Where to Stay in Edinburgh for a First Time Visit? An Insider's Guide (with map)Calling all Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and art lovers! Looking for a central, historic city with a small, quirky vibe?

Look no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The city, which lies about five hours north of London by train, is home to some of the most picturesque rolling hills and fairy-tale castles. 

Whether you’re a solo backpacker gallivanting through Europe, a couple looking for a romantic honeymoon or a local looking to explore more, we created this guide for you!

From the best accommodations to the coolest neighborhoods and the sickest sights to the easy day trips to explore more, we’ve made this guide to help plan your perfect Edinburgh experience.

We included a map with all the neighborhoods and stays for solo adventurers, couples, families, and friends. 

If this is your first time visiting the charming town of Edinburgh, you’re probably overwhelmed with options.

Where do I stay? How do I see the city? What do I have to do? Don’t worry! I’m here to answer all of your questions (to the best of my abilities). We’ve even included a big map with our handpicked recommendations for neighborhoods and hotels!

(This guide is always up to date, the last updated August 2020.)

But, first things first:

Question: Where to stay in Edinburgh for a first-time visit?

Answer: Old Town, of course!

Located in the heart of Edinburgh, all of the major sites are within walking distance. In fact, most of Edinburgh is walk-able (yes, even the coastline!).

Imagine waking up every morning to the sun rising over the Edinburgh castle, built in the 12th century. Surely that’s a sight that’ll make all of your hometown friends jealous!  

The very city center includes:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile) – Go back in time with historic, haunted areas, and cobbled streets.
  • New Town (City Center) – Filled with shopping areas and some of the iconic streets like Princes, Rose and George Streets.
  • Leith – Ports, amazing food experience, and most international parts of the city.
  • Stockbridge – Cool and trendiest neighborhood in Edinburgh.

Check the map below to get a better idea.

Why do I recommend these areas?

Like I mentioned above, the Old Town is the best part to stay in for a first-timer!

Being within walking distance from everything makes it easy to explore the city or experience a night out on the town.

Family-friendly hotels with affordable rates make these hotels, all located in the city center, a perfect option for your first time.

With all of the amenities of your favorite hotels, from pools and espresso machines to heated floors and free, high-speed WiFi, you’ll be all set to experience Edinburgh in comfort. 

Here’s a full map for you to understand the different areas.

We highlight the districts, main tourists sightseeing in Edinburgh and our handpicked accommodations.

Please note: those are not the exact names of the districts, neither its absolute borders. I just tried to simplify this information.

1. Best areas and handpicked hotels for Edinburgh

As mentioned, Old Town is the best place to stay if you’re an Edinburgh first-timer. However, maybe this isn’t you! Travelers know all too well that we all have different travel styles.

Whether you’re a university student like myself who is looking to save a few pounds here and there so you can buy one more drink at the pub, or you’re looking for a romantic getaway with the love of your life, I’ve created a list of the best-handpicked hotels and hostels for nine different types of travelers.

Also, I would like to include an amazing discount on your stay.

In case you prefer Airbnb, here you have a 35€ discount for your AirBnB stay.

Let’s see the handpicked accommodations! 

Continue scrolling or pick your group and travel type on the menu:

1.1 Families
1.2 Couples
1.3 Luxury Traveler
1.4 Design Traveler
1.5 Groups
1.6 Solo-Traveler
1.7 Nightlife-seeking traveler
1.8 Budget Traveler
1.9 Harry Potter Lover

1.1 Families

If you’re traveling with little ones, you can never go wrong with an “aparthotel.” The perfect mix of hotels and apartments, often offer accommodations with multiple rooms, kid-friendly spaces, and on-site entertainment.

Also, there’s plenty of options with on-site laundry, which makes the packing process 10x easier, especially when you have eager to go kids!

The best areas for families to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for families:

Handpicked accommodations for families

Edinburgh is super kid-friendly. With the Meadows on the southern end, which is just a huge park with playsets throughout, there is something for children of all ages to explore and enjoy.

Eden Locke

If you’re looking for something different and something that balances the busy city life, then Eden Locke is your to-go-to.

Perfect for families, Eden Locke offers aparthotel accommodation where guests can feel the vibe of their homes. The property is a balanced combination of Georgian Edinburgh outside and Shoreditch inside.

Each unit is equipped with a kitchen where you are able to cook. It comes with a  dishwasher, oven, and microwave. Even more, you will also find a kettle,  a toaster, a fridge, and stovetop all that you can use.

Book Eden Locke here

Eden Locke Edinburgh Eden Locke Edinburgh Eden Locke Edinburgh

Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile

Clean, modern, and an ex-serviceman’s hostel is the Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile. It once used to help the city’s homeless before and after World War II.

Today it stands as a competitive and affordable aparthotel in the Royal Mile.

Each room apartment features an equipped kitchen that comes with a coffee maker and kitchen utensils. Thus, enables you to cook your own food.

However, if you’re not in the mood for cooking, you will find a little shop next to the lobby. You can grab drinks, snacks, and microwaveable products. The hotel also provides a self-service laundry and a fitness room you can use.

