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Last Updated on 04/02/2021

Edinburgh is the perfect city for solo travel. Whether it’s your first solo trip or you fancy a quick weekend getaway, Edinburgh is delightfully budget-friendly and accessible with most attractions within walking distance of each other so you don’t have to worry about public transport. It’s not just convenience that makes this city so ideal for solo travel, Edinburgh’s beauty makes it a bucket list destination. The city’s skyline rises up in moody spindly rooftops, and dark stone buildings which mould to the shape of the hills they sit on. It’s a place of cosy cafe corners to write in, aimless wandering, and sociable watering holes.

Before I tell you about the best places to visit in Edinburgh for solo travel, here are some quick facts: 

  • Edinburgh has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty. Old Town blends seamlessly with New Town with its well-preserved architecture and winding cobblestone streets.
  • Edinburgh Castle is built on an extinct volcano and is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. The Scottish Crown Jewels went missing in 1707 and were discovered over a century later by Sir Walter Scott in 1818 within the castle walls. 
  • Edinburgh has more listed buildings than anywhere else in the world. 
  • Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and has a population of 482,005. It’s also the second most visited city in the UK after London. 
  • The city has 112 parks and has more trees per head of population than any other Scottish city. 
  • Getting around Edinburgh is simple, you can go on foot or make use of the city’s bus service that runs throughout the day and night. This includes a regular 24 bus service operated by Airlink100 which runs between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre. You can book tickets for that here. 
  • Edinburgh has wheelchair-friendly trams with WiFi which from York Place in the city centre to Edinburgh Airport. You can book tickets here. 
  • The best time to visit Edinburgh depends on what you’re looking for. The city is packed with visitors during August as the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival is in full swing, in the run-up to Christmas, the city centre is lit up by German Christmas markets and the 3-day New Year’s Eve festival, Hogmanay is celebrated around 30th December to 1st January. 
  • To get to Edinburgh you can fly to Edinburgh Airport and take the Airlink100 bus or tram which typically take 30-35 minutes to arrive at the city centre. The greener option for domestic travellers is the train. An LNER train from London to Edinburgh takes about 4hrs 32 and costs about £35 in advance one way. 

From walking tours to museums, Edinburgh is packed with exciting things to do. Check out your perfect Edinburgh solo travel itinerary below:

1. Do a Tour

Athens of the north

Tours are like marmite; you either love them or you hate them. Edinburgh is no stranger to tours. In fact, you’re spoilt for choice and they’re far from dull. Tours are useful if you’re a first-time solo traveller or if you only have a short amount of time in the city.  There’s one to suit every taste; you can learn about Scottish history and its part in shaping the city we see today. Or if you happen to be thirsty then a whiskey and gin tour is a fun option. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be Edinburgh if you couldn’t find something out of the ordinary so if spooky is more your speed you can do ghost tours, night tours and even underground ghost tours. For the literature buffs, you can learn how the world of Harry Potter came about on those cobbled streets, or explore Outlander location sites. Whatever you feel about tours, Edinburgh is brimming with them so it’s well worth adding one to your itinerary.

Some of the city’s top bestselling tours cost as little as £12 per person. Find out more about Edinburgh tours on Get Your Guide. 

2. Explore Carlton Hill 

edinburgh solo travel

Fun fact: Edinburgh is known as ‘The Athens of the North’, and you can imagine why when you visit the architectural structures of Carlton Hill. On top of the mound sits the Edinburgh Acropolis, more formally known as the unfinished National Monument of Scotland. It doesn’t exactly transport you to Greece but it’s a striking image. In fact, there’s not just a homage to Greek architecture to entertain you on Carlton Hill. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city and if you want an even better view, you can pay a small fee of £3 to walk up Nelson’s Monument, a tall tower that sits on top of the hill.

If you have an interest in astronomy, you can wander over to The City Observatory on the same hill. But you can’t leave Carlton Hill without getting a photo of the Dugald Stewart Monument at sunset, framed by the city skyline behind.

The City Observatory is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Nelson’s Monument is open on Monday from 10 am to 4 pm and Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

3. Do Your Own Tour 

edinburgh solo travel

The best part about solo travel is having the freedom to explore without a particular goal in mind. If tours aren’t really in your budget, or you just can’t hack the crowds, do a walking tour of your own – an ideal activity if you want to make your solo trip more sustainable. Edinburgh accommodates this perfectly. The city is made up of narrow winding streets, bridges and hidden passages to duck into, and intriguing staircases to follow.

