Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, a city as beautiful, peaceful, ancient and quaint as a jewel. If you want a different, meaningful and unexpected trip, you should plan a trip to visit this city to experience an artistic and marvelous beauty. The charming capital but also extremely crowded is located in the southeast of Scotland. Edinburgh is always crowded with tourists because of its bustling festivals, haunted castles, Victorian villas and houses and the place of men in skirts and it is also one of the Europe’s most haunted cities. Here is the most detailed and useful Edinburgh travel guide for your upcoming trip. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for the first-time? Let’s check out our Edinburgh travel blog (Edinburgh blog, Edinburgh blog travel) with the fullest Edinburgh travel guide (Edinburgh guide, Edinburgh tourist guide, Edinburgh city guide, Edinburgh scotland travel guide, Edinburgh visitor guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Edinburgh is considered as one of the few cities in the world that has a harmonious combination of economic prosperity with culture, history and art. Visiting Edinburgh, visitors will be amazed at the bustle of a shopping center located right next to a 12th-century citadel, in the medieval old town and admire the architecture of the 18th century…
Edinburgh travel blog: Overview of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a city halfway up the mountainside. Standing from the top of the mountain, visitors can have a panoramic view of the city. On the contrary, if you stand at the foot of the mountain, you can see the whole city. Edinburgh has very characteristic streets, steep and multi-layered. From the peaceful and beautiful small streets which when going to the main streets, visitors will immediately encounter the noise and vitality of a big city. Edinburgh is also one of the major financial centers of Europe, with many large banks, controlling almost entire banking system in Hong Kong, Australia and especially in the United Kingdom and once dubbed “the City of Money”.
This city is also known as the “Athens of the North”, has mountainous terrain and medieval architecture that makes a deep impression on visitors. Coming here, visitores will be immersed themself in an atmosphere full of nostalgia and full of art like in fairy tales.
Language: Because the United Kingdom lacks a codified constitution, there is no official language. However, Scotland has 3 officially recognized languages: English, Scottish Gaelic and Scottish. Temporarily called officially, English is the main language and almost all Scots can speak standard English with a Scottish accent.
Culture: Due to its location on a hilly terrain and numerous George and Medieval houses, Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most impressive cities. Edinburgh has been the capital of Scotland since 1437 (replacing Scone) and is the seat of the Scottish Parliament. It was one of the great centers of the Enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh, hence its nickname the “Athens of the North”. Old Town and New Town of Edinburgh were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
Currency: Scotland uses the British Pound Sterling (GBP) currency for transactions, with an exchange rate of about: GBP 1 ~ USD 1.85.
Edinburgh blog: When is the best time to visit?
Due to its geography located in the north of England, the Scottish climate is often colder than elsewhere in the British Isles. It has primarily oceanic climate, with often cool, rainy, and windy. Especially in winter, Scotland is very cold and often snows and fogs appear all year round, that’s why this place is also known as “the island of fog”.
However, the best time to visit this city is from June to August every year. This is the time when the climate in Edinburgh is extremely wonderful, the sky is clear and the weather is warm which is suitable for sightseeing and outdoor activities. This is also the time when the biggest festivals of the year take place in this city, so it is very vibrant, bustling and crowded with tourists.
Spring and summer, the weather begins to warm up, but not too hot, the temperature fluctuates around 18 degrees Celsius, quite cool, so this is considered the best time to visit Scotland.
The rest of the year the weather is colder but can also bring interesting experiences. If you come to Edinburgh in winter, you will be surprised to see the city covered in white snow and more beautiful than any European city on Christmas cards.
Edinburgh travel guide: How to get to Edinburgh?
Scotland, although a sovereign state, is still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, part of the British constitutional monarchy. Therefore, to come to Edinburgh, Scotland, visitors need to apply for a UK tourist visa. You need to apply for a visa to travel to Scotland at the UK Embassy. To ensure a high visa approval rate, you need to prepare a strong enough profile or via visa travel agencies.
In Scotland, there are 4 international airports: Aberdeen International Airport, Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow Airport, Glasgow Prestwick Airport. Airlines operating flights from Vietnam to Edinburgh are: Vietnam Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and Etihad Airways. Airfares for Vietnam – Scotland flights ranging from 630 to 880 USD/trip.
In addition, there are many other airlines which offer connecting or direct flights to Endinburgh from many worldwide cities such as American Airlines, United Airlines, KLM, Air France, Emirates, Singapore Airlines… To find the most suitable routes depend your location, you can access Google Flights or SkyScanner to find and hunting cheap airfares as well.
