A First Time Visitor’s Guide to Edinburgh


If you’re coming to Edinburgh for the visit time and looking for some ideas or information, then below is a wee guide I’ve compiled to help you with your first time visit! Hopefully it will give you a good starting point for your trip to Edinburgh and make your first stay a wee bit easier as far as planning goes!

When is the best time to come to Edinburgh?

First off, there are certain times of year it’s best to come Edinburgh and although this may seem controversial, I’d actually recommend for a first-time visit that you don’t come during the Edinburgh Festival! That’s not to say I don’t think you should come back to Edinburgh during the Festival another time – I most certainly do! However, given how incredibly busy it is during the Edinburgh Festival and how much the price of things like accommodation can triple during this time… I’d recommend that for a first-time visit that you come and see the city when it’s mostly just the local people hanging about as opposed to a bombardment of tourists! This way you’ll skip on mega-queues as well to Edinburgh’s attractions and be able to see/experience the city like it is for the local people the rest of the year round.

In general though, spring, summer and autumn are all good time to come weather wise (although bear in mind it is Scotland so you could well have rain at any time of year!). Hogmanay (the Scottish word for New Year’s Eve) can also be a good time to come. Just a wee tip though – if you’re going to pay to enjoy Hogmanay in Edinburgh I’d recommend paying for the full official experience of the Ceilidh and/or the concert in Princes Street Gardens. If you’re just paying for entry to the street party, it’s really not worth it in my opinion! This is because you’re mostly just standing around in the cold buying over-priced beer. Pay for the whole experience if you’re doing it and enjoy the more fun parts to the celebrations! It won’t be cheap but it is a better experience!

With the exception of Hogmanay though, it does tend to be cheaper to come to Edinburgh during the winter if you can put up with the cold weather. If budget is not such of an issue though, I’d skip winter and come during one of the other seasons.

What will the weather be like?


Scotland is a cold country. Even in summer, except for the occasional hot day or week, it’s more jeans and t-shirt weather than bikini time! That being said, it can rain at any time of the year here so I’d always throw in a water-proof jacket or brolly into your suitcase if you’re coming here – no matter what time of year!

In winter, you’re looking at some seriously cold temperatures – and Edinburgh is a windy city too! So please bring you’re warmest winter clothing if you’re coming during this time of year! You will most probably need it!

How to Get from Edinburgh Airport to the City Centre

There are 3 main ways you can get from Edinburgh Airport to the City Centre, i.e. bus, tram, car or taxi, unless you hire a car.

By Bus – The Airlink bus service takes around 30 minutes to get from the Airport into the city centre and costs around £4.50 one-way at the time of writing. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and usually leaves every 10 minutes during the day.

By Tram – Trams run from Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh city centre approximately every 7 minutes between the hours of 06:18 and 22:48. The tram takes around 30 minutes to get into the city centre. An adult single is about £6.50 at the time of writing.

By Taxi – There are black cabs available at the rank just outside the main doors at Edinburgh Airport or you can phone a private hire cab. General cost of a taxi from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre will be in the region of £25 – £30 during the day.

Some Recommended Places to Eat in Edinburgh

There are so many great places to eat out in in Edinburgh that it would be impossible to recommend them all! Instead I’ve just listed 4 restaurants I love to eat out in in Edinburgh to get you started!

Miros Cantina Mexican – 184 Rose Street – For amazing fajitas and guacamole!

Bread Meats Bread – 92 Lothian Road – Does decent burgers.

Bonsai Bistro – 46 Richmond Street – Great, authentic Japanese food.

Gusto Italian – 135 George Street – Really good quality Italian food and you can usually find good deals for them via Groupon.

Cool Pubs to Visit in Edinburgh

Again, there are so many cool wee pubs in Edinburgh that it would be impossible to name them all here, but below I’ve listed some to get you started…

Brass Monkey – 14 Drummond Street – Has daily film screenings and is just an all-round cool, cosy wee pub.

Bannermans – 212 Cowgate – Rock and whiskey bar playing live music regularly. Built into the Edinburgh vaults.

Monkey Barrel – 9 to 11 Blair Street – Cool bar featuring regular comedy acts, decent cocktails and bar food.

The Stand Comedy Club – 5 York Place – Legendary comedy club in Edinburgh. Go early if you want a seat.

Where to Find the Best Panoramic Views in Edinburgh City Centre

View of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat

If you’ve just arrived in Edinburgh and are looking for some good photo opportunities or panoramic views of the city, you can’t beat a walk up Arthur’s Seat! It’s part of an old, extinct volcano in Edinburgh’s city centre and can give you fantastic views of the city as well as wee escape from the hustle and bustle.

View from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill is another hill within Edinburgh’s city centre that I’d urge you not to miss a walk up! Again, with panoramic views of the city it’ll give you a beautiful view of Edinburgh’s unique skyline.

View from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is also another great place to catch some great views of Edinburgh although it’s perhaps a more predictable place to visit. Nevertheless, it still offers some unique views. Entry costs around £19.50 on the gate for an adult or £11.50 for children aged 5 to 15.

Some Edinburgh Landmarks not to miss!

Edinburgh has a unique cityscape and skyline and as such, you’ll have no trouble finding unique landmarks or places of architectural beauty in the city. Part of the joy of Edinburgh is taking a walk and discovering some architectural masterpieces yourself or indeed finding out a wee bit more about our history through some of our monuments. For that reason I’ve just included some landmarks to get you started, but I would encourage you to go off discovering on your own too!


