 

And while you won’t see any tumbleweeds rolling through this dusty little town, or hear any jangly piano music coming from the saloon, you can still check one of the most quirky things to do in Edinburgh.

Because sadly my friends, this Wild West Town’s owners have since gone out of business. WOMP, WOMP, WOMP. But, guess what? That’s kind of okay since the vacant buildings only add to the ghost town atmosphere, which still gives you chills as you saddle up and ride off into the sunset!

Address: Morningside Rd, Morningside, Edinburgh EH10 4QG

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Take the 5, 11, 15, 16, 23, 36, 101, 101A, 101S, 102, 102S, N11, N16 bus to the Springvalley Gardens stop, turn down Sprinvalley Gardens, and turn right into an alleyway that looks like (and is) a dead end.

12. The People’s Story Museum

The sign outside of the People's Story Museum in Edinburgh

The sign outside of the People’s Story Museum in Edinburgh

Okay, real talk? Even though I was told by my Scottish friend that The People’s Story Museum was easily one of the must-see unusual things to do in Edinburgh, but I was on the fence about it because I just didn’t know what to expect.

But, guess what? I flipping loved it – which is why it obviously made this list.

Now, just in case you’re not in the know, The People’s Story Museum is dedicated to working-class people who lived in Edinburgh between the 1700s and the late 1900s.

And although I could be wrong, I’m assuming as we progress further into the 21st century, they’ll add more exhibits since several of their current displays discuss some slightly more modern issues.

Really, though, at its core, this museum is a history of the city of Edinburgh. After all, its working-class people who did – and continue to do – most of the, well, work to make the city the amazing place it is today.

So, if you decide to visit, you’ll find an assortment of personal stories and effects (think paintings, arts and crafts, trade tools, and more) that detail the unique and captivating history of this great city.

Seriously though, this place is hardcore amazing. It’s a super cool museum, and my friend was totally SPOT ON about it, which easily makes this one of my favorite unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

Because if you’re at all interested in the history of Edinburgh, then you’ll find something to love about the People’s Story Museum. I pinkie promise!

Address: The Royal Mile, 163 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Canongate Kirk stop, the museum is on the corner of Canongate Kirk.

13. The Writer’s Museum

The beautiful, vintage sign in front of The Writer's Museum in Edinburgh.

The beautiful, vintage sign in front of The Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh.

Come celebrate some of Scotland’s greatest writers at the Writer’s Museum, one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

And while there’s a little bit here about a whole range of Scottish authors, the focus is predominantly on three of the country’s most famous: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott.

Located in one of Edinburgh’s gorgeous 17th-century buildings, this unique museum is not to be missed for anyone who loves literature. Not only is the museum huge, but it’s full of incredible artifacts like a Robert Louis Stevenson’s ring (given to him by a Samoan chief), Robert Burns’ writing desk, and Sir Walter Scott’s childhood rocking horse!

Now, the main part of the museum is divided into three separate sections, each of which is dedicated to either Stevenson, Burns, or Scott. And once inside, you can learn all about their childhoods and careers, discover their hobbies, and even explore the museum’s vast collection of personal items from each man.

Honestly, just being here kind of made me want to go home and poorly attempt to write the next great American novel! Yeah, I’m obviously still working on actually doing it but the point is that this place totally inspired me.

Address: Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Cl, Edinburgh EH1 2PA

Price: Free

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 23, 27, 41, 41 bus to the Mound Place stop, then turn down Lady Stair’s Close and James Close

14. Library of Mistakes

All I knew going into the Library of Mistakes was the name, which was more than enough to convince me that this was going to be one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

And it totally lived up to my mildly high expectations!

Now, having said that, a quick primer is probably in order since this place really wasn’t at all what I was expecting!

So what is the Library of Mistakes? Well, it’s a public library dedicated to the world’s financial and business history. And more importantly, the failures of these systems and what we have and haven’t learned from them.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Um, Kelly, that doesn’t sound TERRIBLY interesting at all. In fact, that sounds pretty damn awful. “ 

But I promise you, this place is incredibly cool and unique! See, it was first started as a response to the 2008 economic recession and just grew from there.

Now, fast forward twelve years (Seriously, how has it already been twelve years since 2008?), and the Library is packed with over 2,000 books from philosophers, economists, politicians, and pretty much anyone who has ever had a thought about the way we should be handling our money. 

So yeah, If the world economy is even a little bit interesting to you, then you’ll for sure want to check this place out!

