A guide to the best attractions in Edinburgh

  • The List
  • 3 September 2012
Explore Edinburgh

Fun for all the family at Deep Sea World, just a twenty minute drive outside Edinburgh

Edinburgh Zoo, Deep Sea World, Holyrood Park, Botanic Garden and the Scottish Parliament just some of the city's great sites

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

The ‘camera’ is a giant periscope inside a Victorian rooftop tower on the Royal Mile, giving a spectacular 360° perspective on Edinburgh, plus there’s interactive optical fun galore. The building also contains three galleries and lights up at night.
Castlehill, 226 3709, camera-obscura.co.uk. Opening hours vary seasonally; core hours of 10am–6pm apply daily throughout the year, with extensions during school holidays and summer. £10.95 (£8.95; under 16s £7.95; under 5s free).

Deep Sea World

From seals to piranhas, this marine life centre has a petting area and underwater tunnel so you can get to grips with the deep. Approximately a 20-minute drive from Edinburgh.
Battery Quarry, North Queensferry, 01383 411880, deepseaworld.com, Mon–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat & Sun 10am–6pm (last entry one hour before closing). £13 (£11; under 15s £8.75; under 3s free; family £38–£42).

Edinburgh Castle and National War Museum of Scotland

Perhaps Edinburgh’s most visible landmark, the Castle perches on top of a rocky outcrop at the head of the Royal Mile, and includes ceremonial rooms, fortifications, dungeons and Scotland’s Honours or crown jewels. Inside, the National War Museum (nms.ac.uk) delves into the past 400 years of the country’s military history.
Castlehill, 225 9846 (info)/ 668 8081 (bookings), edinburghcastle.gov.uk / nms.ac.uk/war Apr–Sep daily 9.30am–6pm; Oct–Mar daily 9.30am–5pm. £16 (£13; children £9.20; under 5s free).

Edinburgh Dungeon

A grizzly look into historical Edinburgh, with actor-led tours and rides, just above Waverley Station.
31 Market Street, 240 1001 (info)/ 0871 423 2250 (bookings), thedungeons.com. Opening hours vary seasonally, but core opening hours of 11am–4pm apply daily throughout the year. £12.20–£16.20 (under 16s £8–£12).

Edinburgh Zoo

Visitors can see the headline-grabbing giant pandas, the famous penguin parade and over 1000 other rare and interesting animals and birds at this site, three miles west of the city centre.
Corstorphine Road, 334 9171, edinburghzoo.org.uk. Daily 9am–4.30pm (later during summer). £15.50 (£13; under 16s £11; under 3s free).

Holyrood Park

The main entrance to this large royal park, east of the city centre, is flanked by the Palace of Holyrood House and the Scottish Parliament Building.
Holyrood Park Road, 652 8150, historic-scotland.gov.uk. Open at all times; Holyrood Lodge Information Centre, daily 9.30am–3pm. Free.

Museum of Childhood

Kids can learn about the toys, clothes and lifestyles of children of the past in this Royal Mile museum. Nostalgia for grown-ups guaranteed.
42 High Street, 529 4142, edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venues/museum-of-childhood, Mon–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun noon–5pm. Free.

National Museum of Scotland

Renovated in 2011, this national beacon of culture has exhibitions on natural history, science and technology, Scottish history, art and design and world cultures in galleries surrounding a beautiful, naturally-lit atrium space.
Chambers Street, 0300 123 6789, nms.ac.uk. Daily 10am–5pm. Free.

National Museums Collection Centre

After the redevelopment of the National Museum, two new collection buildings have also been added to the storage and conservation centre at Granton. From vintage motorbikes to whale and dinosaur bones – it’s all there.
242 West Granton Road, 247 4770, nms.ac.uk. Visits by appointment only or with occasional tours.

Our Dynamic Earth

Take an interactive journey through the history of the earth. Go to the tundra or the bottom of the ocean, never being more than a stone’s throw from the Scottish Parliament and Arthur’s Seat.
Holyrood Road, 550 7800, dynamicearth.co.uk. Daily 10am–5.30pm (until 6pm in Jul & Aug; closed Mon & Tue Nov–Mar). £11.50 (£9.75; under 16s £7.20; under 3s free).

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The official Scottish residence of the Queen, this baroque palace was once home to Mary Queen of Scots and now houses the great artworks and tapestries of its regal residents.
Royal Mile, 556 5100, royalcollection.org.uk Apr–Oct daily 9.30am–6pm; Nov–Mar daily 9.30am–4.30pm. £10.75 (£9.80; under 17s £6.50; under 5s free).

Rosslyn Chapel

See the architectural wonders of Rosslyn Chapel this 15th-century chapel, now best known for featuring in The Da Vinci Code as the final resting place of the Holy Grail (spoiler alert).
Roslin, 440 2159, rosslynchapel.org.uk. Mon–Sat 9.30am–5pm; Sun noon–4.45pm.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

These gardens, founded in the 17th century, cover over 70 acres and are just one mile from the city centre. There are glasshouses and cafés within the grounds, as well as high-profile art exhibitions at Inverleith House.
Inverleith Row, 552 7171, rbge.org.uk. Mar–Sep daily 10am–6pm; Feb & Oct 10am–5pm; Nov–Jan 10am–4pm. Free; glasshouse entry £4.50 (£3.50; children £1; family £9).

Royal Observatory Visitor Centre

See the stars through the research centre’s magnificent copper domes at weekly astronomy evenings.
Blackford Hill, 668 8404, roe.ac.uk/vc. Entry by arrangement or at Public Astronomy evenings (weekly, Fri 7.30pm & 9pm). Public Astronomy evenings £4 (£3).

Royal Yacht Britannia

Take a guided tour of the ornate floating royal residence (and the naval quarters below) and learn about life aboard the yacht which served the royal family for almost 50 years.
Ocean Terminal, Leith, 555 5566, royalyachtbritannia.co.uk. Jul–Sep daily 9.30am–4.30pm; Apr–Jun & Oct 9.30am–4pm; Nov, Dec, Feb & Mar 10am–3.30pm. £11.75 (£10; under 18s £7.50; under 5s free; family £34).

Scotch Whisky Experience

Learn more about Scotland’s tastiest export with a tour and tasting session. There is also a bar and restaurant if you need a few more drams to help decide which is your favourite.
354 Castlehill, 220 0441, scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk. Daily 10am–6pm; entry is as part of a tour. Tours £12.50–£50 (£10–£25; under 18s £6.50).

Scottish Parliament

See Spanish architect Enric Miralles’ magnificent (and controversial) Holyrood building, take a tour of the interior, sit in on a debate or look at the artwork on display.
Horse Wynd, 0800 092 7500, scottish.parliament.uk. Opening hours vary according to whether Parliament is in session, see website for details. Free.

Scott Monument

Commemorating Sir Walter Scott, this is the largest monument to any writer in the world. Take all 287 steps to the top for a great view of the city, and occasional exhibitions.
Princes Street Gardens East, 529 4068, edinburghmuseums.org.uk, Apr–Sep Mon–Sat 10am–7pm, Sun 10am–6pm; Oct–Mar Mon–Sat 9am–4pm, Sun 10am–6pm. £3.

Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House

A stylish contemporary building appended to the 15th-century home of Protestant reformer John Knox, housing materials relating to Scotland’s rich oral culture.
43–45 High Street, 556 9579, scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk. Mon–Sat 10am–6pm (also Sun noon–6pm during Aug only). Free entry to SSC; John Knox House £4.25 (£3.75; children £1; under 7s free).

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