54 Cool Things to Do in Edinburgh: Hidden Gems, Unusual Attractions & Quirky Tours

Union Canal kayaks

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Seeking out Edinburgh’s hidden gems? If you’ve done the castle, hiked up Arthur’s Seat and spent a pretty penny drinking in the Grassmarket and feel it’s time to consider the unusual things to do in Edinburgh to kill boredom, impress friends or gift to a loved one, keep reading! 

From lesser-known locations to unique tours, this guide is ideal for visitors who like to do things a little off the beaten track while keeping it accessible. We hope locals pick up a few quirky tips, too. Tell us in the comments.

We’ve collated cool things to do in Edinburgh during the day and at night. Some of these activities are season-specific, so bookmark this post and refer to it throughout the year.

Hidden Gems in Edinburgh

Union Canal 

Did you know Edinburgh had a canal?

Stretching from the capital all the way to Glasgow via The Kelpies in Falkirk, this waterway is a lesser-known thing to do in Edinburgh!

Walk or cycle along the canal starting at Lochrin Basin and Leamington Lift Bridge, close to Lothian Road.

There’s a barge cafe at this location. 

A popular stop along the canal is the abandoned Ashley Terrace Boathouse. 

Give Bum the Dog a Pat

We’re all familiar with Greyfraiar’s Bobby, but did you know that there is a statue of another dog in Edinburgh?

Bum, a bronze statue of a St Bernard-spaniel mix, is located at West Princes Street Gardens and like Bobby, there’s a backstory.

He is said to have arrived in San Diego as a stowaway pup and was adopted by Ah Wo Sue, a Chinese fisherman, around 1886-1898.

Edinburgh and San Francisco are twinned cities, so I wanted to celebrate this commonality by gifting Bum to Edinburgh!

Bum dog statue

Dean Village

Dean Village probably hasn’t been much of a hidden gem since the birth of Instagram, but it’s too pretty to leave out.

If you’ve not wandered from the West End down to Dean Village, give it a whirl for a time-hop experience back to historic Edinburgh.

Look out for the shapes etched into the stone representing the grain mills that once stood there.

Pay The Greek Goddess of Health a Visit in Stockbridge

Along the Water of Leith sits St Bernard’s Well and the statue of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health.

Sit at the benches near the well and enjoy the tranquillity which once attracted locals taking wellness breaks.

Walk Under The Dene

As you head into Stockbridge, you will walk under The Dene, which is a myriad of steps and tunnels.

Built in 1824, The Dene has some Harry Potter vibes going on.

The Dene Stockbridge Bridge_

Spot The Colourful Saunders Sign

A street artist has brought a dull Saunders Sign to life in Stockbridge.

Which version do you prefer?

Poop Your Pants at the Man in the Water

It is a rite of passage to get a fright at Antony Gormley’s sculptures lurking about the New Town.

The Turner Prize winner has six faceless figures placed from the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art down to Leith Docks, and one stands in the water by the bridge on Deanhaugh Street.

Get a Snap of Circus Lane

As with Dean Village, the secret is out about Circus Lane, the cobbled mews with St Stephen’s Church in the background, but it would be a sin to leave it out just in case you missed it.

Circus Lane St Stephen Church St Stephen Church Stockbridge Edinburgh

Wild West in Edinburgh’s Morningside 

Head to Morningside Road and turn right at Springvalley Gardens to find an abandoned spaghetti movie set! 

Find out more in our spooky locations guide.

Colington Tunnel for Street Art

Colinton Tunnel is an abandoned Victorian railway tunnel decorated in graffiti and street art.

The 140 m tunnel has been skilfully transformed and tells the area’s heritage via the poem From a Railway Carriage. 

Parking is located just a few minutes away from the tunnel.

If you prefer to walk, Colington is part of the city walking route, Water of Leith Walkway.

Colinton Tunnel Murals Rainbow Edinburgh

Jupiter Artland

Jupiter Artland is a cool spot just outside of Edinburgh.

Take a leisurely walk around the outdoor sculptures using the key on the garden map to find out more about each installation.

Eat soup and cake at the pink cafe!

In summer, you can reserve a spot to swim in the outdoor pool.

If you like hidden gem tips, check out the new Secrets of Scotland website.

Cool Things to do in Edinburgh

Above, we’ve covered the attractions you’d find off the beaten path in Edinburgh.

Next, we’ll take a look at cool places in Edinburgh where you can do an activity.

Some are daytime activities, others are evening based.

There’s also a mix of unusual indoor and outdoor points of interest, so if it rains, which it does often, you can choose something inside instead.

Watch a Film in a Pub

The Banshee Labyrinth has an actual cinema in it, and The Brass Monkey has comfy cushions and a screen at the back of its bar! 

Alternatively, go to The Dominion for a cinema with drinks. 

