Best views in Edinburgh. View of the Citadel and Old Town in Scotland's Capital. Photo: Yasmine Hardcastle
Scotland,  Travel,  United Kingdom

The Best Views in Edinburgh: A Guide to the City’s Must-See Lookout Points

Happy New Year! Starting 2023 by sharing the lookout points for the best views in one of my favourite cities: Edinburgh!

Edinburgh is my happy place for many reasons, one of which is all the ways to take in the views of the city. Some of these are free to experience — a #GetThrifty bonus when you’re travelling. We recently took a road trip up to Scotland and it was great to show the Brit one of my favourite cities in the world (he had never been!).

Where to find the best views in Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital has always reminded me of Vancouver (small city, very green, right by the sea, the list goes on), and I’ve always felt super at home. And while the views aren’t sea-to-sky, they are spectacular in their own wonderful way. Scroll below or click here to take in everything from the castle to the Forth at my favourite landmarks and lookouts for the best views in Edinburgh. (Warning: All, except one, don’t include a lift/elevator.)

Best views in Edinburgh. The view from Arthur's Seat. Photo: Yasmine Hardcastle
Taking in the view on top of the world at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Arthur’s Seat

One of my absolute favourite things about Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is a short and easy-ish hike, located smack in the middle of the city. Located next to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament Buildings at the end of the Royal Mile, this grassy hill is where you will get the best unhindered 360 views of Edinburgh. Remember to wear decent walking shoes.

Calton Hill

Step away from Edinburgh’s hustle and bustle and get your step on at Calton Hill. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calton Hill is also home to several national monuments and the City Observatory. (All very photogenic.) Depending on where you’re coming from, this easy trek to scenic views is a 5-15 minute walk from the city centre. 

Edinburgh views from the Rooftop Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland
The castle view from the Rooftop Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Rooftop Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland

This was a new one for me and a fab place for a castle view. I’d visited the (free to visit) National Museum of Scotland before, but hadn’t gone up to the Terrace — didn’t know about it! And no wonder. When I did see the sign this time, it was very discreet. Access to the Terrace is through the quietest and, in my opinion, most underrated part of the museum: the Scottish Galleries. Wander over to this area to explore Scotland’s history — and get some peace. (The main galleries can get quite rowdy. Kids get noisy when they’re having fun (or not). I take my hat off to any and all parents who brave a museum or gallery with their children. You’re made of stern stuff!) 

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle
The stunning view of Scotland’s capital city from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle 

Of all the times I’ve been to Edinburgh (I’ve lost count), this was my first time actually visiting Edinburgh Castle. It’s 100% worth the ticket price of £18, and not just because of the views. (But they are mint.) Make sure you get your tickets for the opening time and to set aside at least two hours to wander around. It’s so much more than just the castle. 

#GetThrifty Tip: If you have a Historic Scotland membership, admission is free (remember to book a time!). There is also a UK residents discount for UK for members of English Heritage or Cadw, and for civil servants who hold a CSSC card.

The Scott Monument

I don’t think many people know that you can actually go in the Scott Monument. It’s always been my beacon and main landmark for finding my way around the city, but I’m so happy I saw the sign to go in back in 2015. For £8 (£6 for kids/concession, £20 per family), you’ll get a stairclimber workout, learn a bit about Sir Walter Scott, and take in the city views from the third-floor viewing platform.

Other viewpoints I haven’t checked out yet for some city views in Edinburgh include St. Giles’ Cathedral, Camera Obscura, and certain lovely hotel rooftops. 

Where are your favourite spots for the best views in Edinburgh or your favourite city?

“I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home.”

Alan Rickman

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