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Ways to Beat the Crowds in Edinburgh

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. 

Plan ahead.

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.

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5 Tours and Activities

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Small Group Royal Mile Walking Tour with Optional Entry to Edinburgh Castle
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Small Group Royal Mile Walking Tour with Optional Entry to Edinburgh Castle

star-4.5
601
See the best of medieval yet modern Edinburgh on this walking tour with optional skip-the-line access to Edinburgh Castle. As you walk, listen as your guide shares the history of this formidable city with ancient Roman roots and UNESCO-listed pockets. Explore atmospheric cobbled walkways along the Royal Mile, breeze into Edinburgh Castle to witness royal opulence (if option selected), and pass iconic locations like St. Giles Cathedral, Parliament Square, and John Knox House.
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  • 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$26.39
From
$26.39

Ghost Bus Tour of Edinburgh

Ghost Bus Tour of Edinburgh

star-4.5
1266
Delve into Edinburgh’s horrific history on this evening ghost bus tour. With your spooky local guide, visit the city’s most terrifying locations, haunted by infamy and restless spirits! From your seat in a double-decker vintage bus, gaze at eerie sites such as Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket, and the Royal Mile. Throughout the trip, hear anecdotes and facts about Edinburgh’s chilling past, replete with bloody executions, unspeakable tortures, and murder.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$27.12
From
$27.12

Small Group Edinburgh Underground Vaults Historical Walk with Private Option
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Small Group Edinburgh Underground Vaults Historical Walk with Private Option

star-4.5
663
Discover the Edinburgh Vaults—aka South Bridge Vaults—18th-century underground chambers that lie far below the city. On this underground walking tour with an entertaining and informative guide, hear tales of this dark and almost-forgotten place built below one of Edinburgh’s busiest thoroughfares. See evidence of excavated storage spaces, human habitation, taverns with wine vaults and more!
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$24.94
Price varies by group size
From
$24.94
Price varies by group size

Small Group Edinburgh Night Walking incl. Underground Vaults with Private Option
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Small Group Edinburgh Night Walking incl. Underground Vaults with Private Option

star-4.5
344
Explore a sinister side of Edinburgh on this late-night ghost walking tour that includes the Blair Street Vaults under South Bridge. Stroll mysterious alleyways as you listen to your guide’s grim and ghastly tales of treason and torture. Then venture underground for a candlelight tour of the 18th-century chambers and hear haunting stories of supernatural forces lingering in the city's darkest corners.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$24.94
Price varies by group size
From
$24.94
Price varies by group size

Small Group Edinburgh Underground and Graveyard Ghost Tour with Private Option

Small Group Edinburgh Underground and Graveyard Ghost Tour with Private Option

star-4.5
174
Edinburgh’s dark and desultory past means its streets are haunted by restless souls and wandering specters. This ghost tour—perfect for those fascinated by the supernatural—takes you to two of Edinburgh’s most haunted locations. Under the cloak of darkness, descend to the Blair Street vaults to explore a shadow-shrouded underground world. Visit Canongate Kirkyard, the final resting place of famous characters, and listen to gruesome tales of torture, cannibalism, and murder.
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$29.33
Price varies by group size
From
$29.33
Price varies by group size