24 hours in Edinburgh

72 hour guide to Edinburgh

Maybe you are still thinking about coming to Edinburgh, or maybe you have booked your trip to our beautiful city, either way we would like to share our suggested 72 hour itinerary. There will be something for everyone and a whole lot of history, architecture, tasty treats and adventure.

Day One – The Old Town

Edinburgh’s Old Town oozes history. It’s a warren of cobbled streets, winding wynds, long lanes, and dark alleys – it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped out of a time machine! Spend your first day discovering historic palaces and iconic sites and soak up the bustling Old Town atmosphere.

EDINBURGH CASTLE

Recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction, get ahead of the crowds and start your day here. See the Scottish Crown Jewels and The Stone of Destiny, the National War Museum and the beautiful National War Memorial. If you’re still there in the early afternoon, you can see (and hear!) the famous One O’clock Gun. Afterwards, explore the Royal Mile on foot and check out the various shops, pubs, restaurants, buildings and historic closes, as well as the famous St Giles’ Cathedral.

Opening Times

  • Summer (1 APR – 30 SEP) Last entry 5pm
  • Monday to Sunday 09:30-18:00
  • Winter (1 OCT – 31 MARCH) Last entry 4pm
  • Monday to Sunday 09:30-18:00
  • Adult: £19.50 per ticket
  • Child: £11.50 per ticket
  • Concessions: £16 per ticket

Why not stop for lunch at the  Amber Restaurant by the Scotch Whisky Experience, which offers traditional Scottish cuisine, be sure to try the haggis!

CAMERA OBSCURA AND WORLD OF ILLUSIONS

After lunch, stroll down the Royal Mile and pay a visit to the fascinating Camera Obscura and World of Illusions which has captivated visitors with its amazing optical illusions and panoramic views of Edinburgh for over 150 years. Step inside a darkened room and watch incredible live moving images of the city and its inhabitants projected onto a table by a giant periscope while listening to colourful tales from the past.

EDINBURGH DUNGEONS

Next, for a bit of fun try ‘The Edinburgh Dungeon’, the ultimate underground journey through Edinburgh’s darkest history; a unique, award-winning visitor attraction that brings together a professional cast of theatrical actors, special effects, 360 degree sets and thrilling rides in a truly unique and immersive walk-through experience. Shows are based on real Scottish history, minus the boring bits!

SCOTCH WHISKY EXPERIENCE

Close by, Scotland’s national drink is honoured at the Scotch Whisky Experience where you can sample a dram at the end of your tour. Enjoy a barrel ride to learn all about the whisky-making process and see the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky. A great way to end your afternoon.

Day 2

ST GILES, HOLYROOD, DYNAMIC EARTH & ARTHUR’S SEAT

ST GILES’ ROOFTOP TOURS

On a clear day on the roof of St Giles’ Cathedral, the panoramic views of the surrounding hills punctuated by the spires and towers of Edinburgh are not to be missed. Even on a rainy day, a bird’s eye view of the Royal Mile provides a unique photo opportunity of Edinburgh Castle all the way down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The tour of the rooftop also gives visitors a rare glimpse into how the cathedral has been altered and extended over the years. Visitors will be able to get close up to the famous 50-meter-high crown spire and will learn some of the more interesting occurrences at St Giles’, especially the tower itself. You’ll hear tales about the tower and be able to stand where prisoners would have stood when the tower was used as a jail. The 20th-century Thistle chapel boasts intricate woodwork, most notably angels playing bagpipes.

THE PALACE OF HOLYROODHOUSE

Venture to the other end of the Royal Mile and you’ll be in the Canongate and Holyrood area of the Old Town – it dates back over 800 years. You could spend days discovering its many nooks, crannies and secret gardens! At the bottom you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of the Royal Residences. Take a tour and see Mary Queen of Scots’ bedchamber and the room where her confidante, David Rizzio, was brutally murdered. If you’ve got time afterwards, pop into the Scottish Parliament opposite for a free tour and the Queen’s Gallery.

DYNAMIC EARTH

Just across the road, a visit to Dynamic Earth is like nothing else on Earth. It’s a chance to experience the primeval forces of nature as they shaped our planet, to journey through space and time and even go on a 4DVENTURE around the world. You’ll be embarking on the interactive adventure of a lifetime – the lifetime of our planet. As if this wasn’t enough, Dynamic Earth is home to Scotland’s only 360 degree full dome film theatre with a variety of films showing throughout the year.

ARTHUR’S SEAT

Why not round off your day by dusting off the cobwebs, putting your hiking shoes on and climbing to the top of Arthur’s seat for great views of the city. The hill, which is an extinct volcano,  rises to 250.5m (822ft). Sunrise and sunset are the busiest times. It can be cold at the top, so take layers and water.

