THE BEST PHOTO LOCATIONS IN EDINBURGH: ULTIMATE GUIDE
The capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is like no other, in terms of its bustling city vibe that blends effortlessly with its culture, history and countryside-like feel. It presents some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes and its no wonder that for centuries the city has had a huge focus on education and the arts. It’s a photographer’s dream – there are so many photo locations in Edinburgh, it’s unbelievable.
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As well as plenty of beautiful sites to tick off your itinerary, Edinburgh has a lively yet relaxed vibe, is home to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is peppered with some of the best cuisine you’re sure to eat.
With so much happening, Edinburgh is a great way to start to a journey exploring Scotland and the ideal place to begin to get a taste for the land. One of the most striking things about this city is that there are photography destinations galore, from the multitude of hills, green spaces, the heights of Arthur’s Seat to the museums, castles, it’s an architecture lover’s dream. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the photo locations in Edinburgh. Admire the medieval characteristics of the Old Town, the Classical Georgian New Town and everything in between, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
- Map of Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh (+ Hotels)
- How to Get to Edinburgh
- Best Time to Visit Edinburgh
- How Long to Stay in Edinburgh
- The Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh
- Golden Hour at Calton Hill
- The National Monument of Edinburgh
- Discover History at Edinburgh Castle
- Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Scottish Home of the Monarch
- Wander through Holyrood House Abbey
- Hike up to Arthur’s Seat
- Climb The Scott Monument
- Walk down The Royal Mile
- Admire St Giles’ Cathedral
- Walk and through Princes Street & Princes Street Gardens
- Head underground at Mary King’s Close
- Visit Harry Potter inspired Victoria Street
- Meander through Dean Village
- Water of Leith Walkway
- Ramsey Lane
- Circus Lane
- The Royal Botanical Gardens
- Belford Muse
- Heriot Place: The Vennel
- The Writers Museum
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
- Camera Obscura
- The Royal Yacht Brittania
- Special Rated Edinburgh Tours
- Where to Stay
- Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh Roundup
- Where to Next? Scotland Related Reading
- Pin For Later
Map of Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh
Travel Planning Checklist
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How to Get to Edinburgh
- Plane: A range of airlines including, British Airways, Easyjet, Flybe, Ryanair and many more offer flights to Edinburgh Airport. To search for the best flight rates head to Skyscanner
- Car: Driving by far is the most flexible method and means you can take in some other sites and cities en route too. From anywhere in England get onto the M1 (A1) and keep driving north until you see the Scotland signpostings. If you’re hiring a car for the trip, check out Europcar.
- Train: Train is a great option to travel to Edinburgh if you’re visiting from Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, or Manchester, it’s pretty easy to get the train but if you reside further away in the UK, flying is an easier way. However, if you don’t mind the journey, check out the best rates on the Trainline.
- Bus: Several bus companies can get you to Edinburgh, check out the service times at National Express or Megabus
Best Time to Visit Edinburgh
June through to August is the perfect time to visit Edinburgh, average high temperatures can reach 18-20°C. This will also be the city’s busiest time, especially when the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival is on in August. Shoulder seasons such as early spring and late Autumn is a great time to capture the changing of the season with the landscapes looking beautiful and easier to book attractions and restaurants. Also many of the photo locations will be a little quieter.
Be-lavie Tip: The weather in Edinburgh can be very temperamental thus its a good idea to carry an umbrella and layers with you – it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day! In order to travel between and capture those all important photo locations in Edinburgh, ensure your camera gear is packed away in rain-proof bags too.
How Long to Stay in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is perfect for a long weekend or three nights depending on what you’d like to do, so plan well and reserve ahead to avoid disappointment to make the most of your time in the city.
The Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh
Golden Hour at Calton Hill
Situated east of the the New Town is one of the best photography locations in Edinburgh – Calton Hill and the National Monument. The Hill has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – head here early morning at sunrise or for sunset for some of the most spectacular panoramas of the city and beyond.
Carlton Hill is also home to notable monuments such as National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Old Royal High School, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory.