Book Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile here

Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile

Fraser Suites Edinburgh

You will find Fraser Suites Edinburgh nestled near the Edinburgh Castle.

And this Victorian-style 130-year-old building has the best views of the Princes Street Gardens.

Rooms are installed with contemporary design and sophistication. And perfect for families, the hotel provides a suite with generous space. It is also installed with a separate kitchen, dining, and living area. Making it your home away from home.

They also offer laundry service and 24- hour reception to make sure your needs are met during your stay.

Book Fraser Suites Edinburgh here

Fraser Suites Edinburgh Fraser Suites Edinburgh Fraser Suites Edinburgh

1.2 Couples

Calling all love birds! Honeymooning? Eloping? Just looking for a romantic getaway?

Edinburgh’s wide range of hotels offers so many options to suit your needs. The Fingal Hotel is literally a boat…what is more romantic than a private cabin on a boat overlooking the coastline? 

The best areas for couples to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town
  • Leith

This map shows you the areas recommended for couples:

Handpicked accommodations for couples

There are plenty of beautiful accommodations in Edinburgh that are perfect for couples.

Each hotel’s setting and service, you will surely have a romantic stay in these hotels.

Tigerlily Edinburgh

Perfect for lovers, Tigerlily Edinburgh offers elegant and stylish accommodation that will make your stay more romantic.

Aside from this, experience this award-winning hotel that has continued to capture the hearts of many.

Plus, be delighted with the room’s chandeliers and mirror walls painted in light pink hues. Rooms are also installed with a minibar equipped with drinks, cocktails, and chocolate.

Aside from this, the hotel is also famed for its bar and restaurant. And you wouldn’t want to miss all the fun at the bar before you leave Edinburgh.

Book Tigerlily Edinburgh here

Tigerlily Edinburgh Tigerlily Edinburgh Tigerlily Edinburgh

Fingal Hotel (it’s a BOAT)

Want something different from the usual and ordinary? Or maybe try a whole new experience?

Then climb aboard at Fingal Hotel, the 5-star luxury floating hotel in Edinburgh.

Stay in unique luxury cabins and enjoy the hotel’s old-world elegance and glamour.  You can do stargazing at the hotel’s deck or simply have a romantic dinner with a glass of champagne.

Not to mention being a few minutes drive away from the city, Fingal Hotel is perfect for those who want a peaceful and quiet neighborhood.

Book Fingal Hotel here

Fingal Edinburgh Fingal Edinburgh

1.3 Luxury

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a self-care indulgent weekend, look no further than these luxury 5-star hotels across Edinburgh!

As much as we love traveling on a budget and meeting others in dorms, there is nothing quite like a weekend away at a 5-star hotel where you have no worries or responsibilities. 

The best areas for luxury to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for luxury:

Handpicked accommodations for luxury

Dining experiences and glamour galore, our top hotels for luxury travel will have you feeling like a member of the Royal Family in no time.

From castle views to your own personal palace, these splurges are worth it, no matter the occasion. 

The Witchery by the Castle

Whether it’s the food, the wine, or the hotel itself, The Witchery by the Castle is the total package of those who are looking for style, romance, and luxury.

The Witchery is very much a must-visit having legendary food and award-winning wine list. And these are definitely great for couples looking for something romantic to explore.

Moreover, what I love about this hotel is its breakfast hamper which is served every morning in your room. Or simply have cooked breakfast at the restaurant for free.

Book The Witchery by the Castle here

The Witchery by the Castle The Witchery by the Castle The Witchery by the Castle

The Glasshouse Hotel

Experience luxury and get the 5-star treatment at The Glasshouse Hotel.

This glamorous hotel was once a 172-year-old Lady Glenorchy Church and was converted in 2003. And today it stands as one of the finest places to stay in Edinburgh.

Although its name may not be seen as much in the hotel, you will love its roof garden of two acres of trees, shrubs, and real grass. And most of the bedrooms have access through this garden through the balcony or a private seating area.

Also, have a taste of the hotel’s Scottish cuisine served at their beautiful dining with stunning of Calton Hill.

Book The Glasshouse Hotel here

The Glasshouse, Autograph Collection The Glasshouse, Autograph Collection

Prestonfield House

More like a movie set in ancient times, Prestonfield House is a 5-star hotel that offers the privacy and solitude of a country estate right in the heart of Edinburgh.

So if you’re looking for a place somewhere quiet yet proposes a luxury experience, then it’s going to be Prestonfield House. Aside from this, it’s only a five-minute drive from the city.

And with no two rooms alike, each unit is made sure you get the unique adventure you deserve. You will also find antique furniture all around the hotel and in each room.

Book Prestonfield House here

Prestonfield House Edinburgh Prestonfield House Edinburgh

1.4 Design

Not all design hotels are expensive. There’s also a design-inspired boutique hotel within every budget and every neighborhood.

The best areas for design lovers to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for design lovers:

Handpicked accommodations for design lovers

A great design hotel is like a beautiful piece of art. Beyond the standard hotel, these design hotels offer accommodation a step above the rest.

Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile

Offering luxury bedrooms, classic Scottish and contemporary design, Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile exemplifies in the field of hotel design.

Aside from this, the hotel boasts a great combination of great room lighting and beautiful views of the city. Thus adding a more relaxed place to stay.

This 5-star hotel, nestled right in the heart of the famous neighborhood of the Royal Mile, puts you conveniently located in almost everything in Edinburgh. George IV Bridge and the wonderful streets of Victoria are just around the corners of the hotel.

Book Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile here

Radisson Collection Hotel Royal Radisson Collection Hotel Royal Radisson Collection Hotel Royal

The Rutland Hotel

Experience glamour and luxury with boasting castle views in The Rutland Hotel. It features classic Edwardian exterior, chic and elegant rooms.

Moreover, the rooms are uniquely designed with no two rooms alike. Each room comes with a designer tea and filters coffee plus amazing products from Arran Aromatics.

Aside from the hotel’s design, you also shouldn’t miss its award-winning steak and city’s best cocktails.

Book The Rutland Hotel here

The Rutland Hotel and Apartments The Rutland Hotel and Apartments

94DR

Colored in palettes of white, black, and grey, 94DR offers a luxury boutique bed and breakfast accommodation, a 10-minute ride from the city center.

The hotel is a beautiful combination of tradition, locality, and modernity.

You can choose between two views from the rooms the hotel has to offer. The front-facing room has panoramic views of Salisbury Craggs and Arthurs Seat. On the other hand, the rooms facing the back gives views of its beautiful garden and Pentland hills.

Book 94DR here

94DR Edinburgh 94DR Edinburgh

1.5 Groups

Traveling as a group is always a wild ride – whether it’s a group of 5 of your best friends going on a week-long vacation, or 20 gals going on a bachelorette weekend, group travel always brings some of the best memories.

The best areas for groups to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for groups:

Handpicked accommodations for groups

If you’re looking for a hostel for your group on a budget, check out the Kick-Ass Grassmarket hostel, which has huge rooms available for your group.

If you’re looking to splurge on a nicer quality stay, the Fountain Court Apartments, located a 15-minute walk from the Royal Mile, allows you to book multiple adjacent apartments for you and the squad! 

Fountain Court Apartments

Great for traveling groups, Fountain Court Apartments offers a variety of studios with one to two bedrooms.

Aside from this, they have 24-hour reception and laundry services which makes you at ease to be served with all your needs. Even more, apartments are installed with a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, and living area. And every four days, the hotel provides a housekeeping service.

Plus, the property’s location puts you close to plenty of bars, restaurants, and some of the major tourist sights in Edinburgh.

Book Fountain Court Apartments here

Fountain Court Apartments Grove Fountain Court Apartments Grove

Kick-Ass Grassmarket (Adult Only Hostel)

Accommodating bigger groups and travelers who want to sleep in style, then head to Kick-Ass Grassmarket. Nestled right in the heart of Edinburgh, the hostel is a perfect starting point for a tour in the city.

Kick-Ass Grassmarket can accommodate 6, 8, 10, 12 persons in one room. And aside from this, they also have female-only dorms and quad dorms you can choose from.

It also has daily awesome activities you can join and win new friends. You can choose from Movie Night, 2 epic Pub Crawls, Pub Quiz, and Karaoke or Pool Competitions!

Book Kick-Ass Grassmarket here

Kick-Ass Grassmarket Edinburgh Kick-Ass Grassmarket Edinburgh

1.6 Solo-Travellers

Raise your hand if, like me, you’re a solo travel king/queen! For those of us that prefer to adventure on our own, hostels are the ideal accommodation.

With Europe being a hot spot for backpacking, hostels are not only affordable but offer nightly social gatherings that allow you to meet other solo travelers!

The best areas for solo travelers to stay in Edinburgh are:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)
  • Stockbridge

This map shows you the areas recommended for solo travelers:

Handpicked accommodations for solo travelers

If you’re new to solo travel, I totally get how intimidating it can be to walk into a dorm room full of 10+ strangers from all around the globe.

However, this is the best way to get to see the city (and the rest of the world).

I’ve made friends in dorms all around the world, from my hostel in Bali to my hostel in Barcelona, and those friendships. 

Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new best friend or love interest?

Royal Mile Backpackers

A perfect base to see Edinburgh, just five minutes walk from Edinburgh Station and a 10-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle is the Royal Mile Backpackers.

The hostel has mixed and female-only dorms installed with bunk-beds, personal sockets and reading lights. Sheets are for free while towels can be rented.

Moreover, the common kitchen and dining are open 24 hours. And you can grab free tea, coffee, or hot chocolate as compliments by the hostel.

Book Royal Mile Backpackers here

Royal Mile Backpackers Royal Mile Backpackers

The Baxter

Stay in a chic boutique hostel that has traditional Georgian paneling, tartan wallpapers, ancient oak floors, and handmade bed frames in The Baxter.

Rooms can accommodate 4-12 people where you can choose from mixed or female-only dorms. You also get your own personal locker for your things and luggage. There’s also personal power and lighting in each bed.

