35+ Things to Do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is an absolutely beautiful city and one of my favourites. It’s steeped in history and has amazing architecture, history, and culture. There are lots of things to do in Scotland’s capital, and here is a list of 35+ of them.
Places to See
- Go up to Calton Hill. Calton Hill was established in the romantic era when faux ruins were in style. It has some interesting pieces but also boasts wonderful views of the city.
- Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s home in Edinburgh, and it was also Mary Queen of Scot’s home. Her friend David Rizzio was murdered here. As the queen is not there most of the time, you’re welcome to have a tour inside.
- See St. Giles’ Cathedral. St. Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile is a beautiful work of architecture and is also several hundred years old. It’s not super interesting on the inside though you can take rooftop tours on weekends.
- Stroll through Princes Street Gardens. These well-manicured gardens are located right down the hill from the castle. You can get fantastic views of the castle from here, and the flowers are quite pretty in warmer months.
- See the grotesque at Greyfriars Kirkyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard is arguably the most famous cemetery in Edinburgh. It is hear that you can find names like Tom Riddell, McGonagall, and Moody – all inspirations for Harry Potter characters. However it also has incredibly beautiful, grotesque, and intricate gravestones and mausoleums.
- Don’t touch Greyfriar’s Bobby’s nose. You’re supposed to have luck when you touch Bobby the Dog’s nose, but Edinburgh locals don’t like tourists doing this as it ends up causing a lot of damage. Just admire the statue of this wonderful animal. You can read his story here.
- Climb the Scott Monument. You may not want to since it’s several hundred steps up, but you should at least see one of Edinburgh’s most iconic monuments, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott.
- Stop by the Balmoral Hotel. If you’re not staying there, you may still want to stop by the Balmoral Hotel. It’s right central Edinburgh and is where J.K. Rowling wrote the last Harry Potter books.
- See Charlotte Square… at night. Charlotte Square is a super cute Georgian square. It gives you an idea of where the wealthy lived in Georgian Edinburgh, and it’s apparently quite haunted once the sun sets.
- Stroll through Dean’s Village. A bit out of the way, Dean’s Village is a picturesque part of Edinburgh. You can walk along the river and see all the cute medieval buildings.
- Stop by the John Knox House. Now a venue for small events, the John Knox House was only John Knox’s residence for a short period of time. However it’s still a monument from the most famous time in Scottish history.
- Visit the Royal Yacht Brittania. This Royal Yacht served as a meeting place for state visits for over 40 years. You can visit it now though the photos make it look visually unappealing.
- Visit Edinburgh Castle. It’s tough to see Edinburgh and not stop by Edinburgh Castle. The Castle has been the centre of Edinburgh for over a thousand years, and today it serves primarily as a warfare museum with other exhibitions such as Crown Jewels and St. Margaret’s Chapel.
- Head to the National Museum of Scotland. I thought Scotland’s national museum had a lot of interesting items on display, such as Greyfriar’s Bobby’s collar and Dolly the Sheep. It’s free so I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
- Have fun at Camera Obscura. Right off of the Castle, Camera Obscura is a fun museum that focuses on illusions and eye tricks. Most exhibits require 2 people so be sure to come with a friend.
- Venture underground at Real Mary King’s Close. Edinburgh was one of those cities that was covered up and rebuilt when it needed new life. You can view the parts that were covered up with a tour of Real Mary King’s Close. Be sure to get tickets in advance because they sell out.
- See the Scottish National Gallery. Of course Edinburgh houses Scotland’s national gallery. It’s quite small.
- Also see the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. See famous Scottish faces at the National Portrait Gallery. It is housed in a neo-gothic building that has a beautiful interior arcade.
- Stop by the Museum of Edinburgh. The Museum of Edinburgh is a small museum that tells the history of Edinburgh through artefacts.
- Go across the street to the People’s Story Museum. Across from the Museum of Edinburgh, and similar in nature, the People’s Story Museum focuses on the working class of industrial-age Edinburgh.
- See the Museum of Childhood. Not to be confused with the V&A, Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood is a museum dedicated to the toys people play with in their youth.
- See writers’ lives at the Writers’ Museum. If you like Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and/or Robert Louis Stevenson, head over to the Writers’ Museum. They have displays on objects pertaining to each writer’s life.
- Take a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience. If you like Scotch, this Whisky Experience (complete with a barrel ride) may be worth a stop.