Address: 4 Wemyss Place Mews Edinburgh EH3 6DN

Price: Free

Hours: Open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, but available by appointment only.

How to Get There: Take the 10, 11, 15, 16, 101, 101A, 101S, 102, 102S, N11, N16, N37, N43, X52, X55, X56, X56A, X56B, X57, X58, X59, X60, X61 to Princes Street stop, you should be able to see it from there.

15. LOVE Gorgie Farm

A close up of a brown and white Alpaca.

Make furry, Alpaca friends at the Love Gorgie Farm in Edinburgh.

Do you love animals as much as I do?

If so then you NEED to speed walk your cute booty over to LOVE Gorgie Farm, which is not surprisingly located in the Edinburgh suburb of Gorgie. 

It’s also easily one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh since, well, it’s son incredibly hard to fathom that there’s a full-on farm in the city.

So what’s so great and unusual about this place, anyway?

Cute animals, cute animals, and, wait for it, cute animals. 

Enough said, really. So, prepare to go totally Insta crazy and swoon over all the different adorbz fur balls who call this place home. You, super rad creatures like cows, goats, guinea pigs, ferrets, pigs, ducks, and alpacas!

In fact, my personal fave happens to be an alpaca named Truffles. Yeah, he thinks he’s a badass, but he’s really just a cuddly teddy bear. Not that I cuddled him, but based on his interactions with the other alpacas, I’m extrapolating. Or maybe I’m just projecting myself onto him.

Who can say?

So yeah, LOVE Gorgie Farm really is the perfect activity to add to your alternate Edinburgh itinerary. Unless of course, animals totally freak you out. But I really wouldn’t;t worry about since all of the animals I met were super friendly and absolutely would NOT hurt you. 

Plus, while you’re here, you can even enjoy a delicious milkshake or latte with a decadent piece of cake (or scone) at their charming onsite cafe.

Because yeah, I basically never met a piece of cake, or scone, in the UK that I did not like. Okay, slight exaggeration but what can I say, I’m a carb-oholic through and through, 

Address: 51 Gorgie Rd, Edinburgh EH11 2LA

Price: Free, but rely on donations

Hours: Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.

How to Get There: Take the 1, 2, 3, 25, 33, N25, 22, X23 bus to Gorgie City Farm stop and follow the signs

16. St. Cecilia’s Hall

If you’re a music lover looking for Edinburgh hidden gems then may I wholeheartedly suggest a visit to St. Cecilia’s Hall?

First opened in 1763, St. Cecilia’s Hall is actually the second oldest concert hall in all of Scotland. It’s also brimming over with nearly 400 different instruments and accessories that are prominently displayed in four different museum galleries.

And first up? The Binks Gallery which will tell you EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about keyboard instruments. So, discover exactly how this instrument evolved from an organ to a modern-day electric keyboard.

Next up? The Wolfson Gallery. It’s dedicated to the development and creation of any other type of instrument you can imagine. That’s why, you’ll find a wide assortment of different percussion, woodwind, brass, and string instruments there. 

Additionally, you can learn about how changes in the shape and stringing of the instruments has altered their sound.

From here, continue on to the 1812 Gallery. Once inside, visitors can learn all about the very fashionable history of decorating instruments. Turns out, we’re not as cool as we thought for putting stickers on our laptops and guitars since people have apparently been doing the historical equivalent for centuries!

Finally, Laigh Hall, which celebrates music culture from around the world. Here you can find instruments from all over the place, examine their differences and similarities, and marvel at the crazy intricate designs on some of the pieces.

Oh, and did I mention you can even enjoy a live concert? Because yes, this is one of those unusual things to do in Edinburgh that really is next level awesome. 

Address: 50 Niddry St, Edinburgh EH1 1LG (located in The University of Edinburgh)

Price: Free

Hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, also open for concerts check their website for more info

How to Get There: Take 3, 5, 7, 8, 14, 29, 30, 33, 35, 45, 49, 51, N3, N30, X33, X52, X95 to South Bridge stop

17. The Anatomical Museum

A human skull sitting atop an orange table.

See various physiological anomalies at the Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh.

Another museum that’s part of the University of Edinburgh, The Anatomical Museum is another great option for those who love their unusual things in Edinburgh to be a bit more on the macabre and weird side.