Aside from this, staff is available 24/7 to help and assist you. As for breakfast, each guest is given complimentary free-range scrambled eggs.

Book The Baxter here

The Baxter Hostel The Baxter Hostel

CoDE Pod Hostels – THE LoFT

Different from the usual bunk-beds, the CoDE Pod Hostels – THE LoFT features their signature pods, from the name itself.

The hostel’s pods are like having a private room of your own. Each pod has comfy beds, curtains for your privacy and are equipped with USB sockets, LED reading light, hooks, and a shelf. But if ever you’re claustrophobic or just not into these pods, you can always book a private room.

Aside from this, the coolest new features of their pods include LED mood lights behind the headboard. And according to science these lights can affect your mood giving you a more relaxed sleep.

Moreover, breakfast is served in buffet where you can choose from freshly made waffles to pastries to savory meals. And as for thr drinks, have your unlimited variety of coffee, tea and juice.

Book CoDE Pod Hostels – THE LoFT here

CoDE Pod Hostels - THE LoFT CoDE Pod Hostels - THE LoFT CoDE Pod Hostels - THE LoFT

CoDE Pod Hostels – THE CoURT

Nestled in the heart of Old Town is a former courthouse and jail which was renovated into CoDE Pod Hostels – THE CoURT.

Just like its other branch, THE LoFT, THE CoURT offers pod beds that gives you the privacy you need. It also has the same pod bed features with THE LoFT.

However, the unique feature of THE CoURT being a former courthouse and jail is its cool holding cells as private rooms.

Book CoDE Pod Hostels – THE CoURT here

CoDE Pod Hostels - THE CoURT CoDE Pod Hostels - THE CoURT

1.7 Nightlife Seeking Traveler

Edinburgh has some impeccable nightlife, mostly situated in a small area of the Old Town known as Cowgate.

Some of my personal favorites are the Hive, Opium, and the Banshee Labyrinth! With bars and clubs open till sunrise, the party doesn’t stop in Edinburgh. In fact, the Hive has a “contest” called Hive til 5, will you make it till 5 am? (Warning: it’s harder than you think…or else I’m weak).

If you are interested in party and nightlife, then I recommend you the following districts:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for nightlife:

Handpicked accommodations for nightlife

Whether you’re looking for a hostel to help you meet others and save a few pounds to spend on more drinks, or you’re after a private room to recover from the deadly hangovers, here’s my top stays!

Hangover Tip: all hangovers in Scotland are solved with a can of IRN BRU.

Kick-Ass Greyfriars (Adult Only Hostel)

Perfect for nightlife seekers, Kick-Ass Greyfriars offers one of the most exciting pub crawls in the neighborhood.

And whether you’re traveling solo or in a group, the pub crawl is definitely a great activity to try.

More party details, the hostel also holds amazing parties and serves good food at the Kick-Ass Cafe and Bar. Maybe a coffee in the afternoon, or a wonderful dinner with friends, or a few beers to start the night.

Furthermore, cool and colourful dorms are offered by the hostel. They have mixed and female-only dorms as well as private rooms.

Book Kick-Ass Greyfriars here

Kick-Ass Greyfriars Edinburgh Kick-Ass Greyfriars Edinburgh Kick-Ass Greyfriars Edinburgh

Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile

Boasting a restaurant and a bar, you will never be bored at Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile. Enjoy a variety of drinks from mix of spirits,  beers, and cocktails while you chill through the night.

Moreover, the hostel’s bar and restaurant is installed with 3 huge projectors ofr Sky Sports, beer pong, and offers a free game of pool and ping-pong.

They also serve good food like stone baked pizza’s to Vegan Mac & Cheese to go with your drinks. While breakfast is served from 7:00 to 10:00 am.

Book Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile here

Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile Safestay Edinburgh Royal Mile

Stay Central Hotel

If you want plenty of choices for a nightlife experience, Stay Central Hotel can offer you that.

You will find the Three Sisters bar, a pub, and nightclub that hosts entertainment and lively events nightly just around the corners of the hotel.

Aside from this, the hotel is perfect for all types of travelers. They have rooms for groups and also offer private rooms.

Moreover, each room comes with a flat-screen TV, on-demand movies, and an iPod docking station. And you will also find a tea and coffee making facillity in the room.

Book Stay Central Hotel here

Stay Central Edinburgh Stay Central Edinburgh

1.8 Budget Traveler

Are you on a budget? Me too.

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve learned to travel with a strict budget, eating meals that you cook with fellow hostel-mates and taking advantage of free walking tours the hostel has.

Here are some of our favorite budget hotel areas:

  • Old Town (Royal Mile)
  • New Town (City Center)

This map shows you the areas recommended for budget travelers:

Handpicked accommodations for budget

Also, being on a budget, hostels are our home!

After so much solo, budget backpacking, hotel stays seem like a luxury. Know what you won’t find in a hotel, however? Bar crawls. Hostels for the win. 

