Circus Lane in Ediburgh

15 Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You’ll Love

Are you planning a trip to Edinburgh? You’ll absolutely love all the things that this Scottish city has to offer, from medieval architecture and main attractions like the Castle or Calton Hill to beautiful secret places in Edinburgh you’ll love and make you feel you’re in a fairytale.

I had always heard good things about Edinburgh and I had wanted to visit this city for more than five years, so I decided that I needed to visit it now. I still can’t believe that I’ve been living in the UK for a while and I didn’t visit it before, but it’s never too late, right?

My first impression of the city was good – beautiful, clean, charming and lively. It’s the type of city where you’ll want to take a picture everywhere. 

The only downside for me is, of course, the weather. I stayed in Edinburgh for four days in the last week of August and it rained a lot. 

The first day was the worst as it was raining, windy and foggy, but I knew that it isn’t best known for the weather. I think I only saw the sun one day for a couple of hours, so I consider myself lucky. So if you’re travelling to Edinburgh, be prepared for any sort of weather! 

If you like visiting tourist places, but you LOVE finding hidden gems, keep reading this travel guide.

Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh

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Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You’ll Love

Must-see places in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a place you can’t miss on your list. It’s located in Castlehill and there’s a big esplanade before entering the castle. In the esplanade, you can expect many tourists taking pictures in front of the castle and the views of the city.

It’s busy almost all the time, but if you want fewer people around, you either go very early before the castle opens, late or when the weather isn’t great.

Visiting the castle is for you if you enjoy panoramic city views, history and architecture. You can easily spend more than 2 hours inside as there are plenty of things to see. Not only the views, but you can access different rooms, like The Great Hall, inside the castle complex.

*Be aware that you can’t take pictures in some of them, just have a look at the posters before you go inside.

During my visit to the castle, I didn’t experience many queues to enter some of the rooms, however, this may have been different before March 2020. The only place where I had to queue was to see St Margaret’s Chapel, which is the oldest building in Edinburgh. But I must admit that I didn’t find it special since it’s a tiny room.

My favourite part of the castle is The Royal Palace square where you can take great pictures and explore the different parts of the castle, and I also loved getting a view of the esplanade from the side of the cannons. 

Although the entry fee isn’t the cheapest, it’s totally worth it. Also, there’s a reduced price (£15.50) since they’ve closed some areas of the castle.

Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle

Calton Hill

Calton Hill view was the first picture that came to my mind before visiting Edinburgh. All these pretty postcards with a lovely sunset and Edinburgh city centre views. The reality is that I was amazed by the views but it wasn’t the same as the postcard picture because of the rain and strong wind.

It seems to be higher than it is and it’s very close to Edinburgh train station, so it’s an accessible place you can easily visit any day, however, it would be better, if you have the chance, to choose a sunny and dry day.

The good thing was that there weren’t many people around, so it was nice to enjoy the peace of this place and the views of the city centre as well as the sea. 

Apart from the incredible views, you’ll see the National Monument, which was built to commemorate Scots who had died in the Napoleonic Wars. As you can tell by its architecture, the Scottish tried to copy the ancient temple in Athens, Greece. 

Last but not least, it’s the Nelson Monument where you can get the best views ever. Unfortunately, it’s closed at the moment and I couldn’t go inside. But I believe it’s a great place to visit for the views and since you’re in Calton Hill, you’re next to it.

15 Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You'll Love 15 Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You'll Love
Calton Hill

Victoria Street and Terrace

Victoria Street, located in Edinburgh Old Town, is the brightest street in the city, the independent and colourful shops and unique curve shape bring it to life. It’s a touristy street, so expect crowds taking pictures and wandering around.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Then, you’re going to love The Great Wizard shop where you find all things, Harry Potter.

Did you know there’s a similar shop in York? If you love Harry Potter, you need to add York to your UK bucket list.

Walking on Victoria terrace is amazing, but you can’t miss going to the terrace to get a different perspective of the street and a few more photography shots. Also, it’s a great spot to stop for a cafe in the Hidden Cafe.

