The top 10 attractions to visit in Edinburgh

The stunning Scott Monument is an unmissable sight on Princes Street
The stunning Scott Monument is an unmissable sight on Princes Street

Whether you’re visiting or an Edinburgh resident, these are the sights you need to tick off your bucket list.

Scotland’s capital city is full of countless fascinating landmarks and points of interest, but if you only have time to visit 10, these are the ones you absolutely need to see.

Visit the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo on any day of the year

Visit the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo on any day of the year

Edinburgh Castle

The most iconic sight in the city, surviving parts of Edinburgh Castle date back as far as the 12th century, so there’s a huge amount of history to learn about during your visit.

Wander the Great Hall, see the One O’Clock Gun go off, and even take a close-up look at the stunning Crown Jewels.

Visit: Castlehill, EH1 2NG - edinburghcastle.gov.uk

The now retired Royal Yacht Britannia is still a fascinating and luxurious sight

The now retired Royal Yacht Britannia is still a fascinating and luxurious sight

Arthur’s Seat

Sitting more than 250 metres above the city, Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of a group of hills that was formed by an extinct volcano system millions of years ago.

If you’ve got the stamina to climb to the very top, make sure to wear sensible shoes and waterproofs. You’ll be rewarded with unrivalled and breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Even if you can only manage a gentler stroll, you can still see some great views from the lower peaks.

Visit: Holyrood Park, Queen's Drive, EH8 8HG - visitscotland.com

READ MORE: 11 of the best cheap things to do in Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden

Completely free to visit, the Royal Botanic Garden is a peaceful green haven just one mile from the city centre, and covering 70 acres.

In good weather, wander the grounds and admire the 13,300 different plant species thriving there.

If it’s raining, you can pay a little extra to escape into the beautiful Victorian palm house and learn about the exotic specimens growing there.

Visit: Arboretum Place, EH3 5NZ - rbge.org.uk

Scott Monument

A totally unique, 61 metre high Victorian Gothic structure on busy Princes Street, you can’t miss the Scott Monument.

Built in the late 1800s to honour the late Sir Walter Scott, this is the largest monument to a writer in the world.

Climb the 288 steps to the top and look out across central Edinburgh.

Visit: East Princes Street Gardens, EH2 2EJ - edinburghmuseums.org.uk

Edinburgh Zoo

Opened in 1913, Edinburgh Zoo was the first in the world to keep and breed penguins.

More than 100 years later, the zoo is home to thousands of animals, and is the only place in Britain to house koalas and giant pandas.

Welcoming visitors every single day of the year (including Christmas Day), this is a great place to spend a full and exciting day, exploring the 82 acres and hundreds of species the zoo looks after.

Visit: 134 Corstorphine Road, EH12 6TS - edinburghzoo.org.uk

National Museum of Scotland

Free to visit (aside from a select few exhibitions) there’s everything from ancient Scottish history to wonders of the animal and science worlds to learn about at the National Museum of Scotland.

There are plenty of fun interactive exhibits and educational games to keep children (and big kids) entertained.

If you’re there on a good weather day, don’t forget to head up to the rooftop garden for a lovely view of the city.

Visit: Chambers Street, EH1 1JF - nms.ac.uk

Royal Yacht Britannia

The former royal yacht of the Queen, the Royal Yacht Britannia was in service from 1954 until 1997, before it was permanently retired to Ocean Terminal in Leith.

Board the luxurious vessel with an audio guide and discover the opulent on-board apartments, relax in the sun lounge and enjoy some refreshments in the tea room.

Visit: Ocean Terminal, Ocean Drive, EH6 6JJ - royalyachtbritannia.co.uk

READ MORE: 9 of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura

Originally opened in 1835, Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is Edinburgh’s oldest purpose-built visitor attraction, and one of the oldest in the UK.

Look forward to unique interactive exhibits demonstrating aspects of optical illusions, light and colour, as well as puzzles, a mirror maze, and a vortex tunnel.

Best of all, the attraction’s original camera obscura viewing device - built in the 18th century - is still in good working order.

Visit: 549 Castlehill, EH1 2ND - camera-obscura.co.uk

Royal Mile

Stretching one Scots mile (just over a standard mile) from Edinburgh Castle at the top to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the charming cobbled Royal Mile looks much the same as it did hundreds of years ago.

Wander the street (making sure to explore its closes, nooks and crannies as you go) and admire the perfectly preserved Old Town architecture.

Calton Hill

If you haven’t got time to tackle Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill at the East End of Princes Street is the next best thing, and gives a completely different perspective.

A short but steep uphill walk will give you a lovely view of the city, from the Firth of Forth to the Pentland Hills.