The Real Mary King’s Close is a tourist attraction located in the middle of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. The attraction allows visitors to step beneath the streets of Edinburgh into an underground labyrinth where stories of the city’s past residents unfold through a series of exhibits and displays.

Real Mary Kings Close
Address:Warriston's Close,
2 High St,
Opening Hours:Monday-Friday: 09.30 to 17.00
Saturday-Sunday: 09.30 to 21.00
Admission Price:Adult: £19.50
Child (5 – 15 years): £12.95
Adult Flexi Ticket: £22.00
Child Flexi Ticket (5 – 15 years): £15.00
Contact:Contact page
Facilities:Gift shop, coffee house, toilets, guided tours
Photos:Virtual Tour
BUY TICKETSClick here to purchase


In the centre of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, through a small, nondescript passageway, lies Mary Kings Close. Were it not for the advertisements posted on the walls nearby, you’d probably walk straight past it, but if you did, you’d be missing out on one of the most interesting historic attractions in the city.

The attraction takes its name from Mary King, a merchant who lived in Edinburgh in the 17th century, and a visit allows tourists to explore the maze of underground rooms that run beneath the Royal Mile. Each room offers a fascinating glimpse into the past, and thanks to the guided tour that retells the stories of past residents, you’ll soon discover there’s more to this subterranean labyrinth than first meets the eye.

The experience starts in the courtyard, where you’ll wait in a seating area for a tour guide. Dressed in the clothes of the time, they’ll give you an overview of the tour and what you can expect during your visit, after which you’ll descend down a stairway into Mary King’s Close. At around an hour, it’s not a long tour by any means, but in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways for visitors to learn about Edinburgh’s history.

The only other experience I’ve found that’s similar to Mary King’s Close is the ghost tour run by Mercat Tours that takes you into the Edinburgh Vaults, though both tours are equally enjoyable, and I couldn’t really rate one above the other.

As you follow the guide around the underground rooms, you’ll encounter displays that will give you an insight into Edinburgh at the time of the black plague. Highlights include a series of videos where ghostly residents tell you their stories, and a creepy display about the plague doctors who treated those infected with the disease.

The plague devastated most of the United Kingdom in the 17th century, and due to the lack of hygiene in Edinburgh, the poorest residents of the city fared the worst. Scotland lost a quarter of its entire population during the time of the plague, and the confines of Mary King’s Close ensured it was one of the worst-affected places in the city.

Real Mary Kings Close

The Highlights

1: This is an atmospheric tourist attraction like no other and it’ll give you a glimpse into Edinburgh that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. Make no mistake, the rooms beneath Edinburgh’s streets are incredibly creepy.

2: One of the most compelling aspects of The Real Mary King’s Close is its insight into life during the times of the plague. The tour delves into the living conditions and the measures taken to combat the deadly disease, including the role of plague doctors and their eerie bird-beak masks.

3: The gift shop is surprisingly good and it’s the only place where you’ll be able to get a photo of your visit as unfortunately, you can’t take your own photos during the tour (I was given special permission for this article).

Visiting Tips

1: If you’re in Edinburgh in peak season (basically during summer and when the schools are closed) I recommend getting on a tour reasonably early in the morning. On the two times I’ve been it was very busy by midday, meaning I had to hang around for a while till a space on a tour became available.

2: There are a bazillion places to visit in Edinburgh, so you could end up spending a fortune if you try to visit all the top attractions. My advice is to get a Royal Edinburgh Ticket which gives you a discount for The Real Mary King’s Close and several other attractions.

3: If you’re after a meal, don’t bother with The Royal Mile as everywhere is overpriced. For an authentic Scottish pub meal, you’ll find a dozen reasonably priced options on Rose Street which is behind Princes Street.

Real Mary Kings Close

Tourist Information

Tours run seven days a week, so you always have the option of returning another day if you find all the slots are fully booked, but there are a couple of points worth noting before you make a booking.

First off, it’s pretty creepy down there, even if you’re in a tour group, so if you have small children, they might not feel particularly comfortable. I was lucky enough to have a visit on my own when I took the photos for the virtual tour, and let me tell you, I was more than a little spooked, especially when I got to Annie’s room, which is supposedly haunted by a 10-year-old girl who died of the plague.

I know the photos on this page make it look like it’s well-lit in there, but in reality, it’s almost pitch black, cold, and has an atmosphere that makes your hair stand on end. Many people report feeling Annie’s presence as soon as they step foot in that room, but all I know is that I was glad to leave after I’d taken my photos.

The other point to note about the tour is that, as it’s underground, you’ll have to make your way down several flights of stairs, some of which are quite narrow. That shouldn’t be a problem for most people, but if you have any concerns about your own mobility, you might want to give the attraction a call for more information before leaving home.

Once you’ve wandered through the rooms, you’ll be directed back up to ground level where you’ll exit the attraction through a well-stocked gift shop. There’s not too much of the usual tourist tat that you’ll find at other attractions, and you can purchase a photograph of your underground visit as a memento.

There’s also a coffee shop in the courtyard that sells locally sourced goodies, but be aware that it might be closed depending on when you visit. However, seeing as the attraction is slap-bang in the middle of The Royal Mile you won’t have any problems finding cafés, pubs, and restaurants in the surrounding streets.

