Edinburgh is a historic city. Any guide to Edinburgh will tell you as much. There’s a castle, a lot of 18th-century architecture, heritage sights and museums scattered pretty much everywhere.
But beyond the usual tourist hot spots, there lurk some more off-the-beaten-track, and frankly more fun ways, to spend your time in Edinburgh. Here are just a few of them…
1. Kick things off with a tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience
It would be pretty impossible to do anything in Edinburgh without at least being reminded that whisky is very much on the menu in the Scottish capital. And if you really want to actually learn about whisky, then a trip to The Scotch Whisky Experience is a good idea.
While you could simply book a tour and drop in for a mooch about, this establishment offers some very in-depth whisky-focused specialities. Their Scotch Whisky Training School, where you can learn how to properly taste whisky, has actually been given the thumbs up by the Scotch whisky industry.
2. Take a stroll at the Royal Botanic Gardens
While we rate botanic gardens anywhere, these ones in Edinburgh are the second-oldest scientific gardens in Britain. Founded in 1670, they were initially intended for growing medicinal plants (probably not that kind of “medicinal” plant).
Today they’re spread across 72 acres and encompass all sorts of different areas. Including a Chinese hillside garden with pagodas and waterfalls, but you may be particularly drawn to the awesome Victorian glasshouse.
In here is a treasure trove exotic plants and succulents to fill your Instagram feed for weeks on end. It’s also here that you’ll find a Sabal palm tree. This is thought to be the oldest in the world (it’s been growing for over two centuries).
3. Head underground to Mary King’s Close
For a pretty gruesome slice of Edinburgh history, you can head over to Mary King’s Close. Running underneath the buildings on the Royal Mile in the city’s Old Town, it takes its name from Mary King, a 17th-century merchant.
This still intact street was buried during building work during the 18th century, but you can descend today and see the eerie space for yourself. It’s renowned for hauntings – probably more about the gas from the nearby bog causing hallucinations than anything else.
Then again, in its “heyday” Mary Kings Close would have been a cramped, busy street – a hotbed for the Black Death. The myth is that the street was forcibly quarantined in 1664 to contain the plague, leaving 1,600 inhabitants to their fates. But they were actually cared for quite well. A tour is the best (and only) way to visit.
4. Soak up city views from the rooftop terrace at the National Museum of Scotland
There are a few well known spots in Edinburgh to get a good glimpse of the city skyline, but none better placed for Old Town views than the National Museum of Scotland. It’s one of the most visited attractions in the whole of Scotland.
But not many people know that it’s got a rooftop terrace. So once you’re done exploring the thousands and thousands of artefacts on display in this Victorian building (keep an eye out for Dolly the Sheep), head on up.
Take the lift up to the seventh floor and step out onto the rooftop terrace. The Old Town location means you’ll get some pretty incredible views over the city’s historic skyline. Possibly the best view in the city, and not in any guide to Edinburgh we know of.
5. Go for a drink or two at Bennets Bar
If the whisky wasn’t enough for you, how about a good old pub? Bennets Bar is possibly one of the more unique places to go for that. It’s been welcoming locals and visitors alike since it opened in 1839. But the interiors of this place haven’t really been tampered with since it was refurbished in 1906.
This means anybody who steps through the door will literally be transported back in time over a century – to a time before pubs were cool. Along with nifty fixtures and fittings like stained glass windows, there’s the best part of the pub: the snug.
This tiny room (once for women) features its own hatch that opens onto the bar. This means drinks can be served straight to the table. If you manage to snag the best seat in the house, we challenge you to not want to stay there all night.
Inspired to visit Edinburgh? There’s no better way to see the city like a local then on a working holiday. If you’re ready for an adventure and would like a job and accommodation lined up before arriving, get in touch with us at The Uk Pub Co.