Imagine that it is early Spring and the weather is wonderful. The sun shines brightly but there is still a tinge of chilliness in the air. It is perfect weather for a stroll. And as you walk, you find yourself on a stone street, surrounded by buildings which possibly came right out of a Charles Dickens novel. That is how it feels to walk about in the Old Town section of Edinburgh.
The capital city of Scotland is commonly considered one of the best tourist locations in the United Kingdom and even the world. In fact, just recently in 2015, it was voted the world’s fourth most beautiful city by travellers and readers of Rough Guide, a self-publishing travel guidebook.
For those who have yet to set foot in this lovely city, here is a list of the top five things to do when in Edinburgh.
1. Pay a visit to the National Museum of Scotland
To start off, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is officially recognised as one of the top 10 tourist attractions in the U.K. and houses a diverse variety of themed exhibitions within its 7 storey building. In addition to its usual sections, the museum is known to hold many special exhibits throughout the year.
But even without the novelty of a special event, the museum’s many sections are sure to leave you in awe. A section which children would enjoy is the semi-interactive wildlife section, which showcases a wide range of fossils and models of prehistoric and modern animals.
Housing artefacts from many different civilisations from all over the world, it is recommended that a minimum of two hours be spared if you wish to visit the museum and all its exhibits. Do note that admission is free and photography is allowed except in the case of some special exhibits, which may prohibit the use of a camera.
2. A peaceful hike up Arthur's Seat
Arthur’s Seat is the peak of a group of hills formed by volcanic activity in the past. Why is it called Arthur’s Seat? Well, in local folklore, Arthur’s Seat is referenced as one of the possible locations of Camelot, the legendary castle of King Arthur.
Fairy tales aside, hiking up Arthur’s Seat is a must when in Edinburgh. At the peak, you will be greeted by a heavenly panoramic view of Edinburgh. It is a sight not to be missed and truly one of the most unforgettable feelings you will ever experience.
While the hill itself is not exceptionally tall and the hiking path is generally easy, even for children, some parts of the hiking path can get a little rocky and slippery (especially if it rains). However, it isn’t too treacherous of a hike and would at most set you back an average of 2-3 hours to reach the top.
3. Whacky fun at Camera Obscura
A hidden gem in a city of endless attractions if I’ve ever seen one. Camera Obscura is an illusion funhouse that is designed to entertain and excite every visitor regardless of age. It has six floors of excitement and whacky experiments which visitors can dabble in.
With interactive shape-shifting mirrors to mind-boggling optical illusions and even exciting simulations (not recommended for persons suffering from epilepsy), Camera Obscura is an ideal place for families, couples and friends who are looking to just have some nonsensical fun. The highlight is an hourly camera show, which enables visitors to observe Edinburgh with a bird’s eye view.
Admissions are by ticket and an adult ticket would cost 13.95 GBP (21.36 USD) while there are special prices for children and senior citizens.
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4. Haggis and the Scotch Whisky Experience
For those who might not be aware, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that is not for the faint hearted. It’s basically a pudding consisting of minced lamb heart, liver, and lungs boiled in the animal’s stomach lining.
While haggis may sound scary initially, it is actually quite delicious and savoury. It is most often used as a replacement for burger patties although other variations of the dish exist. It is impossible to walk into an eatery in Edinburgh and not find haggis on the menu. I sincerely recommend giving it a try!
Speaking of Scottish culinary influence, located right outside Edinburgh castle is the Scotch Whisky Experience. Visitors to this attraction will be able to take a virtual tour detailing the process of whisky brewing and visit the world’s largest collection of whisky housed within the building.
Costing 14 GBP (21.44 USD) per adult ticket, visitors above the legal age limit for drinking will also be able to enjoy a sampling session of different types of whiskies from around Scotland, making it an enjoyable experience overall.
5. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Known as one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, the iconic Edinburgh Castle can be found in the west end of the Old Town section of Edinburgh, at the top of Royal Mile.
What makes the visit to Edinburgh Castle so captivating is how everything seems to blend into it. As you walk towards the castle, you will notice the architecture around you begin to change to resemble that of a medieval town with cobblestone paths and buildings that look ancient by design. All perfect complements of the main attraction.
The castle ground is divided into many different sections with many helpful signs around to help visitors get about. This makes it easy to explore the castle even without a tour guide. In addition to breathtaking views of the city, there are also several museums and exhibits housed within the castle, making a visit to it an affair that would last no less than two and a half hours.
Tickets go for 16.50 GBP (25.28 USD) for adults. As with most attractions in Edinburgh, there are special prices for children and senior citizens. It is also advised to book your tickets online to beat the queue.
An ancient city which never grows old
I often tell my friends that Edinburgh is one of my favourite holiday destinations in Europe and I stand by that. There are many more amazing attractions in Edinburgh and to cover them all would be nearly impossible.
If you ever find yourself in the United Kingdom, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this amazing city and experience its wonder first hand! If you need an itinerary, you sure can’t do much wrong by starting off with this list!
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