Pollock Halls – Edinburgh First – Campus Accommodation

If you’re traveling during the Summer in Edinburgh and looking for something within budget, then try to consider Pollack Halls – Edinburgh First.

As its name suggests, it is Edinburgh’s first bed and breakfast accommodation inside a university campus.

Nestled along the Holyrood Park and Arthur‘s Seat inside University of Edinburgh offering over 2000 rooms. Each room comes with a telephone, safety box, and a TV. There are also in-room tea or coffee, linens and towels.

Book Pollock Halls – Edinburgh First here

Pollock Halls - Edinburgh First Pollock Halls - Edinburgh First Pollock Halls - Edinburgh First

High Street Hostel

Affordable and comfortable, located in the historic Old Town in Edinburgh is High Street Hostel.

Just a 10-minute walk from Edinburgh Station.

The hostel offers mixed and female-only dorms with single beds. Each bed comes with a safe and a locker.

On the other hand, guest have access to the shared bathroom and self catering kitchen. And there is also an internet lounge where you can catch up with work or simply browse you social accounts.

Aside from this, the hostel conducts weekly events you can join and participate. These include burger night, movie night, our pub crawl, and pool tournament. Why not try and you might win new friends?

Book High Street Hostel here

High Street Hostel High Street Hostel

Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel

Situated in Cockburn Street in the city’s Old Town is Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel‘s 4 separate buildings comprising of a variety of dormitories and private rooms.

Its accommodation ranges from dorm rooms, quads, triples, twins and doubles for mixed or female-only. There are also private rooms if you don’t want sharing. Rooms are clean, bright, and generous in space.

Plus, the hostel’s location puts you a step right from Edinburgh’s best nightlife street in Cowgate. And they offer free coffee and tea in the shared kitchen.

Book Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel here

Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel

1.9 Harry Potter Lover (Bonus)

If you’re headed to Edinburgh, chances are you’re a Harry Potter fan.

Home to the Elephant House Café (I’ll talk more about that later on) where JK Rowling wrote some of the legendary series, the books are said to have used Edinburgh as inspiration for locations and tales.

Don’t be surprised when Victoria Street eerily resembles what you’ve pictured as Diagon Alley!

The Balmoral Hotel

For the Potterheads reading, book your stay at The Balmoral Hotel, right along Princes Street where New Town meets Old. Rowling spent many nights here finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

Aside from this, the hotel has its own clock tower and offers a 15-meter indoor lap pool and an equipped gym. And the hotel’s location is also just a 5-minute walk from Edinburgh’s shopping district.

Looking to splurge a bit?

Reserve the JK Rowling Suite – the exact room where she stayed! 

The JK Rowling Suite

Named after the famous writer of Harry Potter who once stayed in the hotel during the writing of the novel. The room boasts contemporary design accents with unique features that of the Harry Potter movie.

Book The Balmoral Hotel here

The Balmoral Hotel JK Rowling Suite The Balmoral Hotel JK Rowling Suite

2. Top 10 Sights (and their locations)

Edinburgh has unique adventures and attractions around every corner. Albeit it hiking or partying, or seeing a show to shopping til you drop, there’s no lack of entertainment and things to do in the Scottish capital.

I know a new city can be overwhelming when you’re trying to plan your itinerary, so here are some of my personal favorites! Again, these are my favorites – feel free to let me know yours! 

We’ve created this useful map with our top 10 sights in Edinburgh.

It shows you the locations of the 10 top sights in Edinburgh so you can save and use it during your Edinburgh trip.

The top 10 sights in Edinburgh are: 

  1. Arthur’s Seat
  2. Edinburgh Castle (Skip-the-line-ticket)
  3. Palace of Holyroodhouse
  4. Elephant House Café
  5. Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  6. Whiskey (trust me) (Tasting and Blending)
  7. Dean Village
  8. Rosslyn Chapel
  9. Royal Mile
  10. Harry Potter Tour

These are only some of the things you should see on your visit to Edinburgh. Apart from the list, Edinburgh has more to offer. However, do take note that the popular sites may require you to book in advance to skip the lines and save more of your time.

Tickets you should buy before (Must Read)

Read this section carefully! It will make a difference.

Whenever possible, skip the lines and buy your tickets in advance.

2.1 Arthur’s Seat

For the most part, Edinburgh is full of winding streets, colorful buildings, extravagant castles, and cobblestone paths.

However, if you look to the southeastern corner of the city limits, you’ll see an extinct volcano – Arthur’s Seat. The peak, situated 250 meters above sea level, is easily hike-able by almost anyone. 

The volcano itself is situated in the famed Holyrood Park overlooking the Holyrood Palace. It includes gradual inclines, making it an easy day hike.

On the other hand, the peak can be reached from just about any starting point, whether you’re looking to take a leisurely walk around the entirety of the volcano or trying to rock climb up to the top.

For the beginner hikers and climbers, there are marked trails with designated paths. If you’re an adventure seeker, feel free to take one of the steep routes without a designated trailhead.

Once you reach the top, you’ll have panoramic views of Edinburgh. From the town on one side to the faint sight of the coastline on the other (on a clear day), have your camera ready! 

