10 Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In Edinburgh, Scotland - Updated 2024

| 5 min read

The hilly capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, boasts many attractions that will surely leave you in awe. It has two contrasting must-visit sites, the medieval Old Town and stylish Georgian New Town that features numerous gardens and neoclassical structures. For the visitors who are ever curious about the royals, they have here the Edinburgh Castle which houses Scotland’s Stone of Destiny and the crown jewels. But aside from the typical touristy things to do here, this city is also overflowing with extraordinary activities and watering holes that you shouldn’t miss during your holiday. In case you haven’t got a clue about the best non-touristy things to do in Edinburgh, we have compiled a list for you. Check them out, below.

1. Walk down the beautiful Water of Leith

A 15km (9.32 mi) walkway beside the Water of Leigh, which happens to be one of the most important rivers of the city, this site in Edinburgh is one that is less visited. You can expect fewer tourists and plenty of solitude and scenic views that will make you see the city in a different light. Aside from strolling down the pathway, you can also ride a bike, for it has a cycle-friendly trail. Make sure to take plenty of pictures since no tourist will photobomb your shot.

Water of Leith Walkway

Address: Water of Leith Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road Edinburgh EH14 1TQ

Website: Water of Leith Walkway

Opening hours: 10am - 4pm (daily)

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2. Drink to your heart's content at Pickering’s Gin

If you’re a fan of gin, you’ll surely love this non-touristy activity in Edinburgh, which is the Pickering Gin’s tour. This liquor is produced only at the Summerhall distillery and is one of the entries in the artisan gins’ market in the UK. The distillery gives tours wherein you’ll see the process of making one and have a taste of every kind of gin they have. In case you’re wondering about what kind this is, it is a type of London Dry Gin, which is based on an ancient Indian recipe.

Pickering's Gin Distillery

Address: 1 Summerhall Summerhall Distillery, Edinburgh EH9 1PL, United Kingdom

Website: Pickering’s Gin Distillery

Opening hours: Mon - Thurs: 10am - 5pm; Fri - Sun: 10am - 7pm

Price: 13 USD (10 GBP)

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3. Make merry at Stand Comedy Club

The Stand
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user The JPS used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking to have a good laugh in the city, you’ll never go wrong with the Stand Comedy Club. It has three venues which you’ll find in Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Glasgow. Established in the 1900s, this comedy club features local acts and anyone who wants to try their luck on stand up comedy. Today, this establishment also invites major touring names to grace their stage. Also, you shouldn’t take for granted their drinks and chows for it will surely make your tummy happy.

Stand Comedy Club

Address: 5 York Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EB, UK

Website: Stand Comedy Club

Opening hours: 10am - 12am (daily)

Price: Tickets prices are dependant on the show

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4. Satisfy your curiosity with optical illusions at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

A five-floor establishment that will leave you in awe, Camera Obscura & World of Illusions is in a 17th-century building near the Castle of Edinburgh. So after your tour at the castle, head down to this attraction for more picture perfect moments but in a peculiar way. Here, you’ll be seeing optical illusions, tricks, and experience an interactive play with a mirror maze, shrinking room, vortex tunnel, and more. You’ll also see here the uninterrupted view of the city which will mesmerize you. Make sure to bring your whole family when you visit for it will be enjoyed by all ages.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Address: Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND, United Kingdom

Website: Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Opening hours: 9am - 9pm (daily)

Price: 19.57 USD (13 GBP)

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Edinburgh Tour Guide

Neil Spowart

Neil Spowart

5. Be fascinated by the exhibits at the Surgeon's Hall Museums

Located in an A-listed building by William Henry Playfair, Surgeons’ Hall Museums houses the largest collection of pathology in the United Kingdom. It is also home to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh as well as their archives. You’ll also find here the Wohl Pathology Museum, which features the most historic collections of surgical pathology in the whole wide world. So if you’re into science and this kind of stuff, be sure not to miss this one of a kind of opportunity while you’re in the city.

