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Where to find the best views in Edinburgh

Here in Edinburgh we're blessed with a city full of vantage points, beautiful views and even an extinct volcano. That means we're spoilt for choice when it comes to finding breathtaking views in the heart of the city.

In this post, we'll share our favourite view points that are a must see for those visiting or living in the city.

Arthur's Seat

Let's start with the most obvious - Arthur's Seat. Edinburgh's extinct volcano is hard to miss. The mighty rock often dominates the city's skyline with its distinct silhouette and city centre location. Not only beautiful to look at, Arthur's Seat also makes for the perfect walk and upon reaching the top you'll be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the city. With views out to the Firth of Forth right round to the Pentland Hills, it's fair to say you'll get arguably the best views of Edinburgh from this spot - it's no surprise it's so popular with tourists and locals alike.

How long does it take to walk up Arthur's Seat?

  • The walk takes around 30 minutes with access from Holyrood Park

  • Sensible footwear is advised as the path gets rocky towards the top. If there weather is bad you'll want to wrap up warm!

The Crags

If you're looking for a slightly shorter, more easy-going walk than Arthur's Seat, The Crags are the perfect alternative. Situated next to Arthur's Seat, the dramatic cliff face of the Crags make for the perfect stroll to catch the sunset over the city.

  • Access to the Crags can be found from through Holyrood Park or by the south side of the city by going past Pollock Halls towards the foot of the Crags.

Calton Hill

Another must see spot for anyone visiting the city, Calton Hill is home to a number of grand and unusual monuments, a newly opened art gallery, stunning restaurant and amazing views over the city.

Up here you'll get views out to the Firth of Forth, over to the Pentlands, down bustling Princes Street and of Arthur's Seat and the Crags. What's more, boasting a city centre location at the east end of Princes Street, it takes just 5 minutes to reach the top.

What monuments are there on Calton Hill?

  • Edinburgh's Acropolis: a major landmark of Calton Hill, the National Monument was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Originally intended to commemorate the Scottish servicemen who died in the Napoleonic Wars, it was never completed leaving just 12 columns that you'll find today.

  • Burn's Monument: this distinctive circular temple was constructed in honour of Robert Burns in 1831. The Monument isn't only lovely to look at, it also makes the perfect addition to any photograph and you'll often see iconic Edinburgh shots including the landmark.

  • The City Observatory: the main centre for astronomers until 1896 , the City Observatory was re-opened in 2018 after a major redevelopment and is now home to the Collective art gallery.

Nelson Monument

Whilst you're up Calton Hill, be sure to head to the Nelson Monument, the distinctive design of which takes inspiration from an upturned telescope. Designed by Robert Burns, the monument was built between 1807-1815. In 1853, a large time ball was introduced which is still lowered as the 1 o'clock gun is fired from Edinburgh Castle each day.

Take the winding stair case to the top of the monument where you'll receive stunning panoramic views down over Calton Hill and out to the rest of the city.

How much does cost to climb the Nelson Monument?

  • Tickets cost £6

  • Opening times vary based on seasons and the weather so check before you go

Blackford Hill

Yet another of the city's major hills, you'll find Blackford Hill to the south of the city. Boasting spectacular views out to the north as well the Pentland hills to the south, Blackford Hill is an area popular with walkers, with lots of established paths and routes to on offer.

You'll also find the Royal Observatory atop of Blackford Hill, as well as 30 acres of woodland to explore and Braid Burn - a waterway flowing for 3 kilometres through neighbouring Hermitage of Braid nature reserve.

You could easily spend a whole day exploring Blackford Hill and the Hermitage of Braid, soaking up a slice of nature in the city.

How long does it take to get to Blackford Hill?

  • Blackford Hill is approx 15 minute drive or 40 minutes bus ride from Edinburgh city centre

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is jam packed full of magical illusions, tricks and puzzles that wonder and delight. The perfect place to head for an afternoon full of fun, Camera Obscura also boasts a rooftop which offers amazing 360 degree views over the city centre. Plus, they have free high-power telescopes and binoculars on hand to give you close-ups and see the city as you've never seen it before.

How much does Camera Obsura Cost?

  • Tickets cost: Adult £16.50 Student £14.50 Senior £14.50 Child £12.50 Under 5s Free

National Museum of Scotland Roof Terrace

Although you could easily spend days exploring the delights and intrigues of the National Museum of Scotland, we're here to talk about views, which takes us to the Museum's Roof Terrace.

Somehow the Roof Terrace has managed to stay somewhat of a hidden gem - perhaps because it's not the easiest to find if you don't know what you're looking for. Simply head to the first floor in the Scottish Galleries which are housed in the modern extension of the museum. From here, head to the back of the Gallery where you'll find a lift. Take it up to floor 7 and voila, you've reached the roof terrace. If you're having trouble finding it just ask one of the many, friendly museum staff which you'll see wandering around.

From the top, you'll find spectacular views over the Old Town, out to Arthur's Seat and the star of the show, Edinburgh Castle.

When is the National Museum Roof Terrace Open?

  • The Terrace is open when the museum is open, between 10:00 - 17:00 daily

  • Entry is free

  • If the weather is bad the Museum can close the terrace so it is worth bearing this in mind before making the journey

The Walter Scott Monument

One of the largest monuments to a writer anywhere in the world, The Scott Monument is unmissable. You'll find it in the beating heart of the city, on Edinburgh's bustling Princes Street. Built in 1840, this gothic beauty offers fantastic views across the city, down Princess Street, across to Calton hill, down to the New Town and out to Arthur's Seat.

Guided tours of the Scott Monument run every 30 minutes and take place in small, intimate groups. Together, you'll climb the 200 foot monument, taking each floor at a time before stopping to hear more information from your tour guide and take in the vista. For more information on the Guided Tours of the Scott Monument, check out our guide here.

How much does it cost to climb the Walter Scott Monument?

  • Tickets: Adults £8, OAPs, students and children £6, families £20

  • Guided tours run every half an hour from 10am - 3:30pm

  • There's no need to book ahead but during busier periods you may have to wait

The Vennel

One of the Old Town's historic alleyways,The Vennel offers an iconic view that is a must see for any photographer and Instagrammer alike. Whether you approach it from the top (Lauriston Place) or climb up from the bottom (in the Grassmarket), you can't beat the famous vista looking down the Vennel steps out to the mighty Castle with pretty street lamps and cutesy cottages in tow.

Upper Bow

From Upper Bow you'll be greeted with unrivalled views of one of Edinburgh's most famous streets - Victoria Street. The iconic, picture perfect, historical curved street of colourful shop fronts has made a name for itself as Edinburgh's very own Diagon Alley. In the heart of the historic Old Town, make sure to head up to Upper Bow to get gorgeous views looking down onto Victoria Street and out to the Grassmarket.

Advocate's Close

While wandering the many delights of the Royal Mile, be sure to stop and admire the alleys and closes that call this historic stretch of the city home. One in particular that offers a stunning view of the city is Advocate's Close which you'll find on the High Street stretch of the Mile. With views out of to Princes Street perfectly framed by the building's arch, this makes for the perfect picture.

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