Edinburgh is Scotland’s compact, hilly capital. It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Arthur’s Seat is an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views, and Calton Hill is topped with monuments and memorials.
Edinburgh’s bustling city centre ranks as one of the most handsome in Europe and combines rich cultural heritage with stunning new developments. The elegant Georgian streets are set against the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and the medieval turrets and spires of the Old Town.
Princes Street is a match for any city’s main shopping thoroughfare and there are few cities which can claim such a dramatic view of an ancient fortress perched atop a giant volcanic rock and surrounded by a peaceful oasis of gardens stretching the length of the main street.
Tourist or local, here are some things to do in Edinburgh for free!
A walk in the old town
Take a walk through the Old Town with a lot of famous museums, art galleries, theatres, old churches, countless historic landmarks, shopping avenues and amazing architectural and recreational attractions all over the city, Edinburgh can seem quite daunting when it comes to sightseeing. The Old Town of Edinburgh, the oldest part of Scotland’s capital, has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era buildings.
Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s main hills, set right in the city centre. It is unmistakable with its Athenian acropolis poking above the skyline.
The acropolis is in fact an unfinished monument – originally called the “National Monument”. Initiated in 1816, a year after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, it was meant to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, as a memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars.
Building began in 1822, but funds ran dry and celebrated Edinburgh architect William Playfair only saw a facade of his building completed. It was dubbed “Edinburgh’s shame”, but it’s now a popular landmark and it’s a lot of fun crawling up and down its giant steps. Plans since to complete the building never really get much support.The top of Calton hill is a usually quiet place to come on any day, with its grassy slopes and panoramic views of the city, including down the length of Princes street (the main shopping thoroughfare) and Edinburgh castle. There is a good view North of the ruddy-coloured cliffs of Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat, and the undulating slopes of Holyrood Park.
Greyfriars Kirkyard – The most haunted graveyard in the world
Body snatchers, violent ghosts, a loyal dog, and Harry Potter characters may seem like strange bedfellows, but in Scotland’s gorgeous, gothic capital city of Edinburgh, the four merge to make up the ghostly lore surrounding one of the world’s most haunted graveyards.
In the city’s historic center, perched on a hill overlooking the “new” town (built in the 1700s), Greyfriars Kirkyard is a seemingly idyllic cemetery dating back to the 1560s. But, to this day, it has enough strange goings-on to attract a steady stream of ghost hunters, wizarding fans, and the television producers and writers who follow in their wake.
Haunting the cemetery is George MacKenzie, called the MacKenzie Poltergeist, who is said to be one of the most aggressive and active paranormal figures around. Known during his lifetime as a ruthless persecutor of the Scottish Covenanters, a Presbyterian movement in the 17th century, MacKenzie’s spirit, according to legend, was released in 1999 when a homeless man looking for a spot to sleep broke into his final resting place, the Black Mausoleum.
Climb up to Edinburgh Castle
Set upon its mighty rock, Edinburgh Castle’s strategic advantage is clear. Seeing the site’s military potential, Iron Age people built a hill fort on the rock. Early medieval poetry tells of a war band that feasted here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.
As well as guarding great moments in history, the castle has suffered many sieges. During the Wars of Independence it changed hands many times. In 1314, the Scots retook the castle from the English in a daring night raid led by Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce.
The castle defences have evolved over hundreds of years. Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made, was given to King James II in 1457. The Half Moon Battery, built in the aftermath of the Lang Siege of 1573, was armed for 200 years by bronze guns known as the Seven Sisters. Six more guns defend the Argyle Battery, with its open outlook to the north.