Are you ready to discover the Scottish capital in an exciting and unique way? This article guides you through the 10 best eco-friendly things to do in Edinburgh and the top sustainable experiences for all travellers, so you can make the most of your weekend getaway or day trip whilst minimising your environmental impact.
Whether it is your first time in Edinburgh or you have been before, I am sure you will have a fantastic time! Home to many iconic tourist attractions and historic landmarks, the capital is full of surprises and hidden gems, filled with a magical atmosphere (especially if you are a Harry Potter fan).
Whether it is admiring the views from Arthur’s Seat, exploring the canals on an electric bike or getting lost in the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city, no matter if you are a solo traveller, a family with children or a couple on a romantic escape.
So, are you ready to enjoy an eco-adventure in this picturesque city? Join us as we dive into 10 fun and sustainable activities in Edinburgh! For all the architecture lovers and photo enthusiasts out there, I promise you will have a great time – without harming our planet 🌍
My Edinburgh experience:
Duration 4 Days
Dates visited Nov 06 - Nov 10
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- Overview: green things to do in Edinburgh
- Best places to visit Edinburgh – Map
- 10 fun & sustainable things to do in Edinburgh
- 1- Hike to Arthur’s Seat
- 2- Wander the Royal Botanic Garden
- 3- Discover the city on two wheels
- 4- Visit the Edinburgh Remakery
- 5- Indulge yourself at the farmers’ market
- 6- Eat at sustainable restaurants & cafés
- 7- Explore museums & art galleries
- 8- Spend a day at Dynamic Earth
- 9- Picnic by the canal-side
- 10- Participate in environmental events
- What to do in Edinburgh in winter
- Top day trips from Edinburgh
- Tips for reducing your eco-impact in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh travel planning guide
- Edinburgh, Scotland – FAQ
Overview: green things to do in Edinburgh
- Hike to Arthur’s Seat
- Wander the Royal Botanic Garden
- Discover the city on two wheels
- Visit the Edinburgh Remakery
- Indulge yourself at the farmers’ market
- Eat at sustainable restaurants & cafés
- Explore museums & art galleries
- Spend a day at Dynamic Earth
- Picnic by the canal-side
- Participate in environmental events
Looking for the perfect itinerary? Check out this article:
3 Magical Days in Edinburgh: City Itinerary
Best places to visit Edinburgh – Map
Click on the top left of the map to display the list of stops and locations.
10 fun & sustainable things to do in Edinburgh
From indulging yourself in local cuisine at the Farmers’ markets to spending a day at Dynamic Earth and exploring the many museums, Edinburgh has something for every traveller.
Here are our 10 favourite ways to discover the Scottish capital any time of the year whilst reducing your environmental impact:
1- Hike to Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano rising 823 feet above sea level and the main peak in the group of hills in Edinburgh, is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors with magnificent views of the city. And those views will be even more rewarding if you lace up your hiking boots and take the 45-minute uphill walk.
This site is not only a significant geological formation but also a cherished natural and recreational space in the heart of Edinburgh, offering relatively easy hikes and walks to its summit – ideal for all levels.
You can reach the summit via numerous routes. However, to enjoy the best views of the city and see the ruins of Saint Anthony’s Chapel, which is at least 600 years old, as well as the remains of Saint Margaret’s Loch, a 2,000-year-old hill fort, it is best to start from Holyrood Park and head to the top from there.
The climb is gradual and not overly strenuous. And once you reach the summit, you can admire the breathtaking views of the Scottish capital, take photos, rest for a while, and either follow the same path backwards or the alternative yet steep walk to reach the Salisbury Crags and return to your departure point.
Keep in mind that the paths are not wheelchair accessible, and your elderly companions may find the walk tedious. Overall, your hike may last 1 to 2 hours, so also make sure to bring some water with you.
2- Wander the Royal Botanic Garden
Enjoy the natural beauty of Edinburgh whilst supporting its commitment to preserving green spaces. Just a mile from the city centre, you can enter into the realm of peace and tranquillity by taking a walk through the Royal Botanic Garden, a renowned scientific institution.
Established in 1670, it spans over 70 acres and is dedicated to the study and conservation of plants. With its stunning landscapes, extensive collection of plant species from around the world and thematic gardens, it forms a true green oasis in the heart of the capital.
The entrance is free, and you can spend 2 to 3 hours strolling through nature whilst admiring the skyline of Edinburgh and its iconic Edinburgh Castle. You can also visit the Chinese Hillside, venture into the well-known Rock Garden and wander through the majestic Giant Redwood trees of the Woodland Garden.
