Now may not be the time for travel, but we don't see any harm in looking ahead to when social distancing is a thing of the past. And in the spirit of looking forward to brighter times, what better city to explore than the capital of Scotland?!
Edinburgh is a buzzing city packed with things to see and do – from famous tourist attractions to quaint spots that are just waiting to be discovered. In fact, it has more listed buildings than anywhere else in the UK.
But Edinburgh isn’t just a great tourist destination. It’s also a great place to hold an event, with tons of wow-worthy venues, plenty of first-class accommodation for delegates and easy transport links both within the UK and internationally. So, whether you’re holding a conference or a gala dinner, here’s everything you need to know about holding your event in Edinburgh.
Table of contents
Edinburgh at a glance
Population: Approximately 531,000
Climate: Located near the sea, Edinburgh is cool, moist and often cloudy.
Fun fact: With 112 parks, Edinburgh has more trees per head of the population than any other city in the UK. It was also the first city in the whole world to have its own fire service!
You need to choose a location for your event that your delegates will want to travel to, potentially from all over the country or even the world! Luckily, there’s plenty to do in Edinburgh, so we’re sure your event will provide the perfect excuse for a visit.
Things to do in Edinburgh
1. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle sits on top of an extinct volcano and dominates the city skyline. Inside, you can check out historic Scottish artefacts from weapons to clothing, including the Scottish Crown Jewels! If you’re able to, we’d recommend heading over here in time for the firing of the canon, which happens every day at 1pm (except on Sundays and bank holidays).
2. Hike up Arthur’s Seat
There aren’t many cities that boast any extinct volcanos, let alone two! Arthur’s Seat is the site of Edinburgh’s second extinct volcano. It sits 250 metres above sea level and makes for an excellent walk. From the top, you’ll get the most amazing views of the city and the Forth Bridge! While it’s fairly easy to hike up it, climbing down is a breeze!
3. Go whisky tasting
Edinburgh is famous for many things, but whisky is right up there at the top. It’s packed with bars where you can head to for a tipple. We recommend Devil’s Advocate, which stocks over 400 whiskies for you to try. Or, why not book one of the many whisky tours available around the city?
4. Explore the Old Town
Edinburgh’s Old Town is packed with cobbled streets, picturesque squares and historic houses. It includes the Royal Mile, which transforms itself into a market for fringe theatre during the city’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August (definitely worth a visit!). Just off the mile is the striking Victoria Street, packed with colourful boutiques and restaurants.
5. Take a Harry Potter tour
JK Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter books in Edinburgh, so there’s plenty to keep Potterheads interested with! You can book a guided tour or simply create your own. For starters, consider visiting cafes like The Elephant House, where JK Rowling often sat to write overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Then, continue onto sites such as Greyfriars Kirkyard, where Rowling may have got the inspiration for some of her characters from the names on the graves, and Balmoral Hotel, where she finished the final Harry Potter book.
6. Go underground at Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close is a warren of streets that lies buried beneath the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It now functions as a tourist attraction called The Real Mary King’s Close. With a reputation for hauntings, it’s a suitably spooky way to discover Edinburgh’s hidden past.
7. Climb the Scott Monument
In Princes Street Gardens, you’ll find a striking Victorian Gothic monument to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. In fact, this is the second-largest monument to a writer in the world! Not only is it a beautiful sight from the outside, but it also offers gorgeous views over the castle when you climb its narrow staircase to the top.
8. Potter around Leith
Once an area of the city that you’d probably have wanted to stay clear of, nowadays Leith is a buzzing port district, home to lots of trendy bistros, pubs and bars. Plus, the Queen’s former boat, The Royal Yacht Britannia is moored here. Its Royal Deck is a great pit-stop if you’re looking for somewhere to take tea, and be sure to check out the ornate state apartments and onboard Rolls-Royce before disembarking!
9. Check out the Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery showcases some of the best works of art from around the world, including masterpieces by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet and Van Gogh. Located just off Princes Street in the city centre, it’s a fantastic destination that you could easily spend hours (if not days!) exploring – particularly when you need somewhere to shelter from the rain!
