The Royal Mile is a microcosm of Edinburgh; its buzzing atmosphere, music, and history show some of the best things Edinburgh has to offer in just a 1.81km stretch. It’s hard not to get swept away by the enchanting atmosphere of The Royal Mile, each nook and cranny is rich in stories of tales long gone by.
Nowadays, it’s a hotspot for tourists, and with good reason. If something is happening in Edinburgh, it’s likely to happen on The Royal Mile.
The Royal Mile connects two significant locations in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Place, hence its name. But there is so much more along this famous stretch that most tourists miss!
If you’d like to learn more about Edinburgh beyond The Royal Mile take a look at our list of must-visit tourist spots in “Auld Reekie.”
Whether you join us on tour or not, here are our tips for things to do on The Royal Mile during your visit to Edinburgh.
Step into Advocate’s Close
Step back to the 15th century and wander down Advocate’s Close. The entrance is opposite St Giles’ Cathedral on The Royal Mile and is a must-visit on your Edinburgh trip.
Advocate’s Close is a narrow and steep alley; take a stroll down this historic lane for a unique viewpoint of The Walter Scott Monument.
Did you know that The Walter Scott Monument is the tallest monument dedicated to a writer? Not bad, ey!
Advocate’s Close and nearby areas were home to Scottish nobility up to the 19th century, one of whom was the namesake of the close itself. This historic spot was the home of Sir James Stewart, Lord Advocate of Scotland, who served the role between 1692 and 1713.
If you want to make the most of your visit to Advocate’s Close, make sure you visit the Devil’s Advocate Pub, a victorian pump house. Line your stomach with their seasonal Scottish food menu before tackling their selection of 300 bottles of whisky.
See the Street Performers
There’s a certain magic to The Royal Mile; in a way, it almost feels timeless.
Nothing gives it more of this whimsical feel than the street performers and artists who make The Royal Mile their residence.
By their very nature, any specific performer won’t always be found in the same spot every day, but you can bet you’ll see some of the following along The Mile…
Treat yourself to a flattering (or not so flattering) portrait of yourself and your loved ones with caricature.
It’ll be a perfect snapshot into your visit to “Auld Reekie” – incorporated with classic cheeky Scottish humour, of course!
Walking up The Royal Mile sometimes feels as though you’re the main character in a movie with your own soundtrack.
There’s always something musical happening on The Mile. From singers to steel drum performers to the traditional bagpiper.
Top Tip: Visit Edinburgh during The Fringe for a menagerie of talented street performers, from mimes to fire swallowers!
It’s not just street performers Edinburgh has to offer, take a look at our blog post showcasing the best attractions in our city for more inspiration.
Try Out The Local Cafes
The Royal Mile is home to an extensive selection of cafes and restaurants. You could spend your whole holiday just exploring the food on offer.
It’s impossible to list all the great eateries on this list, but here are a few that we think are worth your time.
Grab a bite to eat at Deacon’s House Cafe
You can’t get more traditional than Deacon’s House Cafe, with its delightful Scottish interior filled with quaint artwork.
Choose from their traditional Scottish and British Cuisine; if you’re in the mood for something stronger, why not go for Brodie’s Hot Cacao (a delectable mix of whisky and hot chocolate).
Located on Brodie’s Close, Deacon’s House Cafe is rich in local history. It is named after Deacon Brodie, an Edinburgh Cabinet maker, and the restaurant was once his workshop.
Deacon Brodie lived a double life: a tradesman and city councillor by day and burglar by night! If you’re interested in learning more about Scottish rule-breakers, take a look at our Edinburgh Crime and Punishment Tour!
Hideout Cafe Old Town
Just off the Royal Mile, you’ll find the Hideout Cafe. True to its name, the Hideout Cafe offers a perfect cosy hideaway to get some R & R.
That sounds like just what we need after a long morning of exploring Edinburgh’s winding streets!
Their coffee is a perfect rich roast and will set you up for the day ahead. Try their Veggie Haggis and Avocado on toast, it has a little kick thanks to the sriracha sauce, but it’ll warm you up on a cold Edinburgh day.
Honourable Mention: Moo Pie Gelato
Moo Pie Gelato is just off The Royal Mile on St Mary’s Street. All their gelato is made in house and with the finest local ingredients.
Their flavours change regularly, from an ice cream cookie sandwich to a croissant gelato. Pick up your new flavour obsession and people watch on The Royal Mile.
Experience The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Located at the top of The Royal Mile, The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a great day out for all the family.
Be amazed at the incredible optical illusions with lots of fun photo opportunities, such as seeing your head served up on a plate, and braving The Vortex.
The Vortex is an optical illusion that feels like you’re in a washing machine…not for the faint-hearted!
Top Tip: Head up to the viewing tower for an IG-worthy panoramic view of the best city in the world.
Visit The Museum Of Childhood
Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and explore the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood.
This museum attracts over 200,000 visitors every year. It is a great learning experience for the youngest family members to learn about their grandparents’ childhood!
Check Out The Local Shops
You can’t come to The Royal Mile and not go shopping. With a vast selection of traditional Scottish souvenir stores, you can take a piece of Scotland home with you.
Here are some of our favourites…
Ye Olde Christmas Shop
That’s right, there’s a Christmas shop open all year round. Experience the most beautiful time of the year whenever you like.
It’s never too early to do your Christmas shopping, especially when you’re on holiday in Scotland!
If you’re keen to support our social enterprise, our shop offers loads of great gift ideas for the whole family.
The Fudge House
The Fudge House was founded in 1949 by brothers Dominic and Armando. It is now home to the best fudge in Edinburgh, some even would say all of Scotland. Come along to try their massive collection of flavours.
Their interior is super cool, too, with a traditional glass case cabinet showcasing all that fudge goodness.
House of Scotland
House of Scotland is a great place to pick up some souvenirs from your Scottish break; bring back some Scottish whisky, a mug with a “hairy coo” on it or a classic fridge magnet. How else will someone know you’ve been away?
There you have it! We hope you’ve enjoyed our tour through the best spots on the Royal Mile, some of which you may never have heard of!
We hope you fall in love with this city as much as we have, although we are biased!