See Edinburgh like never before from these ten unforgettable vantage points

01 January 2021
lis-burke-nms-rooftop-gardens-98160.jpg View of Edinburgh from National Museum of Scotland
Enjoy the best views of the city of Edinburgh from these ten vantage points that allow you to see the city from a different perspective.

The city of Edinburgh is world-renowned for its architecture, history, skyline and historic attractions. Whilst exploring Edinburgh, keep a look out for these special spots where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of your surroundings.

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1 National Museum of Scotland rooftop terrace

The museum welcomes well over one million visitors each year but many people are so busy exploring the exciting galleries and displays that they overlook one of the hidden gems of the museum – the rooftop gallery.

Take the lift from the Kingdom of Scots gallery on level 1, up to level 7, where you’ll emerge onto the rooftop terrace, designed by Andy Goldsworthy. Your 360-degree view includes Edinburgh Castle, St Giles Cathedral, Arthur’s Seat and the Firth of Forth.

Roof of St Giles Cathedral2 St Giles Cathedral

This stunning building on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is famed for its distinctive crown spire and historic Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle. Tours of the clock tower are available and booking is essential.

Enjoy views of the Royal Mile, looking up towards Edinburgh Castle and down to Palace of Holyroodhouse, as well as seeing the bell tower and the unusual crown spire at close range.

3 Scott Monument

Climb the 288 steps of the Scott Monument for unforgettable views of Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Waverley railway station and Edinburgh Old Town. This 200-foot tower is named after the author Sir Walter Scott - read our expert guide to the monument here.

The excitement builds as you ascend the monument via the staircase, as the views are revealed from the different viewing platforms. The monument contains 93 statues of Scottish poets and writers, including Robert Burns, James Hogg and Robert Fergusson. See if you can spot two dogs and a pig too!

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh4 Arthur’s Seat

A classic Edinburgh viewpoint and one which will reward you richly for the climb. This ancient volcano stands over 800 feet (250 metres) above sea level and is part of the Royal Park. Enjoy superb views of the Palace of Holyroodhouse as you climb and allow around two hours for a round-trip walk, giving you time to ascend and descend at a steady pace with stops for enjoying the views.

The nearest car park is at the base of Arthur’s Seat and you can reach the base of the hill from the perimeter of Holyroodhouse.

5 Calton Hill

Enjoy another perspective on the city from Calton Hill. Once you arrive at the top, you’ll realise why so many photographers, from pioneer David Octavius Hill onwards, choose this summit for their Edinburgh landscapes.

The hill, at the east end of Princes Street, is topped by an Athenian acropolis, an unfinished monument once intended to be a tribute to those killed in the Napoleonic wars. Your ten-minute climb will bring you to the City Observatory and Nelson’s Monument, both of which are themselves part of the city’s history.

6 Corstorphine Hill

This lesser-known viewpoint to the west of the city is popular with locals for its woodland walks and is designated as a Regionally Important Geological Site.

The tower on the hill is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and during your walk, you’ll enjoy far-ranging views of Edinburgh with the Firth of Forth beyond and even to Ben Lomond on a clear day.

7 Camera Obscura

This popular visitor attraction at the top of the Royal Mile, just below Edinburgh Castle, has one of the best vantage viewpoints over the Old Town.

The rooftop terrace offers views in all directions and there are free telescopes and binoculars available to borrow for a closer look. Visit towards the end of the day (the attraction is open until as late as 10pm in the summer months) for sunset or night-time views.

8 Nelson Monument

A commemorative tower completed in 1815 and designed as an upturned telescope, to commemorate Lord Horatio Nelson. The tower contains a time ball which is lowered each day as the One O’Clock Gun is fired at Edinburgh Castle.

Climb to the top of the tower for views along Princes Street and across the Old Town and New Town. Berwick Law and the Bass Rock can also be seen to the east.

9 Waterstones, Princes Street

Perhaps not a viewpoint in the conventional sense of the word, but Waterstones book shop on Princes Street offers stunning views across to the castle and the Old Town, with the added bonus of being able to browse the books in a beautiful environment.

Enjoy the views on each floor and try to get a window seat in the café.

10 Blackford Hill

Blackford Hill is one of the seven hills of Edinburgh and stands 538 feet high, at the south of the city. Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat can be seen clearly and it’s just a short walk to the top, from where you can enjoy the panoramas and your woodland surroundings.

QUICK LINK: Ultimate guide to Edinburgh

(Image credits from top: Lis Burke, Jonathan Oldenbruck, Natalia Semonova, Global Traveller, Saffron Blaze, Anne Burgess, Christian Mihelides, Kim Traynor, Stuart Caie, Sandy Gemmell