The National Monument of Edinburgh
Taking prime of place on Calton Hill, The National Monument, overlooks the city and was initially designed and built in 1829 to commemorate Scottish Soldiers who fought gallantly in the Napoleonic Wars, but unfortunately the Monument was never completed. Walk right up to the top of the the hill to take some great panoramic photos overlooking Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags and Holyrood Park.
Discover History at Edinburgh Castle
Making up Edinburgh’s unique skyline, is Edinburgh Castle, sitting on top of Castle rock, giving it pride of place to see over the whole city! No wonder it’s a perfect defence location, being used since the second century and has been seen as the key to the city and controlling the castle was meant as controlling the city.
Many important figures have been housed in the castle, pertinent to Scottish history – Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonny Prince Charlie. The castle is one of the iconic photo locations in Edinburgh, however the best shots are often taken from the bottom of castle Rock.
Be-lavie Tip: Don’t miss the 13:00 daily firing of the gun which has happened daily (bar Sundays) since 1861.
If you’re a fan of the history of battles and armouries, a visit to Edinburgh Castle will be well worth the money. You can also get a good insight into historic life inside the Castle as you’ll see the Scottish Crown Jewels, as well as the Stone of the Destiny, used in the coronation of British Monarchs for centuries.
Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Scottish Home of the Monarch
This stunning castle is the Scottish residence of HRH the queen, located quite close to Edinburgh Castle itself. The Palace of Hoylroodhouse was built in 1678 and in its time has been the home of many kings and queens of the British Monarchy, however today much of the palace has been preserved to showcase Royal life back in the 17th century.
A tour around this castle is well worth it, and you will be treated to the sites of Mary Queen of Scots chambers – where that infamous rooms stands! The room where her husband had her secretary murdered in 1566.
The state apartment feature some incredible fine art and is said to be used today by the British Royal Family. On your way out pop to the onsite café and enjoy an afternoon tea
Be-lavie Tip: Visit Holyrood Castle in preference to Edinburgh castle if you have no interest in the history of armouries. Take advantage of the very informative audio guide. Additionally have a good wander around the grounds, It’s important to note, the palace would be closed if the Queen or members of the royal family are in residence, so do check when planning your trip to avoid disappointment.
Wander through Holyrood House Abbey
The Abbey lies within the grounds of Holyrood Palace and dates to 1128. Years after it was used partially as a Royal residence and a location for Scottish Parliament from the 13t-15th centuries. Despite its eventuful history at the end of the First War of Scottish Independence, the Abbey is quite the impressive original structure which has inspired numerous painters and writers.
Hike up to Arthur’s Seat
If you love hiking, and for one of the most rewarding views in Edinburgh, this one is a must for those who love the outdoors.
Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano and one of the absolute highest points in Edinburgh. Hiking to the top isn’t easy but the views are awe inspiring and the location is considered to be a possible location for Camelot, the legendary castle of King Arthur.
Arthur’s Seat is a perfect point to go and explore the nearby hills around Holyrood Park. If you’r looking for an impressive landscape shot, this is considered one of the best photo locations in Edinburgh.
Be-lavie Tip: Go prepared with trainers or hiking boots, especially if there has been rain as the terrain can be very slippery. This will especially be the case for climbing the rock up to Arthur’s Seat. Start your climb early to have some time to yourself in nature as on a sunny day, it can get very crowned.
Climb The Scott Monument
Situated on princess Street, built in 1844 in a distinct gothic style; it’s a dedication to author Sir Walter Scott. The world’s biggest monument to a writer. It stands 61 metres high and features a further 68 statues of prominent Scottish writers, poets and people of interest such as. Mary Queen of Scotts, Robert Burns, and Lord Byron. It’s possible to climb the steps to the top of the monument for stunning views of Edinburgh as well as the Princess Street neighbouring Gardens.
Walk down The Royal Mile
Running through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, connecting Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Arthur’s seat in the background. The Royal Mile is overlooked by tenements style buildings, cobbled streets and narrow staircases, creating an almost secret street level world.
The Royal Mile is scattered with great attractions such as The Real Mary King’s Close, Scottish Storytelling Centre, St. Giles’ Cathedral and some great local eating and drinking spots.