10. Watch the sunset at Carlton Hill
Edinburgh is full of hills offering spectacular views of the city, but Carlton Hill, in the city centre, has to be one of the best. It’s home to the unfinished ‘National Monument’ – an unmistakably Athenian acropolis that was initiated in 1816 as a memorial to those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. Also home to two observatories, it offers panoramic views of the city, Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park – particularly beautiful during sunsets!
How to get there
Closest Train Station: Edinburgh Waverley
Closest Airport: Edinburgh Airport
Situated on the A1 and connected to London by a direct train line, Edinburgh is easy to reach by both road and rail. It also has a large international airport, making travel easy for international delegates too.
Where to stay
When it comes to accommodation, Edinburgh has all your delegates sorted whatever their tastes and interests.
One of our top hotels has to be Macdonald Holyrood Hotel and Spa. Situated just half a mile from Edinburgh Waverley train station, it’s a convenient base for those looking to explore all the wonders the city has to offer. But with personalised spa experiences also on offer, it’s equally as perfect for those who just need a little rest and recuperation between events.
On top of this, the hotel boasts its very own meeting rooms for guests, in case your delegates need to do a bit of business while they’re there.
Alternatively, for attendees looking for somewhere suitably Scottish, there’s the Witchery. Known for its legendary restaurant, this hotel has become an Edinburgh institution and is located at the foot of the Royal Mile.
Its seriously luxurious suites are dripping with over-the-top, gothic opulence. We’re talking dramatic oak panelling, roll-top baths and sumptuous four-poster beds. You’ll have to see it to believe it!
Our pick of Edinburgh venues
Edinburgh has something for everyone, so no matter what kind of event you’re organising, you’re sure to find your dream venue here. We’ve listed a few of our favourites, but there are plenty more – just get in touch with our venue experts for more recommendations.
Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Just like its name suggests, this is an ideal venue for those large, international conferences in the heart of Scotland’s capital city. But with a range of adaptable spaces that can accommodate anything from 70 to 2,000 people, Edinburgh International Conference Centre is also a great choice for exhibitions and trade shows, as well as those smaller conferences and meetings. We’re talking state-of-the-art technology, world-class facilities and breakout suites.
Novotel Edinburgh Park
A really fantastic national or international conference depends on a great venue and great accommodation. So, what could be better than combining the two?
When it comes to hotel conference venues, we love Edinburgh Park's luxurious Novotel. Not only does it offer brand new meeting rooms and business facilities ideal for conferences and seminars, but it also has everything your delegates could ask for when it comes to accommodation – including a fitness centre, sauna and swimming pool. Plus, it’s within easy reach of Edinburgh Zoo, Murrayfield Stadium and Gyle Shopping Centre, as well as being just two minutes walk to Edinburgh Park train station.
Imaginex 360° screening room
Yotel Edinburgh’s main event space is a dramatic 1,475 square-foot, two-storey, 360° screening room – the first of its kind in Scotland! With eight state-of-the-art laser projectors, this is the perfect location to wow your guests with the latest tech and your own bespoke content. Whether you’re planning a conference, private screening or product launch, the possibilities are endless!
If you’re looking for somewhere fun and quirky to host a drinks reception, product launch, private dinner or party, check out Holyrood Distillery – a malt whisky distillery right in the heart of Edinburgh! Their quirky gin nosing room is a show-stopping venue fit for any event. Plus, the team runs distiller masterclasses, tastings and quiz nights at the distillery every month. Could this venue get any better?!
For those occasions that call for a really wow-inducing interior, you can’t beat The Hub. Located right on the Royal Mile, this is a theatrical venue that’s befitting of the home of the Edinburgh International and Edinburgh Fringe festivals. Combining stunning Victorian architecture with contemporary design, this is a truly unique and memorable venue that’s ideal for anything from conferences to meetings and drinks receptions.
I don’t think there’s a more beautiful city in the UK than Edinburgh, and there certainly aren’t any others that can boast a volcano and the inspiration for Hogwarts right in the centre. You can treat your delegates to a show at one of the many comedy clubs and theatres, and there’s plenty of local, independent restaurants to feed them all in. - Jake Bolton, Venue Community Associate, Hire Space
If you’d like to find out more about hosting your event in the buzzing city of Edinburgh, just get in touch with our venue experts who’ll help you find the perfect venue.