Edinburgh hop-on hop-off Guide
Exploring Scotland's beautiful capital city in a day or two...
A short and nice video-guide to Edinburgh, worth watching!
(By Lonely Planet)
Mention Scotland, and you immediately picture those lush green highlands, men wearing tartan kilts and playing bagpipes, the very best whisky, and of course, the scary Loch Ness monster, who lives at the bottom of a loch way up north. When you visit Scotland’s historic capital, Edinburgh, you will find much more than that. History abounds in this ancient city, which has been around since the 15th Century. Located on seven green hills, this lively old city is a combination of two very different areas – the modern part of town and the charming, historic Old Town.
The most famous part of the city is the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s oldest street and certainly its most historic – after all, it’s been inhabited for more than 7,000 years. The Royal Mile connects two very important sights, Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood, to each other. The Royal Mile actually measures over a mile – that’s a lot of walking! And this is one of the reasons why you should explore Edinburgh on a Hop On Hop Off sightseeing tour…
The 11-stop Edinburgh Hop on Hop Off Tour lets you hop on and off at a number of different locations along the Royal Mile, so that you can explore at leisure. Hop off the bus whenever you want to discover one of Edinburgh’s historic treasures, then hop right on again, and continue until you find something else you wish explore. If you have the time, why not first take the full 60-minute tour from start to finish, to give you an overview of Edinburgh and its sights. Then hop on and off at leisure to explore.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, a 24 Hours Unlimited Travel Ticket costs US$ 19 for an adult and US$ 8 for a child. You can also opt for a family ticket, which is US$ 44.5 and covers up to a maximum of 2 adults and 3 children.
The bus departs from Waverley Bridge at 9am and every 15 to 30 minutes thereafter. Tour is 60 minutes long.
Places to see and things to do along the route
1. The tour starts from Waverley Bridge, which is close to the city’s main rail and bus stations, making it an ideal starting point for the tour, as it’s easy to get to from all over Edinburgh. Nearby is the Scott Monument, that commemorates Sir Walter Scott, and is the largest monument ever built to a writer.
2. Hop off the bus at Princess Street, the busiest and most popular street in the city that divides Edinburgh’s Old Town from the new part of town, both of which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of their historic significance.
Today this colourful street is one of the city’s busiest commercial centres. It was originally called Giles Street, and it boasts a number of monuments and buildings worth visiting. It’s a very picturesque street, and it’s famous for its panoramic views of the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. The street is also home to Princes Street Gardens, the most frequented little park in Edinburgh, which boasts an ice rink, and is the location for a number of food and gift markets.
3. Lothian Road is the next hop off point along the route. It’s close to Edinburgh’s Old Town and some of the city’s major attractions, including the city’s Law Courts, originally designed at the end of the 18th Century, and the Church of St John the Evangelist. From this location you can also visit the Surgeon’s Hall, the largest medical museum in Scotland, which tells the story of the city’s rich medical history. The Old Town boasts many old buildings that belong to the University of Edinburgh, and you can explore these, too, as well as enjoy a visit to the city’s Royal Festival Theatre, home of the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet, in Nicolson Street.
4. Next hop off point is at Edinburgh's Grassmarket, an historic square which was the location for the city’s weekly market. It was a focal point of the Old Town for almost half a century and its architecture is an interesting mix of styles that date from the 17th Century to the present. The Medieval square has a fascinating history – many hangings were held in the square and there’s a plaque here commemorating the 17th Century hangings of over 100 people. Today, the square boasts some of the best pubs, outdoor cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh. Close by is another old street called Victoria Street, where you’ll find some lovely pubs and open-air cafes.
5. Next hop off point is at Johnston Terrace, from where you can visit Edinburgh Castle, the most popular attraction in the city and one of the most visited monuments in Great Britain. When you reach the castle, you will have a spectacular view of Edinburgh. There’s lots to see here, including the Great Hall and the Royal Apartments, the Crown Room, the Half Moon Battery and statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. On the castle's Esplanade you can see the world-famous Military Tattoo, which takes place annually throughout August and includes music, marching and re-enactments of historical events. Also here is the famous canon called Mons Meg, and the Witches Well, where over 300 women were once burnt to death between the 15th and 18th Centuries.
6. Lawnmarket is your next hop off point. This historic street is full of sights worth exploring, including St Giles' Cathedral, the mother church of the Church of Scotland, which boasts magnificent stained glass windows. Nearby you’ll find Gladstone’s Land and the Writer’s Museum. The Lawnmarket Courts are also worth exploring, and there’s also Brodie’s Close where the infamous Deacon Brodie used to live. He apparently inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
7. Hop off at Chambers Street to explore the impressive Museum of Scotland, located close to the Royal Mile, which will give you an excellent insight into Scotland’s archaeology, technology, science, Royalty, geology and decorative arts. This treasure trove of delights has displays of all sorts of fascinating items, from dinosaur bones to designer jewellery – you will discover something new on every floor. You can also visit the National Library of Scotland, the country’s premier research library, which is home to over 15 million books. It showcases a selection of exhibitions throughout the year.
8. Next stop is at John Knox House, the oldest mansion on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, where one of the key people responsible for establishing the Protestant faith in Scotland is said to have lived. Mementoes of John Knox’s life are on display and the house itself is an excellent representation of life in the 16th Century.
9. For something completely different, hop off at Our Dynamic Earth, once the home of James Hutton, the father of geology. Its exterior may be modern, but once inside you will step back in time 14 billion years to the creation of the universe. This unique science museum teaches all about the Big Bang, how the earth was formed, evolution, ecology and climate in a novel, interactive way. You’ll see a simulation of an earthquake, touch a real mini iceberg and learn all about astronomy. It is definitely a must-see.
10. Hop off the bus in Abbeyhill and explore Queen Mary's Bath House, a tiny turreted building where Mary, Queen of Scots apparently used to bathe in sweet wine. From this stop you can also visit the Palace of Holyrood, first established at the start of the 16th Century by King James the Fourth. When the Royal family is not visiting the palace, it is open to visitors.
The oldest part of the palace that is still intact is the north tower, where Mary Queen of Scot’s secretary, David Rizzio was stabbed repeatedly by Lord Darnley, her jealous husband, and his accomplices. You’ll be able see all sorts of historic items, including relics that belonged to the Queen as well as rich tapestries, paneling, massive fireplaces and antiques. In the Great Gallery you’ll find portraits of the Scottish monarchs and in the modern Queen’s Gallery there are art works from the Royal collection.
Visit the ruins of the original Abbey on the site, where only the nave still remains. Behind the nave, you’ll find remnants of the foundations of other ecclesiastical buildings. Behind the palace is Holyrood Park, the largest park in the city, which boasts rocky crags, sweeping meadows and the ruins of a chapel.
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11. The last stop along the route is at the historic Old Royal High School, which is also called New Parliament House – apparently, it was proposed that the school be converted to accommodate the Scottish Parliament. This fell through and the building was used as offices for departments of Edinburgh City Council instead. The Old Royal High School is now being converted into a hotel and art gallery. Nearby you’ll find the Burns Monument, which was built in 1830 to commemorate Irish poet Robert Burns.
And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...).
We offer dozens of free "Hop on hop off guides" that cover quite a few cities across the world... All you have to do is to click here to see them in a webpage format (with embeded videos), or here, if you want to view and download them as eBooks (PDF format).
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