As the world gets reacquainted with international travel, Aussies are discovering new terrain to unpack. One of these destinations is Edinburgh, Scotland’s hilly capital.
If you enjoy exploring bustling cities by day and sipping drams of Johnnie Walker by night, then Edinburgh is a must-visit during your next European adventure. This magical city is home to spectacular architecture, wondrous winding streets and a breathtaking castle atop a dormant volcano.
A short one-hour flight from London, visitors to Edinburgh are welcomed with endless possibilities to fill a long weekend. From ghost tours and castle walks to fine dining and distillery expeditions, this quaint Scottish metropolis is steeped in history and home to many luring attractions.
Here are seven places to visit on your first trip to Edinburgh:
1. Explore Edinburgh Castle
A trip to Edinburgh isn’t complete without a visit to the iconic castle, one of the most historic sites in Western Europe. A short walk up the Royal Mile will lead you to the gates, then step inside to discover the many secrets and stories from centuries gone by. A former royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress – if only the walls could talk!
2. Experience Johnnie Walker Princes Street
Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky, according to locals. Luckily for whisky fans, Scotland enjoys about 250 rainfall days each year. Johnnie Walker Princes Street, which opened its doors in 2021, has fast become one of the hottest tourist tickets in town. Even non-whisky drinkers will love this one-hour immersive experience that includes a theatre show and cocktail making masterclass that dives deep into the history of Johnnie Walker – from his grocery store beginnings to becoming one of the world’s first truely global brands.
3. Walk the Royal Mile
A cobbled stretch in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile connects two of the city’s most famous royal residencies – Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House. Between these two landmarks, you’ll find a number of local shops to stock up on tartan fashions, and attractions like the Museum of Edinburgh and the Writers’ Museum.
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4. Brave the Cold With a Stroll to Leith
When you’re ready to escape the town square in pursuit of some water views, take a turn off Princes Street and onto Leith Street. In under 50 minutes, you’ll find yourself in the city’s oldest port. Leith is littered with trendy cafés, restaurants and bars stretched along the canal – where you will also spot a 5-star floating hotel, Fingal, with 23 cabins.
5. Shop Till You Drop on Victoria Street
Victoria Street in Old Town is famous for one thing, shopping! But it’s also recognised the world over for its colourful storefronts, making it one of the most Instagramable locations in Edinburgh. Victoria Street begins off the Grassmarket at West Bow and snakes up the hillside, and served as the inspiration for many early Harry Potter novels.
6. Grab a Fluffy Hot Chocolate at Moo Pie
Edinburgh isn’t short of hidden gems for foodies, no matter your budget. But sometimes the cool winter air calls for a hot drink to keep your hands warm on the inevitable long walks exploring this sensational city. For the best hot chocolate in Edinburgh, you can’t go past Moo Pie Gelato on Mary’s Street – topped with mouth-watering marshmallow fluff!
7. Warm Up at the Iconic Balmoral Hotel
With the best address in town (Number One, Princes Street), the legendary Balmoral Hotel is where the rich and famous call home during Scottish excursions. With a landmark clock tower that runs a few minutes early to keep Waverley Station commuters on time, the hotel’s bars and restaurants are worth a visit if your budget allows.