Guides

Arts and Culture in Edinburgh

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A capital of culture, Edinburgh charms and thrills with an eclectic mix of art, performance, and history. Whether you're throwing yourself into the Hogmanay parties of New Year's Eve, catching the cutting-edge shows of the Edinburgh Festival, or simply wandering the old streets, it makes for a most memorable city break.

 

Landmarks

 

With its romantic, Gothic architecture and a skyline punctuated with spires and domes, Edinburgh is a pleasure to explore. Its main thoroughfare, the Royal Mile, packs in more notable buildings than many cities have in total, bookended by the magnificent castle at one end and regal Holyrood Palace at the other.

 

Scott Monument

 

The city’s great pride in Sir Walter Scott, spinner of thrilling yarns, is evident in the Gothic monument on Prince’s Street. It adds a dramatic spire to the skyline, and a climb up the 287 steps reveals spectacular views of the city. Try spotting all 64 character sculptures which adorn the monument.

 

East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ. Tel: +44 131 529 4068

 

Scott Monument website

 

Edinburgh Castle

 

The city’s most iconic landmark keeps watch over the city from its vantage point high on Castle Rock. The site was used as a royal castle since the Dark Ages, while its many cannon and barracks show its military prowess. If you’re here in August, don’t miss the incredible Military Tattoo.

 

Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG. Tel: +44 131 225 9846

 

Edinburgh Castle website

 

Performing arts

 

Its theatres may be full to bursting throughout August’s festival season, but that doesn’t mean Edinburgh takes a break for the rest of the year. Among the many playhouses and concert venues, there’s always an innovative and exciting schedule of performances throughout the city, whenever you come.
Traverse Theatre

 

Though today it’s a stalwart of the West End, standing alongside the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre still has a quirky, experimental streak. Known as the writers’ theatre, it actively encourages new talent with diverse festivals occurring throughout the year, and by putting on freshly-commissioned plays.

 

10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED. Tel: +44 131 228 1404

 

Traverse Theatre website

 

Museums

 

Wander down any little lane in Edinburgh’s old town, and you’ll soon stumble across a little museum or gallery, dedicated to preserving some facet of Edinburgh’s rich heritage. There are also vast, contemporary cultural centres, which constantly innovate and investigate, putting on events and exhibitions to spark curiosity.

 

National Museum of Scotland

 

An atrium filled with magnificent beasts, a journey through the mysteries of science, and dazzling collections of arts and crafts – it’s no wonder that Edinburgh’s premier museum is one of the most popular attractions in the country. With events from film screenings to music sessions, there’s plenty to discover.

 

Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF. Tel: +44 300 123 6789

 

National Museum of Scotland website

 

Parks and gardens

 

Few other cities can boast a dormant volcano in their midst, and Arthur’s Seat certainly adds to the mythical landscape of central Edinburgh. Plus, with a loch, craggy cliffs, and special interest wildlife areas to explore, you can experience the joys of Scotland’s countryside without leaving the city.

 

Holyrood Park

 

At the end of the Royal Mile, Holyrood Park covers a wild, mountainous expanse of land, before being tamed into the gardens of Holyrood Palace. Its most dramatic feature is Arthur’s Seat, and the climb to the 250-metre peak will reward you with magnificent views over the city and the Salisbury Crags.

 

Queens Drive, Edinburgh, EH8 8HG. Tel: +44 131 652 8150

 

Holyrood Park website