The Scotsman Picturehouse red seats with lamps and cinema screen

Play Vintage Computer Games

NQ64 on Lothian Road is a pub with various vintage computer games.

Is Pacman, Street Fighter or Mariokart your poison?

Do a Drag Show

It’s showtime!

Sing along with the drag artists at CC Booms or Planet Bar during one of their live acts.

Why not add a Mimosa into the mix at Brewhemia’s Drag Brunch events?

Find a Speakeasy

There are surprisingly few speakeasy bars in Edinburgh, considering how many pubs the city has!

The most popular, with those who can find it tucked behind a barber window, is Panda and Sons, its sister bar; Hoot the Redeemer is an Ev Ed fave; Never Really Here is a usual speakeasy with no drinks menu, the Secret Arcade serves a long list of vodka drinks and St Bernard’s Bar is a fun spot in Stockbridge.

Look out for Jackson the Tailor across from St. James’s Quarter for a secret bar with red velvet seats.

Or, Encore in the West End.

Hike 7 Hills 

See all 7 hills in Edinburgh by hiking them in a day!

It can be done, we promise. 

While the 7 Hikes Challenge is an annual event for runners, there is no official route.

You might want to get the highest, Arthur’s Seat, out of the way first.

Arthurs Seat Edinburgh Nature_

From there, go back down the well-trodden path and walk to Blackford Hill for epic city views of where you’ve just hiked from.

Blackford Hill hike summit Edinburgh Castle view

Next, go through the Hermitage to Braid Hill.

Look out for golf balls from the golf course. 

Braid Hill viewpoint 7 Hills hike

The fourth hill is Craiglockhart; aim for the golf course and ask for directions. 

Craiglockhart Hill East summit 7 Hills hike

Hill number five is a stretch away, Corstorphine. 

There’s an opportunity to pop into Saughton Park to see the historic bandstand. 

Enjoy the view from Corstorphine Hill viewpoint, but keep heading to the tower for its summit. 

Head down to the main road from the viewpoint and walk all the way into town until you get to Edinburgh Castle on Castlehill.

Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock

Finally, hill seven is Calton Hill. 

In total, the hike took us 10 hours with five stops.

Edinburgh city centre airbnbs Calton Hill views

Volunteer at an Edinburgh Park

Join the Friends of Starbank Park or The Meadows to contribute to park restoration and development.

Make friends, give back and enjoy nature.

Starbank Park Newhaven Edinburgh boat with plants_

Kayak the Canal 

Edinburgh’s first canal-based urban outdoor activity centre, Bridge 8 Hub, is located 20 minutes from the city centre. 

You can hire kayak equipment, join programmes or organise birthday party events through the team at Bridge 8 Hub.  

Union Canal kayaks

Sleep on Barge

If you love the water, you’ll like this unique accommodation in Edinburgh.

Stay overnight in a boatlet with a terrace for scenic brunching and sundown drinks.

Moored at Lochrin, this quirky accommodation is close to a supermarket, restaurants, bars and Edinburgh attractions. 

The barge has two bedrooms and sleeps up to 6-8 people. Pets welcome.

Union Canal Boats Houses Rain Edinburgh

Party on a Barge

You don’t have to sleep on the barge to enjoy a water adventure!

Hire a party barge like The Lochrin Belle for a unique floating experience.

Gin Cruise in Edinburgh 

Try five different gins while cruising Union Canal with Summer Hall Drinks Lab

Don’t like gin? Look out for the cocktail cruise.

This unique activity is also featured in our hen party guide.

Check out our gin guide for more botanical ideas!

Go Wild Swimming 

Portobello Beach is an option for those looking to get in the sea.

Wild swimming is said to have psychological and physiological benefits

Portobello Beach plant

Relax at a Floatation Tank Spa 

How does relaxing in a floatation tank sound? 

Switch off from the busy world outside, disconnect from technology, and give your body the option to heal and your mind time to zen out during an hour floatation session.

Float spa Edinburgh

There are several options to consider.

You can float in total darkness or with some light.

There is also the option to have music at the start to help you settle, which then switches off, or you can keep the music on throughout your session.

All you need to take with you is a towel and flip-flops.

Bathing gear is optional.

If you have long hair, tying it in a loose pony or bunches is the best option to stop it from swishing around the water while still allowing you to lie back comfortably.

Couple floatation sessions are also available, which could be quite romantic!

Float spa capsule Edinburgh.

Enjoy a Kobido Massage

Kobido is an intense face massage from Japan which involves pulling and swiping of the skin.

I’ve had a session with the Kobido Expert based in Granton near Leith, and people commented on my skin after, with one person saying it was glowing.

I will be invested in more of the unique massage.