You can fly direct to Edinburgh with many different airlines to choose from that we mentioned above. Otherwise, you can fly to London and then traveling to Edinburgh by other means of transport such as plane, bus or train. Thus, you can combine visit London and Edinburgh in one journey. Flight time from London to here takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, this way is better than flying directly to Edinburgh because you can visit many places and not get tired. However, you should note that the airports are often quite far from the city center, so it is necessary to arrange the time accurately, to avoid miss the flight.
If you depart from London, you can also take a train or bus. If you take the train, it will take you about 4 and a half hours with prices ranging from 100-130 Euros for a round trip ticket. You can enjoy the scenery along the way, but because the seats on the train are also quite small, not being able to carry a lot of luggage, it will be quite inconvenient. Refer here.
If you take the bus, it costs about 40 Euros, the travel time will be longer, from 8-10 hours, although it is more saving, but travelinng for a long time can make you tired if you are not used to it.
Edinburgh travel blog: Getting around Edinburgh
The public transport system in the city of Edinburgh is very developed. Therefore, when arriving at Edinburgh airport, visitors can easily getting into the city center thanks to public transport such as taxi, train or bus.
Edinburgh’s bus system is very developed and operates 24 hours a day. Therefore, this is the means chosen by many tourists when traveling between attractions. You should buy a double-decker bus tour ticket (Hop-on hop-off tour bus) valid for 24 hours, you can comfortably traveling and stop at any place to visit on its route, on the bus there will be a guide to guide and introduce you along the way.
Edinburgh’s tram system with 15 stops can easily connect Edinburgh Airport with its New Town. In addition, you can travel by taxi which is also very convenient. It’s very popular in Scotland, regarding its advantages, it moves quite quickly, conveniently, initiative and saves time. However, the cost of taxi here is quite expensive, so it is only suitable for short trips.
Edinburgh is also a very cyclist-friendly capital. There are dedicated bike lanes, green parks and suburbs that are ideal for exploring by bike. You should not drive on the streets of Edinburgh, because finding a parking space is a very difficult thing especially during festival season and peak tourist season.
In addition, visitors can rent a car to getting around Edinburgh and surrouding areas to be more active in exploring. However, you need to have an international driver’s license to participate in traffic here.
Edinburgh blog: Where to go and what to do
Edinburgh is famous for its beautiful old town like a fairy tale, impressive architectural works, buildings and houses with full of nostalgia and not to mention the tourist attractions that have made a name for this city as follows.
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom
When traveling to Edinburgh, you should explore this must-visit castle first. Not only is it a unique architectural building, but the castle is also built on top of a long-dormant volcano. Also because of this feature, the castle became a famous tourist centrepoint of Edinburgh in particular and whole Scotland in general. The castle is so majestic and prominent that you can see it from any corner of the city. Inside the castle, you will learn more about the history of this place as well as visit a small military museum inside with a display of the crown, scepter staff and sword of the former Scottish queen.
The castle is also the symbol of Scotland’s kingship, located on a steep hill in the center of the city and is a must-see on your itinerary. Once playing a major role in Scotland’s history, as a royal residence and at the same time a military fortress, so it also keeps a lot of military equipment, weapons including Mons Meg, one of the oldest cannons in the world and once seen as cutting edge military technology. Inside the castle there is a museum, a small village with traditional Scottish houses…
This castle is located on a large volcanic rock at Castle Rock and from here you can have a great view of the entire city. Having the opportunity to set foot here, visitors will learn about the museum and military prison inside this castle and the display area of the crown of the Queen of Scotland.
At the entrance of the castle gate is a row of cannons used for military purposes in the past. Now they are used to fire every day, except Sunday, at 1pm. If you want to see the whole view of the city, you can go up to its loopholes. It takes more than 2 hours to visit all the parts of the castle. Admission is 16 Euros per person.
Standing by the loopholes here, you will easily admire the panoramic view of the city below. To visit and explore the entire castle, you can spend more than 2 hours wandering through the rooms, museums…
Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom
The museum in Romanesque Revival architectural style was found in 2006 is a place for you to explore and learn more about Scottish culture, history and people. The museum has a total of 5 floors that show the history of this land from the beginning to the 1990s through various interesting exhibitions. This place is also often the site of major festivals and exhibitions. The museum daily opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free admission and audio guides for tourists in different languages.