Tour Buses

Tired feet? As an alternative to walking to the Canongate and Holyrood, jump aboard one of the open-top tour buses. They have fantastic on-board guides to supply an entertaining and knowledgeable insight into this fascinating city (multi-language tours are available). The buses will allow you to get on and off at your leisure to visit attractions, including the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Edinburgh Dungeons and the Scottish Parliament and provide a great introduction to the city. There are 3 companies offering this service. An £8 supplement will allow you to use all 3.

Why not wind down after your busy day with a dram in a historic pub, such as Deacon Brodie’s on the lawnmarket. If fine dining is more your thing, relax and indulge as you dine at the highly esteemed, “The Witchery by the Castle” (booking essential).

For evening entertainment, why not book yourself into a show at the The Playhouse or check out The Stand Comedy Club. The Stand Comedy Club on York Place for a bit of light relief at the end of a busy day?

Day 3

THE NATIONAL GALLERY, THE NATIONAL MUSEUM AND PICKERING’S GIN DISTILLERY

Start your day with a visit to the Scottish National Gallery off Princes Street, behind the Royal Academy, then move on to the nearby National Museum of Scotland, a fantastic free museum where you can learn about the story of Scotland and see fascinating exhibits on the natural world, world cultures, science, design and history. 

PICKERING’S GIN DISTILLERY

Pickering’s Gin is made at Summerhall, in the Newington area of Edinburgh. It was the first exclusive gin distillery to be established in Edinburgh for over 150 years. You can get a glimpse behind the scenes by booking a tour of the distillery, available Mondays and Tuesdays at 4pm, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm and 6pm. See how their hand crafted small batch gin is made, find out more about the botanicals used and sample the gin at different stages in the distilling process. The tour costs £10 a head, lasts 45-50 minutes and is a must for any gin fan. Early booking is essential! Guests can enjoy a 10% discount. Please e-mail us for the code.

Alternative itineraries.

LEITH AND THE NEW TOWN

From Princes Street in the city centre, it’s a short ride on the number 22 Lothian Bus to The Royal Yacht Britannia, which TripAdvisor named as one of the UK’s best attractions. Alternatively, you could take the Majestic open top bus tour as it also stops at the Royal Botanic Gardens (see below).

Step on board HMY Britannia, The Queen’s former floating Royal residence, where you’ll see the engine room, a Rolls Royce and state apartments across five decks. The audio tour is available in 30 languages. There is a cafe onboard serving lunch, drinks and afternoon tea.

Alternatively after the tour, why not treat yourself to some fine dining at The Kitchin, 78 Commercial Quay, Leith, recently featured on the BBC’s Remarkable Places to Eat series with Fred Sirieix.

ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN

For the next part of your day, spend the afternoon touring the Royal Botanic Garden with its wonderful glasshouses, exhibitions and a world of colourful plants and shrubs. It’s located in the Inverleith part of the city and is 1 mile from the city centre. Wonderful, no matter the season.

Wander back to the centre via Stockbridge – a bustling village-like area with a superb blend of independent retailers, delicatessens, charity shops, bars, restaurants and our office. There are a number of small cafes selling delicious home baking and great quality coffee, the Stockbridge Kitchen is a personal favourite.

Time for a bit of retail therapy perhaps?

SHOPPING AND GALLERIES

Head to Princes Street and George Street, the ideal destinations for some shopping. There’s a huge range of top high street brands, or if you like designer stores, head to Multrees Walk.

Alternative itinerary for literary buffs

LITERARY TRAILS

Especially for those of you who are literary enthusiasts, you will most likely be aware that Edinburgh’s influence can be felt in some of the most important books of all time. Inside the Greyfriars’ graveyard, eagle-eyed visitors may recognise some of the names on the tombstones – Moodie, McGonagall, Riddell, Potter. This is where JK Rowling allegedly found the monikers for some of the characters in the Harry Potter books. Then, just a two-minute walk away is The Elephant House, the café where she is thought to have written much of the acclaimed novels – an ideal place to kick back and relax with a nice latte.

If sleuthing is your pastime of choice, trace the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. There’s The Conan Doyle, a pub located close to Conan Doyle’s birthplace. Next, visit Old Town’s Surgeons’ Hall Museums, where there’s a permanent exhibition showing the link between Doyle’s medicinal (he also studied medicine) and literary works. The exhibit also focuses on the relationship between Doyle and Doctor Joseph Bell, the man who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes. Thereafter, you might want to stop off for a pint at the Oxford Bar, favoured by author Ian Rankin and his creation, Inspector Rebus.

You may also want to take the steps from Castle Wynd to the Grassmarket. The historic area is full of lively pubs and often markets and special events take place. Wander through and take Candlemaker Row to George IV Bridge, where you’ll see the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the famous loyal Skye terrier, who famously spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died in 1872. 

Culinary Delights:

If you are a meat-eater, don’t miss Miller and Carter Steakhouse on Frederick Street or George Street’s Brazilian “all-you-can-eat” Churrasco restaurant, Fazenda. Kyloe in the Rutland Hotel also offers good steak and a view of the Castle from the restaurant. Be sure to ask for a Castle View seat when making your booking.

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