Surgeon's Hall Museums

Address: Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW

Website: Surgeon’s Hall Museums

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 9.79 USD (6.50 GBP)

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6. Have an eerie moment at Cramond Ghost Island

Source: Photo by Flickr user Scotland By Camera used under CC BY-ND 2.0

One of the less visited attractions in Edinburgh is the Cramond Ghost Island, which can only be seen when it is low tide. Here, you’ll see lots of ruins from World War II that makes it a ghost island. Also, when you climb to the highest point of the island, you’ll see the Edinburgh skyline, the three Forth Bridges, Fife, and other islands nearby. Make sure to visit the Cramond village on your way home to see some fascinating things like the smallest art gallery in the city.

Cramond Ghost Island

Website: Cramond Ghost Island

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7. Stroll around Dr Neil's Garden

One of the best attractions for meditating and relaxing in the midst of nature, Dr. Neil’s Garden is a secret garden with a serene pond, winding paths, beautiful flowers, big trees, and more. It is perfect for family and lovers who are looking for quality time and picnic area. This exemplary garden is one of the best open areas and green spaces in Scotland with a small crowd. It is also picture-perfect, so make the most of your time by taking lots and lots of photos.

Dr Neil's Garden

Address: Old Church Ln, Duddingston Village, Edinburgh EH15 3PX, UK

Website: Dr Neil’s Garden

Opening hours: 10am - 6pm (daily)

Price: Free

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8. Learn about the magical history of Harry Potter (from USD 51.0)

Are you a big Harry Potter fan? Do you call yourself a Potterhead? If you answer yes to both questions, then you shouldn’t miss the Harry Potter Origin Tour in Edinburgh brought to you by Viator. During the tour, you’ll learn about the history of Harry Potter in the city and learn about the city’s influences in JK’s magical world like the Balmoral Hotel and Edinburgh’s Old College. You’ll also be visiting the cafes where JK wrote her drafts of the first book and gain insights on her life back then. Additionally, you’ll also get to sample the chocolate frog or the Scottish ice cream, and if given a chance, see the chess set in the first Harry Potter movie.

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Edinburgh J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter Walking Tour

Duration: 4 hours 15 minutes

197 reviews

9. Be mesmerized with the spectacular hand-carved chambers at Gilmerton Cove (from USD 10.0)

Gilmerton Cove3a (5719925456)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user John Dale used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re a history buff and always want to know about the past of the place you visit, then there’s no better place to have a look around than the Gilmerton Cove. Avail of the Gilmerton Cove tour via the get your guide website and see secret passageways and chambers. Other things you’ll come across here are beautiful sandstone furniture like tables and chairs. Make sure to also listen intently to the theories as to why this feature was made in the first place – every single story is fascinating and interesting; making you learn about the place more.

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Edinburgh: Gilmerton Cove Guided Tour

28 reviews

10. Have a fun experience whitewater rafting on the River Tay (from USD 122.0)

If you’re done with walking tours and exploring the city, and looking for some non-touristy thing to do in Edinburgh, then you have to try whitewater rafting in Aberfeldy. This activity is perfect for people who love the adrenaline rush, the outdoors, and soaking in great waters. Here, you’ll be navigating the great River Tay with grade two and three rapids. In case you’re a first timer, no need to worry for the experienced guides will help you throughout the journey. Along the way, you’ll see scenic nature views, rolling hills, and wildlife. It is an activity for the whole family, so make sure to bring them with you when you avail of this tour from Viator.

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Edinburgh - Whitewater Rafting in Aberfeldy with Transport

Duration: 6 hours

7 reviews

Fascinating Edinburgh

Make every moment count when you visit Edinburgh. It has numerous attractions and activities waiting for you the instant you step out of the airport. After visiting the famous landmarks, castles, memorials, and souvenir shops, don’t forget to check out our list of the best non-touristy things to do in Edinburgh, to have a grasp of the city.

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Michelle, a devoted writer and travel enthusiast, endeavors to make a living through her love for words. Her objective is to explore the world, connect with diverse individuals, and motivate others...Read more

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