Feeling revitalised and refreshed after this close contact with nature, you can then head to the Garden’s exhibition space, Inverleith House, along with the Botanics shop to remember this eco-friendly attraction by buying a souvenir and supporting the commitment of the city to maintain the Royal Botanic Garden and its conservation efforts.
3- Discover the city on two wheels
Are you tired of exploring Edinburgh on foot? Then, grab a bike and discover the capital of Scotland on two wheels. The city is becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with dedicated paths and bike-sharing schemes popping up around its neighbourhoods year after year. So why not join the ride?
After all, it is a healthy, eco-friendly and fun way to find hidden gems around the city and enjoy the marvellous sightseeing at your own pace. So, rent a bike from a local bike shop in the centre (there are quite a few), put on your helmet and start cycling.
One of the best bike routes to take is the Portobello Promenade Loop, which runs through the most picturesque coastal neighbourhood of Edinburgh, the suburb of Portobello. You can depart from the Edinburgh Waverley station and pass by Calton Hill (Edinburgh’s Unesco World Heritage Site) to see the National Monument, which resembles the Greek Parthenon (Edinburgh is also known as The Athens of the North).
Your next stop will be the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and after looping for a while among quiet backstreets, you will come across the Restalrig Railway Path.
Bonus tip: use an electric bike for sightseeing!
If you are not too keen on the traditional bike, you can try out the alternative solution of the electric bike. It is easier, less tiring and not to mention less sweaty.
So opt for an e-bike to effortlessly catch up with the emblematic monuments of the city whilst minimising your carbon footprint and filling your lungs with oxygen. Rent an electric bike from a local store, hop on and enjoy the ride.
The Water of Leigh Cycle Path is an ideal tour for e-cyclists since it is about 12 miles long and can last around 1.5 hours (one way). You will travel to Leigh, one of the best suburbs of Edinburgh, along the small river to discover landmarks such as the Dean Village, the Collington Tunnel with its enchanting mural and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
BIKING TOURS I RECOMMEND
4- Visit the Edinburgh Remakery
The Edinburgh Remakery is a social enterprise and community hub dedicated to promoting sustainability and reducing waste – and a fun green attraction for all ages. Established in 2016, it focuses on the principles of repair, reuse and recycling.
To learn more about reducing waste through sustainable practices, the Remakery offers regular activities and workshops to help you learn repair skills, encouraging you to fix and refurbish items instead of throwing them away. These workshops include sewing, knitting, bookbinding and much more! So check out the calendar beforehand to plan your trip accordingly.
Additionally, you will find a shop inside where you can purchase refurbished electronics, furniture and other items, contributing to a more sustainable and circular economy in the local community.
5- Indulge yourself at the farmers’ market
One of the best ways to discover a new place when travelling is through its local products and cuisine. So what better way to uncover some facets of the Scottish flavours than visiting one (or more) of the farmers’ markets in Edinburgh and tasting its agricultural production?
Once a week, you can immerse yourself in the local culinary scene at the Edinburgh Farmer’s Market, a vibrant and popular market showcasing a variety of organic and locally produced food and artisanal products.
Not only will you offer fresh and seasonal delights to the roof of your mouth, but you will support sustainable local agriculture and add to the income of Scottish farmers, stockbreeders and fishermen whilst reducing the environmental impact of transporting goods over long distances. So, enjoy your unique green shopping experience in the heart of Edinburgh!
6- Eat at sustainable restaurants & cafés
Edinburgh has a vibrant food scene, and restaurants and cafés that prioritise sustainability keep increasing in the Scottish capital. These are places that focus on and have included eco-friendly processes and activities in their daily operation, such as:
- eliminating energy and water consumption
- minimising food waste
- recycling and repurposing old furniture and other items
- using cleaning or other products made of natural ingredients
- using local, fresh and seasonal organic food
- supporting local producers
- opting for digital solutions to replace paperwork
- reducing plastic usage
- promoting green business practices like donating part of their earnings to green causes.
So, when feeling hungry or wanting to take a break between your sightseeing, why not choose to visit a sustainable restaurant or café and support the commitment of their owner to further protecting our planet? You will not only help local businesses but also reduce the environmental impact of your meals.
Here are a few places known for their eco-friendly practices:
- Hendersons: a well-established vegetarian restaurant known for sourcing local and organic ingredients. They are committed to sustainability and provide a range of plant-based dishes. Visit their website here.