- See Georgian House. Off of Charlotte Square is Georgian House, which as you can guess is a preserved Georgian home.
- See the Surgeons’ Hall Museums. An important part of Edinburgh history is its medical/surgeon school. Several artefacts from that history are in a museum for the public to see.
- Explore the Royal Botanic Garden. Like many other large cities, Edinburgh has its own botanic garden.
- Visit Modern One. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a bit out of the way but may be worth a visit if you like modern art. There are two buildings – Modern One and Modern Two.
- Climb up to Arthur’s Seat. Legend has it that this used to be the site of Camelot. If you can brave the steel hill and mud, it’s a beautiful and fun trek up to the top of this hill. You can also get fantastic views of the city.
- Walk the Royal Mile. Actually 1.8 miles, the Royal Mile is the stretch from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
It’s very tourist-y but still beautiful. Be sure to go off the Mile to get cheaper prices.
- Visit Edinburgh Dungeon. As Edinburgh has quite a morbid history, Edinburgh Dungeon pays homage to that and walks people through some of Edinburgh’s scariest times.
- Try some haggis. A Scottish staple, vegetarian haggis also exists and is available at certain restaurants. I personally like that at the Baked Potato Shop.
- Try some actual butterbeer. The Dog House pub actually serves butterbeer! The bar is easily accessible and the beer is actually alcoholic, unlike a lot of other renditions.
- See some live music. A staple of Edinburgh culture is live music in pubs and restaurants. It’s easy to grab a guide and see what you can listen to for the evening.
- Go on a ghost tour. Another activity to celebrate Edinburgh’s morbid history, a ghost tour is an excellent way to see the city and learn about its past.
- Walk to Leith. Leith is a neighbouring suburb of Edinburgh. There’s a lot of restaurants there, particularly seafood, and you can get there by walking along Leith Walk.
Edinburgh is an absolutely fantastic city and there’s a lot to do there. Next time you go, be sure to do these 35+ things to make your trip complete.Posted on Thursday, October 3, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: edinburgh, europe, scotland
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Highlight: Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle is one of the most important places in Scotland. It’s an easy day trip from Edinburgh and is a must-see for anyone interested in Scottish history and castles, as it is a very complete castle with very recognisable residents.
A little history: Stirling Castle is known as the dividing point between the Scottish Highlands and the rest of Scotland, but it also has incredible historical significance. The castle dates back to the 1100s and flip-flopped in ownership between the Scots and English (as that area does often in history). However, the oldest remaining part of castle – the North Gate – was built in 1381. The castle was heavily reconstructed under James IV and parts of that design can still be seen today. The Great Hall was completed in 1503 and is that very light building you see in photos. It was designed like this to be seen as a “gold castle” from miles away, and I noticed driving past Stirling from a distance that it is quite true!
James V was coronated and lived at Stirling Castle, further cementing it in Scottish history. Mary Queen of Scotts was also coronated there, and her son James VI was raised there. After his time, the castle was used mainly for military purposes. Later construction was done during the Jacobite Rising and the castle served as a military depot until 1964. Today it’s a magnificent place to visit and take in the centre of modern Scottish history. Especially since I assume you’ve heard of at least one of those historic characters.
First of all, Stirling Castle is perched on top of a hill. You can access the castle via car (there is a small car park), a trolley on King Street, or a 10-minute strenuous walk. We went in June 2019 and they were supposed to open a train that goes from the station to the castle.
The castle is really incredible. It is very well preserved and it’s obviously not of a cohesive design, but you can see the layers of building, which is quite fascinating. It’s also partly furnished as it would have been when Mary Queen of Scots and the King James’ would have lived there, and there are also people in costume. In one of the chambers, you can also see a Unicorn Tapestry. If you like medieval art, you’d recognise these unicorn tapestries. Even though they’re mostly in Paris’s Cluny Museum, they originated at Stirling.
Make sure to look up because a large part of Stirling Castle’s design is actually on the ceiling.
You also want to be sure to check out the informative exhibitions they have. There’s actually some pretty cool forensic information and they have a tonne of artefacts that date back to the 14-16th centuries. There’s also a complete set of royal portraits carved in wood that you can see. The castle highlights a lot of cultural information that I and my family found very interesting.
As I said, we went in June 2019, so the gardens were absolutely beautiful! I love British gardens and Stirling had one of the prettiest when we went. Hopefully it’s similar for visitors in winter.
