Quirky, Unusual and Alternative Things To Do in Edinburgh

For those who don’t enjoy the usual tourist attractions, one of the best reasons to visit Edinburgh is its charming waywardness and eccentricity. This is a city of secrets, after all. A place of dazzling architecture and dark underground passages, high art and bloody murder. Here are just a few experiences to charm, intrigue and entertain you on your next Edinburgh visit:

1. Bygone science and body snatchers at Surgeon's Hall Museums

Not for the faint of heart, Edinburgh’s trio of Surgeon’s Hall Museums are a fascinating glimpse into the history of medical science. See the tools and exhibits of yesteryear; gasp at rare and macabre artefacts, including a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, toe-curling dentistry relics and even a book believed to be bound in the skin of William Burke! Thanks to recent grants, these collections sparkle as well as shock. See here

2. Time travel to Edinburgh Old Town, circa 1544

Of all the latest things to try in Edinburgh, a special virtual tour app from St Andrews University should appeal to both tech heads and history buffs alike. Using your mobile device, this pioneering project allows the viewer to peer into a forgotten city in the era of Mary Queen of Scots. Based on centuries old drawings and historical sources, it makes for fascinating experience; and while you can use the app anywhere the best way to enjoy it is to stand in the thick of the Old Town, comparing old and new with your own eyes. Find out more here.

3. Afternoon Tea with peacocks & added romance

Fancy a spot of classic afternoon tea in Edinburgh with a difference? Why not join us at Prestonfield House? Our rose-filled gardens and gothic tea house conjure up a decadent picture on warm spring and summer days. Enjoy excellent teas and freshly baked treats amidst passing butterflies and strutting peacocks for a truly delightful experience. For further information and bookings click here.

4. Enter a world of illusions

One of the most famous Edinburgh attractions on the Royal Mile, Camera Obscura might be popular but is anything but predictable. From vast kaleidoscopes to magic galleries and all manner of weird and wonderful effects, there is plenty to baffle and entertain. A great place to get beyond the usual holiday selfies and create some altogether more eye-opening. See here.

5. Explore Edinburgh's authentic street markets

Colourful scenes and rich variety await at Edinburgh's street and markets (Image: Edinburgh Markets Facebook).

For anyone keen to find less touristy things to do in Edinburgh, exploring on foot is always a good way to see the real city. The weekly markets, in particular, are packed with independent traders, food and crafts. Try Grassmarket or Leith Markets on Saturdays, or Stockbridge Market on Sundays for an enjoyable and authentic shopping experience. 

6. Morbid finds and forgotten streets

For those with a taste for the macabre, there are various other treasures and weird pieces of history to discover. Among the strangest are the mysterious Miniature Coffins of Arthur’s Seat, as seen at the National Museum of Scotland. Feel free to supply your own theory because the experts themselves are stumped!

Equally interesting but less gruesome is The Real Mary King’s Close; a section of 17th Century Edinburgh once bustling with life that was then buried for generations. Plenty of tales to excavate here, while costumed tour guides also add to a lively experience.

7. Coffee with cats

For lovers of felines, Edinburgh is also home to Maison de Moggy. Yes, correct, a dedicated cat café where guests can enjoy petting a range of pedigree breeds while they sip a latte. Ragdolls, Persians and even rarities such as a Norwegian forest cat and sphynx are all waiting to make your acquaintance, should that be your particular cup of tea. Do note that young children are not allowed and advance booking is highly recommended. Further details here.

8. Going underground?

For those looking for tours that go beyond the bog standard, one of the more intriguing local offerings is a trip to Edinburgh Vaults. Located beneath Blair Street, these subterranean passages have no shortage of menace, not to mention a heady mix of fact and folklore to chill and surprise you. Click here for further details.

Anything but ordinary: Stay at Edinburgh's most distinctive hotel

Brimming with colour, character and history, Prestonfield House is one of the most unique places to stay in Edinburgh. From our decandent grounds, to our famous Rhubarb Restaurant and the opulence and originality of the hotel itself, guests are guaranteed a memorable stay and the finest in Scottish hospitality.