Looking to get the real Edinburgh experience? While the Scottish capital is filled with the must-see sights such as Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Galleries, there is so much more to do in Edinburgh than just the mainstream tourist stuff. Go beyond the haggis, mountains, castles and whiskey and visit some more quirky, alternative places in Edinburgh. We’ve made it super easy for you with our list of our the best underrated things to do...
1 THE UNDERGROUND BARS: A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Hidden underground is Edinburgh’s best kept secret: a buzzing nightlife scene where students, locals and tourists play. Home to many underground bars, the city comes to life at night, you just need to know where to go. Some of the bar entrances are pretty hidden away on narrow alleyways or small entrances but we’re here to help. For a quirky underground bar serving up killer cocktails head to Hoot the Redeemer in the Old Town. Then there’s the Secret Arcade , an affordable vodka bar with a HUGE vodka menu. Panda & Sons is one of our favourites; on the outside is poses as a barber shop but behind a hidden door you’ll find a sophisticated vintage bar.
Just head down the set of stairs, or perhaps behind a bookcase...
2 GET ALL OF YOUR WAND-ROUS FEELS ON THE POTTER TRAIL
One of our favourite free tours in Edinburgh has to be the Potter Trail. Any fan of the Harry Potter books will really appreciate this 1 hour 30 minute magical tour. Edinburgh provided JK Rowling a lot of inspiration for her books and she actually spent time writing the bestseller from the city’s cafes and hotels. On the Potter Trail tour you’ll get to visit some of the locations that inspired her for difference scenes including Diagon Alley and the Little Hangleton Graveyard where Voldemort's father is buried.
3 TAKE YOUR CAMERA TO THE BOTANICAL GARDENS
The Edinburgh Botanical Gardens is simply beautiful with a history dating back 350 years. For an escape from the city to enjoy time with nature, the Botanical Gardens is the perfect place. With four gardens and 10 glass houses, there are over 13,500 different types of plant species making it one of the largest plant collections on the planet and one of the most underrated things to do in Edinburgh. The perfect Instagram opportunity.
4 GO BACK IN TIME EXPLORING SECRET ALLEYWAYS
The Scottish capital has plenty of hidden alleyways to explore and get lost in. The Real Mary King’s Close is a really cool underground experience which we would recommend to those looking to learn more about Edinburgh’s history, while navigating their way through alleyways at the same time. Located under the buildings of the Royal Mile, head underground where time has frozen and follow the footsteps of former residents. There are rooms and streets and spaces all beneath the Royal Mile where you can learn over 400 years of history and hear stories of legends and myths. With Halloween around the corner, there’s not a more apt time to do it with special Halloween tours taking place.
5 EAT AT SCOTLAND’S OLDEST PUB IN DUDDINGSTON VILLAGE
Head to the east of Edinburgh to visit Duddingston Village, a small traditional village close to the eastern edge of Holyrood Park - it’s pretty off-the-beaten track and certainly not a tourist trap. This used to be a former village in its own right until it became part of Edinburgh. Here, you can find buildings that have been standing since the Norman times so the whole place has a charming old character and quaint feel. While you’re here, you simply must grab some drinks and food at the Sheep Heid Inn, said to be Scotland’s oldest pub dating back to 1360 with a lovely beer garden.
You can lose a whole afternoon here; check out the beautiful church and walk down to the loch which is a wildlife reserve.
6 GET YOUR SPOOKS ON A GHOST TOUR
If you want to hear about Edinburgh’s spooky side, go on the Ghost Tour. Sandemans 2-hour walking tour covers creepy tales and haunted sites, so no wonder it’s called the ‘Dark Side Tour’. The cool thing about this tour is that there are no fake stories, focusing on the city’s real dark past where you will learn all about witch burnings, bodysnatchers, cemetery stories, the murder of Mary Queen of Scots lover and more.
7 TRY THE LOCAL GIN
If you’ve already been to Edinburgh and tried out the whisky scene - or perhaps whisky is not your preferred spirit, then the city’s gin is a tough contender. The Scots are great at making gin! Edinburgh has its very own local gins and one of the best places to sample them is at The Gin Distillery. You can even go on a distillery tour and see how it’s made and the best bit, trying a proper Edinburgh G+T.
8 GO FOR A WALK AROUND DEAN VILLAGE & WATER OF LEITH
A short walk from Princes Street, you will be delighted to come across Dean Village, an underrated part of Edinburgh that more tourists should add to their bucket list ASAP. Dean Village sits right by the city’s beautiful Water of Leith walkway, a magical public footpath that runs alongside the picturesque river. The village was once where water milling took place, which is still evident in its architecture, giving it a peaceful, country village feel that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Edinburgh. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale.
9 WANDER AROUND THE EDINBURGH MARKETS
If you’re a foodie, Edinburgh’s farmers markets have you covered with amazing, fresh produce all sourced locally. There quite a few markets to choose from including Edinburgh Farmers Market every Saturday on Castle Terrace, Stockbridge Market every Sunday in the Jubilee Gardens (this is perhaps the locals’ most popular market), Street Food Friday’s at Fountainbridge and much more. Enjoy some melt in the mouth dishes, sample local delicacies and take home some chutneys, local artisan bread or cheese. The smells will tempt you for sure. At the Farmers Market you can even try organic beer.
10 ADMIRE THE DETAIL AT THE THISTLE CHAPEL, ST GILES CATHEDRAL
St Giles Cathedral is Edinburgh’s principal place of worship and inside, you’ll find the Thistle Chapel. There are beautiful wood carvings inside the Thistle Chapel and don’t forget to look up at the ceilings. The colourful stained glass windows and tiny details in the woodwork make it one of the most special places in the city. The Thistle Chapel is in fact a Royal chapel that is one of Scotland’s architectural jewels.