After you are done visiting Edinburgh Castle head through the gates and across the esplanade to the Royal Mile. This series of streets has linked the castle, the town and the palace of Holyrood since the 1100s.
Dominated by tall buildings on either side, the street has tiny alleyways, or closes, branching off from the main drag. These closes have remained the same since the middle ages, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of what life was like in the Old Town section of Edinburgh during the Middle Ages and Scottish Enlightenment.
Speaking of the Scottish Enlightenment, the Royal Mile is peppered with statues of the heros of reason, including Adam Smith and David Hume. Of course, true to its name, there’s also a statue of Charles II (Bonnie Prince Charlie’s uncle).
There are multiple shops, restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions dotting the street, but the real draw is the history. Soak it in, and be sure to look down as well as up. You never know what you will find.*
For a great DIY walking tour, check out the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo Walking Tour, it will fill you in on everything you need to know.
*For the record, this heart has a dark history. It marks the spot of the Old Tolbooth prison, where people were routinely imprisoned and tortured. If you see locals spitting on the hearth, now you’ll know why.