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30 Things You Can Strike Off Your Bucket List By Visiting Edinburgh (Post 1 of a 6 Part Series)

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

“Edinburgh is a hotbed of genius.” ~Tobias Smollett

Edinburgh: one of our favorite places to visit in Scotland. We’ve walked miles on these streets and still can’t get enough and haven’t seen it all… yet!

Tales of witches, wars, and royalty are whispered around each turn of the many Closes you will encounter. Beautiful old buildings stand ready to share their stories of the thousands of residents who have lived within the walls of Edinburgh.

How do you take this most magical city with its colorful and morbid history, beautiful sites and people and condense it into a list of a few places and experiences? We will try our best!

We have compiled our top 30 MUST SEE, DO, and EXPERIENCE in Edinburgh in a six part series.

Starting from the bottom and making our way to our favorite, we will divide this list into a 6 part series. You won't want to miss any of these blogs featuring what we love about Edinburgh.


30. The Red Bistro Bus

Sipping on prosecco before indulging in the city!

The Red Bistro Bus is unique and fun foodie day out. (Reservations required).

This vintage red double decker bus with its piped in music, features booths on both levels, to fit 30+ people allowing for a special dining experience.

Tour through the streets of Edinburgh while dining on afternoon tea and for ten pounds more, enjoy a cocktail made with a local gin.

We dined on the afternoon gin/tea experience. The finger food sandwiches and scones were spot-on delicious!

Experience local Scottish cuisine (all from local suppliers) while you bump along the streets of Edinburgh. When you make your reservations, you have the choice of:

  • malt whiskies

  • chilled glass of bubbly

  • gin pot (see picture below.. we chose the gin in a flowery pot!)

The ride is about an hour and a half with a fifteen minute bathroom break halfway through.

Go with family or friends. A bridal party was on our bus so this is perfect for parties!

Why we give this a huge thumbs up:

  • Riding through the streets of Edinburgh in a vintage double decker bus

  • High tea and sandwiches

  • The SCONES!

  • Ambiance

  • Seeing all of Edinburgh

  • Tasty gin

Some cons to this adventure:

  • The bus stop location (stated on the website) was difficult to locate initially. We walked up and down the street a few times in the area but soon found it. Once the double decker bus arrived we were confident we had found the right spot. (Go on Princes Street, toward Calton Hill. You'll see the bus along the stone wall)

  • The tight space. We had to share a tiny bench seat

  • Narrow steps/space leading to the top of the bus

  • With large parties, it was pretty loud

Prices start at $45.00

Departing at 12 pm or 3 pm, Wednesday to Sunday

Pickup Location: Stance ZF, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3BH

Reservations required


29. Mary King's Close

One of Edinburgh’s most famous closes. The guided tour returns you to medieval 16th Century to one of the busiest streets in Edinburgh (until the close was covered by construction in the 19th Century).

The labyrinth of this close lies under the Royal Mile and it’s hard to imagine that so many families lived in these dark and formidable “homes” where the plague ran rampant.

Begin your tour with a lady or gent from the past in their period costumes. Hear the stories and try to picture the times where disease and uncleanliness ran rampant through these poverty stricken "homes" (which were more like bricked-in 20 x 20 vaults. Perfect size for a family of six (*gasp*)

The hour long tour guides you through the dank and dark underground. Be ready, when the lights go out, to feel the dark, creepy past reach out and touch you. Ghosts? Maybe.

Walk through history in this world below bustling Royal Mile. Learn why “gardy-loo” became a famous term, or leave a toy for the ghostly presence of a four year old girl that died here!

Travel back in time to the sick and dangerous times that have stayed within this close for over 400 years.


Why we give this a huge thumbs up:

  • Fun and insightful tour

  • The history

  • Experience Auld Reekie in the 16th Century

  • Guides dressed in period costumes

  • Small groups (no overcrowded feeling in small spaces

Some cons to this adventure:

  • Small spaces, dank, dark, claustrophobic at times

  • The overall creepiness -- fight or flight kicks in

  • No fresh air or windows

Opened everyday except Christmas. Check the website for seasonal hours.

