Edinburgh is built on a spine of rock and down the backbone of the Old Town, from the Castle to Holyrood, runs the slope of the Royal Mile. A series of lanes and alleyways grew out of this long street, falling away to either side – these are the ‘wynds’ or ‘closes’ where Old Town folk made their residences.
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 be named after a woman at that time, indicating Mary’s standing in the town.
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 historic 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
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 tour lasts one hour.
The tour typically runs every 15 minutes from the hour – from the time of opening to the time of closing.
Please note that bookings for The Real Mary King’s Close are non-refundable as per our terms and conditions. If you have booked a Flexi Ticket, you can change the date and time of your booking up to 9am on the day of your visit. If you have booked a standard ticket, there will be an additional £10 admin fee per booking. Contact us to change your booking.
Yes, we do! if you are bringing 15 people or more you could be entitled to a group discount – visit our Groups pages for all the information you need!
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.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of our site, pictures are not allowed. A photo is taken for you at our iconic close with a static camera. It is, of course, optional for you to purchase once the tour has finished. As an alternative, you may consider purchasing a souvenir guidebook at the time of the booking or just before your tour starts.
Tours are conducted in English; however, if you speak French, German, Italian, Spanish or Mandarin, we offer free audio guides via our mobile app. Click here to download. Please note, that earphones are mandatory on tours.
If you speak Dutch, Portuguese, Polish or Hungarian, we also offer free physical audio guides to take on the tour. If you require an audio guide in these languages, please reserve them in advance by contacting us. We cannot guarantee audio guides will be available if they are not pre-booked.
The historic, underground nature of the site makes access to the Close impossible by wheelchair. For more information visit our Accessibility Page.
Yes, we have storage facilities. Please note that a one-pound coin is required to secure your locker. They can accommodate big and small size luggage.
If during the tour you feel claustrophobic or disoriented, please report it to your guide. Guides are equipped with radios and will arrange for a member of the team to take you back upstairs.
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.