Ways to Beat the Crowds in Edinburgh
Home to many of Scotland’s biggest attractions, Edinburgh attracts huge numbers of visitors for such a small city. In peak season—June to September—the cobbled streets become stuffed with people. From getting advance tickets to visiting hidden attractions, here are our hacks for beating the crowds in the Scottish capital.
Choose your timing wisely.
Timing is key to avoiding the tourist rush. Plan to get to big-name attractions, such as Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, and Scottish National Gallery, when they open. Then spend the busy midday period in more peaceful—and spacious—parts of the city, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens or Calton Hill, or indoors at private whisky tasting sessions. As many visitors head indoors for dinner or drinks at night, evening is a less crowded time to explore the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Take an underground tour.
When the streets begin to fill, descend into the subterranean vaults and passageways below them. Venture into the dark and empty chambers that once served as homes, taverns, and storage spaces for Edinburgh residents.
If there are popular attractions you want to visit, check ahead to book tickets in advance if possible. Prebooking can save you money and help you sidestep lines. Skip-the-line access is available at popular attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Edinburgh Dungeons.
Explore on foot.
Edinburgh’s streets are winding and narrow, making for quite a few vehicular traffic bottlenecks. Many classic sights, such as the castle, Princes Street Gardens, and Greyfriars Kirkyard, are within easy walking distance of each other—and it’s often quicker to arrive on foot than by car.
Visit under-the-radar attractions.
To get away from the tourist throngs, head for lesser-known haunts such as the quaint Dean Village neighborhood or the John Knox House, a historic residence on the Royal Mile.