With the muscular walls of Edinburgh Castle keeping watch on the bluffs above, the Scottish capital unfolds in a patchwork of Gothic churches, cobbled lanes, rollicking whisky taverns, and historic neighborhoods laced with secrets and stories. It’s a place to be transfixed by medieval keeps and cozy up in cool cafés; to wander between chapels and walk the regal Royal Mile. The wilds are nigh, too – take craggy Arthur’s Seat and the sands of Portobello Beach, offering lookouts and wave-lapped shores within striking distance of the center.
If all that’s stoked the wanderlust, then be sure to read on. This ultimate guide to Edinburgh for backpackers has info on the most amazing sights, experiences, tastes, and hostels the city has to offer…
An amazing Edinburgh bucket list
Be totally enchanted by the castle spires, UNESCO Old Town, and turret-topped cityscape of the Scottish capital with this must-see list of attractions…
Be wowed by Edinburgh Castle
The one landmark that every traveler gravitates towards in this city is huge, dominating Edinburgh Castle. It’s actually been a fortification since the Iron Age, but the main structures seen today date from the 18th and 19th century. There are a few that are older, like stoic St Margaret’s Chapel and the Great Hall, where the nobles would once have dined. A tour of this enthralling site typically takes a whole morning.
Get lost in the Edinburgh Old Town
Welcome to the Edinburgh of the postcards. Centuries-old tenement blocks topped with chimney stacks loom on one side; a medieval belfry lurches overhead on the other. Pubs, taverns, whisky joints, and charming tartan boutiques pack into the crevices and corners. The Royal Mile walk is the main artery. Stroll that and then get lost in the maze of streets that weave and wind all around.
Get laughs at the Edinburgh Fringe
Every August, the streets of Edinburgh are taken over by the world-famous Fringe. It’s the largest arts and comedy festival in the world, attracting over 50,000 performers. The city is a whole other ball game when the shenanigans are in full flow. Al fresco bars, street acts, A-list celebs – it’s all going down. There’s really no better time to feel the cultural pulse of this happening town.
Must-eat foods in Edinburgh
Edinburgh might not make waves as a culinary center, but there are some dishes worth having on the radar…
Haggis – obviously!
Okay, we’re going to go out on a limb here and say that haggis might not sound like the most appetizing of dishes. It’s basically the vital organs of a sheep all wrapped up with spices, mutton fat, and salt, then cooked in a stomach lining. Yea…we know. Still, it’s a national pastime in Scotland this dish. For a surprising vegan option, head to Hendersons Salad Table Restaurant in the New Town.
Move over England – Scotland lays claim to some of the best chips in the United Kingdom. Just ask the locals, who will wax lyrical about the fat-cut potatoes fried in oil. Non veggies can go with the option sided by North Sea fish in batter. Alternatively, add on a pile of mushy peas and a deep-fried Mars Bar (yes, you read that right!) to taste it like a real Scot!
Our hand-picked hostels in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s hostels can be seriously good. We’ve hit the grand old city and picked out the cream of the crop, all so you can rest assured your jaunt will be a pleasant one: