7 of Edinburgh’s best secret spots and unique attractions

When you visit Edinburgh, you’re going to be ticking off some popular tourist attractions including Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill.

But if you want to get off the beaten track a bit, then there’s plenty of hidden gems and lesser-known attractions just waiting to be discovered. Below, we run down 7 of our favourites…  

 

KYOTO FRIENDSHIP GARDEN


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This tranquil Japanese garden can be found in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. It’s a little out of the city centre in the leafy suburb of Cramond, but discovering this truly hidden gem is definitely worth the short trip. Many Edinburgh residents don’t know about this place and it’s rarely mentioned in the guidebooks.  

With avenues of blossom trees, bamboo shelters perfect for picnics and peaceful waterfalls, it’s a great place to get some zen. There’s also some seriously stunning views across the Firth of Forth.

Did you know? This is one of the top three Japanese gardens in the UK.

The details: Entrance is free, and it’s open until 2 pm every day except Friday in the summer.  

 

SURGEONS’ HALL MUSEUM


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This one comes with a disclaimer: it’s definitely not for everyone. But if you’re the sort of person who binge watches medical dramas and documentaries on Netflix, then you’re going to love it.

Housing the largest collection of surgical pathology in the world, this museum offers a fascinating insight into medical history. Expect preserved bone and tissue specimens, artworks and a range of interactive exhibits guaranteed to grab your attention.

Word of warning: if you get grossed out easily, then this might not be the museum for you!

The details: It’s open 7 days a week and is completely free!

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND ROOFTOP


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While the National Museum of Scotland is one of Scotland’s most visited attractions, but only those in the know are aware of the hidden roof terrace at the very top of the building. After taking in fascinating exhibitions, catch the Terrace Lift (located at the back of the Kingdom of Scots gallery on Level 1) to the 7th floor. Here, you can enjoy the view across the Old Town, New Town and Edinburgh Castle.

Fun fact: The museum is home to Dolly the Sheep – the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell

The details: The museum is free to visit and is open between 10am – 5pm.

 

GREYFRIAR’S KIRKYARD 


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You might be thinking ‘who wants to visit a graveyard on a trip?’ but hear us out – if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then this is one unique attraction that you’re not going to want to miss. Among the tombstones in this ancient cemetery, you can spot familiar names from the series like Tom Riddle, William ‘McGonagall’ and Elizabeth ‘Moodie’. JK Rowling has herself said that she frequently took strolls through this spot on her way to the Elephant House café where she wrote several of the Harry Potter books.

The details: Free to visit. Open every day except Sunday through the summer months, then Thursdays only from November to March.

Top tip: If you’re here on a Thursday, why not combine your visit with one of Greyfriar’s free concerts which start at 12 pm every Thursday. More details here

 

CAMERA OBSCURA 


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Situated at the top of the Royal Mile, this isn’t such a secret spot but it’s certainly unique. With 5 floors of puzzles, mazes and optical illusions, Camera Obscura is like a fairground fun house except this one is for adults, too.

Nothing here is as it seems – you can grow to the size of a giant, see Edinburgh in Victorian times through a ViewCam and make your way through their magical Mirror Maze. Needless to say, bring a camera with you as this is THE place to get some seriously unique shots for the ‘gram.

The details: Tickets cost £16 and it’s open until 10 pm during the summer so you can even swing by at night.

Top tip: Be sure to head up to the rooftop terrace which offers some of the best panoramic views over the city. They provide telescopes and binoculars so you can get a closer look at the action below.

 

REAL MARY KING’S CLOSE


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If you’ve been to Edinburgh before – or stayed with us at The CoURT already – then there’s no doubt that you have walked the Royal Mile. It’s the most famous street in the city, but not everybody knows that there’s another underground city that runs below it.

At Real Mary King’s Close, you will be transported back in time to the 1600’s and learn all about Edinburgh’s unique (and often dark) past. The hidden passageways and silent streets were once a bustling hub of activity and this museum provides an accurate depiction of some shocking and intriguing events that happened here.

The details: Tickets cost £16.50 and you’re going to want to reserve them in advance to avoid disappointment.

Fun fact: Perhaps unsurprisingly given the history here, there’s plenty of rumours that this place is haunted. The most famous story is that of Annie’s Doll – read all about it here

 

THE COURT

We don’t mean to brag, but The CoURT – our new luxury hostel on the Royal Mile – has a pretty rich history itself. The 19th-century building was originally a police chambers, courthouse and jail with notorious criminals spending a night in the cells here. When you stay with us, you can learn more about the fascinating events that took place here.

The details: Stay in one of our pod dorms from £28 a night or opt for a private cell room from £120 a night.

Did you know? We’re currently offering an extra 25% off your stay when you book on our site using the code DETAINED (offer valid until the 31st August 2019).

 

So the only question is – which of these unique attractions will you visit first?

If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh and want to stay in affordable city-centre locations with a great social vibe, then we’ve got you covered. Check out The CoURT and The LoFT to book your stay. 

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