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh

2.2 Edinburgh Castle

“Alexa, play ‘Castle on the Hill’ by Ed Sheeran.”

One of Edinburgh’s most picturesque sights is none other than the Edinburgh Castle.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the surprise for you but believe me, it’s gorgeous. It sits right at the western end of the Royal Mile, making it an easy visit for all.

Tickets are £19.50 for adults at the castle, or £17.50 if bought online in advance. There are free guided tours available with your admission as well as audio guides available in eleven different languages for a small fee. You’re also free to explore the castle on your own if that’s more of your style. 

To get to the castle from the city center, whether coming into Waverly Station (Edinburgh’s central train station) or the airport on the tram, it’s nothing more than a quick walk! Trust me, you can’t miss the giant castle sitting atop the towering castle rock. 

Book you Skip-the-line-ticket to Edinburgh Castle here

Edinburgh Castle

2.3 Palace of Holyroodhouse

After you stand on top of Scotland at the peak of Arthur’s Seat, make another stop in Holyrood Park to check out the Palace of Holyroodhouse, oftentimes just referred to as the Holyrood Palace.

The current official residence of the Monarchy in Scotland, the gorgeous building is open year-round to the public. 

Sure, Buckingham Palace is gorgeous, but don’t overlook the Holyrood Palace! It features the same extravagant artwork and architecture as Buckingham Palace, but with a small percentage of the crowds. Being located in Holyrood Park offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in history and nature at the same time. 

Book Palace of Holyroodhouse here

Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh

2.4 Elephant House Café

If you’re visiting to see the sites of Harry Potter, don’t miss the birthplace of the series – Elephant House Café! Located right along the George IV Bridge, across from the National Museum of Scotland, JK Rowling spent much of her time in this café crafting and writing her world-famous series.

In addition to Rowling, many other authors have frequented the small, elephant-filled storefront (giving it the name), such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith.  

The tea and coffee house is the perfect place to stop for a quick cup of tea or a nice, long, relaxing reading session during lunch. With breakfast and lunch offerings, as well as a selection of alcohol, the Elephant House is a perfect place to meet.

Tip: It’s open seven days a week, hours depending. 

The Elephant House Edinburgh

2.5 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

My first time in Edinburgh, like many others involved in the arts, was for the world’s largest performing arts festival – Fringe! The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a month-long arts festival that overtakes the city.

With popup venues all over the city, as well as impromptu shows on side streets, every August, the city fills up with aspiring actors, musicians, comedians, dancers, and more, hoping to find their big break on the cobbled streets. 

Even if you’re on a budget and not looking to spend money on tickets every night, there are tons of free shows. From side streets to free stages, there are entertainers of all ages.

Fringe was where I experienced my first circus show, my first burlesque show (HIGHLY recommend), and met so many incredible artists across all platforms.

Entertainers travel from all over the GLOBE for the chance to perform at Fringe, and now cities all over have started their own Fringe fests.

2.6 Whisky (trust me)

Okay, not necessarily a specific sight, but definitely not something to miss when you’re in the birthplace of Scotch!

For a behind the scenes look at how the lovely liquor is made, the Scotch Whisky Experience is for you. With opportunities to sample a whiskey from the five different Scotch regions of Scotland, you’ll be a whiskey expert before you know it. 

Notice in Scotland, whiskey is spelled WITHOUT the “E,” no whiskey for me! If whiskey on the rocks isn’t your go-to, feel free to experiment with a classic whiskey sour or the old fashioned! 

If whiskey isn’t your drink of choice, try gin!

The Edinburgh Gin Distillery is located on the Westend and offers tours, samplings, and almost 20 flavors of gin and liqueur – may I suggest the raspberry liqueur? 

Book a Scotch Whiskey Experience here

Edinburgh Whiskey Tasting and Blending Edinburgh Whiskey Tasting and Blending

2.7 Dean Village

Located on the western part of Edinburgh lies the small, mystical town of Dean Village.

The waterfront, tranquil homage makes you feel like you just landed in a land far, far away.

The rustic brick and stone buildings are surrounded by lush greens. Many others have called the village Edinburgh’s best-kept secret, so much to the point, I hadn’t even heard of it until recently. 

If it’s a sunny day, take a leisurely walk down to the village from the Old Town and Royal Mile. Much of the land is now strictly residential, meaning there aren’t too many options for restaurants and pubs, but the gorgeous scenery is too pretty to skip this.

If you’re looking for a place to escape to, and you want to feel like you’re living in a fairytale, Dean Village is for you. 

Book Dean Village here

2.8 Rosslyn Chapel

Surprise – another gorgeous piece of architecture! The Rosslyn Chapel, built in the 15th century, is just a short drive from Edinburgh.

If you’re without a car, just hop on the Lothian 37 bus and you’ll be there in an hour! Like many of the other sites in Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel has an impeccable history behind it.

From its founding to its appearance in the 2006 film based on The Da Vinci Code, it’s an often unsought gem located just out of the city limits. 