Victoria street in Edinburgh
Victoria street terrace

Princes Street Garden

You don’t need to go far to visit Princes Street Garden as it’s located between the south of Edinburgh’s Princes Street and the north of Edinburgh Castle. This public park is divided into different areas that you can easily access.

Inside the garden, there are plenty of things for you to see – from impressive monuments like the famous Scott Monument to the 19th-century cast-iron Ross Fountain where you can also take beautiful pictures of the Edinburgh Castle from a different perspective.

I loved sitting on a bench and enjoying the views of Edinburgh’s Old Town, for me it was one of the best views in the city.

Also, if you’re feeling hungry, there is a rounded cute cafe inside the gardens (just next to Ross Fountain). There’s nothing better than having some food with good views of the castle and fountain. 

When I went to Edinburgh, there was a street food market on Waverley Mall’s iconic rooftop, which is very close to Scotts Monument.

As you can tell the gardens are special, so many events are held here. For example, the famous Edinburgh Christmas Market and the three-day Hogmanay (new year’s celebrations) take place on the east side of the gardens.

I bet it’s amazing to walk through the gardens, see all the Christmas stalls and sip some mulled wine.

Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens

The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is free and has a beautiful collection of Scottish antiquities, culture and history. It’s a great museum to visit and there are plenty of perfect spots to take pictures. 

The Grand Gallery is the most photographed area as you get the perfect angle to see the museum. However, another less-known but great spot is the Rooftop Terrace. On this terrace, you find beautiful flowers and plants along the edges and you get a view of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle.

I’m not a big museum lover, however, this one is worth it. Also, I sometimes find it interesting to visit museums and they’re a great option when it’s pouring outside. 

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano, located in Holyrood Park, that you can climb and get excellent panoramic views of the city. Although it was on my list, I had to leave this out since I injured my knee, however, I hope I can do this 2-hour walk to the top next time I visit Edinburgh.

If you decide to walk Arthur’s Seat, here are some tips
  • Leave 2-3 hours to enjoy the walk.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  • Check the weather before you go but in case of rain, I highly recommend a rain poncho.
  • Take some snacks and water.
Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh
View of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

8 Hidden gems in Edinburgh

Circus Lane

This hidden gem has become more and more popular for its structure and scenery. Circus Lane is a residential area that consists of this main street, however, it’s full of photography spots.

The cobbled street with cute houses decorated with colourful and bright flowers and doors will make you want to take pictures all the time. 

Circus Lane really impressed me and it’s doubtless one of the most beautiful and quaint streets in Edinburgh!

Check the exact location here.

Circus Lane in Ediburgh
Pretty turquoise door in Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Dean Village

Dean Village is one of my favourite spots in Edinburgh and once you get there you’ll understand why.

It’s located just 10 minute walk from Circus Lane and you’ll enjoy the walk because of the green scenery and peaceful path. But also, you’ll have the chance to see St Bernard’s Well, a beautiful 18th-century structure situated next to the Water of Leith. 

People used to believe that the natural spring had superpowers that improve people’s health and wellbeing.  

As you get into Dean Village, you’ll feel like you aren’t in Edinburgh anymore. The yellow and white buildings with wooden structures reminded me of Germany. The cobbled streets, the noise of the water river, the beautiful flowers in the neighbours’ balconies and the tranquillity make it a unique place.

Not many people know about this magical place and I didn’t see many tourists around, so you definitely need to add it to your list.

Check the exact location here.

Dean village, secret places in Edinburgh
Off the beaten path Edinburgh, Scotland

Canongate Tolbooth

This tower is located in the Old Town area and apart from its beautiful structure, this is an amazing area to do some window shopping.

There are small and cute independent shops where you can get anything from warm wool clothes to traditional Scottish souvenirs like shortbread to whisky.

The street is very beautiful and if you keep walking until the end, you’ll come across The Queen’s Gallery and Palace of Holyroodhouse which is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and the home of Scottish royal history.

Check the exact location here.

canongate

Dunbar’s Close Garden 

One of the unusual things to do in Edinburgh is visiting Dunbar’s Close Garden as many people don’t know about this hidden gem.

It’s a beautiful garden that is very close to Canongate Tolbooth and it’s hidden in one of the many alleys you can find in Edinburgh.