Why visit? Well, this Hannibal Lector chic place is home to one of the country’s largest collections of human remains, as well as other specimens, anatomical artwork, and various models that you won’t soon forget. The items here have also been used to teach students since the 1700s, and it’s grossly fascinating to see how far medicine has come, and, simultaneously, how little it has changed.

Plus, while you’re here, you can even admire the skeleton of the now infamous grave robber, turned murderer, William Burke. Yeah, he used to supply one of the anatomy lecturers who worked here in the 1820s with the bodies of his murder victims.

Not that any of the medical professionals who worked here actually knew he was doing. Yes my friend, yikes indeed. 

Now, the only downside? The Anatomical Museum isn’t always open to the public, so you’ll need to check in advance and see if any events are actually going on.

But if they are, don’t walk, run, to this one of the most unique things to do in Edinburgh!

Address: Doorway 3, Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG (located in The University of Edinburgh)

Price: Free

Hours: Open for events throughout the year, check their website

How to Get There: Take the 2, 41, 42, 47, 47B, X52 or 300 SKYLINK to Bristo Square stop and head towards Ewan Hall

18. Arthur’s Seat

The walking path and aerial views of Edinburgh at the top of Arthur's Seat.

The hiking path and vast greenery that await you atop Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano just outside of Edinburgh,

I guess technically Arthur’s Seat isn’t really one of the more unusual things to do in Edinburgh since pretty much everyone knows about it.

But in my experience, a lot of people don’t actually climb up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, so I’m including it anyway!

Besides, how many CITIES in the world can actually say that they have extinct volcanoes just sitting at the center of their main park?

Yup, you read that correctly. Because believe it or not, Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano! And when I say ancient, I mean it since the last eruption was 340 million years ago. 

In fact, it was so long ago that at the time, Edinburgh was pretty much ON the equator. You know, continental drift and all. Which is insane to me now because Edinburgh is chilly even in the summers!

Anyway, a walk up Arthur’s Seat is definitely worth it for the views alone. However, don’t make one of the typical Edinburgh tourist mistakes and assume it will be an easy walk! Because it most decidedly is NOT!

Let’s just say I arrived at the top gross, disheveled AF, sweaty and wheezing like the super fit athlete that I am. And at absolutely no point did I ever want to scream at my new hostel buddies to slow the eff down because they were making me look bad.

Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. And no, you can’t prove otherwise.

Just be prepared for 3 miles of more or less constant incline that takes between 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how fit you are and how often you stop for water and, er, healthy snacks.

Seriously, though. don’t forget to wear decent shoes and bring a backpack with water and snacks because you will NOT be able to get any on the hike. And I think we can all agree that before, during, and after any hike, a snack is a total necessity!

Address: Edinburgh EH8 8AZ

Price: Free

Hours: Open 24 hours

How to Get There: Arthur’s Seat is in the center of Holyrood Park, once in the park, just head towards the highest point

Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh that Cost Up to £10

19. Maison de Moggy 

The cute kitties that you'll find at Maison de Moggy, a cute cat cafe in Old Town Edinburgh.

The cute kitties that you’ll find at Maison de Moggy, a cute cat cafe in Old Town Edinburgh.

Sometimes you gotta hop on the pop-culture bandwagon and visit the very first cat cafe, Maison de Moggy, in all of Scotland.

Am I right?

Okay, I try to be slightly original and avoid doing anything overly trendy, like visiting a cat cafe, but I mean really.

Cats + coffee + cake = AWESOME on every possible level. Which is why this is easily one of the best and most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

Truth be told though, I’m actually more of a dog person but I feel like animals, in general, are therapeutic and make everything better.

So if endlessly trudging up and down the Royal Mile has got you feeling a bit exhausted then kick back, relax, and head to Maison and Moggy, where you can get some feline lovin’ and pet twelve of the cutest cats that you ever did see.

However, you’ll also need some mildly practical information if you want to make this visit as enjoyable as humanly possible.

First and foremost, make a reservation. This place is uber-popular and ain’t nobody got time to schlep all the way here just to be turned away.

Secondly, don’t arrive early. There isn’t much of a waiting area and they are pretty strict when it comes to time slots so just show up at the exact time that your session begins.

Yeah, I was overly excited, got there way too early, and had to awkwardly stand in the doorway while pretending to be absolutely fascinated by the people petting cats through the window.

Not my finest hour. Also, just as an FYI, an hour-long session with the cats costs £2 + the cost of a drink because well, cat affection ain’t free no more. But it all goes towards the care of these fine felines so it’s worth it, at least to me.

