Scotland is proud of its monuments and most historic sites are maintained by the National Trust of Scotland or by Historic Scotland. Membership can be obtained which offers free priority access and discounts for a year or a lifetime. Membership also contributes to the sites' preservation and new acquisitions.
Membership to Historic Scotland is yearly, and starts at 34 GBP for adults, 65 GBP for families.
The National Trust of Scotland has yearly membership which starts at 33 GBP for adults, 54 GBP for families.
Edinburgh Doors Open Day is an annual event where historic buildings open to the public. It takes place on the last weekend in September.
Edinburgh's most famous site is the Castle. Home to the Edinburgh Tattoo festival, the castle is perched high on an extinct volcano and looms over the old town section of the city. The castle has been continuously in use for 1000 years and attracts over 1.25 million visitors every year. Free guides are available on the website.
This Palace is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland with a display of the Queen's Gallery. The palace is open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence. There is also a ruined Augustinian Abbey.
St Giles' Cathedral
The Historic City Church of Edinburgh is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. Located in Old Town, it takes its name from the city's patron saint.
Mary King's Close
One of the spookiest sites in Edinburgh, this piece of history shows a historically accurate example of life in Edinburgh between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries and focuses on the city and the plague. The organization funds and manages the annual Mary King's Ghost Fest.
At the top of the Royal Mile, this is a 17th century Old Town tenement (known as a "land") decorated with period furniture.
An old graveyard in Old Town, this site has interred many important citizens. It was made famous by a 1960s Disney film about a dog known as Greyfriars Bobby.
Located on Castle Hill, this unique site focuses light from the top of the tower onto a large dish in a dark room below which allows for a 360 degree view of all of Edinburgh.
On the eastern end of the Royal Mile, this building was designed by the Catalanian architect Enric Miralles. Free tickets are available watch Parliament in session.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
This decommissioned yacht from the royal fleet is one of Edinburgh's best attractions.
Royal Botanic Garden
An impressive display of plants and flowers. Free entry to the gardens, entry to the glasshouses costs 3.50 GBP for adults.
This popular zoo offers a world famous Penguin Parade and their newest species: Malayan sun bears.
Formerly named Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, this site has become famous after being featured in the "The Da Vinci Code".
An extinct volcano, this is a popular tourist site outside of the city. Excellent views from its summit can be found after an easy hike.
Edinburgh's visitors have several options if they would preferred a guided tour.
Edinburgh Bus Tours
A variety of buses usher tourists around the city. There are open-top buses that offer specific tours that allow for hop-on, hop-off service. Ticket prices are around 12 GBP.
Sandeman’s New Europe Edinburgh
This popular European tour group offers free tours (tips encouraged), Pub Crawls, and ghost tours.
Festivals crowd Scotland's calendar, especially during the late summer months. Nicknamed "festival city", many events occur simultaneously in August. Hotel rooms prices increase during this time and accommodations can go quickly.
Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, is one of the biggest festivals of the year. It is usually the focus of the season rather than Christmas. The Hogmanay Street Party takes over the downtown with sections of the city being cordoned off and only accessible upon buying a ticket. Events begin on the last day of the year and continue through the night, or sometimes all the way to January 2nd which is a Scottish Bank Holiday.
A widespread national custom is "first-footing". Right after midnight, people give symbolic gifts such as salt, coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (rich fruit cake). The Hogmanay custom of singing "Auld Lang Syne" is now popular in many countries. People often gather in a circle with linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day.
The Edinburgh International Science Festival takes place in March or April and focuses on "hands-on" science.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival recently moved to the less crowded month of June. Centred around the Filmhouse Cinema.
The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes place in late July and features national and international talent.
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an iconic event in August. Performers from four continents meet and play in front of the Edinburgh Castle.
The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947 and set the stage for the many festivals now in production. Takes place in late August to September and is more "high-brow" then some of the other festivals.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival developed as an auxiliary event to the International Festival and also takes place in August. There are more alternative performances with comedy and avant-garde shows as well. It is now the largest arts festival in the world.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival also takes place in August. It is the largest public celebration of books in the world.
There are several winter festivals that offer fun across the city. Starting a couple of weeks before Christmas and running into January, Princes Street Gardens has a Big Wheel, outdoor ice rink and various festive markets.
There are several passes that offer visitors to Scotland substantial savings.
Offers entry to 27 of Edinburgh's top attractions, a 90-page guidebook, retail and restaurant offers, free public transport, and airport transfers. Can be purchased online or at Tourist Information Centres.
1-day pass 24 GBP
2-day pass 36 GBP
3-day pass 48 GBP
Historic Scotland Membership
This membership provides unlimited access to about 70 sites in Scotland, including Edinburgh's Castle and Craigmillar Castle. There are also discounts for shops, a quarterly magazine, and 50% off all English, Welsh and Manx historical sites.
Passes last for a year and cost about 40GBP for adults (30 GBP for students, elderly, etc.)