The stunning River Ness, one of the highlights when discussing which is better: Inverness vs Edinburgh.

Inverness vs Edinburgh: Which City Is Better To Visit In 2024

Read on to find out which city is better to visit: Inverness or Edinburgh!

Ask most people which city in Scotland is better to visit and the majority will undoubtedly say the Scottish capital; Edinburgh, but the debate of Inverness vs Edinburgh is not so clear cut.

In fact, a good friend of mine lives in a beautiful country house surrounded by stunning nature just 40 minutes outside of Inverness, so I’ve had the opportunity to spend time there and explore everything that it has to offer.

I discovered that Inverness a great alternative to Edinburgh, which I’ve visited several times and while it’s a very beautiful city, it is always overcrowded with far too many tourists for my liking.

I’m going to share with you the pros and cons of visiting both cities and share my expert opinion to settle the argument between which city is better to visit, as well as sharing the best places to visit for both cities.

⌚ In a rush? My top recommendations for Inverness & Edinburgh include:

🏨 Hotel Recommendations:
Winmar Hotel (Inverness)
The Royal Highlands Hotel (Inverness)
Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa (Inverness)
St Christopher’s Edinburgh Original (Edinburgh)
Thistle Hotel (Edinburgh)
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian (Edinburgh)

✅ Tour Recommendations:
Loch Ness Tour from Inverness
Edinburgh Castle

City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour (Edinburgh)
Old Town Walking Tour History and Tales in Edinburgh

Why Visit Inverness?

To begin with, let’s take a look at Inverness and why it may be preferable to Edinburgh. Not only is Inverness is considered to be one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, but it’s also the happiest place to live in all of Scotland!

What makes Inverness such a great place to live and visit? Let’s find out.

Things to do in Inverness

The city of Inverness is a lovely place to visit. It’s a modest sized city which is easy to navigate when walking and I soon got a good handle of the layout of the city in no time.

The city has beautiful architecture to rival Edinburgh, with the most notable landmarks being the Inverness Town House, Inverness Castle and Inverness Cathedral.

There are lots of great restaurants, bars, clubs and shops in Inverness and overall I found it to be a very clean city as well.

Inverness is famous for being situated on the River Ness, and Greig Street Bridge is a great scenic spot to enjoy the views of the river.

Inverness is nowhere near as crowded as Edinburgh is, so if you prefer less tourists and a quieter city then Inverness is the better option.

And Inverness is definitely not as expensive a place to visit as Edinburgh, which is another plus point. So those are two huge factors when discussing Inverness vs Edinburgh.

The beautiful River Ness in Inverness.
The beautiful River Ness in Inverness.

Loch Ness

Inverness has one of the most famous sightseeing spots in all of Scotland right on its doorstep: Loch Ness. This world famous place of beauty is only 14 miles away from Inverness and it only takes around 15 minutes or so to reach the Loch.

A lot of tourists (especially American tourists) visit Inverness for this very reason: to pay a visit to the famous Loch in hope of catching a sight of the mythical monster Nessie.

Indeed, this is a huge factor for Inverness’ tourism trade: there are numerous guided bus tours and boat tours available from Inverness to Loch Ness.

➡️ Go on an amazing small tour of Loch Ness from Inverness! Book your ticket to Loch Ness by clicking here

Loch Ness itself is the second largest Loch in Scotland, so you want to give yourself plenty of time there.

👉Pro Tip: I recommend spending at least half a day at Loch Ness to really make the most of this magnificent nature place of outstanding beauty.

Hiking Trails

Another major advantage for Inverness when arguing between Inverness vs Edinburgh is of course that the city is in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

Scotland features some of the most stunning nature views anywhere in the world, and most of this can be found relatively close to Inverness.

There are lots of hiking trails, mountains and glens to explore near Inverness, so it’s the ideal place if you want to do some trekking in beautiful nature!

Amazing views in the Scottish Highlands.
Amazing views in the Scottish Highlands.

There are good trail circuits from River Ness and around Loch Ness, and the Craig Phadrig circular trail starts just two miles from the centre of Inverness, but it’ll feel like another world!

Which trail you choose all depends on how much time you have and how confident you are in your hiking skills. I did a 22 mile hike from just outside Tomatin (a small village fifteen miles outside of Inverness) to Loch Farr, which was really beautiful.

