Plate of haggis, potatoes and turnips
Haggis might not sound appetizing, but there's really nothing better than tucking into a warm dish on a cold Scottish evening.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

From Whisky Tasting to Walking Tours: 5 Essential Things to Experience in Edinburgh

Experiencing Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world.

I’ve been five times already, and I would go back again in a heartbeat. I was originally drawn by my desire to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest independent theatre festival, which takes place every August. However, as I explored the city I realized there is so much more to discover.

Edinburgh has centuries upon centuries of history, gorgeous moody Gothic architecture, twisting alleyways, quiet courtyards, picturesque gardens, and a world-class art and culture scene. There’s so much to enjoy in the Scottish capital that you’ll want to make multiple trips — but here are five things to do in Edinburgh to start off with on your first visit.

Eat Haggis

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that consists of all the odds and ends of a sheep (heart, liver, lungs, etc.), cooked in a sheep’s stomach with onion, fat, oatmeal and spices.

That might sound like the most horrifying thing on Earth to you, but it’s actually pretty delicious. On a cold Scottish evening, there’s nothing like tucking into a warm haggis with whiskey gravy, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

To try your first haggis, check out the Royal McGregor or the Whiski Bar on the Royal Mile. Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar is also a great place to give this traditional Scottish dish a try. While you’re there you’ll see the famous statue of Greyfriars Bobby — a faithful dog who spent 14 years watching over his master’s grave.

Foggy night on a street in EdinburghEdinburgh has quite the sordid history, and you can learn all about it on a nighttime tour.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go On a Spooky Tour

Give yourself goosebumps with a creepy tour of the dark alleyways and old haunts of Edinburgh’s historic center. This city is full of dark tales that will entertain and fascinate you.

On the Underground City of the Dead Tour, you’ll learn about the 18th-century “body-snatchers” Burke and Hare. They were notorious for murdering their victims and selling the corpses for dissection at anatomy lectures.

The skin-crawling tour is researched and written by award-winning historical author Jan-Andrew Henderson and it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and have you nervously looking over your shoulder every step of the way.

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Visit the Castle

A visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without checking out the castle — the iconic building in the Edinburgh skyline. Edinburgh Castle is perched high on a rock overlooking the narrow, winding streets and steep stairs of the Old Town.

Inside this historic fortress, which dates back to the 12th century, you can see fascinating historic Scottish artifacts, including clothing, weapons and even the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Be sure to check out Laich Hall, with the beautiful fireplace. Next door is the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James VI of Scotland.

If walking the halls here makes you wish you could spend the night, book a room at nearby Dalhousie Castle Hotel for one of the best castle stays in Scotland. It once served as the temporary home for Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria!

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