Edinburgh’s architecture is so dramatically beautiful that you can always find a picturesque moment wherever your feet take you. Taking your own personalised sightseeing tour of the city is the best way to get a unique feel of the place and see the real Edinburgh behind its popular tourist haunts. In doing so, you get to witness a fresher, more intimate side to the city, and the best part is the activity is completely free. 

You can wander aimlessly around the city centre, uncovering some hidden gems. Or, if you prefer to draw up a list, some absolute must-visits include the Royal Mile in Old Town; The Elephant Cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter over tea and cake; St Giles’ Cathedral; the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years; Dunbar’s Close and Chessel’s Court which both have their own secret gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden.

The Royal Botanic Garden is open all week from 10 am to 4 pm. St Giles’ Cathedral is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 4.30 pm. Admissions and guided walking tours are free. The guided rooftop tour is £6 per person and takes a maximum of 4 people at a time.

4. Climb Arthur’s Seat 

arthur's seat

Solo travel in Edinburgh is incomplete without the obligatory climb to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. It’s essentially a rite of passage for all Edinburgh visitors. This volcanic hill dominates the skyline and offers stunning panoramic views of the city and its surroundings below.

Its beauty is not without effort, however, as there’s a steep climb to the top. But, if you want to get a flavour of the wild Scottish countryside and don’t have time to explore the Scottish Highlands, Holyrood Park is a strong alternative. You get a glimpse of rolling hills, wild heather, and even a few small lochs nestled here and there. It’s a brief escape from city life without being too far from it. 

I recommend doing this walk on a clear morning as, by lunchtime, Arthur’s Seat gets very busy. Once you’ve climbed to the top, make your way down to the picturesque ruin of St Anthony’s Chapel before wandering back to the city. Entrance to the park is completely free so there’s no excuse for those on a budget. It’s one of my top recommended things to do in Edinburgh for solo travellers.

5. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

national museum of scotland

Sometimes, when you’re travelling the weather decides to throw a spanner in the works and you end up with torrential rain on a day when most of your itinerary is outside. In the UK the probability of rain is slightly higher but fear not because a trip to a museum is perfect for this occasion and Edinburgh has its fair share of them. 

If you find yourself travelling solo in Edinburgh on a cold, rainy day, consider visiting The National Museum of Scotland. It has a wealth of fascinating exhibitions and entry is free! It’s the best place to seek refuge from the weather and expand your knowledge of Scotland and the world at the same time. From natural history to design and fashion, there’s so much to see and I can guarantee that you won’t get round to it all in a day. 

The National Museum of Scotland is open all week from 10 am to 5 pm. General admission is free and the address is Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF.

6. Visit Edinburgh Castle and The Palace of Holyroodhouse

edinburgh solo travel

It’s impossible to visit Edinburgh without noticing its castle watching over the city from the hill above. It’s a magnificent fortress which allows in visitors by day and lights up a bright ruby red at night. Take your time wandering up the cobblestoned Royal Mile to Castle Rock, observing the quaint little shops and street performers as you go until you get to the castle.

It has stunning views from all sides and one of the best spots to take a photo of it is the Vennel, a staircase leading from Grassmarket to Lauriston Place. Edinburgh Castle is packed with military history and visitors can explore the dungeons which still have original doors marked with the initials of their prisoners, hundreds of years ago. 

Wander along the battlements to get views of the city below before heading over to the Crown Room. There you can find the Scottish Crown Jewels or the Honours of Scotland as they’re more formally known. Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, they are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles and were used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 to 1651. 

If you prefer something a little more modern, then The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a worthy alternative. The official home to the British Monarch on her visits to Scotland is filled with fascinating art exhibitions, a Throne Room, State Apartments, an abbey and palace gardens. 

Admission to Edinburgh Castle is £17.50 for adults. Get them online for best price guarantee. The castle is open all week from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Get there early to avoid the crowds and see it all. Standard adult admission for the Palace of Holyroodhouse is £16.50. Get them online or on the door. The palace is open all week from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

7. Be Puzzled by the Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions

obscura

Much like The Edinburgh Dungeons, The Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions has a whole host of interactive puzzles and tricks to leave you befuddled and entertained. Despite its modern appearance and interesting display of clever technology, The Camera Obscura is one of the oldest attractions in Edinburgh. 