Admire St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral is the principal church in Edinburgh and is another key part of Edinburgh’s skyline. It was built in the 14th century and displays a gothic-style architecture which is very common to Edinburgh. The stained glass windows are stunning and the cathedral is home to many Scottish people of note.
The chapel features stunning architecture and beautiful archways. St Giles’ Cathedral is a focal point of the city and a wonderful place to learn about Edinburgh’s history and ancient culture.
Walk along Princes Street & Princes Street Gardens
This main Edinburgh thoroughfare has been at the heart of the city since 1770 and has now become one of the city’s most visited retail areas. All the big high fashion names are situated here as well as beautiful views of a few of the city landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, Scottish National gallery. It’s a great photography spot with so much going on and you can even snap one of the many ‘London Style Red Buses’.
Once you’re done shopping why not relax at Princess Street Gardens, which feature a floral clock, War memorial and beautiful lawns and colourful flowerbeds – perfect for a picnic. They cover 37 acres and almost partition the Old Town and New Town and can be visited any time of the year. This is where the Christmas markets are held if you’re planning visit in the festive season.
Princes Street Gardens separates the Old Town from the New Town. The gardens are over 37 acres and beautiful to wander through any time of the year. In summer there are plenty of areas to relax and enjoy a picnic or during the Christmas period visit the festive Christmas markets and ice rink. This is also where the Ross fountain can be found, dating back to 1812.
Additionally, the National gallery of Scotland is literally a stone’s throw away from the gardens on the Mound.
Head underground at Mary King’s Close
Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Mary King’s Close is made up of several winding and narrow alleyways referred to as closes. It’s like a warren of underground passages which partially collapsed centuries back. Booking a tour with Mary King’s Close allows the exploration of the history of this area and how life was as well as the murders and hauntings that’s have occurred here. The tour guides even dress up to make this as authentic as possible.
This may not be your regular photo location but the alleyway views and angles make great alternative images of the history buried in these streets.
Visit Harry Potter inspired Victoria Street
Several of the buildings on this famous street date back to the 1600s and 1700s although the majority are from 1800s. Look out for the home of the Wizard of West Bow, Major Weir, who was tried and executed for witchcraft in the 1600s. It’s said that the house is haunted.
Victoria Street’s role as the inspiration for Diagon Alley brings thousands of Harry Potter fans every year who you’ll see snapping up possible locations Diagon House sits at 40 Victoria Street and is a major attraction. Even if you’re not interested in history or fantasy literature, you can check out the endless collection of independent and boutique shops selling everything from custom stationery to local artisan crafts.
Meander through Dean Village
Dean Village is truly one of Edinburgh’s hidden treasures, located on the outskirts of the city just beside the picturesque water of Leith.
The area was a crucial part of Edinburgh’s milling industry, with signs of this, that you are still able to be see today. Walk through and explore the village to find millstones and stone advertisements for bakeries.
Pay a visit to Well Court, a 19th century house which has been carefully restored to represent its original appearance.
Cross Dean Bridge, an impressive bridge that helps to connect the city to the village. Dean Village is a unique and well-preserved location, perfect for experiencing Scottish history first-hand.
Water of Leith Walkway
This 13 mile Water of leith Walkway was completed in 2007 and winds its way through Edinburgh. Close to the Dean Village end, find St Bernards Well, which was used to draw water from the adjacent river. It’s said this water was good for health and led tourists to come from all over Scotland to see for themselves. The well features a statue of the Greek goddess, Hygeia.
At the time of this article, the waterway was home to six times, Turner winning artist Anthony Gormley’s series of six figures watching over the river as it winds its way through Dean Village and down to the sea. The first statue can be seen at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the last at Edinburgh Docks. They may look a little startling at first but they serve as a different perspective of photo locations in Edinburgh and can be fun capturing all six.
Behind the New College at Castlehill, Ramsey Lane opens up to views of Princes Street and the New Town.
It’s a great quite spot for a photo shoot with the pretty staircases and houses with overflowing flower pots as the backdrop.