Play Golf For Free

Hit the historic Bruntsfield Links Short Hole Golf Club near the Meadows for a game of golf.

All you need is your clubs and balls.

Try An Adult Dance Class

Visitors can check out the weekly ceilidh at Ghillie Dhu for an evening of being whirled around to Scottish music.

Locals should check out Dance Base at the Grassmarket for classes on every style, from ballet to Bollywood.

Throw an Axe

Feeling a tad annoyed of late?

Let that anger go by throwing an axe in Newington.

Black Axe Throwing (Summerhall Crescent) is where you can throw axes at targets.

It is much harder than it looks!

Go Skating at Ocean Terminal

Tie up your quad skates or inline blades and hit the highs of Boardwalk, the indoor skating rink for kids over the age of 5.

Transgression Park Boardwalk Ocean Terminal Christmas Lights

Ninja Warrior

Test your strength and stamina at Edinburgh’s indoor inflatable park, Ninja Warriors (126 Salamander Street).

This obstacle park is for kids and adults.

Jump in a Ball Pit

Kids don’t get to have all the fun in Edinburgh.

At Ballie Ballerson (14 Forrest Rd) you can dive into a giant ball pit with over a million balls then celebrate with a cocktail.

You can also order pizza and listen to the DJ play tunes.

The dress code is smart/casual.

Ski at Pentlands

Sure, there might not be much snow for skiing in Scotland, but you can ski all year round at Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Hillend.

Here, you can hire equipment and enjoy the dry slopes or join a class to learn how to ski.

Night skiing is also available.

Midlothian Snowsports Centre features in our guide on things to do at night in Edinburgh.

Hillend Ski Centre Near Edinburgh

Award-Winning Foxlake Park

Adrenaline-filled outdoor activities your bag?

Foxlake (Dunbar, East Lothian) is home to the UK’s first ropes over water course, wakeboarding and segway activities.

Foxlake Challenge Course in Dunbar

Unique Things to Do in Edinburgh by Tour

Laugh and Learn at the Comedy Tour 

If you’ve done the spooky walking tours in Edinburgh before and are looking for a more unique tour, consider the Comedy Tour instead.

Hosted by a local comedian, this one-hour tour takes you through the Old Town with lots of banter and giggles. 

Happy Face Fountain outside of the Fringe Festival at Royal Mile Edinburgh

Make Chocolate in the Old Town 

Learn where chocolate comes from and how to make it during this one-hour indulgent chocolate experience

If that’s not enough, you can try as much chocolate from around Scotland as you like in the tasting room!

Read our full review or book a tour slot.

Chocolate mould The Chocolatarium Activities Tours on Royal Mile Edinburgh

Get Intimate at Gladstone’s Land

The R-rated Intimate Lives: The History of Sex and Desire is one of our favourite tours in Edinburgh.

Find out what goes on beyond closed doors at Gladstone’s Land!

The tour discusses who was having fun in each room of this 17th-century high-tenement house located on the Royal Mile in the Old Town.

The factual stories are diverse, voices are given to the town’s sex workers and you get to see what protection looks like throughout the ages.

This is a light-hearted look at intimacy run by the National Trust Scotland and highly recommended by Everything Edinburgh.

Gladstone Land tour room with bed

Edinburgh Black History Walking Tour

Lisa Williams, founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association and Honorary Fellow in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, discusses the links between Scotland, Africa and the Caribbean during this 2-hour walking tour.

Learn About Craft Beer in Scotland

Taste beers from around Scotland as you learn about the 800 years’ worth of beer history that Edinburgh has influenced.

While the tour’s focus is beer, non-beer drinkers also enjoy it.

Check out the beer-tasting tour here.

The Worlds End pub Old Town Brewdog beer

Experience Whisky From Around Scotland

Jump into a whisky barrel to learn about how whisky is made in Scotland, then travel to the main regions that produce it from the comfort of the wide-screen cinema at the Scotch Whisky Experience on Castlehill.

Use the scratch and sniff card to decide which whisky is for you, then enjoy it in the bar, complimentary of this whisky attraction in the Old Town.

Don’t miss the warm glow of the vault and the impressive whisky collection. 

Reserve your tour tickets here.

While this is a popular thing for tourists to do, many locals haven’t visited the Scotch Whisky Experience.

Check out our guide to whisky tours for more options. 

Sample Food and Hear Stories

There’s a huge variety of food tours in the city, from traditional story-telling and haggis sampling to afternoon tea on a vintage bus!

There’s even a cheese crawl in swanky Stockbridge.

Check out our guide for full details.

See Edinburgh as Sherlock

This very unusual tour of Edinburgh turns customers into detectives!

The game teaches you about Sherlock’s connections with the city while you use an old map of Edinburgh to solve clues in an escape room-style manner.

Rebus Tour For Book Fans

Are you a fan of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels?