It was first established in 1835 by entrepreneur Maria Theresa Short, as the home to a live moving picture of the city of Edinburgh which amazed visitors from all over the world and can still be seen today. Nestled on Castlehill overlooking Edinburgh Castle, the attraction has been extended to host fun mazes, holograms, mirrors to make you shrink and illusions. You can even climb the attraction’s tower and observe yet another stunning panoramic view of the sprawling city below.

Adult tickets for The Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions are £16.50 and you can only get them on arrival. Opening times are 9:30 am to 7 pm Monday to Thursday and 9 am to 9 pm Friday to Sunday. The address is Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND.

8. Do Some Shopping on Victoria Street

victoria street

Collecting memories, whether it’s photographs, postcards, or trinkets is an important part of travel. But when it comes to Edinburgh’s Victoria Street, it’s no ordinary shopping spree. The gently curving street is one of the most photographed locations in Edinburgh with its vibrant colourful shop fronts and quirky old Flemish-style architecture

The street is steeped in history and tales of its old resident, the famous and notorious Thomas Weir, who voluntarily confessed to witchcraft in 1670. In fact, magic is no stranger to this particular street. Fans will be delighted with the Harry Potter merchandise shop on its corner, but that’s not all. The street’s vibrant higgledy-piggledy nature is said to the inspiration for J. K. Rowling’s very own Diagon Alley. For this reason, Victoria Street is a sightseeing must for any Edinburgh solo travel itinerary. 

Find out more about where Victoria Street is located here. 

9. Get Creepy in the Edinburgh Dungeon

edinburgh solo travel

If the creepy ghost tours aren’t enough for you and you want more grizzly action then you can always pay a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeon. Deep underground, these dungeon tours offer an interactive, immersive adaptation of some of the darkest points of Scottish history. It boasts rides, live-action shows, and special effects for an adrenaline-inducing edge. 

The Edinburgh Dungeon is an attraction designed for families in mind but you can still join in if you’re travelling solo; you may even meet people along the way. After all, nothing prompts a bonding sesh more than being voluntarily scared witless by some actors dressed as ghosts. The Edinburgh Dungeon is a good choice for a rainy day (there’s a lot of those in the UK) and if you don’t mind spending a bit of cash on some guaranteed entertainment.

Standard adult tickets for the Edinburgh Dungeon are £15 per person online (cheaper than on the door). The attraction also offers bone-chilling late-night tours for adults only, priced at £24.95 per person. Get all tickets online here and the address is 31 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DF.

10. Pay Attention to the Time of Year You Go 

edinburgh solo travel

Edinburgh is a bustling cultural city with a whole host of unique and exciting events all year round. So, when you’re booking your trip, pay attention to the time of year you’re planning to go because you might just find something you don’t want to miss. 

The big one, and probably the most famous, is the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival that runs for most of August. If you’re looking for what to do in Edinburgh then this festival is an absolute winner. It’s the largest arts festival in the world and spans 25 days. The city comes alive with poetry readings, performances and live comedy on street corners, in bars, cafes and clubs – including The Stand. Edinburgh Fringe is well worth a visit but with an increase of more than 3 million visitors during this time, the city is a lot busier and the accommodation is a lot more expensive.  

Christmas and New Year are wonderful times to visit for a budget-friendly Edinburgh solo travel itinerary. The city is decorated in twinkling lights, garlands and baubles. You can find a beautiful Christmas Market on East Princes Street with stalls selling handcrafted nicknacks, Bailey’s Hot Chocolate, and a lot of delicious indulgent food. You can even take part in themed events, including silent street discos and pub crawls. 

During the turn of the New Year, Edinburgh plays host to Hogmanay. New Year’s Eve parties will never be the same again once you’ve experienced 3 days of street parties, live concerts and torchlight processions through the streets. 

 they have a three day Hogmanay celebration. You don’t know what a New Year’s Eve party is until you take part in this annual three-day celebration where you can expect street parties, concerts and torchlight processions!

Visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website to find out more and learn about Hogmanay here. 


 

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