The National Museum of Scotland covers the entire history of this country through a multitude of exhibitions and impressive events. This is considered a remarkable site of this city and a tourist atraction not to be missed. The national museum with its facade extending all the way to Chambers Street. One of two museum buildings with modern architecture was inaugurated in 1998, is one of the landmark works of the city.
Scottish Parliament Building
Address: Edinburgh EH99 1SP, United Kingdom
Hours: Monday: 10AM–5PM/9AM–6:30PM/Friday, Saturday: 10AM–5PM/Sunday: Closed
One of the prominent architectures of Edinburgh that makes you admire is the Scottish Parliament Building, which was built on the foundation of an old brewery, and was inaugurated in 2005 with the architectural styles of Deconstructivism, Postmodern Architecture. This building is truly a masterpiece by architect Enric Miralles.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Address: 75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR, United Kingdom
This is also a tourist attraction. Inside the two impressive neoclassical buildings, surrounded by many ornamental gardens, are collections of 20th-century art of the world’s greatest artists such as Henri Matisse and Picasso besides other famous Scottish painters.
Address: 109 The Royal Mile Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1SG, United Kingdom
The Royal Miles is a street connecting the east and west of the city of Edinburgh. This road leads to Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (Royal Palace of Holyrood) with a length of 1.6km. Royal Mile is home to many ancient architectural buildings and houses and countless restaurants, shops… extremely bustling. When exploring this street, visitors can easily shop a lot of Scottish souvenirs or enjoy a hot cup of tea with delicious butter cookies in British style, it will be a very wonderful experience.
Royal Mile brings many values and historical imprints of the city. Coming here, you can walk around the shops selling souvenirs, gifts, clothes, coffee shops… At the beginning of this street is the Whiskey museum displaying hundreds of different types of whiskies, going down a little further is the St Giles’ Cathedral with outstanding ancient architecture from the 9th century and high pipe organ system.
Palace of Holyroodhouse (Holyrood Palace)
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, United Kingdom
Hours: 9:30AM–4:30PM/Tuesday; Wednesday: Closed
At the end of the Royal Mile is the magnificent Palace of Holyrood, built in 1128 and opened in 1678, next to the ancient Holyrood Abbey. This palace is closely related to Scotland’s tumultuous history, today it is also the residence of the Queen and members of the royal family during public holidays…
The Elephant House
Address: 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN, United Kingdom
This is a famous cafe known as the place where writer J.K. Rowling wrote the famous Harry Potter series. The cafe serves a variety of drinks, in addition it also selling Harry Potter-related products such as shirts, badges, water glasses, etc. The Elephant House is decorated with many articles and pictures about the writer J.K. Rowling. If you have the opportunity to come to Edinburgh, do not miss the Elephant House!
Saint Andrew Square
One of the extremely interesting places of this city is Saint Andrew Square – an extremely important public area of this city. This is also a comfortable place to visit and shopping area for tourists thanks to many restaurants, bars and luxury fashion stores. In addition, when visiting the Square, visitors will have many opportunities to enjoy street performances and contemporary art performances.
Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s highest natural landmarks. The hill is located in the center of the city, from here visitors can admire the whole city. This is the ideal place if you want to watch the sunrise and sunset in Edinburgh. Calton Hill is home to important works of Scotland such as: Main offices of the Scottish government, Nelson Monument, National Monument.
Sunrise in Scotland will become extremely beautiful if viewed from the top of Calton Hill. The city of Edinburgh that is both shy and beautiful, both ancient and magnificent appearing in the first hours of a new day will certainly be the most memorable experience of visitors.
This street located in the New Town of Edinburgh, Princes Street was built in the early 18th century, with the countless large and small galleries. In addition, there are also antique shops, coffee shops, clothing stores… for you to stop by and explore. Nearby there is also a very nice square and the Scottish National Gallery which you can visit.
Arthur’s Seat is one of the tallest mountains and the best place to watch the sunrise over the city. To conquer this extinct volcano, it will take you about 1 hour to trek to the top. Setting foot on the top of the mountain, you will enjoy the fresh air and panoramic views of Edinburgh, with old castles, Victorian architecture, East Lothian and Pentland Hills. Especially, if you come here in May, it is also the time when the bright yellow gorse flowers bloom, giving off a sweet scent all over the mountainside.
Edinburgh travel blog: What to eat
The Scottish cuisine in general and the city of Edinburgh in particular is not too famous as the cuisine of other European countries. However, it also has its own characteristics and dishes that will surely impress visitors.