Located slightly to the north of the city of Edinburgh, Stockbridge has very much the village feel and vibe. It’s charming, Bohemian. The area is home to many artists, musicians, poets, writers, actors as well as young professionals and long-staying residents who have decided to make this area their home The area is filled with elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced houses adjacent to the Water of Leith. Shop the many speciality shops from thrift to posh delis, cutesy cafes and gastropubs (such as Scran & Scallie), head to the Stockbridge Market selling jewellery, crafts and food on Saturdays. For some relaxation, head to the Botanical Gardens with its huge greenhouses and beautiful selection of flora.
A picturesque cobbled street in Sockbridge, lined on either side with beautiful flower and plant covered terraced mews and most definitely has gained some notoriety on Instagram as an Edinburgh hot spot for photography. The lane was built in the 1760’s and originally used for stables and homes for the employees to the rich who lived in the New Town. The colourful garages used to be stables where the horses were kept. At the end of the street, you’ll see St Stephens Church which is said to have the longest clock pendulum in Europe.
Take a walk through the lane, take some pics and head to some of the pretty cafes in the area for fuel!
The Royal Botanical Gardens
Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens were created in 1670 to help with the scientific study of plants for medicinal reasons. Today the garden are used more for conservation of flora and studying botany.
It’s quite an impressive Botanical garden with over 275,000 plants located in the gardens, covering 70 acres of beautifully kept and landscaped grounds. There is an on-site gallery, Inverleith House, an 18th century mansion can be visited. It showcases a constant rotation of Scottish contemporary artists.
These quaint little streets close to Dean Village are lined with pretty red brick houses with colourful doorways. It’s a great location for a photoshoot but take note this is a residential area and care must be taken not to disturb the local community street activities.
Heriot Place: The Vennel
Vennel (aka Heriot Place) is an Old Scottish word meaning ‘litte secret’ and is nicknamed Miss Jean Brodie Steps is a hidden alleyway with steps tucked away between two buildings. You will also see the remains of the Flodden Wall here, built to protect the city in 1513.
If you climb to the top of The Vennel, prepare for one of the most beautiful views of Edinburg Castle. Sunset or sunrise is a great time for photography however it can get very busy and crowded!
Be-lavie Tip: Arrive early morning or sunset and be patient. There will always be people using the stairs so plan your shot in advance in terms of angles and model stance so you can be quick. A rainy day is a great day to come as you’ll see no-one around but also a moody sky gives a magical back-drop.
The Writers Museum
At the top of the Royal Mile is another hidden courtyard through Lady Stairs Close called Makar’s Court, which is almost a temple to some of the great Scottish writers and poets through time – The Writers Museum
It’s an evolving national literary monument and in fact, the world Makar means ‘‘one who fashions, constructs, produces, prepares, etc.’
Inside Makar’s court, sits the Writer’s Museum and it’s FREE to entry. The museum celebrates the lives of the famous writers Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
It’s a great spot to take photographs as its beautiful but the area is used by many locals as a walkway to avoid the crowds so it can get pretty busy! Nothing a spot of patience and timing won’t solve though!
Be-lavie Tip: Going early before morning rush hour may just get you the photo shot you want!
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Housed in a Neoclassical building adjacent to the Water of Leith sits the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This is a must for those who love contemporary art followed by a walk around the lush grounds after your visit. An outstanding collection of Scotland’s modern art is housed here and split between two galleries, Modern One and Modern Two.
This is Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attraction, opening back in 1835. This gallery, Camera Obscura, showcases visual illusions via a number of experiences and interactive activities. Mirror mazes, and Ames room, which appears like to shrinks around you and a vortex tunnel that gives you the feeling of utter imbalance. Head to the rooftop to get some great photos and use the free telescopes to get up close and personal with your favourite areas of Edinburgh.
This is a great family-friendly activity but also one of the nicest photo locations in Edinburgh.
The Royal Yacht Brittania
Hailed as the best UK attraction, the Royal yacht Britannia has been a royal residence for over 40 years. It sailed over 1 million miles on 968 state visits with the Royal Family. It houses 220 Royal Yachtsmen who served on board this impressive ship.