Greyfriars Bobby is a monument in Edinburgh that celebrates a wee dog who wouldn’t leave his owner’s grave after he died – even in the worst weather conditions! The people of Edinburgh looked out for Bobby and took him to their hearts, but he always remained loyal to his owner. This monument is definitely something you should check out if you’re interested in finding out a wee bit more about Edinburgh and its history.

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Arguably one of Scotland’s most iconic and original landmarks, the Scott Monument is both a visual delight and a dedication to Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish poet, novelist, playwright and historian. Any walk along Princes Street and into Princes Street Gardens gives you a chance to marvel at this massive monument. One of the things I love about it most though is that it still looks pretty epic (if not even more so) on a cold and rainy day.

The unfinished Acropolis, Edinburgh

The (unfinished) Acropolis is somewhere I’d recommend seeing although some Socts may disagree with me on this one! Due to its unfinished nature a lot of people see this monument as ‘Scotland’s shame’, but I still think when you’ve got the right lighting it still has a certain beauty to it.

Art Galleries & Museums within Walking Distance of Edinburgh City Centre

Edinburgh is a museum and gallery city, many of which are free to enter as a wee bonus! Below are some of the more interesting ones in my opinion that either offer something grand or something different!

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (One and Two) are both pretty interesting in my opinion, but particularly the second one! There is also a great walk along the water of Leith which takes you up and right out at these museums! Normally they are free to enter as well unless there is a special exhibition on.

The National Museum of Scotland is also one of my favourite museums in Scotland! There just seems to be everything in here from dinosaurs to F1 cars last time I was in! Again, it’s free to enter and this is one of those ones I’d recommend with kids too! Also free to enter!

The Museum of Childhood is really somewhere to visit if you fancy something different. It’s basically contains objects relating to childhood, learning and play and is sort of a chronicle into the life of children in yesteryear. Again, it’s also free to enter!

Cool Edinburgh Tours to Check Out

If your stay is really short and you just want to see and experience as much of Edinburgh as possible in a short time, then why not try out a city tour? SANDEMAN’s New Edinburgh walking tours are usually a good starting point. Technically they run a free walking tour of Edinburgh lasting for 2.5 hours. However, it’s expected that you tip as otherwise your tour guide earns basically nothing! I’d probably tip in the £10 to £15 region as that’s what I’d pay for a normal city tour this long, but whether you tip more or less, please do at least tip something! Alternatively, you can do the whole tourist thing and jump on a hop-on hop-off bus. Whilst I personally think Edinburgh is best discovered on foot if you can (it’s not a big city), I’m not one of these people who despises hop-on hop-off buses. I think for a first-time visitor on your first trip trying to get your bearings, they can actually be a good thing. Of course though, once you’re beyond your first few days or coming here for a return visit, I’d usually recommend just making your own way around the city so you can take your time and actually meet some locals!

I’d also recommend doing a tour of Edinburgh’s underground vaults if you have time. You’ll be surprised to find out how people actually lived in the them in the past, although don’t believe everything your tour guide tells you! There are a lot of companies who offer tours of Edinburgh’s vaults. Personally, my old flat mate used to be a tour guide for Auld Reekie Tours so that’s who I usually recommend!

So if you’re coming to Edinburgh I hope this wee first-time visitor’s guide has helped give you some ideas of what you can do! Please do note though, this is not meant to be an extensive guide… it’s just a starting point for you to do your own discoveries! I wanted to do one of these guides for Edinburgh because whenever I’ve been in a new city it’s always been helpful for me to read local blogs that give me a good starting point from which to discover. At the same time part of the beauty of travel is going for a wander and finding out more on your own and so I hope I’ve given you a good platform from which to do that with this blog post!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

24th February 2020 at 6:12 pm

I’d like to visit Scotland so much and Edinburgh is at the top of my list. I’m bookmarking your blog for further reference. 🙂

24th February 2020 at 6:30 pm
– In reply to: Anda

That’s great! If you have any questions about Edinburgh in the future please feel free to ask 🙂

4th March 2020 at 4:30 pm

Great tips for a great city. I love Edinburgh and have visited many times, but I am still finding out for the first time today that there is an Acropolis! That’s pretty cool. On my next visit I’ll have to check it out. Edinburgh pubs are some of my favorites. I remember running into one to escape the rain and there was some live folk music going on, everyone just joined in singing and was really friendly. It’s a great place to visit, made me feel right at home.

4th March 2020 at 4:34 pm
– In reply to: Emma

Glad you had such a good time in Edinburgh. Hopefully you will return sometime soon! 🙂

4th March 2020 at 4:43 pm

This is great! We may visit in March, so I love the truth about the weather sign! lol

4th March 2020 at 5:05 pm

This is such a thorough guide to Edinburgh! That is such a neat photo of Scott Monument! We only got the chance to visit Edinburgh for 2 days so we didn’t get the opportunity to do too much! I would love to go back and do an underground tour.

Josy Areply
5th March 2020 at 5:09 pm

I love love looooove Edinburgh! I have been a few times, but hardly ever managed to spend time as a tourist. I still really want to climb up to Arthur’s Seat!! We did make it up Calton Hill, but I’d love to see the city from above up on the Seat.

p.s. That windy sign made me giggle out loud! Surely that is fake- funny though! 😀

5th March 2020 at 8:05 pm
– In reply to: Josy A

Yeah it’s such a funny sign. Legend has it is real ha although I have been unable to verify it 🙂

Daniela Zreply
6th March 2020 at 6:56 pm

Hoping to go to Edinburg this summer!! 😀 so loving this guide! thank you! already pin it to my favorite travel blogs!!

6th March 2020 at 7:00 pm
– In reply to: Daniela Z

Thank you! Glad you liked it! 🙂

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