Though I won’t spoil too much, the interior of the chapel showcases gorgeous, colorful stained-glass windows accompanied by towering columns – all built after the initial chapel was destroyed and abandoned in the late 16th century.

Want to learn more? Go see for yourself! If one day isn’t enough, there are two properties on-site to stay at overnight. 

Book Rosslyn Chapel here

Rosslyn Chapel Edinburgh

2.9 Royal Mile

The Edinburgh Castle sits atop the head of the Royal Mile – the main road through Edinburgh. The centuries-old street is just as you’d expect – cobblestones, narrow, lined with pubs through certain parts.

Hint: Some of the newer parts have been built up with smooth footpaths/sidewalks to make it more accessible. 

Along the “Mile” is picturesque red telephone booths (hello, One Direction’s Take Me Home album cover). Nothing like a taste of London tourism in Scotland, eh? 

Book the Royal Mile Tour here

2.10 Harry Potter Tour

Do you like to know which Hogwart’s House you’re in?

Wether your a  pure blood, a muggle, or a squib? Find out here.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you definitely won’t miss this tour. See for yourself the city where JK Rowling took inspiration for the making of Hogwarts and the famous characters in the novel.

Enjoy the 2-hour walking tour and pass JK Rowling’s golden handprints outside City Chambers. Aside from discovering trivias on Harry Potter, also get to see the real Grave of Tom Riddle in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Book Harry Potter Tour here

Harry Potter Tour Edinburgh

3. Neighborhood guide (to understand the different areas)

As mentioned in the prior sections, staying in the Old Town is best when visiting Edinburgh.

As a tourist, you’re looking to see, do and experience as much as possible and your time is valuable.

Aside from this, the Old Town is also a very walk-able neighborhood which makes going around very easy.

3.1 Old Town (Royal Mile)

The oldest and most original part of Edinburgh, aptly named Old Town, has the charm of a medieval town and the party scene of your favorite city.

Full of restaurants, pubs, bookstores, and cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you stepped into a fairy tale every time you leave your hotel or hostel.

In the Old Town, you’ll find the castle, the Grassmarket, Cowgate (home to the clubs), as well as many cathedrals and national sites. 

Old Town Edinburgh

3.2 New Town (City Center)

New Town is, quite literally, located just a hop and a skip from Old Town.

Princes Street (see below) separates the two, though New Town gets to claim ownership over Princes Street.

In total contrast to Old Town’s medieval feel and cobblestone streets, New Town is home to the modern part of town. With hip shopping malls and eateries, New Town is a harsh contrast to its older sibling of the Old Town.

Despite the modern versus antique architecture, there is little difference between the two in terms of what they offer. Both are full of incredible restaurants, delicious cafes and pubs, and hotels and hostels for all sorts of travelers. 

New Town Edinburgh

3.3 Princes Street

Calling all shopaholics. Princes Street, just north of Waverly Station, is the Melrose Ave. of Edinburgh. Separating the Old Town and New Town, anything South of the street in Old Town and everything north, including Princes Street, is the New Town.

The street is mostly occupied by foot traffic and trams, though the Eastern end is open to traffic. 

On the south side of the street lies the Princes Street Gardens. The gardens, home to many museums such as the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland, is a huge green space in the middle of the city that is a great place to watch the sunset with friends or enjoy a nice read. 

Princes Street Edinburgh

3.4 Haymarket

What is a trip to Scotland without a good old rugby match? Head to the West End/Haymarket.

A more physical version of American Football, rugby is one of the most popular sports in Scotland. With both historical and culturally important, the western Haymarket Area is home to the BT Murrayfield Stadium, which is the “home of Scottish Rugby.”

Catch a match or two while you’re there – it is the nation’s biggest stadium! 

3.5 University of Edinburgh

Nestled in between Old Town and the Meadows (a huge park in the town) is the historic University of Edinburgh.

Consistently ranked as one of the top universities worldwide, the area surrounding the school is full of student accommodations, affordable meals, and clubs and pubs.

Its central campus is built right into the heart of Edinburgh (moreover Edinburgh was built around the campus – this school was founded in the 16th century!), with three other campuses on the outskirts of the city. 

If you’re looking for an escape from the city feel, make your way into the centralized part of the campus, where the George Square Gardens lie.

During the school year, you’ll find students in the gardens studying or passing time between classes, and during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this area becomes a beer garden and venue space! 

3.6 Leith

Looking for a beach getaway? The coastal town of Leith is for you.

Just a short bus ride away from the central part of Edinburgh, Leith is one of the bustling port destinations of coastal Scotland. An up and coming arts hub, the town features top-tier restaurants, fresh seafood, and cute, vintage tea rooms.

While you’re there, visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. Once Queen Elizabeth II’s royal yacht, Britannia has been out of commission since 1997 and has since sat along the waters in Leith for tourists and visitors.

Channel your inner king or queen with a cup of tea at the Royal Deck Tea Room or stay aboard overnight to live like the royal family. 

Leith Edinburgh

3.7 Grassmarket

Hidden in the Old Town behind the castle lies a colorful, grassy area referred to as the Grassmarket. A lot of the smaller neighborhoods overlap, and the Grassmarket is one of them.

