The city of Edinburgh is world renowned for its history, culture, architecture and natural beauty.
But once you’ve ticked off all the must-see city centre sights – the likes of the castle, Princes Street and the Royal Mile – there are dozens of lesser-known Edinburgh attractions and places of interest that are well worth exploring.
Most of them don’t cost the earth (a lot of them are free!), but if you’re willing to dig a little deeper and step away from the well-trodden tourist path you’ll find a host of hidden gems to make your visit much more enjoyable.
Here are a few of our favourite quirky, hidden or under-rated spots that show a different side of the city.
Follow the Water of Leith
If you’re looking for a little tranquility during your stay in Edinburgh then head down to the Water of Leith, a small river that runs through the city.
The Water of Leith has a dedicated walkway following its course that’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The quiet, leafy pathway passes by almost unnoticed close to many Edinburgh attractions, bars and restaurants and has grassy banks and a conservation centre that make it perfect for a relaxing walk or cycle ride during your visit.
See ‘Auld Reekie’ from above
Many tourists visit the impressive National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street, but most don’t venture up onto the rooftop terrace.
One of the great free attractions in Edinburgh, entry to the museum costs nothing (you need to book a ticket online due to Coronavirus restrictions) and after viewing the exhibits, be sure to take a lift up to the seventh floor to take in the 360-degree views of the Edinburgh skyline.
Located right in the middle of the city, this is one of the best places to admire stunning elevated vistas of Edinburgh attractions including the castle, the Firth of Forth, the New Town and the nearby rooftops of ‘Auld Reekie’, as the Old Town used to be known.
It’s a great way to escape the crowds during the busy summer months and get a different perspective on Edinburgh’s attractions.
What do you mean you didn’t come to Edinburgh for a beach holiday?!
Just a few miles from B+B Edinburgh’s front door, Portobello Beach is where the city’s residents go to unwind and enjoy traditional seaside charm.
With two miles of sand and a beautiful promenade, Portobello is a great place for a stroll and an ice cream that few tourists fully experience. If you’re looking for free attractions in Edinburgh, this is one of the best.
We’re going underground…
Probably the best-known street in the capital, thousands of tourists and locals wander along
The Royal Mile every day.
But what many don’t know is that beneath this famous Edinburgh attraction lies a maze of subterranean vaults, passageways and abandoned houses that are now open for tours.
Still operating with Coronavirus restrictions in place, head to the Real Mary King’s Close to find out more about exploring this hidden underground city in the heart of the Old Town. Discover the real secret Edinburgh!
Discover Lord Voldemort’s grave
A lot of dedicated fans know that Greyfriar’s Kirkyard inspired JK Rowling to create a number of famous Harry Potter characters.
Yet few people know that the grave of ‘Tom Riddle’, the real name of the villain also known as the dreaded Lord Voldemort, can be found in the heart of the 16th-century graveyard.
Other names you can spot among the tombstones are those of poet William McGonagall and Elizabeth Moodie, whose name is believed to have inspired the character of ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody in the Harry Potter books.
Open 24 hours a day, strolling through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is definitely one of the quirkiest visits you can make if you want to explore secret Edinburgh.
Visit ‘Scotland’s secret garden’
Situated in the shadow of Holyrood Park on the lower slopes of Arthur’s Seat, Dr Neil’s Garden is a real Edinburgh hidden gem.
Sometimes known as Scotland’s secret garden and packed with brightly-coloured botanical plants and ornaments, it’s the perfect place to escape from the real world for a while.
If you want to discover a piece of secret Edinburgh, the lochside botanical garden is very much off the beaten track and is about a 15-minute drive from the city centre. Currently only open on certain days due to Coronavirus restrictions, find out more information on how to visit the garden here.