Haggis (Large Traditional Sausage)
Haggis is the most famous dish in Scotland, made from minced sheep’s organs with fat, onions, oats and some spices and then stuffed into the sheep’s stomach like a giant sausage then steamed. For those who are not used to eating offal, Haggis will not be an attractive dish.
However, this type of “sausage” is especially popular in many small eateries or supermarkets and is often served with mashed potatoes and mustard greens. Regardless of appearance, Haggis impresses diners with its delicious and savory taste.
Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink Soup
As the typical representative of soups, Cullen Skink is elaborately prepared from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions with accompanying butter, cream and milk. This dish is served with bread, bringing great taste to visitors. This was originally a specialty dish of the town of Cullen in the North East of Scotland, but thanks to its special taste, the soup has become popular throughout the country. The soup is delicious, thick when added cream, butter and milk. When enjoying the soup, you will need to add a few slices of bread.
Scottish Crispy Morning Rolls
Like Haggis, this crispy butter bread is a delicious Scottish dish which has a distinct fluffy pillow texture, one of Scotland’s best loved foods. They are eaten at breakfast or made into sandwiches. The delicious, buttery and crispy cake will definitely not disappoint diners.
Scotland is quite famous for a very rich variety of pudding. If you are a food enthusiast, you cannot ignore the black pudding made from oatmeal, pork fat or beef suet, pork or beef blood, oat groats or barley groats.
Also if you are not brave enough to enjoy this dish, you can try red or white pudding which is also very delicious.
Raisin Shortbread Cookies
Coming to Edinburgh, you must definitely enjoy the delicious and attractive raisin shortbread cookies. This is a traditional Scottish food with delicate, natural sweetness combined with the gentle aroma of rum.
Dundee cake is a traditional Scottish cake that is very popular. This is a fruit cake made from raisins and currants, Scottish also often use different fruits to add in. The cake is spongy and very light, with a sweet and sour taste and a bit of wine flavor. The Dundee cake is decorated with almonds arranged in beautiful circles around, eye-catching. The Scottish people often eat Dundee as a Christmas cake, in the cold winter days.
Stovies are a winter favorite dish in Scotland. They are made from simple ingredients such as potatoes, corned beef, onions, and butter cooked together in a pan. When eating, just served with bread and beets.
Aberdeen Angus Steak
This is a high-class dish that is very favorite in Edinburgh, it is served at many luxury restaurants in the city. Aberdeen Angus Steak is a nutritious, sweet and flavorful beef steak. Beef steak is pureed or chooses the best part of beef, when eaten, it is soft, melts in the mouth, delicious and greasy.
Although this dessert is simple, it is extremely popular in this country. This is a dessert that appears in many luxury hotels and restaurants, and is a combination of ingredients such as honey, oatmeal, cream, whiskey and raspberries.
Scottish whiskey is so famous worldwide that no one has never heard of it and no connoisseur has never tasted it. Tasting whiskey in Edinburgh is an incredibly rewarding experience.
In addition to whiskey, you can enjoy Parrs’ Irn Bru – a carbonated soft drink that is very popular with locals.
Edinburgh blog: Nightlife
Pub: British cultural rendezvous, where people meet to chatting, eating, entertaining and make friends to expand their social life. Most pubs in the UK are friendly and safe, creating the best space and atmostphere for customers to socialize and chat with each other. If you go to traditional pubs, you can easily see that the customers here are mainly elderly people, drinking beer and happily chatting. There is a famous pub chain in the UK that belongs to Wetherspoons, which is essentially a collection of local pubs but under one system to minimize costs and maximize profits. Food and drink prices here are quite affordable, averaging a few pounds. If you find a locally nightlife spot, you can come here.
Edinburgh tourist guide: Shopping
The shops in this city are diverse and easy to shop. Clothing and scarves that are typical items of Scotland are also popular items to buy as gifts. The city of Edinburgh is an ideal destination for those who love shopping. There are many famous brands gathering here such as H&M, Primark, Lush, The body shop…
In addition, there are many lovely shops selling souvenirs. Surely the items here will make you unable to hold back and definitely have to buy them as gifts.
You can shop at any of the shops in Edinburgh’s old town. However, when shopping here, visitors need to pay attention to VAT. Please ask for a VAT Refund Form when buying at stores and keep all shopping receipts to get a tax refund at the airport before you return home.
It can be said that shopping in Scotland is quite good, here is full of common brands in London such as The body shop, Lush, H&M, Primark… Although the same brand, I see items in these stores in Edinburgh are diverse, beautiful, cheaper and easier to buy than in London. There are also quite a few Scottish shops that I find the quality and design to be very good, but the price is a bit high.
