Edinburgh has been a source of wonder for centuries. It lies at the heart of Scotland’s history, and was central to the reformation, the Scottish Enlightenment and Scotland’s Renaissance. Its architecture is astonishingly rich and varied, and celebrated all over the world. But above all else, this is a city with a surprise around almost every corner, from the castle on its crag to the bijoux boutiques in the cobbled back streets. Here are just some of the places we think are wonderful.
Marvel at the grandeur of the Assembly Rooms
The Assembly Rooms officially opened in January 1787, and in a sense have been under modification ever since. Ceiling roses, Corinthian pilasters, drapes, mirrors and crystal chandeliers were added in 1796. The grand portico entrance was created in 1818, the Music Hall in 1843, and the East and West Drawing Rooms and the Supper Room in 1906. Its most recent renovation, a £9.3 million refurbishment project in 2011, lovingly restored the Rooms to their 18th century splendour, making this, once again, a venue of decadent splendour and extraordinary grandeur.
Explore the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
In typical Edinburgh style, this internationally-renowned collection of modern art is housed over two 19th century neoclassical buildings. So the historical architecture is every bit as awe-inspiring as the works housed inside. The grounds are dotted with works by sculptors like Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Rachel Whiteread. Inside, you’ll find artists like Picasso, Matisse and the Scottish Colourists, as well as Bacon, Hockney and Warhol. It’s an unmissable stop for any art lover.
Discover the world at the National Museum of Scotland
Egyptian mummy masks, Japanese tea ceremonies, Britain’s oldest aircraft, the Lewis chess pieces and… a 50-million-year-old fossilised bat? The sheer variety of exhibitions, events and activities at this marvellous museum make it worth a visit all by itself. The UK’s most popular museum outside of London, the National Museum of Scotland offers an astonishing array of exhibits, covering everything from dinosaurs to Dolly the Sheep, Iron Age gold torcs to contemporary fashion and style. There is — literally — something for everyone.
Take in the views from the top of the Scott Monument
The Scott Monument is one of the most recognisable buildings in Edinburgh. But not many people know that you can actually go inside, although the nature of this historic building means it’s only partially accessible. The first-floor Museum Room tells wonderful stories about Scott and the creation of his extraordinary memorial. If you’ve got the stamina you can go from there to the top, for a selfie like no other the city has to offer.
Get lost in the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
There are more than 70 beautiful acres at the historic Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, offering a lovely, peaceful setting for a stroll. With ten glasshouses offering year-round tropical conditions, it doesn’t even matter if the Scottish weather prevails. Of course, if you happen to be a horticulturalist, you’ll love plant-spotting and learning about the collections and conservation efforts that aim to fulfil the RBGE mission of ‘exploring, conserving and explaining the world of plants for a better future’.
Uncover Our World Heritage at Tron Kirk
The Our World Heritage Exhibition at the Tron Kirk showcases Scotland’s heritage within a key conservation project. Almost 400 years old, the Tron Kirk has survived fires, rot and demolition proposals, and is now in Edinburgh World Heritage’s care. They’re supporting conservation with this exhibition, which explores Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site and its five sister sites at St Kilda, Neolithic Orkney, the Antonine Wall, New Lanark and the Forth Bridge.
Admire the view from Collective Gallery
There can’t be a better example of Edinburgh’s eclectic nature than Collective. It sits at the top of Calton Hill on a site built, appropriately, around the 200-year-old City Observatory, created by William Henry Playfair. Today the observation continues as visitors explore both the contemporary works on display, the unique artist designed products in the shop, and the historic site itself, which offers incredible panoramic views across the city and beyond.
OUR WONDER VENUES
City Observatory, 38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA
122 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SG
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF
East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ
54 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LR