It seems like a private garden, but there are signs indicating that it’s a public garden, so you don’t need to worry about stepping into someone else’s land.

The garden is quite small, however, it’s a great location to take pictures. You’ll love the little fences with beautiful flowers and fruits inside. 

Check the exact location here.

Dunbars garden flowers and trees

Chessels Court

I must admit that I found this place on the Internet and I added it to my list of places to visit in Edinburgh. To be honest, I was expecting the area to be different, but in case you want to visit this spot, it’s a bit hidden.

As you walk up Canongate street, on the left side you’ll see a street sign that says “Chessels Court”. It leads you to a residential square and you can’t see this house with the heart grass shape, but you just need to walk straight and turn right to see this instagrammable spot.

Check the exact location here.

the vennel

The Vennel

This alleyway is the best spot to take the perfect picture with Edinburgh castle as background. It’s situated in the Grassmarket area, so it’s a great addition to your list. 

The “endless” stairs and far view of the castle will make you want to take more than one picture.

TIP: It can get a bit busy as there is apparently a school around the area, so don’t go around 3 pm as you’ll find all the teenagers walking home.

Check the exact location here.

The Vennel viewpoint

Ramsay Lane

Ramsay Lane is a minute walk from the famous Camera Obscura attraction and it’s truly a hidden gem. It’s considered the second steepest street in Scotland, so be ready to move those legs if you’re walking up.

Apart from the stunning views you get, you’ll also love the light brick houses with colourful doors and red shaped stairs. They reminded me of New York City!

Check the exact location here.

Ramsay Lane

Lady Stair’s Close

The truth is that there are plenty of hidden streets in the centre of Edinburgh and Lady Stair’s is another one of them. It’s probably more popular than others since you can find the famous Writer’s Museum

The Writer’s Museum building is beautiful and inside you can learn about the lives of three notable Scottish writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Even if you don’t go inside the museum, it’s still worth contemplating this stunning building and reading the quotes inscribed on the floor.

Check the exact location here.

Writers Museum in Lady Close
Secret Edinburgh: an unusual guide to visiting the city centre

General tips for visiting Edinburgh

  • If you want to stay in a nice hotel that doesn’t break your bank account, consider looking for hotels outside the city centre. I stayed in Leonardo Royal Edinburgh Haymarket in Haymarket, an area located in the west of the city centre. 

The truth is I found a really good deal on Booking.com and I loved the hotel. The location is quite good because you have nice cafes and restaurants within a walking distance and the city centre is only 15 minutes walk too.

The hotel is very modern and the rooms are amazing. They’re spacious, clean and well-decorated (I especially love the Edinburgh picture from Calton Hill on top of the bed).

  • Be prepared for any type of weather. Two weeks before visiting Edinburgh, I checked the weather and it was going to be sunny (I was so happy). 

However, I knew that the weather forecast could easily change as the UK hasn’t the best weather. During my four days, I experienced strong rain and wind, and yes, it was August. If I was you, I would pack sensibly no matter the month of the year.

  • If you really want to eat in a restaurant, book it in advance. I struggled to find places to dine and I ended up in Five Guys one day. 

I thought this was because of the “Eat Out, Help Out” scheme launched by the government, where restaurants were offering 50% off their meals Monday to Wednesday to encourage people to eat out and help hospitality businesses. 

Surprisingly, this wasn’t always the case as famous restaurants like Makars Gourmet Mash Bar didn’t have a table for the next two weeks. So, don’t make the same mistake as me and book a table.

Are you looking for great places to eat in the city? Have a look at these amazing cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh.

  • The best way to move around Edinburgh is by walking. I generally love walking around any city and avoid going on a Hop On Hop Off bus because you don’t see half of the things you see by walking.

Everything is within a walking distance in Edinburgh and the city is full of magical and mysterious closes and alleys, so I would only take public transport if I was going somewhere further like Edinburgh Zoo.

  • If you want some fun, escape from the bad weather or do something a bit different, visit Camera Obscura. This is an interactive museum with five floors where you can find illusion mirrors, pictures that will test your brain and last but not least, a lovely view of Edinburgh Castle and the city centre on the rooftop.