The infamous statue of Greyfriars Bobby is located in the Grassmarket, atop the bridge. While in the area, make sure to grab a scoop of gelato from Mary’s Milk Bar. The photogenic and aesthetic “bar” produces some of the best chocolates and gelato I’ve ever tasted. 

Mary’s Milk Bar, and the surrounding areas, also offer incredible views of the castle!

No better way to spend a sunny afternoon than a milkshake and a walk through some of the most historic roads Scotland has, am I right?

Grassmarket Edinburgh

4. Day Trips from Edinburgh (Bonus)

Though Edinburgh is gorgeous and charming, it’s not the largest city in the world. It’s no London or Barcelona, and just a short bus ride outside of the city can make you feel like you’re in the middle of a mythical land.

If you thought Edinburgh had enough castles, be prepared to see the rest of Scotland. Other cities to look into visiting while in Scotland including Glasgow, Dundee, St. Andrews, Inverness, Portnahaven, Kirkwall… the list goes on and on!

There’s fishing villages, castles, and loads of tiny, Scottish villages that will transport you right back into the heart of the 18th-century lifestyle. 

Trains and buses are easy to come by, or you can rent a car and go on the most epic road trip of your lifetime! 

4.1 Glasgow

The second-largest city in Scotland, Glasgow is a port city located on the western side of the island!

Just a short one-hour drive west of Edinburgh lands you right in the heart a cultural wonderland. Theatre, art galleries, and street art galore, Glasgow offers the perfect one day getaway from the capital city of Edinburgh.

On your journey there, keep an eye out for the cutest highland cattle calves in the roadside fields! 

If you’re looking for an overnight stay in Glasgow, check out the Alba Hostel  or Euro Hostel Glasgow

Glasgow United Kingdom

4.2 Loch Ness

Folklore, mythical, a hoax, or real? 

Nessie has gotta be real, right? (I think so) See for yourself! 

Just a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Edinburgh lies Loch Ness, the home to Scottish folklore’s Loch Ness Monster, aka Nessie (Anyone else remembers the movie The Water Horse???).

Legend has it, Nessie is a large, long and thin creature. Sort of half dinosaur half horse? Regardless, I think she’s pretty cute. Though her existence has never been confirmed by science, go take a look for yourself!

Tip: Keep your eyes peeled on the waterline for any odd movements, ripples, and waves. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to confirm her existence. Read more about Nessie here.

Loch Ness United Kingdom

4.3 Stirling

More castles, please. A quick hour drive outside of Edinburgh, the city of Stirling is built into the hillside of the Ochil Hills.

The vintage-feel of the college town makes it the perfect getaway when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital city. The city is home to the Stirling Castle, one of the largest and most historic castles in Scotland.

The castle itself is huge, with history around every corner. A castle is a great place for children to feel like they’re a prince or princess once and for all. 

Tip: If you’re into the scenery, take the train from Waverly Station up to Stirling and admire the gorgeous Scottish countryside on your journey. 

Stirling United Kingdom

4.4 Distilleries

Still, looking to get your whiskey fix? Hop in a car and drive north to one of the over 120 active distilleries! The five regions, Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland, and Speyside are all known for their unique, region-specific flavor. 

Some are smoky, some are sweet, some are so unique you’ll never taste anything like it again! Support local agriculture and whiskey makers with a quick visit to their location.

With so many distilleries, it’s hard to recommend just one, so take a look at the country’s tourism board’s handy-dandy interactive map to Scottish whiskey distilleries, located here!

5. Safest area to stay in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, like much of the UK, is one of my go-to recommendations for a nervous or new traveler, a huge testament to how safe the town is.

Regardless of where you stay in the town, keep in mind your typical “safety routine” you could say (no valuables out, don’t leave bags unattended, etc.), and you’ll be all set! 

Here are some of the things I’ve learned during my travels.

1. Always memorize the name or location of where you’re staying – you never know where the night will take you and whether or not you have a phone you want to be prepared to get back safely! (I know this one from experience)

2. Don’t leave anything unattended – I’ve seen multiple bags get snatched from beaches and park benches. Better safe than sorry!

3. If you’re ever feeling unsafe or lost, do not be afraid to ask a local for help. Sure, it might be a bit embarrassing to ask someone for directions to the train station, but I promise you people will be willing to help you. If there’s a language barrier, don’t stress! I’ve had entire conversations over Google Translate.

4. Download the Google Map of the location you’re going to offline. This allows you to access the map with or without an internet connection, which can help alleviate those stresses of taking a wrong turn and ending up on the opposite side of town.

5. If there is a language barrier, download the language offline in Google Translate. Much like maps, it allows you to translate offline, making those awkward bar conversations a bit easier.

Summary where to stay in Edinburgh

There you have all the information about the best accommodations in Edinburgh.

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Questions?

Do you have any questions? Doubts? Please please please drop me a comment below or directly an email here.

In fact, your questions help me to make this article better. So I help you to help me. Therefore, bother me.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh for a First Time Visit? An Insider's Guide (with map)