Address: 17 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2JA

Price: £2.00+ the cost of a drink

Hours: Varies seasonally, check their website

How to Get There: Take the 2 bus to West Port Stop and walk East along West Port.

20. Craigmillar Castle

An aerial view of the ruins at Craigmillar Castle and the city of Edinburgh.

An aerial view of the ruins at Craigmillar Castle and the city of Edinburgh.

We’ve all heard of Edinburgh Castle.

And yes, it’s worth all the hype. Just don’t expect a fairytale castle people since it’s more of a military fortification.

But did you know that there is another medieval castle three miles south-east of downtown Edinburgh? Because I definitely didn’t have a clue until I visited for myself.

And it is known as Craigmillar Castle. Apparently it was built as a “second castle” so that the royals could actually get out of the city and enjoy a break from public life without actually leaving Edinburgh. You know, cause being royalty is obvs exhausting AF.

So, embrace your inner, royal, badass self and spend an afternoon wandering through the formidable castle walls that Mary Queen of Scots once sought refuge way back in 1566.

And no, I won’t judge you if you bring a tiara for this very reason.

Granted, this edifice isn’t exactly in the same, tip-top shape as Edinburgh Castle and is slightly ruined. But, nevertheless, it’s still pretty awe-inspiring to behold considering that sections of the building date back to the 1300s! I mean, genuinely what else do you expect besides ruins?

That’s why If you love castles – and who doesn’t? – then Craigmillar will not disappoint. Plus, because it’s one of the more unusual things to do in Edinburgh, you also won’t have to contend with the hordes of selfie-stick wielding, Tik Tok obsessed tourists that you’ll find at nearby Edinburgh Castle.

Address: Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY

Price: £6.00

Hours: Varies seasonally, check their website

How to Get There: Take the 24, 33, 38, 49, 51 bus to Craigmillar Castle Road, then head up the road towards the castle

21. Surgeon’s Hall Museum

A vibrant stained glass window of kidneys and surgical hands at the Surgeon's Hall Museum, one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

A vibrant stained glass window of kidneys and surgical hands at the Surgeon’s Hall Museum, one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

Umm, who doesn’t want to see row upon row of lesion ridden kidneys and physically deformed appendages, all of which are just hanging out on shelves, preserved in transparent formaldehyde-filled jars?

Sounds like Hannibal Lector’s birthday party. But legit, I’m not exaggerating. Because this is exactly what you’ll find inside the Surgeons Hall Museum of Edinburgh. So if you get grossed out pretty easily, then you better skip one of the more non-touristy things to do in Edinburgh.

I mean, I don’t consider myself a super squeamish person but when I saw some of the uber-diseased, human ovaries on display here, I definitely felt a bit queasy.

However, if you’re at all interested in either medical history or human anatomical anomalies then this is one of the many Edinburgh hidden gams you’ve been dreaming about. And I don’t want to make it sound disgusting because I did learn a lot and have an amazing time at this museum.

Comprised of three adjoined museums (the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection), this eclectic institution is home to the largest collection of surgical pathology in the entire world, including specimens from Sir Charles Bell (AKA the doctor that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle modeled Sherlock Holmes after).

Originally a teaching hospital for medical students, this facility is now open to the public and does a fantastic job of outlining Scottish surgical history as well as explaining the series of historic, surgical advances that culminated in the establishment of modern surgical practices.

Plus, there are a ton of fun and interactive exhibits that show you how to tie a surgical knot or practice manipulating things using a robotic arm. Yup, truly the perfect fusion of history and the macabre for people who watch an unhealthy amount of Investigation Discovery, like me.

Address: Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW

Price: £8.00

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, the last admission is at 4:30 pm

How to Get There: Take a 2, 8, 47 bus to Nicholson Square Stop, or 3, 5, 7, 8, 14, 29, 30, 31, 33, 37, 49, 51, N3, N30, N31, N37, X29, X31, X33, X37, X62, X95 bus to Surgeons’ Hall and follow the signs for the museum

22. Gilmerton Cove

The dark tunnels inside Glimerton Cove, Edinburgh.

The slightly creeping looking tunnels og Glimerton Cove, Edinburgh.

Sprawling beneath the Gilmerton crossroads are a series of hand-carved underground passageways and chambers that have baffled historians, archaeologists, and pretty much everyone in Scotland for well over 200 years!

