The Perfect Itinerary for two days in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh – home to bagpipes, kilts, royalty, culture and comedy festivals. Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, rolling hills, lochs and mountains are never far away.

Despite the size of Scotland‘s capital city, there is still so much to do and see. As an ex local, I have spent years, exploring the hidden wynds and steep stair cases and found the best that Edinburgh has to offer, so whether you have 24 hours, 48 hours or a whole month, Edinburgh has plenty to keep you entertained and amazed

Like most European cities, Edinburgh is best explored on foot. I have created the perfect two days in Edinburgh, so you can leave this stunning city, knowing you have seen the best that Edinburgh has to offer.

So grab your rain jacket and wellies and get ready for an action packed two days in Edinburgh. Oh and if you don’t like the sound of bagpipes, you might want to pick up some earplugs.

Two days in Edinburgh pinterest graphic

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Where to stay in Edinburgh

Budget Accommodation in Edinburgh

Budget Backpackers is located just around the corner from the Grassmarket. It has a lively nightlife and is the perfect place for exploring Edinburgh on a budget.

Staysafe Edinburgh also has brilliant location, the hostel is located just off the Royal Mile and close to Waverley train station. It’s central location means that every where you want to visit is only a stones throw away.

Mid Range Accommodation in Edinburgh

The Grassmarket hotel is a stylish boutique hotel on the Grassmarket. If you would rather bike around a city, you can hire bikes for free from the hotel. If you sign up to their mailing list, they often do super cheap deals or free nights.

Premier Inn – I have stayed in several Premier Inn’s around the United Kingdom and they have all been fantastic. The rooms are very clean and comfortable and they are located in central locations. There are a couple of Premier Inns in Edinburgh, but I suggest the one of Princes Street so you are right in the middle of town.

Luxury Accommodation in Edinburgh

The Whitchery has nine suits and they are all beautifully furnished with gothic touches, including four poster beds, velvet-lined walls and flamboyant red and gold décor indicative of the style. There are separate seating areas and large bathrooms with free-standing silver baths in each suit. While you might not be able to stay at Edinburgh Castle you can stay next door! The Whitchery is located just feet away from Edinburgh Castle.

The Balmoral Hotel is the hotel where JK Rowling, finished the latest installment of the Harry Potter series. If you ask at the front desk the staff will happily show you the room. The Balmoral Hotel is located on Princes and has a Michelin star restaurant.

What to wear in Edinburgh

If you have not heard much about the weather in the United Kingdom let me catch you up, Summer happens in one day. Now, obviously that’s a joke, but when you’re in Edinburgh, always be prepared for rain and wind. I recommend always packing an umbrella, rain jacket and if you’re travelling in winter, a pair of wellies.

The perfect two days in Edinburgh

Day One – Classic Edinburgh

Grassmarket

The Grassmarket was a market place for horses and cattle, from the 14th century until the 19th century, hence the name. The history of the Grassmarket is certainly colourful, as it was also used as a place for public executions.

These days it is filled with pubs, cafes, shops and hotels. It also offers beautiful views of Edinburgh castle. The cobblestone streets are extremely picturesque and is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike.

In the summer, the Grassmarket truly comes alive. All of the pubs and cafes, extend out onto the street and are a great place to hang out until the wee hours of the morning.

Uphill street with colourful shops and buildings in Edinburgh

Victoria Street/West Bow

One of the prettiest and most photographed streets in Edinburgh is Victoria Street. A curving cobblestone street, lined with bright coloured shops, it is easy to see why. From Harry Potter stores, to boutique clothing stores, there are plenty of shops to browse on your way to the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile

As you reach the top of Victoria Street you will find yourself on the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile is named so because it runs for roughly a mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile is a tourist delight, from the sounds of bagpipes wafting down the street to the shops selling tartan scarfs, kilts, bagpipes, shortbread, whiskey and haggis.

Along the Royal Mile, you will find many places to eat, from fancy restaurants, to pubs, tea shops and take-away places.

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Some places that I recommend checking out on your walk include; Edinburgh Castle, a 12th century Roman Church – St Giles’ Cathedral, the Museum of Childhood and Holyrood Palace.

If you are in Edinburgh in August, you will be there in time to catch the Fringe Festival. A great place to catch some free performances during the festival, is the Royal Mile.

Edinburgh Castle

The most visited place in Edinburgh is the Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle sits on top of an ancient volcanic rock, Castle rock and provides stunning views over Edinburgh.

You are best to visit early in the morning to avoid the queues and hoards of tourists. It is recommended these days to purchase your tickets online, so you can book in a time.

You will need a few hours to explore the exhibitions and the grounds of the castle, it is a great place for visitors of all ages. If you would prefer to make the most out of your visit, I recommend taking a tour of the castle.

