30 hidden gems and unusual things to do in Edinburgh

Ah, Edinburgh! They don’t call it “The Jekyll & Hyde City” for nothing.

If you’re heading to Edinburgh and looking for something a bit different, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, I’ll cover the most quirky places and unusual things to do in Edinburgh. From secret gardens to eerie underground tours – get ready to explore the hidden gems of Edinburgh.

Let’s get started!

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Unusual things to do in Edinburgh

Spooky sights

1. Take a spooky tour of The Real Mary King’s Close

Venture below the Royal Mile to explore The Real Mary King’s Close, a hidden underground world that’s steeped in history and mystery.

On this ghost tour, you’ll hear the tales of those who lived, worked, and died here. I loved this tour, so I highly recommend it!

Book here: Real Mary King’s Close Guided Tour

Edinburgh, Scotland

2. Sip a drink in the dark at The Banshee Labyrinth

Dare to enter The Banshee Labyrinth, Scotland’s most haunted pub?

Make your way through the candlelit corridors and enjoy a drink amidst the whispers of the past.

3. Catch a film at one of the oldest cinemas in Scotland

Relax in the vintage setting of the Cameo Cinema and enjoy a mix of classic and contemporary films.

This cinema has been around since 1914, and it’s rare to watch a movie in the same space where generations before you have been entertained.

4. Attend a candlelit concert in St Giles’ Cathedral

Let the sound of live classical music or choral performances fill the air in St Giles’ Cathedral.

The candlelit atmosphere adds a serene glow to your musical journey, casting shadows that dance along the ancient stone walls.

Edinburgh, Scotland

5. Catch an avant-garde performance at Summerhall

Summerhall is a creative hub for cutting-edge theatre and performances that push boundaries.

This place is a goldmine for the avant-garde, the experimental, the kind of shows that make you think, laugh, or even squirm in your seat.

You never quite know what you’re going to get at Summerhall, but that’s the fun of it.

6. Stroll through Dean Village

Walk through the tranquil Dean Village and follow the path alongside the Water of Leith.

This picturesque nook of Edinburgh feels like a rural escape, with its cobbled streets and historic mill buildings.

Take your time to admire the quaint homes, the lush greenery, and the gentle flow of the river, right in the city.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Dean Village

7. Get a chill down your spine at the Edinburgh Vaults

Dare to dive into the Edinburgh Vaults?

These underground rooms have a creepy vibe and a bunch of ghost stories that’ll give you the heebie-jeebies.

It’s like stepping into a real-life horror movie, except it’s actual history.

Book here – Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Edinburgh

8. Take a swing at urban axe throwing for some edgy entertainment

One of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh is urban axe throwing.

So, step up to the lane and throw some axes in a safe, instructor-led environment.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - urban axe throwing

9. Watch the Penguins’ Rock at Edinburgh Zoo

At Edinburgh Zoo, you can witness the Penguin Parade.

It’s pretty straightforward – you get to see penguins walking around, which is always a hit because, let’s face it, penguins are adorable, and watching them waddle is surprisingly entertaining.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Penguins

Museums and galleries

10. Find the miniature tiny coffins at the National Museum of Scotland

At the National Museum of Scotland, you can uncover the intriguing mystery of the tiny miniature coffins, discovered on Arthur’s Seat in 1836.

Who put them there—and why?

11. Admire the curiosities at the Museum of Childhood

Take a stroll down memory lane at the Museum of Childhood.

It’s a unique place that showcases vintage toys and invites you to reflect on the nostalgic memories of youth.

12. Visit the Anatomical Museum

Check out the Anatomical Museum if you’re into weird stuff.

They’ve got all these body parts in jars and it’s only open once a month, so it’s kind of exclusive in a creepy way.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Anatomical Museum

13. Explore the quirky Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Surgeons’ Hall Museums offer a fascinating trip into medical history, highlighting the advancement of surgical practices.

It’s a thought-provoking visit that showcases the human body in ways you’ve never seen before.

14. Visit the Fruitmarket Gallery

Swing by the Fruitmarket Gallery if you’re into art that makes you think.

They’ve got new stuff from artists around the world, and it’s not the kind of art you’ll see just anywhere.

15. Hear tales of famous writers at The Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum is all about Scotland’s famous writers.

It’s full of stuff that belonged to them, so if you’re into literature and want to see what these writers’ lives were like, this is the place.

16. Explore the John Knox House

Take a tour of the John Knox House if you’re into Scottish history.