I mean, if that doesn’t make you want to visit, then maybe you’re just dead inside? Because this is one of the coolest, most unusual things to do in Edinburgh! Although if you’re claustrophobic, I would totally understand and potentially advise against a visit!

Now, there are many theories about Gilmerton Cove. But as of now, it’s still one of Britain’s great mysteries (definitely up there with Stonehenge). 

Currently though. Many historians believe it was likely a smuggler drinking den or a refuge for persecuted Covenanters (a Scottish Presbyterian sect). Of course, it could have been used for all three at one point or another since the caves date back to AT LEAST the 1700s when George Paterson, a local blacksmith, lived there.

Remember this name though because George Paterson is thought to potentially be the creator of the Gilmerton Cove passageways. However, as I mentioned earlier, no one really knows for sure.

So, take a tour and discover this enchanting mystery for yourself! However, like with most super cool things in life,  be sure to book ahead since you have to go on an accompanied tour. After all, the last thing anyone wants is a directionally challenged tourist like myself wandering around alone underground.

Plus, as of 2017, ground-penetrating radar actually indicated that the cove might be MUCH bigger than what has already been uncovered. So, even if you hate them with every fiber of your being, definitely take the tour! It’s hella interesting, anyway!

Address: 16 Drum St, Gilmerton, Edinburgh EH17 8QH

Price: £7.50

Hours: Must be booked in advance, check availability

How to Get There: Take the 3, 29, 40, N3, X40 bus to the Drum Street stop and follow the signs

23. The Cameo Cinema

Okay, so yes, this is a cinema. But it’s probably one of the coolest cinemas in the UK.

It’s also one of the oldest since the Cameo Cinema first opened its doors in 1914, and has remained largely the same ever since. Many of the original features are also still present, like the interior’s gorgeous and totally unique Art Nouveau -style decor and architecture. The ticket stand is also the very same one patrons used way back when in 1914.

That’s why, every time I come here, I find myself channeling my inner Zelda Fitzgerald since a visit here is basically like taking one giant step back in time.

Plus, I low-key love that they almost exclusively show Indie, foreign and classic films.

And if all that isn’t enough to sell you on this Edinburgh hidden gem, then they also have a cute cafe where you can sit, drink coffee, and enjoy the gorgeous interior. 

So yeah, you don’t actually have to see a movie because you can just pop inside for a drink and a quick bite to eat.

Address: The Cameo, 38 Home St, Edinburgh EH3 9LZ

Price: Tickets from £3 depending on the film and the event.

Hours: Check film times on their website

How to Get There: Take the 10, 11, 15, 16, 23, 36, 45, 101, 101A, 101S, 102, 102S, N11, N16 to Home Street stop, the cinema is across the street

24. Jupiter Artland

The garden path and beautiful architecture of Jupiter Artland, Scotland

The garden path and beautiful architecture of Jupiter Artland, Scotland

OMG this place!

Please visit Jupiter Artland if you can since this place is a cool AF contemporary art and sculpture park that quickly wound up being one of my favorite quirky things to do in Edinburgh. And I discovered it on a whim!

Admittedly though, Jupiter Artland is a bit more difficult to get to and you’ll be better off if you have access to a car, or are willing to take a taxi.

But I promise it’s worth it!

Just wander around this beautiful green space full of random, but exquisite and enigmatic sculptures – my faves of which include the stunning Rose Walk designed by Argentine-born artist Pablo Bronstein, and the truly haunting Weeping Girls statues created by Welsh artist Laura Ford.

And, don’t forget to check out the permanent and temporary exhibits inside. Because I particularly loved the insanely colorful Cafe Party by Swiss artist Nicolas Party.

Plus, they even rent out the space for the weekend and week-long artists retreats. Granted, they’re insanely expensive and wouldn’t suit anyone who falls under the starving artist bracket.

However, I will say that if I could afford it, I would totally be booking it because I’m certain this place would get my creative juices flowing for the better!

Address: The Steadings, Bonnington House, Wilkieston, Edinburgh EH27 8BY

Price: £9.00

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

How to Get There: The best way to get to Jupiter Artland is by car or taxi

25. John Knox House

The historic wood and stone exterior of the John KNow House on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

The historic wood and stone exterior of the John KNow House on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

One of the oldest houses in Edinburgh, this beautiful 15th-century building survived demolition because of its connection to the Protestant reformer, John Knox.

However, it’s quite possible that he never actually lived here!