Stirling Castle is an easy stop from Edinburgh into the Highlands but the town of Stirling is also deserving of a look. There’s more to see around the town such as Holy Rude, which is where the King James Bible was written; Argyll’s Lodging, a Renaissance home that I haven’t been inside (but the outside is absolutely gorgeous); and quite a bit of food and restaurants. However, everything closes early, so be sure to get there at a reasonable time. The town itself is really charming.
You can also head across the river to another part of Stirling to see the National Wallace Monument. The monument was erected for William Wallace and has his two-handed sword inside. I bet the views from the top are magnificent as well, though we ran out of time to go.
If you’re in Scotland, I’d say Stirling Castle is someplace you have to see if you’re interested in any of the history. The castle is super informative and though I wouldn’t call it “beautiful,” it’s an incredible step into the past of some of Scotland’s most known leaders. My family and I had a great time and learned a lot, and it’s someplace I’m very happy to have visited.
Have you ever been to Stirling Castle? What did you think?Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: europe, scotland, stirling
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41+ Things to Do in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is the city of stars, and even though it’s largely residential, there’s a tonne for visitors to do. Here’s a list of over 41 things to do on your trip to LA!
Please note that a few of these are outside city limits, but I included them on this list because they’re still staples of Los Angeles.
Places to See
- Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Certain celebrities have been selected to get a star on the Walk of Fame – and some even have more than one. See how many names you recognise on the ground.
- See the handprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre. This is particularly cool since you can see imprints of some of the most famous celebrities. These are outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre. You can also see a movie there (details under “activities”).
- Go to Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There are some pretty big names in Hollywood Forever, including Jayne Mansfield, Johnny Ramone, Rozz Williams, and Terry the Dog (you may know him as Toto). It’s a very relaxing place to walk around and they frequently have events such as movies there.
- Go to Forest Lawn Memorial Park, as well. There are some more famous internments at Forest Lawn, including Brittany Murphy, Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds, and Bette Davis.
- Head to Greystone Park. Greystone Mansion is the location of several films such as Spider-Man (2002), Batman & Robin, and Star Trek into Darkness. The beautiful park is open to the public (except when they’re filming, of course!).
- Head over to Chinatown. Unfortunately I haven’t been, but I’ve heard great things about Los Angeles’s Chinatown.
- See art and views at the Getty Museum. The Getty is one of the most famous art museums in the world. I personally thought the collection was underwhelming but the architecture and views from the Getty itself are spectacular and worth the ride up. It’s also free!
- Escape to the Getty Villa. In addition to the museum, there’s also the Getty Villa, which houses ancient art. It’s not near the Getty Museum so you will need to plan for both. Advanced tickets are also recommended for the Villa.
- Visit the LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I have to say that the LACMA was going to be a highlight of my trip with its wide range of collections. However they were actually closed for renovation when I got there and didn’t have any warnings on their website. I was incredibly upset. Definitely call before so you can confirm that their collections will be open.
- Head to the Broad. Most cities have a contemporary art museum and Los Angeles’s is The Broad.
- Visit the Museum of Death. This is not for the faint-hearted – the Museum of Death is very graphic and focuses a lot on murder rather than just “death.”
- Head to the GRAMMY Museum. Los Angeles. Music. It makes sense, right? See if the Grammy Museum has an exhibit you’d be interested in seeing.
- Step back in time at the La Brea Tar Pits. This is one of the most unique places – you can actually see tar pits and learn about their history over millions of years at this museum, complete with the actual tar pits. Where else can you visit such a place in the city?
- And also the Natural History Museum. Los Angeles also has a Natural History Museum that has the main focus on dinosaurs.
- Take a trip to the Huntington. The Huntington looks gorgeous and houses a library, art collections, and botanical gardens.
- Head to the Los Angeles Zoo. Yes, LA does have a zoo, as well.
- See all types of cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum. If you like museums, the Petersen is available to see in Los Angeles.
- See the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH). Many cities around the world have museums dedicated to the Holocaust, and LAMOTH is another example of that.
- And visit the Museum of Tolerance. This is a bit different – the Museum of Tolerance features exhibits on the Holocaust and other instances of non-tolerance over history.
- Visit the Japanese American National Museum. If you can’t go to Japan, this museum has some exhibits on the history of Japanese heritage in America.
- See Walt’s Barn. Walt Disney had another passion in his life: trains. You can still see his workshop and train sets at a place called “Walt’s Barn” up near Burbank.
