The best Edinburgh tours and museums


Photo by Lucía Frías on Unsplash

Edinburgh is without doubt Scotland’s number 1 tourist attraction. From the drone of bagpipes in the cobbled streets, the many whiskey filled pubs and tartan coloured souvenirs. You sure know you’re in Scotland when you’re in this historic city. It’s imposing castle on the rocky hill can be seen for miles around and the friendly locals really do make sure you get the full Scotland experience. It’s no wonder over 3 million tourists come to Edinburgh every year. There’s more to Edinburgh than its famous castle of course, here’s our guide to some of the best tours and museums in Edinburgh

The sightseeing bus

You’ll see this bright red double-decker buses in many cities around the world these days and there’s a good reason why this tour company has been so successful. They offer a great audio-tour as you travel and give 24 hours of hop-on hop-off access to their buses which complete a loop of the more central parts of the city in around an hour.

You can book tickets for the sightseeing bus online through to save time and money. Stop number 1 in the centre of town is where the buses line up and leave every 20 minutes or so. You get free headphones that you can keep and the bus has ports next to every seat with volume and language controls. The buses are also open-topped for much of the upper deck so you get great views of the city.

The bus took us past a number of historic buildings such as the Scotts Monument and the Royal Scottish Academy, past the castle of course with great audio information on churches and famous people who once lived in Edinburgh. You’ll also hear the sad story of Greyfriar’s Bobby. A dog who mourned the loss of his owner.

  • Open times: Daily from 9:30am, last tour is at 5:30pm (7:15pm in July and August)
  • Ticket Price: £12 per person

Parliament and Palaces

The sightseeing bus can take you to the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood too, down to the Palace of Holyrood house which is well worth a visit. Public entry to the parliament building is free as well so worth a look around to get some history of government in Scotland over the centuries. It’s an interesting and more open part of town although the ugly modern building pales in comparison to the beautiful Palace nearby.

  • Palace opening times – 9:30am to 6pm daily
  • Adult: £10.75, Children £6.50 (under 5s free)
  • Website:

Edinburgh Ghost Tour

The historic streets of Edinburgh with its narrow alleyways and cobbled streets lends itself to the myths and legends of the past. It’s no surprise then that you’ll find a number of ghost tours around the city centre. While most just walk you around the streets telling your ghoulish stories, there is one tour that can offer a little more. Mercat tours run a devilishly good “Ghosts and Ghouls tour” of the city, starting at Mercat Square. After stopping at a number of important and rather creepy landmarks you’re taking down a dark alleyway and lead to Mercat tours HQ where you enter a doorway leading to the extremely creepy, dark and damp “Vaults” below South Bridge. They are the perfect location for some creepy ghost stories and tales of tourists sighting ghoulish figures in the flicker candle light.

The tours around 1 hour and you can pay a little extra at the start to receive an extra 45 minutes of ghost stories while enjoying a beer in their underground bar too. It’s a great experience that’ll make you laugh as much as it might scare you. The guides are great story tellers and some audience participation is on the cards. A great way to spend part of your evening.

  • Event times: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm
  • Ticket price: £10

Walking tours and museums

Edinburgh is a very walkable city with much to do right in the centre. There are some great walking tours, some of which are free too. It’s a great way to learn some of the history and culture while getting some exercise! There’s also a great number of museums in the city of which some of the best and most unusual are free. Try the Museum of Childhood at 42 High Street for an impressive collection of toys, childhood artefacts and a spooky collection of dolls too! The National Museum of Scotland is well worth spending a few hours in too as its massive collection of over 20,000 objects in 36 galleries is sure to keep you busy. If you’re looking for more history lessons of Edinburgh check out the People’s Story museum too which will give you an experience for all the senses, including smell!

Getting around

If you’re looking to explore of the surrounding area you might like to think about hiring a car in Edinburgh. Daily prices are cheap and there are deals on weekend rental too. The countryside and towns around Edinburgh are well worth exploring if you have the time.

This guide was produced during our Great British Road Trip project. 97 days touring the UK for the best tourist attractions, history, culture and landscapes

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