It is reputed though that John Knox owned the house and spent some time here before his death, although no one can say for certain. 

What we do know for sure is that he lived in a home in Warriston Close, which has since been destroyed. Although, a plaque does remain that indicates the approximate location of the former building.

Not gonna lie. Regardless of whether John Knox really lived here, a visit to the John Knox House is fascinating and one of the coolest and most unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

I mean, they’ve done everything possible to recreate the interior exactly as it would have appeared in the 1500s. Plus, the museum also provided me with a much-needed history lesson on the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath.

So, even if I didn’t learn ANYTHING at the John Knox House, I’d STILL recommend a visit because the building itself is so ridiculously cool. 

For starters, it’s a uniquely beautiful building that dates back to 1470 – making it the oldest Medieval building on Royal Mile.

Plus, as was common at the time, it’s full of trick spaces and false doors that were designed to fool intruders.

But my favorite bit? The ceiling of the Oak Room on the top floor, where you can spend all day searching for hidden representations of the devil.

Address: Scottish Storytelling Centre, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR

Price: £6.00

Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Museum of Childhood stop, it’s across the street from the Museum of Childhood

26. Alien Rock

An indoor rock climbing wall with multi-colored rocks and hand holds.

Do a bit of indoor rock climbing at Alien Rock in Edinburgh.

At one of my accommodations in Edinburgh, I made friends with a girl who absolutely loved climbing, and on one particularly rainy day (Scotland, rainy, you don’t say?), she convinced me to try it out at Alien Rock climbing center.

AND I LOVED IT. I mean, did anyone else actually know these places existed and that they were this freaking cool?

“But what is it?” I hear you understandably asking.

Well, Alien Rock is a climbing gym. You know, one of those places with colorful faux “rocks” screwed into the wall, where you try to climb up as high as you can go in your vain attempt at mimicking real-life rock climbing.

And yes, It is freaking HARD. Especially if you’re, um, not in the best shape and your arms are basically glorified pieces of spaghetti. 

But unlike real rock climbing, which is pretty daunting if you’re not a spider monkey, I felt totally safe and secure in my rented harness. I even made it nearly to the top without having a panic attack which I thought was a total win for this incredibly un-fit girl right here.

So, if you’re an active person looking for unusual things to do in Edinburgh, or just want to give it a go, Alien Rock is awesome. I had a great time pretending to be Edmund Hilary conquering Mount Everest for a solid hour. 

Address: 8 Pier Pl, Newhaven, Edinburgh EH6 4LP

Price: from £6.20

Hours: Open Monday to Friday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm

How to Get There: Take 11, 16, N16, 200 SKYLINK to Pier Place stop

27. The Stand Comedy Club

Two young women performing stand up comedy.

Enjoy some stand up comedy at The Stand Comedy Club.

One of the first times I ever visited Edinburgh was in the middle of the Fringe Festival. It was before it became well-known worldwide and I actually had NO IDEA it was going on.

I know, I’m totally clueless. But, the festival did make me realize just how fun amateur comedy can be. Not that I’m saying that the entire Fringe Festival or what’s available at the Stand is amateur! Just that that’s basically all I could afford on my Edinburgh backpacker’s budget and it wound up being a blast.

Now, whenever I’m back in Edinburgh, I try to pop into the Stand for a show, and it has yet to disappoint!

So, If you’re a fellow comedy fan, catching a show here just might be one of the most fun and unusual things to do in Edinburgh. Who knows, you might even discover someone totally new and awesome since they love to promote local talent.

Okay, granted, It can get quite busy, especially on weekends or if someone famous is performing. That’s why I;d recommend checking out their weekly Red Raw show. It’s basically basically an open mic night and costs a mere £3. Which is beyond awesome since you’ll get everything from killer comedy to totally cringe-worthy comedy that makes the entire experience 10 times more fun. 

Address: 5 York Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EB

Price: Varies by event

Hours: Check their website for performance times

How to Get There: Take the 10, 11, 16, 26, 44, 101, 101A 101S, 102, 102S, 181, 182, 253, 593, 900, 904, 909, M20, X55, X56, X56A, X56B, X57, X58, X59, X60, X61, X95 bus to the Edinburgh Bus Station stop

Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh that Cost Up to £20

28. The Real Mary King’s Close

One of my absolute FAVORITE unusual things to do in Edinburgh! Plus, it’s open late and it’s a great place to hang out if you have no idea what to do once the sun sets in Edinburgh.