It’s one of the oldest houses in Edinburgh, and it’s got a lot of stories about the old days and religious conflicts.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - John Knox House

secrets and hideaways

17. Find the hidden gem of Dunbar’s Close Garden

Dunbar’s Close Garden is like a secret garden right in the middle of the city, a peaceful spot that looks like it’s straight out of the 1600s.

It’s the perfect place to chill out and forget you’re in a city.

18. Visit Gilmerton Cove underground passages

Head to Gilmerton Cove if you’re up for some mystery.

It’s a bunch of old, hand-carved caves and no one’s really sure what they were for – some say smugglers, some say secret meetings.

19. Search for the wild parakeets of Inverleith Park

Believe it or not, bright green parakeets have made Inverleith Park their home. Keep your eyes peeled—you might spot these exotic birds perched in the trees.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Inverleith Park

20. Climb to the top of the Scott Monument

Climbing the Scott Monument is a workout, with 287 steps, but the view from the top is killer.

You can see the whole city, so it’s totally worth the leg burn.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Scott Monument

21. Discover the less touristy Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle is like the under-the-radar cousin of Edinburgh Castle.

It’s got some impressive ruins to explore without all the crowds elbowing you for a photo.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Craigmillar Castle

22. Find peace at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery

Take a short trip from Edinburgh to the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery for some quiet time.

It’s a Buddhist place where you can learn a bit about meditation and just take a breather.

23. Join a beach clean-up at Cramond

Get your hands dirty for a good cause at a Cramond beach clean-up.

It’s a chance to do something good for the planet and hang out with people who care about keeping the beaches nice.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Cramond

24. Attend a secret dining event with The Edinburgh Secret Society

If you like surprises, check out The Edinburgh Secret Society’s dining events.

You won’t know what you’re eating or where until they say so, which makes for a pretty exciting dinner.

25. Attend a quirky workshop at the Edinburgh Remakery

You can learn to fix and upcycle almost anything at the Edinburgh Remakery, a community-led initiative promoting sustainability.

Sign up for a skill-building workshop and do your part for the planet.

26. Literary pub tour where famous authors wrote their masterpieces

Embrace Edinburgh’s literary heritage.

Go on a literary pub tour and sip a pint where renowned writers like Sir Walter Scott and JK Rowling turned their musings into masterpieces.

Book here: The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour


27. Enjoy the tranquility of the Royal Botanic Garden

While the Royal Botanic Garden is a popular destination, few explore its quieter corners.

Get away from the crowds and find your own peaceful spot within its 70 acres.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Royal Botanic Garden

28. Find the wild west of Morningside

Tucked away in Morningside, stumble upon a slice of Americana with the Wild West of Morningside.

This quirky nook offers a backdrop that feels strangely like time travel.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Morningside

29. Take a swing at Bruntsfield Links, a public golf course since the 1700s

Play a round of golf at Bruntsfield Links, one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

It’s free to play, so grab some clubs and enjoy a historical round.

30. Wander through the surreal and colorful Dr. Neil’s Garden

Escape to Dr. Neil’s Garden for an enchanting retreat.

This lush, secret sanctuary offers unmatched views of Arthur’s Seat and Duddingston Loch.

Best unusual things to do in Edinburgh - Dr. Neil’s Garden

FAQ – Unusual things to do in Edinburgh

Where do locals go in Edinburgh?

Locals in Edinburgh often hang out at cozy pubs like The Sheep Heid Inn, grab a bite at popular eateries such as Lucky Yu, or enjoy a coffee at the Bluebird Cafe.

They also frequent the city’s various markets, and parks, and sometimes attend unique events like those hosted by The Edinburgh Secret Society.

What should I check out in Edinburgh?

In Edinburgh, definitely check out Edinburgh Castle, stroll along the Royal Mile, take in the views from Arthur’s Seat, and explore the historic Old Town.

If you have time, visit the National Museum of Scotland and the Holyrood Palace.

How do I spend my day in Edinburgh?

Start at Edinburgh Castle, walk down the Royal Mile, grab lunch at Grassmarket, tour the Palace of Holyroodhouse, hike up Arthur’s Seat for views, and finish with dinner in New Town.

What is Edinburgh best known for?

Edinburgh is best known for its historic and cultural attractions, including the iconic Edinburgh Castle, the prestigious Royal Mile, its annual festivals like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and as the birthplace of Harry Potter, where J.K. Rowling wrote much of her early novels.

It’s also celebrated for its stunning architecture and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Explore my curated list of the best unusual things to do in Edinburgh. Discover hidden gems in Edinburgh and experience the city's quirky side. From secret spots to unique local experiences, this guide has it all. #EdinburghGuide #HiddenEdinburgh #QuirkyEdinburgh

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