Holyrood Palace

Grab a bite to eat as you stroll down the Royal Mile or wait for the cute wee cafe at Holyrood Palace. Or perhaps you’ve packed a picnic and you’ll have a picnic once you make it to Arthur’s Seat

The Ruins of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh, which means that the Palace may be closed if the Queen is visiting. If you would like to see inside the Palace and the grounds, you can purchase a ticket online or at the gate.

Hike Arthur’s seat

For stunning views of Edinburgh, you can’t beat a hike up Arthur’s seat. Located, by Holyrood Palace, you can cobmine your hike with your visit to the Queen’s Residence.

On your hike up Arthur’s Seat, keep your eye out for the ruins of the 14th century Anthony’s chapel.

Allow 2 – 3 hours to complete the hike, whilst this is not an overly difficult hike, I do recommend wearing appropriate footwear, taking some water and having a decent level of fitness.

Day 2 – Hidden Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens

The Princes street gardens are the perfect place to sit and enjoy a takeaway breakfast under the shadow of the Edinburgh Castle.

No matter the time of year the Princes street gardens are beautiful. During December you will find the German Christmas Markets fill the gardens and are not to be missed.

Along Princes Street you will see many of the “High Street” shops, places to grab a quick bite and also Scott Monument. You can climb the stairs to the top for another great view of Edinburgh.

Dean Village

Two days in Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to the prettiest place in Edinburgh, Dean Village. The cobblestones and the flowing river give you the feeling that you are in a small village miles from any other villages or cities when in actual fact, you’re right in the middle of Edinburgh. Take your time to explore all of the hidden pathways in the quaint area.

Stockbridge

Head towards Stockbridge which is up from Princes Street and down the hill through the new town.

Stockbridge is a vibrant area of Edinburgh situated on the Water of Leith. One must-see in Stockbridge is Circus Lane. Similar to the village of Dean, it has beautiful houses, church bells, cobbled streets, and pretty flowers!

I recommend spending a good couple of hours looking in and around Stockbridge and exploring the Water of Leith. Drop into one of their wee pubs for a drink or an afternoon snack.

Calton Hill

Sunset at Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Sunset at Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill, is a hill in central Edinburgh. It is unmistakable due to the unfinished acroplish monument. Construction began in 1816, a year after Napoleon’s defeat at the battle of Waterloo. The monument was intended to be a replica of Athens Parthenon and was a memorial to all those who died in the Napeleonic wars.

These days, Calton Hill, provides beautiful panoramic views of Edinburgh and is crawling with photographers at sunset. In the summer, it is a beautiful place to sit with a picnic and a bottle of wine to watch the sunset.

There are a quite a few stairs to climb to reach the top of Calton Hill but is very manageable.

In Edinburgh for more than two days?

If you’re lucky enough to have more than two days in Edinburgh take a whisky tour, a Harry Potter tour, or maybe check out Mary King’s Close. Camera Obscura is where things are not as they seem and makes for a very entertaining afternoon.

If you have a car or you’re happy to work out the public transport why not check out the seaside towns of Musselburgh or Portobello, or go on an Outlander tour.

Where to eat in Edinburgh?

Once of my favourite things about living in Edinburgh (and something I miss) was eating out and grabbing a pint in a cosy pub.

No matter what you fancy to eat there is something for everyone. If you want to try the traditional Haggis with neeps and tatties, grab an Indian, feast on traditional British pub grub or indulge in some fine dining, Edinburgh has it all.

Here are some of my recommendations for places to eat in Edinburgh

Fine Dining

The George Hotel (the afternoon teas here are amazing)
The Whitchery
The Balmoral Hotel
Angels and Bagpipes
The Mussel and Steak Bar

Pubs

Biddy Mulligans
Maggie Dicksons
Mitre Bar
Royal Mile Tavern

Casual Eats

Hula Juice Bar
Marks and Spenser

Take away

Oink

Fancy doing booking a tour?

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Flights: To find the best flights I always search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. For even cheaper flights, fly mid week and pack in a carry on!

Accommodation: I always use booking.com (I love their price match and flexible cancellation policies) or Airbnb (if I want a little more space) to book trip. If you prefer hostels, I suggest Hostelworld.

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Travel Insurance: After a few hairy moments on my travels, I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. It may seem like a big cost now, but if the worst happens, it will save you a lot of money and heartache. I personally use World Nomads (and love them!), but I recommend that you do some research to find the insurance company that suits your needs.

Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.

Train Travel: If you are planning on taking the train in Europe, I cannot recommend the Eurail enough! Check out The Ultimate Guide to the Eurail Pass to find out why

Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!

Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany

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