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Top things to see and do at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Reading time: 4 minutes

Enjoy the ultimate royal experience at the home of Scottish royalty. The Palace is open to the public all year round and we can’t wait to welcome you in and make some magical memories together.

Your visit to the Palace includes the State Apartments which are used by the monarch and members of the Royal Family for official ceremonies and events. 

As the home of Scottish royal history, these spectacular rooms have played host to many significant occasions. See the magnificent Great Gallery, where Bonnie Prince Charlie partied, and the remarkable Throne Room, where George IV famously wore Highland dress at a levée or royal reception. With so much royal history and splendour it is possible to walk straight past some amazing treasures, so here are a few to look out for.

1. Glimpse the Great Stair

A man walks along a landing of a stone staircase. The walls are filled with tapestries and paintings.

The Great Stair at the Palace of Holyroodhouse ©

What would a royal palace be without a grand entrance? As you enter the Palace you will see the impressive stone staircase built for Charles II. Don't miss the spectacular ceiling plasterwork where a life-size angel holds the Scottish crown, as well as amazing Tapestries on the walls which were sent to the Palace by Prince Albert. 

2. Be charmed by Charles II

A family looking at the portrait of Charles II by John Michael Wright (RCIN 404951)

Portrait of Charles II by John Michael Wright (RCIN 404951) ©

Come for the majesty, stay for the masters. There are amazing paintings to see on your visit to the Palace. A highlight has to be the magnificent portrait of Charles II by John Michael Wright hanging in the Throne Room. Much of the Palace you can see today is from renovations and rebuilding work started during Charles II's reign, however he never actually visited the Palace himself. The Palace is packed with other extraordinary treasures including incredible furniture and tapestries.

3. Discover the Royal Dining Room

A lavish dining room with the table laid and decorated. The room is filled with paintings and a chandelier.

The Royal Dining Room ©

Want to see where the Royal Family dines? Queen Elizabeth II used the lavish Royal Dining Room when she stayed at the Palace. It was however Queen Victoria who first decided that this room should be used as a royal dining room. Don't miss the wonderful portrait of Queen Elizabeth II which was specially commissioned to hang at Holyroodhouse. 

4. Be dazzled by the Darnley Jewel

The Darnley Jewel

The Darnley Jewel (RCIN 28181) ©

Well it wouldn't be a royal residence without some bling! As you make your way through the rooms where Mary, Queen of Scots lived, you will see this spectacular heart-shaped locket made from blue glass, rubies, and an emerald! Made for Mary's mother-in-law, Lady Margaret Douglas, the Jewel features emblems and inscriptions that reveal Margaret's ambitions for her grandson the future James VI and I.

5. Spot a spectacular unicorn

Two unicorns facing each other carved in stone

Unicorns above the front door of the Palace ©

Did you know Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn? While you make your way around the Palace and grounds keep an eye out for unicorns on gate posts, carved into walls and on ceilings. There are some on the ceiling of the Presence Chamber and see if you spot the unicorns above the Palace's front door.

6. Keep the kids keen

Two children dressed up in historical costumes in the Palace

Children enjoying dressing up in the Palace ©

While our free multimedia guide has a children’s version where Holly and Rudy help guide you through the Palace, that's not the only helping hand for parents. Be sure to drop by the Family Room where there are costumes for dressing up and fun activities to entertain the kids. Try out the magnetic wall where you can create your own coat of arms! See our family page to discover more.

7. Glide through the gardens

Three people walk along a path through the gardens. Flowers and trees surround them

The beautiful Palace gardens ©

Want to see where Queen Elizabeth II hosted garden parties while in Edinburgh? You can wander through the beautiful 4-hectare Palace gardens which have uninterrupted views towards the Queen's Park, also known as Holyrood Park. The gardens include the Wentworth Elm, a species which until recently was thought to be extinct! You can also visit the Physic Garden which contains medicinal and culinary plants that would have grown at the site in the 17th-century.

8. Treat yourself to tea

A tiered plate of cakes and sandwiches on a table, next to them is a cup of tea and a glass of bubbly

The Café at the Palace Afternoon tea ©

What better way to end your day then a relaxing trip to the Café at the Palace? The Café offers simple home-made dishes made from fresh, locally sourced produce including a delicious Afternoon Tea. Our Afternoon tea includes a delicious range of cakes, pastries and sandwiches, served with your choice of loose-leaf tea or Champagne! The Café was recently awarded ‘Taste Our Best’ by VisitScotland and is also dog-friendly.


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