What is Mary King’s Close?

How is it that streets that were once the bustling heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town came to be sealed off and hidden from sight?

Tours at The Real Mary King’s Close, you’ll be transported back to 17th century Edinburgh as a costumed character guide leads you on an hour-long fully guided tour through the uniquely preserved streets and spaces. Marvel at how different life would have been for the people of Edinburgh when these streets were open to the skies.

Visit Real Mary King’s Close

  • Arrive at The Real Mary King’s Close in plenty of time before your tour slot, our entrance is on the Royal Mile opposite St.Giles Cathedral. While you are waiting for your tour to begin, you can discover our exhibition area and find out more about life on the Closes.
  • Meet your guide who will transport you back in time. From maid to the merchant, foul clenger to poet and even the daughter of Mary King herself, each character offers a unique perspective on day to day life on the Close.
  • Descend the steps and marvel at the stories of past residents. Imagine how their lives would have been.
  • Get under the skin of the plague, learn why it was wise to avoid the streets at 7 am and 10 pm, and uncover how all social classes lived together stacked on top of each other in tenements that are said to have been the world’s first skyscrapers.
  • Discover Mary King’s Close itself, the perfect place for a unique photo opportunity.
  • Finish your tour in the Mary Kings Coffee House – you’ll have worked up an appetite!

Book your journey back in time today and get ready to be amazed by this authentic window into Edinburgh’s fascinating past.

What next?

  • Plan your visit – find out about opening times, prices and accessibility
  • FAQs – find the answers to those burning questions
  • Book your visit – avoid the queues and book your tour online now

The Real Mary King’s Close

Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are Frequently Asked Questions. If you still have a question, please contact us.

About Real Mary King’s Close

The Real Mary King’s Close

Who was Mary King?

Closes were named after the most prominent citizen or the most commonly found business to be on the close. Documents show that Mary King was a prominent businesswoman in the 1630’s. At that time she was a widow and a mother of four, who traded in fabrics and sewed for a living. It was highly unusual for a close to being named after a woman at that time, indicating Mary’s standing in the town.

What is ‘The Underground City’?

There isn’t literally an ‘underground city’ in Edinburgh as such. This is a term that has been used by the media to describe the various underground locations in the Old Town (there are lots of ‘Vaults’ particularly around the Cowgate and South Bridge area). If you are looking for the ancient underground street, you’re in the right place at The Real Mary King’s Close!

There are a series of Vaults in the Old Town, the most famous of which are Blair Street Vaults and South Bridge Vaults. Mary King’s Close is completely separate to these vaults and is the only underground Close in Edinburgh. For tours of Blair Street Vaults, you should contact Mercat Tours

Is Mary King’s Close known by any other name?

Mary King’s Close was called King’s Close or Alexander King’s Close (no relation to Mary) prior to her arrival in 1635.

Many people often get the name of the Close confused and call it St Mary’s Close, Mary Queen’s Close, Mary Queen of Scots Close or Mary’s Close. The correct name is, of course, Mary King’s Close!

The Real Mary King’s Close

Tour of the Real Mary King’s Close

How long is the tour?

The tour lasts one hour.

How often does the tour run?

The tour typically runs every 15 minutes from the hour – from the time of opening to the time of closing.

Why is pre-booking recommended?

We can accept up to 20 guests on every tour for health and safety reasons as well as your comfort and experience. At busy periods this means that demand is often high and tours sell out. Consider pre-booking if you are planning to visit at the weekend, during school holidays, during the month of August and at Hogmanay.

You can book online at any time up to 48 hours prior to your tour date. To book within 48 hours call +44 (0) 131 225 0672

Do you offer a discount for groups?

Yes, we do! if you are bringing 15 people or more you could be entitled to a group discount – visit our Groups pages all the information you need!

Can I bring my dog on the tour?

The nature of the tour does not make the tour suitable for animals. If you require the assistance of a Guide Dog please contact us to arrange your visit and we will be happy to accommodate you.

I don’t speak English, what facilities are there for foreign visitors?

Tours are conducted in English however if you speak French, German, Italian or Spanish we offer free audio guides to take on the tour. These audio guides give a basic version of the tour, however, are limited in availability so should be pre-booked at the time of booking. If you have booked online, please email the attraction – contact@realmarykingsclose.com

The Real Mary King’s Close

Tour Accessibility

I’m visiting with a friend in a wheelchair, can they experience the tour?
The historic, underground nature of the site makes access to the Close virtually impossible by wheelchair. For more information visit our accessibility page.

I have asthma, how will this affect my experience?

It really depends on the individual. It is dusty in some areas of the Close. Air quality is tested on a regular basis and has been approved as fit for visitors to tour the Close. If you’re in any doubt, do bring your inhalers with you and let the tour guide know if you feel unwell.

Are there a lot of stairs?

There are 3 flights of stairs consisting of 58 steps to be descended and 38 ascended as part of the tour.