If you’re wondering what else to do after you’ve visited Mary King’s Close, I thoroughly recommend crossing the road and taking a wander around St. Giles Cathedral. Failing that, there’s John Knox House a bit further down, the Museum on The Mound just around the corner, and Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile.

Real Mary Kings Close

Mary King’s Close History

Born in Edinburgh in the late 1600s, Mary King began her life as a merchant by sewing clothes at her shop on the Royal Mile. In 1616, she married fellow merchant and businessman Thomas Nimmo, who was a representative of the borough of Edinburgh, otherwise known as a burgess.

Following her husband’s death in 1629, Mary and her four children moved into an area of tenement buildings that had the name Alexander King Close, and as Mary’s business expanded, she eventually became a burgess herself.

After her death, Alexander King Close was renamed Mary King Close in her honour, but as the years passed, the dilapidated buildings were sealed up, partially torn down, and then used as the foundations for new buildings.

The underground complex gained a reputation for hauntings over the following years, and it became infamous when several paranormal investigations were filmed there. Although no evidence was found to support the ghostly tales that spread in the years after the plague, there are several theories as to what is responsible for the ghoulish visions that have been reported.

The most likely cause for these apparitions is the fact that the close was situated near the Nor Loch, the stagnant and polluted body of water that would later be drained to create Princes Street Gardens. Due to the marshland around the area, it’s thought that escaping biogas caused eerie lights to be seen, and the gas itself could have caused hallucinations for anyone caught in its fumes.

Real Mary Kings Close

Things to Do

Explore the Underground Streets: Delve deep into Edinburgh’s history as you navigate the labyrinth of underground rooms in the 17th century. Each area tells a story, from the plague-ridden alleyways to the homes of wealthy merchants. It’s a unique journey into Scotland’s past, richly layered with tales of intrigue and everyday life.

Meet the Characters: Experience the past coming to life as costumed character guides transport you back in time. They’ll share tales of their lives, letting you experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Edinburgh in the 1600s.

Learn about the Plague: Discover the harsh realities of the deadly plague that swept through Edinburgh in the 17th century. The Real Mary King’s Close offers a hauntingly realistic insight into the conditions of the time, the horrible symptoms of the disease, and the desperate measures people took to try to survive.

Visit the Chesney’s House: Step into the home of the last resident to leave the close, Andrew Chesney. Gain a unique insight into the typical domestic life of the era and see everything from the living quarters to the types of food commonly eaten.

Engage with Paranormal Activity: For the brave, a late-evening tour can be an enjoyably spooky experience. The close is reputedly one of the most haunted places in Scotland and ghostly sightings and unexplained phenomena are often reported.

mary kings close

Things to Do Nearby

The Royal Mile. 197 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PT. 1-minute walk.
A famous medieval high street that joins Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Known for its closes and wynds that join the road along its length. It features a variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

St. Giles Cathedral. High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1RE, is a 1-minute walk.
A grand Gothic-style mediaeval cathedral, also known as ‘The High Kirk’, was the place of worship where John Knox preached. Free to visit, and guided tours are available. Shop and café on site.

John Knox House. Scottish Storytelling Centre, High St., Edinburgh, EH1 1SR. 4-minute walk.
A historic building known as the home of the preacher John Knox and the royal goldsmith James Mossman. Attached to the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which has a café and runs storytelling workshops.

Gladstone’s Land. 477B Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT. 3-minute walk.
Historic restored house dating from the 1600s. A guided tour takes you through the history of Edinburgh and shows visitors how people lived in the days of ‘Auld Reekie’.

Edinburgh Vaults. South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1QR. 3-minute walk.
Underground chambers with a ghostly history. Guided tours take visitors through the subterranean rooms while explaining the story of Edinburgh.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was Mary King’s Close built over?

By the time the close was renamed Mary King’s Close it was in a very poor condition and the residents that lived there were suffering from the bubonic plague.

As the city was unable to extend in size due to the encircling city walls, dilapidated areas such as Mary King’s Close were sealed off and used as the foundations for new high-rise tenement buildings.

When was Mary King’s Close rediscovered?

Mary King’s Close was forgotten about after it was sealed off and was only rediscovered in 2003 when workmen accidentally punched a hole through the streets above into the tunnels beneath.

Why is it called Mary King’s Close?

Mary King’s Close was originally named Alexander King Close and was built as an offshoot of The Royal Mile. Mary King was a successful and wealthy burgess who owned a shop there, so when she died the close was renamed Mary King’s Close in her honour.

How long is a tour of Mary King’s Close?

A guided tour around the Mary King’s Close tourist attraction takes approximately one hour.

Why is Mary King’s Close famous?

Mary King’s Close is a historic close located in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, Scotland. It is famous for its history as a medieval street and alleyway that was buried and sealed off when the city built a new Royal Exchange in the 17th century.

The close has since been opened to the public as a tourist attraction and is known for its underground tours which offer a unique look at the history and culture of Edinburgh.

The close is also famous for its association with the legend of the ghost child Annie who is said to haunt the underground chambers.

Can you get discounts for the Real Mary King’s Close?

It is sometimes possible to get discounts at the attraction. Examples are Mary King’s Close 2 for 1 tickets with Lothian Buses, and discounted tours when booking through Groupon and similar sites.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.