Welcoming flights from Europe and other global destinations via carriers including easyJet and Ryanair, Edinburgh Airport serves as a portal for those wanting to explore the Scottish capital. More than 35 airlines use the country’s busiest airport, which has flights to 157 destinations. If you’re keen to discover Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside, landing at Edinburgh Airport should mark the first step on your journey.
Your travel options
Getting from the airport into the centre of Edinburgh is quick and easy. Tram services to the city centre run regularly and take around 35 minutes. Alternatively, buses serving routes to Edinburgh and other local destinations stop outside the main entrance of the terminal. A night bus service also runs 7 days a week, providing access to and from the city centre if you need to catch an early flight home or if you arrive late in the evening.
What you can do
Much of Edinburgh city centre can be explored on foot, but the public transport network is a good alternative if required. This means you’ll be able to discover ever corner of the Scottish capital and take in the many attractions, historic monuments and experiences on offer.
1. Edinburgh Castle
Standing proudly over the city on top of Castle Rock, the imposing Edinburgh Castle provides unparalleled views of the city and a glorious peek into Scotland’s turbulent history. A former military fortress, the castle has been both a royal residence and a prison. Within its high walls you’ll find some of Edinburgh’s oldest buildings, including St Margaret’s Chapel and the Half Moon Battery, while Crown Square is home to the spectacular Grand Hall and Scotland’s Crown Jewels. You can discover the castle at your own pace or, for a fully immersive experience, grab an audio guide to show you around.
2. Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen’s official Scottish residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and regularly hosts official engagements in Scotland. Many of the State Apartments, including the Throne Room and Morning Drawing Room, are open to the public when not in use, allowing visitors to discover the palace’s associations with historical figures including Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
3. Edinburgh Zoo
Home to Britain’s only giant pandas, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo has more than 1,000 rare and endangered species in a beautiful parkland setting. It’s only a short bus journey from the city centre and you can expect to see an array of animals, including everything from Asiatic lions and Sumatran tigers to giant anteaters and blue poison arrow frogs. As well as expert talks from the zoo’s keepers, don’t miss the penguin parade around lunchtime, where members of the king, gentoo and rockhopper penguin colonies leave their enclosures for a waddle around!
4. National Museum of Scotland
Embark on a journey of discovery at the National Museum of Scotland, a treasure trove of exciting exhibits that tell the history of the nation through science and technology, nature, art, design and fashion. The National World galleries explore the story of the Earth, while the World Culture links people and objects from all over the planet. From dinosaurs to the technology of tomorrow, discover a host of hands-on displays and interactives, as well as special exhibitions on everything from robots and embroidery to microscopes and African metalwork.
5. Edinburgh Dungeon
Laugh and scream your way through the Edinburgh Dungeon experience, a fun and immersive set of actor-led shows, exhilarating special effects and thrilling underground rides that look at the city’s grisly history. Come face to face with characters from the dark side of the city, uncover the secrets of the infamous Green Lady and bump into notorious killers Burke and Hare as the Dungeon brings the past to life in new and exciting ways.
6. Arthur’s Seat
If you want fantastic views of Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside, you can hike up to the highest point in Holyrood Park, known as Arthur’s Seat. Found on top of an ancient volcano in the 640-acre Royal Park, just a short distance from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the region is also home to a beautifully preserved hill fort that dates back around 2,000 years. With its stunning geology and diverse plant life, the site is also one of Special Scientific Interest.
7. The Scotch Whisky Experience
Journey through the whisky making process at the Scotch Whisky Experience’s virtual distillery, where you can take a barrel ride through the distillation process, from fields of glowing barley to the final bottling. Learn to distinguish between the fruity, sweet and smoky smells from different regions and get a taster of your perfect dram. The vault has the world’s biggest collection of Scotch whiskies and there’s ample opportunity to enjoy a tutored nosing and tasting.
8. The National Galleries of Scotland
Edinburgh is home to no less than 3 exceptional galleries, boasting some of the world’s finest works of art and an array of visiting exhibitions. The Scottish National Gallery houses works by Rembrandt, Monet, Turner, Van Gogh, Vermeer and Raphael, among many others, as well as a comprehensive collection of works detailing the history of Scottish painting. Or you can come face to face with people who have shaped Scotland’s past, present and future at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, found in a spectacular red sandstone neo-gothic palace that is just as impressive as the art inside. Lastly, is the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art that is housed in two buildings dating back to the early half of the 1800s.
9. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Just one mile from the city centre, is a tranquil haven of greenery that is nearly 350 years old. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh features 70 acres of spectacular landscape, charming outdoor gardens and a Glasshouse with around 3,000 exotic plants. The changing seasons bring with them an array of new colours, sights and smells, and you won’t want to miss the Rhododendron Collection when it is in full bloom.