I mean, really, who doesn’t want to explore a mildly creepy, but super cool, underground city that is filled with fantastic, interactive exhibits that introduce you to the darker side of Edinburgh’s amazing history?

And I’m obviously not the only one who loves this place, so reserve your tickets in advance, especially during the summer when tickets can and will sell out. 

Now, named for Mary King, a female merchant of high status who resided along the close, or alley, this museum sits just beneath the Royal Mile and transports you back in time, when this labyrinth of passageways was still a bustling center of trade and commerce.

As your tour guide low-key morphs into an Edinburgh resident from the 1600s (and yes, you really do have to explore the close as part of a tour), prepare to be shocked, intrigued, and bewildered by the unique history of this intriguing place.

And by weird, I mean bizarre. So yeah, take note of the insane birdman outfit on display that was actually worn to help ward off the plague.

Sadly though, you cannot take photos (my Instagram account is doomed). But that’s okay since the tour guides here are so fun that you’ll probably forget all about taking pictures for Instagram fame and glory.

Address: Warriston’s Close, 2, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PG

Price: £17.95 (Again. for the cheap seats. Book your tickets now so that you don’t miss out. Because they were sold out for three days straight when I was there in July)

Hours: Open Monday to Thursday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm; Friday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm

How to Get There: 6-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley Train station along Fleshmarket Close and High Street

29. Camera Obscura

A panoramic view of Edinburgh from the rooftop of Camera Obscura.

A panoramic view of Edinburgh from the rooftop of Camera Obscura.

Located at the top of the Royal Mile (and a literal hop, skip, and jump away from Edinburgh Castle) is Camera Obscura is one of those quirky, uber-cool museums that I never knew I actually needed in my life.

So what exactly is this place?

Well, it’s like a funhouse, only better since it’s not just for kids.  There also aren’t insanely creepy clowns looming in the dark, just waiting to pounce on you, so that’s a bonus too.

Instead, you’ll find five glorious floors of interactive exhibits and optical illusions where anything and everything is possible.

So, enjoy one of the many quirky things to do in Edinburgh and walk into a fun-filled labyrinth of mesmerizing colors and mind-boggling sights where you can grow to the size of a giant or watch your skeleton do the macarena right before your eyes.

And at the tippy top? Yeah, you’ll get a wicked awesome, panoramic view of such iconic Edinburgh landmarks as the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle. Just a super fun place for anyone who hates museums.

Plus, added bonus? Camera Obscura is open super late. So, get your tickets now because this is definitely one of the great things to do in Edinburgh at night.

Because while this may feel like a tourist trap, I pinkie promise it’s not. 

Address: Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND

Price: £16.50

Hours: Varies seasonally, check their website

How to Get There: Take the 23, 27 41, 42, 67 bus to North Bridge or Nicolson Street stop, then walk ten minutes in the direction of the castle

30. Dynamic Earth

I feel like the tagline for this museum should be, “this isn’t just a museum, it’s an experience”.

Because that’s exactly what it’s like to visit Dynamic Earth. See, instead of providing information displays that teach you about the creation of our planet, this magical place uses a series of interactive exhibits to take you on an extraordinary journey through the galaxy.

So, expect anything and everything from talking holograms to interactive movies, as this museum explores topics like Earth’s geology, the Big Bang Theory (no, not the TV show), volcanoes, glaciers, and more.

And while you do guide yourself through the museum, Dynamic Earth does have you follow a specific sequence of events through the museum. So, prepare to witness the Big Bang for yourself and feel the ground quake beneath you as a volcano explodes and spews molten lava right before your eyes.

Trust me, this is a truly fun but super educational facility where the environmental processes that shape our planet come to life and enchant even the most unenthusiastic of museum-goers.

That’s why if you have kids and are looking to plan an alternate Edinburgh itinerary than this is the place for you. 

Address: Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AS

Price: £15.95

Hours: Varies seasonally, check their website

How to Get There: Take the 35 bus to the Scottish Parliament stop, then head around Parliament via White Horse Close

A Free, Interactive Map of the 30 Most Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh!

Hip hip hooray! The crowd goes wild! You made it to the end of this list of 30 acutely unusual things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some unique things to do and see in Edinburgh during your next visit; things you must do in Edinburgh that you’ve never heard of before.   

So if you’re ready to start planning your trip to Edinburgh, then pin this now and read it again later!

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