12 must-visit attractions near Edinburgh Castle

Not everyone has the time or the energy to see the length and breadth of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle is surrounded by other interesting and entertaining things to do
Edinburgh Castle is surrounded by other interesting and entertaining things to do

While Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline from every angle, it is by no means the only interesting attraction in the area.

Here are 12 places to visit within a stone’s throw of the Castle.

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National War Museum

Actually located inside the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum remembers Scottish battles throughout the ages, using military artefacts and personal treasures to illustrate the story.

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    Visit: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, EH1 2NG - nms.ac.ukGreyfriars Kirkyard

    The supposedly haunted Greyfriars Kirkyard (five minutes walk from the Castle) is home to the grave of Edinburgh’s most loyal dog and mascot, Greyfriars Bobby, but this isn’t the only reason the graveyard is world famous.

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    While here, visitors can also stop by the grave of Thomas Riddell, which is said to have inspired Harry Potter author JK Rowling when naming series villain, Voldemort - otherwise known as Tom Riddle.

    Visit: Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QQ

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    Less than five minutes walk from the Castle, the beautiful urban oasis of Princes Street Gardens has plenty of interesting statues and memorials to discover.

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    On a sunny day, you can catch some rays on the grass and admire the lovely view of the Castle.

    Visit: Princes Street, EH2 2HG

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    Camera Obscura

    Located just beside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is Edinburgh’s oldest purpose-built visitor attraction, where you can experience unique interactive exhibits demonstrating aspects of optical illusions, light and colour, as well as puzzles, a mirror maze, and a vortex tunnel.

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    Visit: 549 Castlehill, EH1 2ND - camera-obscura.co.ukMary King’s Close

    Just a few minutes further down the Royal Mile, step back in time by descending into Mary King’s Close - a collection of hidden streets built over and frozen in time since the 17th century.

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    Visit: High Street, 2 Warriston's Close, EH1 1PG - realmarykingsclose.comSt Giles’ Cathedral

    Also near the top of the Royal Mile sits the imposing St Giles’ Cathedral with its striking crown spire.

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    Visit for free, or pay a little extra for a guided tour and to see panoramic views of the city from the cathedral’s roof.

    Visit: High Street, EH1 1RE - stgilescathedral.org.ukScottish National Gallery

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    Less than 10 minutes from the Castle, the neoclassical Scottish National Gallery on The Mound is beautiful both outside and in.

    Admire both permanent and visiting exhibitions during your visit, including famous works by Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Francis Bacon.

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    Visit: The Mound, EH2 2EL - nationalgalleries.orgMuseum on the Mound

    Also on The Mound, this free museum is located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office, and focuses on the history of money, touching on everything from art and design and technology to crime, trade and security.

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    Visit: The Mound, EH1 1YZ - museumonthemound.com

    National Library of Scotland

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    Just round the corner from Edinburgh Castle (less than five minutes away on foot), the breathtaking National Library of Scotland was opened in 1925 and is the country’s largest library.

    For a little moment of peace in the middle of a bustling city, pop in here to have a quiet look around.

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    Visit: George IV Bridge, EH1 1EW - nls.ukUsher Hall

    On the west side of the Castle, the Usher Hall concert venue opened in 1914 and has been hosting regular live performances ever since.

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    Book tickets to see a show from the varied programme, or simply admire this unique building from the outside.

    Visit: Lothian Road, EH1 2EA - usherhall.co.ukGrassmarket

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    Sitting below the Castle on its south side, the historical Grassmarket was once a bustling marketplace and even a site for executions.

    These days, it’s full of welcoming pubs and restaurants, and offers a brilliant view of the Castle from below.

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    Visit: EH1 2JU

    Victoria Street

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    Stretching between the Grassmarket and George IV Bridge, Victoria Street is a charming winding cobbled street that may have JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter universe.

    Packed with quirky shops, bars and eateries, there’s plenty to see and do here.

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    Visit: EH1 2JW