If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh you may have already seen photos of the famous Royal Mile. The long shopping street is full of restaurants, cafes, and historic architecture. However, if you’re looking for something more off the beaten path then this probably isn’t it! So is the Edinburgh Royal Mile worth visiting, or is just another tourist trap? Here’s everything to know before you go!
What is Special About Royal Mile Edinburgh?
Just as the legendary Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile has played an integral part in Scottish History. For over 500 years it was the processional route for kings and queens between the Palace of Holyroodhouse and fortress at the top of Castle Rock.
Originally known as High Street, it became the heart of Edinburgh both commercially and socially with the growth of the town in the 12th century. It wouldn’t get its name as the Royal Mile until Edinburgh was proclaimed the capital of Scotland by King Robert the Bruce in 1437.
Over the years, it would be the site of many important events. One of the most influential moments came when Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI in the Edinburgh Castle.
Although it’s now lined with modern shops, the Royal Mile in Edinburgh represents its storied past well. This area makes up part of Edinburgh’s Old Town and there are plenty of historic buildings to experience along the famous street. The route is often considered one of the best places to start your time in the city.
How Long Does it Take to Do the Royal Mile in Edinburgh?
Located right in the city centre, this mile-long stretch starts at the Edinburgh Castle and ends at the Holyrood Palace. You may have heard of Holyrood before as it is the official residence of the King of Scotland.
The Royal Mile is actually measured as a “Scots mile” which is longer than the traditional one. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile actually measures to 1.81 km.
While many of the main attractions are located on the Edinburgh Royal Mile, don’t limit yourself to just this road! There are so many beautiful streets and alleyways which cut across and are just waiting to be discovered. You could take anywhere from 20 minutes to a full day to enjoy the area.
Our Stroll Down the Royal Mile
We arrived in Edinburgh after an incredible week-long Scotland road trip. The route took us from Stonehaven, through the Scottish Highlands, and ended in the capital city. We gave ourselves two days to experience Edinburgh, but we honestly wish it was longer!
On our second day in the city we made a visit to this popular street. After spending a couple hours at the Edinburgh Castle we walked down from the top of the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. Unsurprisingly, it was very crowded on a sunny afternoon in the middle of July.
We stopped and watched the street performers, grabbed a coffee, and took in some history at the many museums. Also, make sure to visit the outdoor Grassmarket which is right around the corner. Here are some easy tips to know before your own trip to the Edinburgh Royal Mile.
5 Quick Tips For the Edinburgh Royal Mile
Visit Early: The best time to visit the Royal Mile is early in the morning on a weekday. Even then, you will find the street packed and bustling with people.
See History: As you’ll find out in this article, there is so much history to discover on Royal Mile Edinburgh! The next section will fill you in on all the historic buildings and museums here.
Stay Around the Royal Mile: If your budget allows for it try to stay as close to the Royal Mile as possible. This will make it easy to get to Edinburgh Castle and all the city’s great attractions.
Eat & Drink: We hope you’re hungry! Many of the best restaurants are located right around this area. It’s also a fantastic place to grab a coffee or beer and watch the people pass you by.
Take a Royal Mile Tour: There are many great walking tours that show the extraordinary history of this special part of Edinburgh. This is a great way to get an in-depth look while taking in the sights of the Royal Mile.
Historic Buildings on the Royal Mile
You may be drawn into the new shops and activities on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Yet, in between the designer stores and street performers, there are many historic places to see. Below are a few of our must-see locations and museums on the Royal Mile.
St Giles’ Cathedral: An astonishing cathedral built in Gothic architecture by King David I in 1124. Also, known for being the mother church of Presbyterianism and where Queen Elizabeth II was at rest for 24 hours after her death.
Canongate Tolbooth: 16th century tower which once served as a jail, courthouse, and council meeting place. There is now a museum inside which is worth stopping into.
Scottish Parliament Building: An interesting government building which is open for tours in front of Parliament Square.
Museum of Edinburgh: A great place to learn about the rich history of Scotland and its capital city. The Museum of Edinburgh is also free to enter!
The Writers Museum: Another free museum which is dedicated to Scotland’s greatest writers. You can see the works of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson here.
John Knox House: Museum of John Knox, who played a huge role in the Scottish Reformation during 1500’s.
The Real Mary King’s Close: Fun underground experience which tells the story of Edinburgh’s dark past.
Palace of Holyroodhouse: The official residence of the King of Scotland and open to visitors year round for tours.
Edinburgh Castle: The crowning jewel which towers over the city and Edinburgh Royal Mile. This is one of the best tourist attractions to see in the capital and should not be missed!
Best Royal Mile Edinburgh Restaurants & Bars
There are many amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes to stop into on or near the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. For a coffee or morning breakfast treat we recommend the Southern Cross Cafe and Procaffeination. The Milkman Cafe is also a popular place for travelers looking to have brunch with a view.
When you’re hungry for lunch be sure to check out Makars Mash, Cannonball Restaurant & Bar, or the Haggis Box for traditional Scottish Food. There are of course plenty of other options including vegan food, burgers, pizza, and even Thai cuisine at Noks Kitchen.
If you’re in the mood for fine dining then you’re in luck! Wedgewood is known for its great local dishes and wine. Monteiths is also a fun dinner choice for delicious meals and cocktails.
When you get thirsty look no further than the Albanach and the Devil’s Advocate. There are tons of whiskey bars and pubs located right around the Royal Mile. For those interested in a drinking tour also be sure to check out the Scotch Whisky Experience.
Where to Stay Around the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
There are so many great places to stay right around the Royal Mile! Accommodations range from high-end luxury hotels and bed and breakfasts to apartments and budget hostels. Take a look at some of our favorite spots below before planning your visit.
Luxury Hotel: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh The Caledonian – Amazing views of Edinburgh Castle and just 5 minutes from George Street. The Waldorf Astoria is the best place to stay if you’re looking for a little luxury.
Historic Glamour: The Witchery by the Castle – Located right on the Royal Mile, this special accommodation has everything you need for a fun stay in Edinburgh. Enjoy the special features of each suite and being super close to all the main attractions.
Comfortable Apartments: Eden Locke – Apartment style rooms with kitchen, washing machine, and modern amenities. Also, be sure to check out there cultural programs held throughout the week.
Unique Accommodation: The Four Sisters Boatel Houseboat – How about staying on a boat on your trip to Edinburgh?? This self-catering houseboat is moored in the Lochrin Basin and has small rooms with a view.
Hostel Stay: CoDE Pod The CoURT – Budget travelers will love this pod hostel in the heart of the city. Both dorm rooms and private ensuite are available.
Is the Royal Mile Edinburgh Worth Visiting?
Yes! While some may see it as just another tourist trap, we had such a great time walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The beautiful stretch of cobblestone street, old buildings, and alleys that cross between are definitely worth seeing for yourself.
When you combine the fun cafes and restaurants with the history and museums, you’re sure to have a blast! Just be prepared for the mass of tourists that will also be joining you on your journey down the Royal Mile. If possible, you’ll want to plan for an early morning visit.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own experience on the Royal Mile Edinburgh? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Scotland Travel Planning
Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.
Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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