From the Edinburgh castle gate, go along the Royal Mile (which I think is quite beautiful) there are many beautiful shops selling souvenirs, clothes, traditional costumes, typical Scottish checkered tartan pattern scarves and dresses, you can visit to buy as gifts.
Note: Because the VAT in the UK is very high (20%), you should try to get a refund at the airport when you return home. Please note that to get tax refund, you must apply for a VAT refund form at the stores you buy from. When going to the airport, fill out detail information in this form, attach the invoice and along with the goods you bought ready to be checked (usually they do not check but still need to be prepared). Once approved, you can choose to receive cash or wire transfer. If you receive cash, you will lose £3.5/tax refund bill, but you will get the money right away, and by transfer, it will take you 1.2 months to receive it.
What to buy
Scotland is home to famous whiskey, so this is also the most attractive and meaningful Scottish gift. Here, there are many types of whiskey with delicious and savory flavors for you to choose from such as: Lowland Single Malt (With the sweet aroma of flowers and grass in the plains), Speyside Single Malt (Fruit and herbal flavors of Spey river region in Northeastern Scotland), Highland Single Malt…
If you want to enjoy strong spirits, with great taste, you can buy Islay or Campbeltown (2 types of whiskies of Scottish islands). Before buying you should check the bottle body for more information about where production and taste of each whiskey, so that you can choose the right flavor for you.
Edinburgh travel blog: Suggested Endinburgh 2-day itinerary
Day 1: Take a morning train from London at 7-8am, the scenery along the way is very beautiful, especially when passing through York and New Castle. Arrive in Edinburgh in the early afternoon at 12.30pm or 1pm, check-in hotel and then joining the free walking tour of Edinburgh by SANDEMANs NEW Edinburgh Tours, in the evening go to a local pub to experience Edinburgh nighlife.
Day 2: In the morning visit the Edinburgh castle, in the early afternoon visit some museums, strolling around the royal botanical garden and wandering around the city, then go shopping and walking around the streets.
Edinburgh blog: Where to stay
Scotland in general and Edinburgh in particular are very developed in terms of tourism. Therefore, finding a hotel or guesthouse here is quite easy. You can completely find hostels, hotels from budget to high-class, meeting all the needs of visitors.
Edinburgh has a lot of hostels and hotels from high-end to budget for you to choose from. You should stay at places near Edinburgh Castle for more convenience in moving and visiting places around this place. If you go in a large group, you can also find rental apartments that will be much more comfortable.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Ten Hill Place Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Ibis Styles Edinburgh Centre St Andrew Square (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- The Scotsman Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Novotel Edinburgh Park (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Leonardo Royal Edinburgh Haymarket (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Castle Rock Hostel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Edinburgh travel guide: Some useful notes before you go
Edinburgh is attracting more and more tourists to visit and explore. Therefore, in order to have a safe and meaningful trip, visitors need to understand the following notes:
- Prepare carefully before traveling, the weather in Edinburgh is quite cold compared to other countries especially tropical nations, so it is necessary to bring a thin, light and warm enough jacket.
- You can bring medicine in case of unforeseen circumstances.
- Scotland uses GBP (British Pound) currency for transactions and purchases.
- When booking air tickets and hotel rooms, you should book at least a month in advance to take the initiative and enjoy preferential programs.
- Look up the map before moving between tourist destinations. If you are traveling for short distances, taking a taxi is more convenient than taking public transport.
- Traveling to Scotland is very safe, but you should still be careful when going to crowded places.
- Should take advantage of places that offer free admission to save money on the trip.
- And the last thing, temporarily forget all worries and chaos if any and enjoy a fresh and enjoyable trip.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Edinburgh you can refer to
- Shared Edinburgh Airport (EDI) Transfers for Edinburgh by Airlink 100
- Edinburgh Airport to City Train Ticket
- Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Edinburgh Castle Tour
- Edinburgh Rail Tour with Edinburgh Castle & Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour (From London)
- Scottish Borders Day Tour from Edinburgh including Rosslyn Chapel
- Whisky and Waterfalls Day Tour from Edinburgh
- Outlander and Three Castles Day Tour from Edinburgh
- Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Scottish Highlands Day Tour from Edinburgh
- Edinburgh City Pass
- Edinburgh Castle Admission Ticket
- Royal Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Pass with Edinburgh Castle Entry
Read more top things to do in Edinburgh here.