The Yacht served the Royal Family from 1954-2017, after which it was decommissioned and takes home at Edinburgh Docks now. It’s now possible to tour all five decks to get an insight into life inside. See bedrooms, living rooms, office of HRH the Queen and the late Prince Philip to the state dining room, hospital, laundry and yachtsmen’s quarters- this truly is a fantastic tour and lots of opportunities for photography serving as one of the perfect photo locations in Edinburgh.
Special Rated Edinburgh Tours
- 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Panoramic Bus Ticket
- Old Town & Underground Historical Tour
- 3 Hour Guided Food Tour
- 3 Hour Guided Walking Tour
- Harry Potter Walking Tour
- History of Whisky and Tasting Tour
Where to Stay
As one can imagine, there is a wide range of hotels, which obviously can serve as photo locations in Edinburgh and simultaneously suit all pockets and styles.
The Bonham Hotelluxury Hotel (hotel spotlight)
Set in a quiet leafy crescent in the exclusive West End of Edinburgh, only minutes from the main attractions, The Bonham provides luxurious, classically decorated rooms and suites with exquisite service.
Many of the rooms face at the front of the double effaced property face Drumsheugh Gardens or towards the rear, Dean Village or the Firth of Forth and the Kingdom of Fife.
Be-lavie Tip: The Bonham is a really good spot for photo locations in Edinburgh, especially if your room or suite faces the rear of the hotel.
The interiors are simply stunning and totally relaxing lounges await to spend relaxing evenings after a day of seeing the city’s sights. The hotels has a fine dining restaurant, a stylish bar as well as gardens at the rear to look out over.
Breakfast is a delicious affair and the hotels has parking at the rear of the property on a first come first serve basis.
- Location: 35 Drumsheugh Gardens. Edinburgh. EH3 7RN. Tel. +44 0131 226 6050. Website
- Price Point Per Night: £££
Hotel Indigo, EdinburghMid-Range Hotel
Located amongst the hustle and bustle of Princess Street, Hotel Indigo overlooks Edinburgh Castle and Princess Street Gardens.
The rooms are individually designed all with bright inviting colours and there’s also a restaurant on site which serves locally sourced food from Scotland. For those who want to be in the best location to visit almost all landmarks this mid-range hotel is one for you.
The Twenty Princes Street restaurant serves a menu specially designed to reflect the wealth of food in Scotland, with locally sourced ingredients used wherever possible. The attached Juniper bar serves a wide range of drinks and cocktails.
In Edinburgh’s historical centre, Hotel Indigo – Edinburgh – Princes Street is situated opposite Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station. Holyrood Palace is a 20-minute walk away, and St James Shopping Centre is just 350 yards away.
This is our guests’ favourite part of Edinburgh, according to independent reviews.
- Location: 20 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2AN Tel. 0131 556 4901 Website
- Price per night: ££
The Lane Boutique Hotelgood value hotel
Located in the heart of the Morningside area, the hotel appears to be a villa style double faced villa and beautifully characterful and impeccably decorated inside. Bright but yet warm and calming atmosphere in style and ambience. Rooms range from classic and luxury with an apartment also available for staying.
Communal areas are in the pub which serves as a great bar and restaurant for this cutesy hotel, however there is a pantry where snacks, soft-drinks and a continental breakfast.
A charming Budget find which has all the individuality of a unique hotel and no hostel vibes!
It’s good to note location is a little out of town with more of a residential feel.
- Location: 4 Canaan Lane. Edinburgh. EH10 4SY. Tel. 0131 446 3461. Website
- Price per night: £
Best Photo Locations in Edinburgh Roundup
Edinburgh truly is one of the most photogenic cities in the world, let alone Scotland. With so much history and culture to take in and absorb the sites, around each corner there’s a photo opportunity. Follow the handy guide and landmarks and discover all the different perspectives you’ll be able to photograph whilst wandering around the beautiful capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. Try your hand at capturing some photo locations in Edinburgh, mysterious landscapes and legends await.
Where to Next? Scotland Related Reading
- The Glasgow Mural Trail: A Complete Guide
- The Best Coastal Villages and Towns in Fife
- Saorsa 1875: The World’s First Vegan Hotel
- The Best Places for Vegetarian Food in Scotland