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A striking castle, interesting architecture, spooky tours, unique Scottish food and a variety of whisky! There is no shortage of things to in Edinburgh Old Town. The first stop on many first-timers’ itineraries, our guide details the most popular Edinburgh attractions, local favourites and everything in between on the Royal Mile and beyond.
We will start at Market Street and work our way up to the High Street, on the Royal Mile.
Then we’ll take you to Edinburgh Castle, down to the Grassmarket and back to The Royal Mile. Our tour of what to do in the Old Town will end at Holyrood Park.
If you need more information on getting your bearings, check out our guide to the Old Town here.
While the Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes places all over the city in August, performances dominate Old Town locations.
The Royal Mile is the heart of the three-week arts festival and is always packed with free shows, live music and promotions.
You don’t have to visit in August though! The Old Town is Edinburgh tourism’s epicentre, so let’s take a look at what to do there.
In this article, we’ve focused more on landmarks and attractions. We also have guides on where to eat and what pubs to visit, plus where to stay in the Old Town.
Get ready to look up, climb down and get comfortably lost in Edinburgh’s closes (pathways)!
Things to do in Old Town Edinburgh
- Enjoy art or a coffee at Fruitmarket Gallery
- Treat yourself to Mimi’s cake or smashed avo toast – here’s our brunch guide.
- Splurge on small plates and cocktails at Nor’ Loft, Market Street Hotel’s terrace
- Learn about Scotland’s gory past at the Edinburgh Dungeons
- Take on the Fleshmarket Close steps
- Stop for a breather at The Jinglin’ Geordie
- Admire the 104 marble stairs of The Scotsman Steps
- Shop, dine and drink coffee or cocktails on Cockburn Street
→ Read next | Where to eat in the Old Town
- Snap the slogan on top of The Inn On The Mile bar
- Turn right, walk up The Royal Mile to spit on the Heart of Midlothian
- Visit St Giles Cathedral
- Go underground at the Real Mary’s Kings Close
- Rub Hume’s toe for luck
- Find the remains of the gallows, look down!
- Spot the two faces of Deacon Brodie
You may also like | The best walking tours in Edinburgh
- Head down to the Edinburgh Vaults on an Edinburgh underground tour. Read our vaults review here.
- Get lost in the myriad steps and closes – an Ev Ed fave
- Sip a cocktail at The Devil’s Advocate
- Learn about Scotland’s authors at The Writer’s Museum (free)
- Check out the New Town views from Ramsay Gardens/Mount Place
Dark tourism fans, here’s our guide to ghost tours in Edinburgh!
- Visit the iconic Edinburgh Castle independently or skip the line with this walking tour
- Pay your respects at The Witches Well
- See the most wonderful show, the Military Tattoo (August)
- Learn about our national drink at Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience
- Get silly at Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura
- Walk down George IV Bridge
- Turn right to explore the pastel buildings of Victoria Street
- Buy Harry Potter memorabilia
- Check out the Harry Potter museum, Museum Context
- Vintage shop in the Grassmarket
- Get that Edinburgh Castle IG pic at The Vennel
- Visit the Grassmarket Farmers Market every Saturday
- Look up at the ceiling of the Black Bull
- Dine on pizza in the shadow of the castle at Cold Town House
- Listen to live music at Stramash in the Cowgate or The Pipers Rest on Hunter Square
- Dance to electronic music at Cabaret Voltaire, a club in a cave
- Try to escape the horrors of the Department Of Magic, Potter Escape Rooms
- Find the Potter inspo at Greyfriars Kirkyard
- Visit the National Museum of Scotland. Find out more in our museums’ guide
- Check out the views from the top floor
- Snap The Elephant House where Harry Potter was written
→ Potter fans! Read our Harry Potter locations guide
- Head back to the Royal Mile to buy something Scottish at The Tron Kirk
- Visit the dolls at the Children’s Museum
- Buy authentic wool products at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill
- See a show at the Storytelling Centre
- Learn about the Royal Mile’s history at John Knox House
- Join a Highlands tour to see Scotland’s majestic landscape over 1-4 days
- Have a pint at the famous World’s End pub
- Take a photo of the Tolbooth clock
- Learn about Scottish social issues at The People’s Museum
- Visit the Museum of Edinburgh for social history
- See views of Calton Hill from Canongate Kirk
- Check out the hidden gem, Dunbars Close Garden
→ Read all about Edinburgh lovely gardens here
- See democracy in action at the Scottish Parliament
- Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse and its Abbey ruins
- Hike to St Anthony’s Chapel ruins
- See Fife and beyond from Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags
→ Love the dark side? Learn about Edinburgh’s ghosts and haunted spots
Our Old Town Edinburgh Guides
- The ultimate guide to Edinburgh’s Old Town
- Where to stay in the Old Town
- Old Town hotels for every budget
- Best Old Town Airbnbs incl. Harry Potter
- Old Town Edinburgh restaurants for every budget
- Our favourite Old Town pubs and bars
- Walking tours including history and Harry Potter
- Spooky ghost tours featuring Edinburgh’s Underground
- Every Harry Potter location fans can’t miss
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