Loch Farr, not too far from Inverness!
Loch Farr, not too far from Inverness!

This took me the whole day but I was rewarded with stunning views of the Loch Farr on a lovely summer day. And, talking about the weather…

Inverness Weather

So a negative for Inverness is of course the weather! As the city is based in northern Scotland is does experience some cold and wet weather throughout the year.

To be honest there isn’t going to be a huge difference in terms of weather or temperature between Inverness and Edinburgh, but the further north you go the worse the weather will probably be!

Inverness weather can be a shock to the system if you’re not used to cold, windy, rainy days with low temperatures. But if you visit Inverness during the summer months then you could be in for a surprise.

I visited Inverness during early June and was rewarded with glorious blue skies and temperatures in the early 20’s (Celsius).

👉 Pro Tip: I would definitely recommend visiting Inverness (or Scotland in general) during the summer months to experience the best weather that it has to offer.

Is Inverness safe to visit?

Yes, totally! The city of Inverness has a low crime rate and I found the people there to be very friendly.

Of course, crime occurs in any city and as a tourist you should always be precautious, but overall crime is not something you have to worry too much about when visiting Inverness.

In fact I would consider Inverness safer than Edinburgh, which as a major capital city is prone to more crimes when compared to Inverness, but this is still relatively low numbers of crime.

How to get to Inverness

If you’re relying on public transport to get to Inverness then there are numerous trains and buses running from both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

A train from Edinburgh will typically take 3 hours and 20 minutes, while a bus will take around thirty minutes longer but tickets will be cheaper.

I caught a megabus (a popular cheap UK coach company) from Inverness to Edinburgh for only £10 and it was a pleasant though somewhat crowded journey.

The bus route was quite scenic at times as well with some great views of the glens and mountains of the highlands.

Inverness Accommodation

There is a wide variety of top quality hotels in the city centre of Inverness, let’s check out some of the best options:

⭐ Top Inverness Hotel Choices:
Budget hotel in central Inverness: Winmar Hotel (£61 per night)
✅ Mid-range hotel in central Inverness: The Royal Highlands Hotel (£135 per night)
✅ Luxury hotel in central Inverness: Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa (£229 per night)

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    Why Visit Edinburgh?

    So yes, Inverness is a great place to visit, but how does it compare to Edinburgh? Let’s find out…

    Things to do in Edinburgh

    The Scottish capital is a hugely popular destination for tourists visiting the UK. Some would say it’s the greatest city in the the UK outside of London, and I would find that hard to disagree with.

    Edinburgh a very beautiful city with stunning gothic architecture and countless cultural events happening throughout the year.

    Edinburgh is a place full of tours! From ghost tours to whisky tours to Harry Potter tours and more! Some people prefer a personalised tour with a local tour guide, which is a great option as well.

    ⭐ Top Edinburgh City Tours:
    ✅ City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour: 1 hour bus tour of the city (£18)
    ✅ The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour: 1 hour 15 minutes underground tour of the city (£17)
    ✅ Old Town Walking Tour History and Tales in Edinburgh: 2 hour historical walking tour of Edinburgh (£14)

    Free places to visit in Edinburgh

    If you’re put off from visiting Edinburgh because of the expense, then keep in mind that there are plenty of free places to visit as well. Here’s a few places that I visited in Edinburgh that didn’t cost me anything and I would recommend visiting:

    📍 Princes Street Gardens: located in the heart of the city, the Princes Street Gardens is a lovely place to sit and relax and enjoy the beautiful views that Edinburgh has to offer.
    📍 Scottish National Gallery: this is a great art gallery in the centre of the city and it’s totally free! Perfect for lovers of classical art and a nice little escape from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh.
    📍 Calton Hill: this hill is a world heritage site and is an awesome place with great views of the city. There are several fascinating monuments on the hill and it’s a perfect place to see all of Edinburgh.
    📍 Arthur’s Seat: from Calton Hill you’ll be able to see Arthur’s Seat opposite. You can walk up it fairly easily and it offers more stunning views of the city and beyond.

    The National Monument at the top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh.
    The National Monument at the top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh.

    Edinburgh Castle

    The most popular tourist attraction that the city has to offer is Edinburgh Castle, a world famous historical site that dates back to the 12th century.

    Edinburgh Castle is a fascinating place to visit and I recommended to allow at least 3 hours there to get the most out of your visit.

    👉 Pro Tip: I would strongly recommend booking your ticket for the castle in advance, weeks in advance ideally. I turned up not aware that you can only purchase tickets online. All tickets had sold out for the day!

    ➡️ Get your ticket to Edinburgh Castle! Book a tour of Edinburgh Castle by clicking here

    The magnificently beautiful Edinburgh Castle.
    The magnificently beautiful Edinburgh Castle.

    Is Edinburgh expensive?

    Yes! I was in shock when I ordered a beer at a bar and had to pay £6! Edinburgh definitely rivals London when it comes to being overpriced, but it should be expected for such an iconic, world famous city.

    There are always cheap alternatives everywhere, but don’t be surprised of high prices when visiting tourist attractions, restaurants, bars and shops in Edinburgh.

    Is Edinburgh safe?

    Yes! Edinburgh is in fact considered to be one of the safest cities in the UK, and one of the safer major cities you can visit in Europe. It has a few lively areas at night, but as a solo traveller I didn’t feel in danger at any point.

    Is Inverness safer? I would argue yes as stated earlier in this blog post, Inverness is very safe too.

    Is Edinburgh too crowded?

    Yes! Another negative for Edinburgh when looking at Inverness vs Edinburgh is that the Scottish capital is really over crowded. I visited Edinburgh on a Monday in early June and could not believe how many people and tourists were there!

    In comparison I visited Inverness the weekend before and while there were plenty of people in the city, it didn’t feel half as busy as Edinburgh did.

    So if you want to avoid huge crowds then maybe visiting Edinburgh is not for you. It definitely affected my enjoyment of the city for sure.

    The busy but beautiful streets of Edinburgh!
    The busy but beautiful streets of Edinburgh!

    When to visit Edinburgh

    The summer months are the peak months when people visit Edinburgh as of course the weather is generally better during these months.

    Edinburgh Fringe, the world famous comedy festival starts in August and lasts nearly the whole month, so this is definitely the busiest month of the year for visiting Edinburgh.

    If you love comedy then this is the perfect time to visit Edinburgh, otherwise I would avoid Edinburgh in August if you don’t like very busy cities!

    Spring and autumn can be beautiful times to visit Edinburgh, while winter is obviously going to be cold but also beautiful in it’s own way. And of course Edinburgh knows how to see in a New Year!

    The Edinburgh Hogmanay draws big crowds every New Year’s Eve and is certainly a great time to visit the Scottish capital, but again be warned: it will be very cold and very busy!

    Edinburgh Accommodation

    Compared to Inverness, accommodation in Edinburgh is a lot more expensive throughout the year. The cheapest option available is to stay at a hostel, otherwise you’ll be paying around £150 per night for a decent stay at a nice hotel.

    I paid £56 for a night in a very basic hotel during my last stay in Edinburgh, which let’s just say was cheap and not so cheerful!

    👉 Pro Tip: visit Edinburgh during the off-peak season when accommodation prices will be lower during these months, though the weather won’t be so nice!

    ⭐ Top Edinburgh Hotel Choices:
    Budget hotel in Edinburgh city centre: St Christopher’s Edinburgh Original (£22 per night)
    ✅ Mid-range hotel in Edinburgh city centre: Thistle Hotel (£162 per night)
    ✅ Luxury hotel in Edinburgh city centre: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian (£1,040 per night)

    Conclusion: Inverness vs Edinburgh

    Both Inverness and Edinburgh have so much to offer that it’s hard to choose between the two! Edinburgh may appear to be the favourite as it has so much going on, but Inverness is a great alternative.

    As a solo traveller I was put off by the huge crowds in Edinburgh and preferred the quieter, smaller city of Inverness, but I also loved the aesthetic appeal of Edinburgh.

    The latter is probably deserving of more time to visit (a good 2-3 days is ideal) while you can appreciate all that the city of Inverness has in 1 day.

    So when deciding which city to visit when it comes to Inverness vs Edinburgh I would probably choose Inverness, but both are amazing places!

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