Consider this two-hour walking tour for some insight into the books and readings delivered by a Rebus enthusiast.

Royal Oak pub Rebus Ian Rankin

Foodie Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh

Dine at Six By Nico 

Look out for the menu at Six By Nico, which changes every six weeks and serves up six courses! 

Previous themes have included street Thai food, chippy food and Willy Wonka.

Don’t fancy dining out? Go for the dine-at-home box. 

Six By Nico Food Edinburgh

Granton Garden Bakery 

Pick up a loaf and pay what you think it’s worth, with proceeds going to support the work of Granton Community Gardeners.

Open Saturdays 10am-2pm, Pilton Community Health Project window at the back of the building on Pilton Drive North.

Indulge at the Chocolate Cafe 

Continue your chocolate tour of Edinburgh at Coro The Chocolate Cafe (13 Frederick Street).

Enjoy waffles, pancakes, or fondue at this tasty cafe for wee kids and big kids alike. 

Coro is also featured in our Things to Do with Kids guide.

Visit The Marshmallow Lady

If you like hot chocolate, a visit to The Marshmallow Lady (14 Rodney Street) for a monster drink with homemade marshmallows the size of your hand is a must!

The Marshmallow Lady Canonmills take out hot chocolate

Donut Filled With Gelato

What would make a donut better? Stuffing it with delicious gelato and showering it in sauce.

Enjoy this sugary treat at Smoov Gelato Coffee on the Royal Mile.

The Edinburgh donut tour is featured in our food experiences guide!

Bacon-wrapped in Naan at Dishoom  

Bacon rolls are ten a penny in Edinburgh, but you’ll only get a lightweight naan bacon sandwich with cream and chill jam at Dishoom by St Andrews Square!

Book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Check out our brunch in Edinburgh guide for more tips.

Dishoom bacon naan brunch breakfast food

Butter Beer Cocktails at Monteiths 

Harry Potter fans will like the butter beer cocktail at Monteiths off the Royal Mile.

Go through the close-lit fairy lights to get to this lovely Old Town bar.

Hot Toddy Butter Beer Drink Edinburgh Pub Monteiths

Drink Vodka at the Secret Arcade 

The Secret Arcade up the lane from Arcade Bar (48 Cockburn Street) has over 60 vodka flavours, including homemade vodka!

Hand holding small glass of vodka at the Secret Arcade Bar in Edinburgh

Unique Events in Edinburgh

You’ve probably heard about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hogmanay Street Party but what about the fire festival, Open Days for inquisitive folks and the Storytelling Festival?

Samhuinn Fire Festival

The Samhuinn Fire Festival occurs on Halloween at the top of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

Celebrate the transition from summer to winter, watching the costumed artists use fire, music, and dance to tell the narrative.

More information can be found here.

Have a Nose at Doors Open Scotland

Doors Open Scotland is a nationwide event that allows people like us to see behind normally closed doors.

Regions have a set date in September when old and new buildings are open to the public and free to visit.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival

Culture fans enjoy the Scottish International Storytelling Festival every autumn since 1989. 

Local and international storytellers deliver shows at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Netherbow Theatre in Edinburgh’s Old Town. 

Scottish Storytelling Centre Museum

Drink Beer at Oktoberfest

It’s not quite Munich, but Edinburgh establishments do their best to bring the Bavarian beer festival to the city.

Look out for your Lederhosen and watch Brewhemia’s social media channels for updates.

Attend a Bonfire Night

Remember, remember the 5th of November…

Watch fireworks explode into the night sky and feel the warmth from a bonfire during Guy Fawkes Night events around the city.

Edinburgh Bonfire Night

Highland Games Near Edinburgh

Head over to The Kingdom of Fife to see the Highland fling, let the bagpipes make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and watch a caber being thrown about a field at a games day.

Highland Dancers Kilts

Ongoing Events

Browse Eventbrite for offbeat events in Edinburgh.

There is something to suit every kind of interest, like the Edinburgh Darlings make-up events.

Charlotte Tilbury event Greyfriar Church Virgin Hotel Cowgate Edinburgh

Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh

Here’s a wee list of unique things to find around the city!

How many do you see?

Old Town

  • The last gallow on the Royal Mile 
  • Two faces of Deacon Brodie 
  • Ian Rankin’s handprints at the City Chambers
  • Blue man scaling a building 
  • Laughing theatre faces
  • Chinese dragons 
  • The ivy heart 
  • Letterbox in Holyrood Park
  • Cow sculptures
  • Little Ireland sign in Little Ireland 

City Centre and Beyond

  • Regent Gardens Golf Course, you’ll need to strain your neck at Calton Hill to see it 
  • Cale Gates in the West End 
  • Lighthouse on George Street 
  • Sharpener at Portobello Beach
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