I must admit that Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the United Kingdom. It’s charming, quaint and mysterious, it has plenty of things to do, restaurants and cafes are amazing and the city is one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen.

If you’re planning to explore other cities in Scotland, you must check Glasgow too. However, if you’re looking for another off the beaten path destination, make sure to include Gretna Green on your itinerary.

If you have any questions about visiting Edinburgh, don’t hesitate to reach me at cristina@mylittleworldoftravelling.com.

Love,

Cristina xx

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Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh
15 Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You'll Love 15 Top Attractions and Secret Places in Edinburgh You'll Love

Basic information about Edinburgh

  • Location: United Kingdom.
  • Currency: Pound sterling also known as British pounds (£).
  • Official language: British English. Scots and Scottish Gaelic are minority languages.
  • National day: Saint Andrew’s Day on the 30th of November. 
  • Best time to visit Edinburgh: May to September.  
  • There is only one airport in Edinburgh.

Other UK travel guides you need to check out

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31 Comments

  1. Nice guide. It would take decades to explore Edinburgh and not find something new!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Katy! I totally agree with you 🙂

  2. That’s a wonderful guide. I wish to visit Edinburgh someday . Saving this for future .

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thanks, Madhu! I hope you can visit it soon.

  3. Suvarna Arora says:

    These are some great places and what a wonderful guide.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Suvarna 🙂

  4. I loved my trip to Edinburgh, and this post is actually reminding me that it should be now time to plan another trip there! I missed a couple of spots of the second part of the post that I think would make the city even more welcoming 🙂

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Edinburgh is amazing! I hope you go back soon and check the spots you missed last time 🙂

  5. I love Edinburgh! I missed a bunch of these spots when I was there. Wish I had seen the Dunbar’s Close Garden and Chessels Court looks so cute!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I’m glad to hear you love Edinburgh too 🙂 I hope you visit those spots next time! Chessels Court is definitely super cute.

  6. Picture perfect postcards from an amazingly beautiful region. I need to put this one on my travel list now.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Shalzmojo! I’m happy to hear you’re adding Edinburgh to your list 🙂

  7. haha, it definitely isn’t best known for the weather – but its soooo pretty, and the architecture is amazing! thanks for this guide!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      You are welcome, Galatia! Also, I agree with you, the architecture is stunning 🙂

  8. I went to Edinburgh once about three years ago for their New Year’s celebration. I did some of the things on your list like visit the museum. However there are many things I still need to do on my next trip there!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I bet New Year’s in Edinburgh was amazing! 🙂 I hope you go back and visit the places you missed last time.

  9. I only went to Edinburgh once during the Fringe Festival which was fun but soo busy! This has so many great ideas I’d love to see and do when I finally get to go back!!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I haven’t heard of the Fringe Festival, but I need to check it out 🙂 I hope you go back too!

  10. So beautiful. Your blog is so calming to look. Wonderful pictures as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you for your kind feedback 🙂 It means a lot!

  11. Ah I loved Edinburgh when I visited last fall. It is such a beautiful city and there are so many fun things to do. The only place I didn’t see on this list was Circus Lane. I hope to go back to Scotland one day. 🙂

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I loved it too! It’s a unique and beautiful place I recommend anyone visiting 🙂 Also, I hope to go back to Scotland and explore other cities.

  12. Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for so long! And your photographs only make me want to go even more. It’s not too far from me here in Ireland so I’m really going to make the effort.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I hope you visit Edinburgh soon 🙂 It’s beautiful and totally worth it!

  13. Great post Cristina! Still can’t believe I haven’t been there, but yeah, I guess weather always scared me away! Love the red steps gem! Haven’t seen this one before 😉

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Aga 🙂 I was scared of the weather too, and although the weather isn’t great, the city is amazing!

  14. ANUKRATI DOSI says:

    That’s a wonderful guide. My heart goes to the castle. Castles have a different vibe altogether.

  15. Edinburgh was already on my list, but this post makes me want to go sooner! Love hidden gems like these; kudos for finding these spots!

  16. Wow, looks like I missed a lot of beautiful places in Edinburgh! Guess I’m going to have to go back 😉 Thank you for sharing the secret spots!

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