Prices vary but are around $21.00


28. The Scott Monument

Whether you view this Gothic structure from Princes Street or go in for a guided tour, this monument is breathtaking.

When Sir Walter Scott died, Edinburgh quoted, "Scotland never owed so much to one man", and agreed to build a monument for this literary giant.

It is said that if you look around Scotland, most of what you see and hear was created or saved by Sir Walter Scott.

When the country feared being taken over by England, Scott kept alive the songs, legends, stories, architecture, and the kilt of the Highlands from dissolving and becoming a "ghost of the past". He was a huge celebrity of his time and quite revered.


Construction began in 1840 and is considered one of the largest monuments honoring a writer. Notice the marble statue in the center of Scott, and with him, his beloved pet, Maida.

If you do go on the guided tour, be prepared for tight spaces to climb the 287 steps to the top. Watch your head and be prepared for your legs to burn as you climb higher and higher. If you are claustrophobic or easily out of breath, this tour may not be for you. If you do take on the climb, the 360 degree views are worth it!

Why we give this a huge thumbs up:

  • The 360 degree views of Edinburgh

  • The architectural beauty

  • Perfect location

  • Price of the tour

Some cons of the adventure:

  • We felt rushed on the tour

  • The top was closed and we didn't go to the very top

  • The tight spaces

  • People bumping their heads on the spiral staircase.

Average price for the tour is around $10.00


27. Dunbar's Close

Loved by locals, and us, this quiet and well-laid garden is a quiet respite from busy Royal Mile.

This reproduction of a 17th century garden, is a magical garden located on the Royal Mile near Holyrood Palace.

Throughout the Royal Mile, peak in to some of the closes, and wander back behind the buildings. There are many gardens hidden behind homes and souvenir shops. The closes beckon to be explored.

Out of the gardens that we found on the Royal Mile, this is a picturesque symmetrical beauty. Bring a picnic, take a break from sight seeing, spot a butterfly, or just close your eyes and listen to the wind. Edinburgh is just that magical!

Why we give this a huge thumbs up:

  • Quiet

  • Peaceful

  • The quiet beauty

  • You are guaranteed to be the only one visiting it when you do

  • Well-kept

Some cons of this adventure:

  • Scotland's moody weather means that it can easily flood in the Close (*Wear Wellies and go jump in the puddles!)

  • It was damp and couldn't sit on any benches

  • Almost missed it (obscure entrance)

Open dawn - dusk



26. World’s end pub

Authentic Scottish pub, steeped in history, with some of the best fish-n-chips around.

Located in Canongate, this pub was once inside the city walls. The wall, built for protection around Auld Reekie in the 16th Century where the locals felt like this was the world's end, became more of a prison for the poor.

If you wanted to leave the walled city of Edinburgh, you had to pay. To return back in to the city, you had to pay.

Most people living inside the walls of Edinburgh were the poorest of the poor, and they lived their whole lives never affording the luxury of walking through the gates to the other side.

The world, to them, ended there at Canongate.

Outside the pub, step out on to the cobbled streets and look for brass rectangular "bricks" marking the exact location of where the wall housed thousands of people 400+ years ago. Not only did the story pull us in to this quaint pub, but the aroma of steak and ale pie, or the fish-n-chips beckoned us. We had no control. We blame our noses.

Why we give this a huge thumbs up:

  • The fish-n-chips

  • Steak and ale pie

  • Great selection of beers

  • Authentic Scottish pub feel

  • The history

Some cons of this adventure:

  • Small space, sitting on top of your neighbor

  • A little hot in here (but not hot enough to keep us away!)

Open daily

live music


Stay tuned for the next 5 blogs in the series! Ready to go to Edinburgh? Join us on our tours! Subscribe to our blog/website for more updates and email announcements. Find us on Facebook and join our travel community: Thistles and Coos Travel Community

Thank you again for all your support! We appreciate you!

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