- David Bann: a vegetarian and vegan restaurant with an emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Their menu is creative and diverse, offering a sustainable and ethical dining experience. Visit their website here.
- The Gardener’s Cottage: located in the Royal Terrace Gardens, this stone cottage focuses on a farm-to-table dining experience. They source their ingredients locally and emphasise sustainability in their menu. Visit their website here.
- Café St Honoré: committed to using organic and local ingredients, this café has a strong focus on sustainability. Its menu reflects the seasons and supports local farmers and producers. Visit their website here.
- Paradise Palms: a vibrant bar and café focused on sustainability. They source local and ethical products and have a creative menu with vegetarian and vegan options. Visit their website here.
- Considerit: a chocolate and doughnut shop with a strong emphasis on sustainability. They offer vegan treats, and their packaging is eco-friendly. Visit their website here.
7- Explore museums & art galleries
Exploring the art, history and culture of a place through its museums is not only entertaining but also educational. It is at the same time an eco-friendly activity, and fortunately, Edinburgh has plenty of diverse museums to offer to its mindful travellers.
The National Museum of Scotland, to start with. It is an iconic museum located in the heart of the city. It houses a remarkable collection of exhibitions on science, technology, art and history that allow you to delve into the evolution of Scotland and the world over the years.
There is also the Scottish National Gallery, perfect for art enthusiasts. Nestled in a neoclassical building on the Mound, it is home to an impressive array of European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.
And if you are more inclined towards contemporary art, you can opt for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and spend some time among modern and contemporary masterpieces, which showcase the evolution of artistic expression.
Finally, a trip to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums is quite a different story. It features exhibits on the history of surgery, anatomy and medical breakthroughs, providing a rather macabre experience. Will you dare a visit?
8- Spend a day at Dynamic Earth
When planning a green trip to Edinburgh, choosing attractions and activities that prioritise sustainability is essential. So why not consider a visit to Dynamic Earth, a captivating science centre and planetarium? Opened in 1999, it is located at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and provides an interactive and immersive experience focusing on Earth and environmental sciences.
Telling the fascinating story of planet Earth from beginning to end, the facility features engaging exhibits, immersive galleries, multimedia presentations and interactive displays that explore the history, geology, climate and ecosystems of our world.
Dynamic Earth is designed to be both educational and entertaining, making it a popular destination for families with kids, young adults and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamic processes of our planet.
9- Picnic by the canal-side
Another way to connect with nature without leaving the city is to enjoy a relaxing meal by the waters of the Union Canal, a historic waterway connecting the cities of Edinburgh and Falkirk. Today, the Canal is a beloved leisure and recreational space, featuring a path popular for walking, running and cycling.
It is also the ideal location to enjoy a picnic! So pack your basket and find a spot surrounded by lush greenery to relax and taste local delights.
After your lunch, do some sightseeing along the Canal, follow a scenic route through the countryside and discover highlights such as the iconic Falkirk Wheel, a unique rotating boat lift, the Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Avon Aqueduct.
Alternatively, you can paddle with your children and friends along the Edinburgh Canoe Trail or visit the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena and climb the largest indoor climbing centre in Europe, which resides only 300m away from the Union Canal.
10- Participate in environmental events
If you want to take your conscious travel a step further during your stay in Edinburgh, you can voluntarily engage in environmental initiatives.
Keep an eye out for environmental events in the Scottish capital. Whether it is a community clean-up or an eco-festival, participating in such events can contribute to local environmental efforts. It is a practical and effective way to leave your ecological footprint in the city and meet other like-minded people.
Here is a Facebook group you can check out: Edinburgh litter picks and beach cleanups.
You can also visit the Keep Scotland Beautiful website for more information, events and ways to volunteer in Scotland.
Finally, the Water of Leith Conservation Trust is another charity worth a look at for their work to conserve and enhance the river, its heritage and wildlife.
Planning a trip to London? Check out this article:
10 Eco-Friendly & Fun Things to Do in London
What to do in Edinburgh in winter
Visiting Edinburgh in winter is a fun and unforgettable experience, especially in December! Here are some extra sustainable activities and eco-friendly things to do if you plan to visit the capital this season:
- Visit the Christmas Markets
- Attend the Hogmanay street party
- See a world-class theatre performance
- Warm up by joining a whisky tour
- Watch a film at the Cameo Cinema
Fancy a scenic road trip across the UK? Check out this article:
London to Edinburgh Drive: 20+ Best Stops
Shop the printable travel itinerary
Plan your perfect city break & live a unique green experience.