- Hike to the Hollywood Sign. The hills of Hollywood are actually quite strenuous but very beautiful. The foliage with the cacti is so nice and it’s a gorgeous way to spend some time.
- Or hike to the Wisdom Tree. The Wisdom Tree is actually a lone tree in Hollywood Hills. A lot of people like to hike up to see the tree, and of course the scenery is beautiful with fantastic city views.
- Get views from Griffith Observatory. Griffith Observatory has some exhibits but it’s best known for its fantastic views over Los Angeles. If you go to the surrounding park, the views of LA and the nature in the park is absolutely worth the trip.
- See a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The Chinese Theatre was built in 1927 by Sid Grauman, who paired with big names at the time to create cultural masterpiece in then up-and-coming Hollywood. It’s where a lot of the red carpet premiers are today. It’s a bit more expensive but you can actually see a movie there, where they have a replica of the original interior and famous costumes, such as Dorothy’s dress. For a little less, you can also take a short tour.
- Go on a Warner Bros. Studio Tour. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour gives you a tour of their lot and you get to see some props, as well. You can also sit and get your photo taken on the set of Friends and Big Bang Theory. There’s a lot to be discovered.
- Go on a Paramount Pictures Studio Tour. You can also take a similar tour and see the lots of Paramount Studios, including their famous gate.
- Ride along Mulholland Drive. This area of LA is so beautiful. It’s strenuous so you may only want to walk or bike along part of the trail but it’s an absolute must-see. You can also drive if you’re willing to take on all the traffic, but know that you probably won’t be able to stop and take pictures.
- Play some games on the Santa Monica pier. The famous pier is actually quite decent. They have the Pacific Park with a nice selection of rides and games to play, just like at a county fair. I’d recommend spending a few hours there and getting the wristband for $35 because it gives you unlimited rides. Otherwise rides cost $5-8 each.
- Chill out at Venice Beach. Venice Beach is technically in Los Angeles and it’s a lot calmer than neighbouring Santa Monica. Also be sure to stroll by the Venice Canals for some cute photos.
- Spend a day at Universal Studios. I’ve been to the Universal Studios park in Orlando and it’s my favourite park! The one in Hollywood has similar rides and setups, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Spend a day at Disneyland. I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando and have heard that Disneyland is actually not as good. My advice for the Disney parks is to research what you want to do so you can go to the proper park (Disneyland/Disney Adventure Park).
- See a live recording. A lot of shows like Conan, Ellen, and Dr. Phil are recorded in LA. Most are free! You can research how to get tickets online for your particular show but most are on a first-come, first-serve basis – slash – raffle system.
- See a concert. LA has a tonne of places to see live music, including the Greek Theatre, STAPLES Center, Hollywood Bowl, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
- Walk the Downtown Art Walk. This actually isn’t a street art walk like it sounds, but rather a string of art galleries to visit in Downtown LA. Click here to learn more about the Art Walk.
- Take a Celebrity House tour in Beverly Hills. Is this ethical? You decide. But taking a tour to see the exteriors of rich peoples’ houses is quite enticing.
- Buy something at Melrose Trading Post. This was a gem I discovered when I was in LA; the Melrose Trading Post is an open-air flea market where you can buy all types of things, or just browse around.
- Shop at Rodeo Drive. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is one of the most popular places to go to shop.
- Or shop at The Grove. You can also go to The Grove, another popular shopping centre.
- Go to a VR Escape Room. There are a few VR arcades and escape rooms in LA, but this one was so tempting since they have dinosaurs. It’s a fun thing to do that’s also more of a local activity.
- Eat some new food. Los Angeles is so famously known for its fantastic food scene. Be sure to do some research before heading over and try something you’ve never tried before.
Some Things to Know
Los Angeles is huge, think along the lines of Tokyo. Even just staying in a specific area like Hollywood requires some public transit unless you’re fine with walking in heat. LA does have a metro & bus system that can take you a lot of places. Renting a car is not ideal at all since the city can get very congested and parking is absurd.
Many activities sell out so be sure to purchase tickets in advance if possible.
As the city is so large, it’s best to make a map of where you want to go, what you want to see, where you want to eat, etc. Everything is so spread out.
Los Angeles is a very big city and though I was surprised to find it didn’t have an incredible amount to do, there’s still a lot for visitors to see and explore.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Los Angeles?Posted on Sunday, September 15, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: california, los angeles, north america, united states
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