Top day trips from Edinburgh
Tips for reducing your eco-impact in Edinburgh
Sustainable travel means exploring the world whilst being aware of your surroundings and having a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the places you visit.
Being a responsible traveller in Edinburgh is possible! Here are some eco-friendly travel tips for reducing your carbon footprint:
- Use the train to reach the Scottish capital. Edinburgh is incredibly well-connected by train to the rest of the world, so prioritise travelling this way to lower your carbon impact.
- If you need to take the plane, book direct flights (which require less fuel than indirect flights) and offset your carbon footprint. But, do not use carbon offsetting as a complete solution. Combine it with other sustainable practices, like avoiding single-use plastic on the plane and mindfully packing your suitcase for your green city break.
- Select an eco-friendly accommodation. Try to look on their website for green credentials and eco-conscious practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, water conservation and waste reduction initiatives. You can also use Bookdifferent or Ecobnb to help you decide.
- Be mindful of your water and energy usage. Conserve water and energy by turning off lights, air conditioning and heating when not needed. In addition, reuse towels and sheets instead of requesting new ones daily in hotels.
- Once there, use public transport. Opt for buses, trams and trains to explore the city instead of renting a car or using a taxi. Edinburgh has a well-connected public transportation system that can take you anywhere easily and fast whilst reducing carbon emissions.
- Alternatively, you can walk or cycle. Edinburgh is a walkable city with numerous scenic paths. Consider walking or biking to explore neighbourhoods and attractions, promoting personal health and reducing your footprint.
- Eat at local restaurants and markets that use produce from the area and emphasise organic and sustainability. It will contribute to the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint by supporting restaurants where food does not come from long distances.
- Shop locally and responsibly. Support local and sustainable businesses when shopping, bring your own reusable bag to reduce the need for plastic bags and consider buying second-hand or vintage items to lower demand for new resources.
- Reduce single-use plastic as much as possible. Bring a reusable water bottle with you, a shopping bag and other reusable items to minimise single-use plastic consumption. You can refill your bottle at public water fountains, which are available in various locations.
- Always respect the local heritage. Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel is not only about the environment but also about the local communities. So, always be respectful, explore museums and exhibitions, smile and talk to the locals.
More inspiration for your green vacation:
- Best Travel Apps for Exploring Sustainably
- 15 Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Eco-Adventure
- Best Ecotourism Activities Around the World
Eco-friendly gear you might love:
- 10 Best Sustainable Backpacks for Travel & Hiking
- 10 Best Reusable & Eco-Friendly Travel Mugs
- 8 Best Filtered Water Bottles for Travel & Hiking
Check out this page for more inspiration on eco-friendly products & gear.
Edinburgh travel planning guide
Yes, buying insurance is always valuable when travelling abroad. Enjoy your green city break in Edinburgh stress-free with one of my favourite providers, Nomad Insurance.
Yes, tap water is safe to drink all over Edinburgh. However, I also recommend travelling with the UltraPress Purifier Bottle, a lightweight filtered water bottle perfect for reducing plastic and staying hydrated.
Yes, renting a car in Edinburgh is easy and a great way to explore the Scottish countryside and Highlands. I recommend booking yours with Rentalcars.com – they offer a variety of operators for all budgets.
The best way to book your accommodation in Edinburgh is with Booking.com – my favourite platform to compare and reserve places to stay each night, from affordable guesthouses to luxury hotels.
I recommend booking your plane with Skyscanner. It has been my favourite platform for years, as it allows me to book the cheapest flights whilst lowering my carbon emissions.
Edinburgh, Scotland – FAQ
Although there is an entrance fee to access most parts of Edinburgh Castle, there is a limited opportunity to see it for free. The exterior of the castle, including its iconic presence atop Castle Rock, can be observed for free from various vantage points around the city.
Edinburgh is a walkable city, especially in its central areas. Most major attractions, historic sites, shops and restaurants are located within a reasonable distance of each other, and the compact nature of the city centre makes it easy for you to explore on foot.
Absolutely! Edinburgh is an excellent destination for a weekend getaway. The city is rich in history, culture and stunning architecture, offering a wide range of fun activities and attractions, whether you are travelling alone, with friends or as a family.
If you want to experience Edinburgh at its liveliest with festivals and events, summer, especially during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, is a great choice. If you prefer milder weather and a more relaxed atmosphere, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn might be ideal.
And you, what is your favourite eco-friendly thing to do in Edinburgh?
Let me know in the comments below!
With love ♡